penpusher: (LJ Broken)
I haven't been posting "normal" entries in my LJ Account for awhile now, using it only as the place where I post my LJ Idol entries for the writing competition. Likewise, I haven't been reading your entries, since my time was spent reading through the entries of the other contestants and making comments there. I feel like I have failed my LJ friends because of this, and I do apologize for that, but there is an element behind it.

The whole "Яussian" issue - the fact that we were acquired by the Russian side of LiveJournal definitely has had an effect. Really, I have a bellyful of Russia right now. I hear about Russia every night. And let's face it. We don't really know much of anything about what's going on with our Russian owners. I can tell you that a few of my long time LJ friends deleted their journals specifically because of this.

When I purchased a permanent account, I really thought it would outlast me, or at least would last longer than I would find a use for it. Now, even though it's likely an irrational fear, I don't feel completely safe sharing on this platform anymore. We don't know anyone who is in charge of this service. We don't know what issues those that are in charge of it examine. And it's within the unease of all that we don't know about what happens here that creates a place that is the opposite of where you would want to put your most intimate thoughts and share your most personal stories.

The current LJ Idol season is coming to a close. Tonight is a voting results night, and it's possible I will not survive. I have resolved to stop using LiveJournal at the end of the current LJ Idol competition, and I suspect that end will come before the end of the year. That means I have to make some decisions.

I have to decide if I want to delete this journal and if I do delete, do I use the nuclear option, that deletes every comment I ever made to every journal and community I ever visited. Or do I friendslock the entire journal? Or do I just leave it in place, as is?

A reason not to delete is being able to access journals that I was friends to, anyone that had their own journal locked that I was on the list for would be lost to me forever. But does that really matter, if the friends are no longer posting here?

Another reason not to delete is that I said I never would. Under normal circumstances, I thought deleting was a selfish move, that hurt the other people who were still here. And especially the nuclear option that deleted the comments posted in everyone else's journal. Part of me still believes it's somewhat selfish to delete - especially nuclear style. When people comment to your journal, it's not just "YOUR" journal anymore. I absolutely believe that.

But I do have my mirrored account at dreamwidth. Basically everything that is here got moved there (and I'll likely do another transfer over of the entries from the Idol season also). All is not lost.

But there will be loss. Some people who are still here aren't going to leave. I know this because I floated the concept in my entry titled: Let's Just Deal With... where I suggested we needed to make a break from this place and collectively move to Dreamwidth. "Lukewarm" would be a gross exaggeration of the response.

Or just not use this type of platform anymore. Facebook does have the option for writing essays, and they have the possibility of going viral, if they're publicly posted.

I do know that my LJ time is now severely limited, no matter what happens, meaning that this will be one of my final thinkposts here on the old El Jay. But maybe I'll make a go of it on DW.

http://penpusher.dreamwidth.org/
penpusher: (Bison)
When I was seventeen and applying for college, I had some restrictions. The fact was, I didn’t have an unlimited supply of funding to draw from, so, that meant certain schools were off the table before I even began. I would not be applying to the Ivy League schools, just as an example. That was partially my own doing. If I had exemplary grades as a high schooler, rather than the good and solid grades I did get, perhaps I could have gotten a scholarship to have helped me through.

On the other hand, I was in a class of thirty-eight people.

Then there was the geography. My mother and grandmother wanted me to stay within a reasonable driving distance of New York, presumably so they could come visit me during the term and I guess so I’d have an easier time coming home. Bus fare or gas money, if I hitched a ride from a classmate, was pricey. It also meant my dream of going to California as an undergrad was not going to happen.

I personally ruled out any NYC area school. Having been permanently grounded for the entirety of my teenage years, I was not about to continue that trend into college. And since college dorms at New York schools were off limits if you were a New York resident, it would have meant living at home to attend, and that simply would not do.

And finally, there was my personal interest of study. I was clearly headed towards English Lit as a major; a school that was good for the arts was where I needed to be.

I applied to eight schools and got into seven of them, with the most distant one of the bunch Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. It was so far away, we didn’t even look at the campus, this, despite the fact that we had cousins who lived in a small town not far from the area, and some of whom now live in Pittsburgh, proper.

I would have liked CMU for a few reasons. It had a reputation for success in the arts, including a pretty illustrious list of alumni, many of whom went on to great careers in show business or in literature. From Kurt Vonnegut to Stephen Schwartz, from Steven Bochco to Bud Yorkin, from Carol Channing to Henry Mancini. And Pittsburgh was (and still is) a city I admire a great deal. I might even say I dote on it. I think if I had my way, I probably would have gone to Carnegie Mellon, just because of those elements. After all, who wouldn't want fifteen minutes of fame?

Boston University was the next most distant. The advantage here was a direct route. Amtrak would make it an easy in and out, probably the simplest option for travel of any of my choices. There was just something foreboding about Beantown and the school itself, to my mind, even without the Yankees/Red Sox element as a part of the problem (I also got into Tufts University, but I was never serious about that concept. My adviser simply suggested that as a safety school).

The compromise vote was Bucknell University, situated in the sleepy town of Lewisburg, PA. Bucknell had a lot of positives going for it, from my family’s view. First, it was close enough: about a two-and-a-half hour drive from New York, a straight shoot on Route 80 once you crossed the George Washington Bridge, then a quick zip south on Route 15 when you reached Central Pennsylvania. More importantly to me, it was far enough away to be off the RADAR. There would not be constant check-ins at this distance, allowing me my first ever taste of freedom.

Next it was (and still is) a really good arts school. Not only did they have a great English department and a wonderful library, they also had a remarkable theater, worthy of any I had seen on any campus. And it was a simply gorgeous campus – looking like the Central Casting version of what a University should be, and was eventually featured in a commercial for Hyundai.

It also wasn’t too large. The undergraduate population for the school ran about four-thousand total and I think it’s still below six-thousand, now. That was a better transition, coming from my tiny sized high school.

But the best element for me was the financial aid they were willing to provide. That, more than anything, turned the tide. Well, that and the fact that every faculty member that encountered me during second semester of my high school Senior year asked, “You’re going to Bucknell, right?” Bucknell clearly wanted me and wanted me badly enough to demonstrate that in the most obvious way possible: Cold Hard Cash. So, it was off to the Susquehanna River for my college experience!

I think it was pretty clear that my “recruitment” to this university was, in great part, due to Affirmative Action. Many colleges and universities did have and some still do have, problems getting minority students to accept their invitations. We can certainly discuss the reasons why that happened and why it continues to happen, but Affirmative Action was one initiative, designed to help resolve that issue.

Many people don’t understand that Affirmative Action actually serves two purposes. The first and more obvious purpose is that it allows minority students the opportunity to attend the seats of learning that their white counterparts have attended regularly and to receive a degree from those places of higher education, permitting them a better start in life and a better chance to achieve their goals. That’s really nice and something that will provide positive gains for our society in the long run.

Some people, admittedly, mostly white people, who understand that there is only a finite space in a college’s enrollment, take issue with Affirmative Action. They feel as if it permits “underqualified” or “unqualified” students to attend a school, while their children, who likely would have been accepted, might be blocked.

This issue was even taken to the Supreme Court, where in 2016, a case was brought by a white student who wished to attend the University of Texas, claiming she was “discriminated against because of her race.” The conservative SCOTUS split, but upheld the concept of Affirmative Action. Still, it was clear, the dissenting voices on the court were not content with the ruling, which also meant that a lot of Americans didn’t like or understand the issue, either.

That leads directly to the other element that Affirmative Action provides. It is the one most people, especially those like the woman in that Supreme Court lawsuit, neither realize nor understand. To me, it may be the more important purpose. The fact is, the United States is not the so-called “melting pot” often referenced when being described. We are, for the most part, separate groups. Part of that is due to Jim Crow Laws that were only repealed in 1964. Those laws forbade minorities to live, work, even shop or dine in the same places with white folks.

The problem with such separation is that it permits people to imagine what those “other people” are about, which is how we get stereotypes and prejudice. Affirmative Action was a method of clearing that well, of taking those thoughts and bringing them into the light. You can’t assume people are different when you are in classroom and in the cafeteria with them. You can see we really are all the same, and why would you be afraid of someone, based on hearsay? Who knew that it would, in some cases, create even more animosity?

But what I didn’t completely know or understand as I was making my final decision of what school I would attend was that Bucknell University had a real reason for wanting more minority students. Bucknell’s student body were (and very much still are) from the most insulated suburbs of the upper crust throughout the region: Connecticut towns like Darien, Cos Cob and Greenwich, the Philadelphia Main Line with those sprawling mansions, areas of Maryland and Virginia that housed golf courses and/or former plantations, and even the portions of New Jersey that people considered attractive!

The people from all of those places, were, likewise, incredibly insulated. That meant they had, to say the least, no empirical knowledge of what minority students were about, or even in some cases, no concept that minority students existed.

The issues I faced as a minority student at Bucknell made my reflection on my time there ambivalent, at best. But if you are an African American, that is often a standard. Independence Day, Thanksgiving, it’s tough to characterize the feeling you get from days like these, because of the meaning, but ambivalence does seem to sum it up. It’s like if you really loved a relative, say a grandmother or aunt, and they died on your birthday. Then, every year, you would celebrate your special day, but in the back of your head you know that you lost someone that meant a lot to you on that same day. Now, imagine waking up and having to consider that thought on a daily basis.

So, while I finally had my first opportunity to become the social person I always hoped to be, I was suddenly in an atmosphere where nobody really wanted to be social with me, simply because of who I was. It took a while for me to understand what was happening, but when I belatedly did, I had to grin at the circumstances, and just keep moving.

//

This story was written for LJ Idol, using the prompt Invitation
*This also is the continuation of a series of essays I wrote in autobiographical form tagged "Story of My Life." The most recent previous essay in this series was written in January, 2009.
penpusher: (Ringling Logo)
The things that entertain us, as a collective audience, have changed drastically over time. I personally never attended a Minstrel Show, but I understand they were beloved by many in their day. Radio was a very popular element of people's lives, and I guess there are still some that listen to certain forms of radio broadcasts, but it's definitely not the crucial source it once was...

And even television has flattened and thinned and has been redefined to go to areas beyond the device itself, with websites producing programming, and our collective ability to watch programs on our computers and phones is more than proof of that.

But with all of these changes over time, there was one constant: The Circus. And by "The Circus," I mean THE Circus: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

A Legendary "Combined" show The Ringling Brothers originally had their own circus, P.T. Barnum, the ultimate impresario, had exhibits which he would display and tour and James A. Bailey teamed up with him. Together these three entities would help carry this particular form of entertainment that has been a staple in the American fabric for nearly a century and a half.

Before television, before filmed newsreels even, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus brought audiences into a world they never would have seen, otherwise. Animals from other continents right in front of your nose to watch perform... unique acts that would amaze, from aerialists that did multi somersaults, mid-air, to the big cat tamers that risked their lives in a cage with twenty tigers.

And then, there are the clowns, the heart of the show, there to bring a smile, a tear, and maybe even a thought about humanity as we go.

The term "Sensory Overload" could have been coined for this three ring monstrosity, that demanded you look everywhere at once to see everything going on! It was organized chaos and confounded and delighted millions throughout time.

So, we have heard the news:

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is closing in May.

Perhaps the writing was on the wall as of a couple of years ago, when New York's boutique show, The Big Apple Circus, shut down. A beloved part of the scene for decades with its single ring and intimate setting, even it couldn't withstand a difficult economy and an era where most people simply didn't care as much about the tradition of this kind of entertainment.

When I was a kid, the Ringling show would come to town and camped out at Madison Square Garden for an unbelievable thirteen weeks... practically every school in the tri-state area took a trip to see the show during the spring, getting the requisite box of popcorn, the cotton candy, and the tiny flashlight on a string that you would swing over your head during a show "blackout" as the Ringmaster would announce the next performers.

The Circus is a throwback to the past, an historic relic of the way things were. Most people had no way of seeing animals like zebras or elephants up close until the circus came through town back in the 1940s and 50s

And that is, of course, part of the problem. As people understood the elements of what it meant for animals to live and perform on a traveling show, there was a constant outcry over the conditions for them. No matter your feelings on this issue, the protests that occurred had an impact on the way the show functioned and how it progressed.

And even with improvements that helped to support the care and raising of these wonderful creatures, eventually the call for change meant not just an adjustment in what was appropriate, but a complete overhaul and eventual dismantling of that element of the circus.

Certainly with alternate, but similar forms of entertainment, with zoos and aquariums becoming more common across the country, and with theme parks starting to be available in every state, suddenly the interest in a show like this wasn't quite the same, either... and even the Feld family, who have been the producers of this show for decades, had also been creating other, similar entertainment, like ice shows, that perhaps had, in their way, cut into the profit of the tentpole itself.

Maybe you were a person who attended a Ringling performance every year, going when you were a kid, maybe taking your kids to see it when you had a family. Or maybe you didn't attend, but liked the concept of what a circus meant. There's a sort of mystical, magical element to a show, people working together, traveling the countryside, performing, bringing a smile, a laugh, a thrill, some positive elements to the lives of others before they move on to the next town - the addition of some excitement and color to an otherwise average existence. That's why the concept of "running away with the circus" held so much romance and charm... you could leave your life as it was and become a part of something that made life brighter, brassier, better.

The collective history of what was known as "The Greatest Show on Earth" had its share of tragedy. Jumbo the Elephant, The Hartford Circus Fire and more recently, some of our community were remembering the deadly Ringling Train Derailment of 1994 which was January 13th of that year, twenty-three years ago now.

There was also some positive inspirational elements too, as the film "The Greatest Show on Earth" won the Oscar for Best Picture of 1952. There was the Broadway show Barnum which won a Tony Award for Jim Dale. And now, almost as a final coda, we have a new film, titled "The Greatest Showman" with Hugh Jackman in the role of Phineas Taylor Barnum, due for a Christmas 2017 release.

Personally, Ringling changed my life forever. I might have remained in a stale retail sales job. Being a manager for a department store seemed to be my life's direction until I got the call to go to Clown College. Because of that, I got some wonderful skills which I still use frequently. I got some fascinating jobs over time which took me to some pretty interesting places. And most importantly of all, I got a wonderful collection of friends and I became a part of a family of sorts. There are less than two thousand people who completed Ringling's Clown College course over the nearly thirty year history of that institution, making this a very exclusive group. I'm both pleased and honored to be among those ranks.

Recently, clowns have gotten a worse than usual name because of the actions of a few. But despite bad publicity, various protests and other elements, circuses haven't gone away completely. There are still some out there touring, and even some in residence in particular locations, so we can't quite say the art form is dead, but this is a very big and very notable milestone that is imminent. This is the loss of a part of our collective family tree.

At the end of every performance, the ringmaster of the Ringling show would make a seven word statement to the crowd as they gathered their belongings, their family members, their souvenirs and their memories of what they just witnessed. It was a way of holding the concept of what the show was about to the hearts of those who attended. I can't think of any other way to conclude but by offering them again, now.

"May All Your Days Be Circus Days."
penpusher: (Decades Network)
Consider this a kind of "State of the Love" Address for 2016, via a forty seven year old program.

If you are able to get the Decades Network, and you probably are if you have a CBS affiliate in your area, you might have tuned in to see some vintage programming that they broadcast (and I do mean broadcast, as the station is available, most everywhere, without a cable wire or satellite connection). They hold the lion's share of all of the programs that CBS/Paramount own, and with a lean for putting historic events (and vintage teevee shows) in perspective, they cycle through a lot of material, often linking what they show to the particular date, during the week. That also means, they don't have a set schedule of what gets shown when, so every day it's a surprise of vintage newsclips, forgotten films and talk shows and sitcoms and drama series all tossed together to celebrate an anniversary of an event or birthday of a notable person.

Weekends are a bit different because they do what's called "The Decades Binge," showing dozens of episodes of one series, all in a row and mostly in chronological order of original telecast date. Not to be overtly obvious, they chose to run a marathon of episodes from the series "Love, American Style" this Valentines' weekend.



An anthology series that originally ran on the ABC television network from the fall of 1969 through the winter of 1974, it also went into syndicated reruns on many local channels for many years after that.

The actor appearances on the show are quite notable, as some pretty big names did episodes throughout the run of the program, and many of the familiar names of actors from other long time popular sitcoms made multiple guest shots here, like Bill Bixby, Judy Carne, Larry Storch and Stefanie Powers, among a roll call of stars of that era. But perhaps the most notable and consistent element of the series was an unusual Brass Bed that found its way into the majority of episodes and "blackout" sketches throughout the run.



I decided to watch a few episodes of this show, as I remember being quite taken with it as a kid. The first thing I noted was the scoring of the show. Yes, the iconic theme song (originally performed by The Cowsills, but in the syndicated version only the "Charles Fox Singers") was there, but the incidental music used throughout the episodes really sounded like they wanted to be Burt Bacharach compositions. As an unabashed Bacharach fan, I'm sure part of my attraction to this program was based on this element, that I probably didn't even notice when I viewed it as a kid.

But more importantly, I realized a couple of very disturbing things. The first being that for a show from the era of "Women's Liberation," it was still highly sexist, almost to a disgusting level. Yes, it was a comedy, but for a series that actually could have made a statement about love in a way that gave a positive message, along with some laughs, an opportunity was clearly missed. ABC did a skosh better in that area with their similar anthology series, "The Love Boat," several years after this.

But on a personal note, I realize now that a lot of what I thought about love, how to get it, what it was about, how to behave around someone I was interested in and what it all really meant was, to some degree, shaped by this series. It might have been okay if I actually had a social life to counteract the false messages I was getting from a program like this one, or even if I had some other "relationship" program to watch that might have put it in a better perspective.

There were some clearly "stalking" type behaviors, played for comic effect, some "joke divorce" elements throughout and other really weird material, even for the late 60s and early 70s, when it first aired. I look at this program now and realize just how odd it is to me today, compared to how the me of my grade and junior high school years viewed it.

There is a whole "garbage in - garbage out" quality to some of this stuff that really makes me feel like I never should have heard of this show, let alone watched it after school while doing homework, as this was a terrible socialization method for learning about love, and it wasn't even that good as a sitcom.

If I could go back and tell my younger self one thing, I could have done much worse than telling me to never watch "Love, American Style," and really, that probably goes for this weekend, too.

That's the state of the love, this year.
penpusher: (ABT Logo)
As a fundraiser for both Advocacy and Artistic organizations, I've had some really interesting moments along the way. I've had the chance to have conversations with people I know you know, or at least have heard of, and that's typically enlightening, engaging and even sometimes fun.

For a while I was working for... )
penpusher: (Oscar)
I am the first person to have shown a completed film from New York Film Academy. In essence, that makes me the first graduate of that school. The year was 1992, when I wrote, storyboarded, cast, shot, edited and screened my film, "Somebody's Fool," at Robert De Niro's Tribeca Film Center, the location that NYFA occupied in its first couple of years, before moving to their own building, the former Tammany Hall on Union Square in 1994.

Since my class was the very first class, concessions were made. Tuition was a fraction of what it is today, but so was the curriculum: we had thirteen weeks from start to finish. Neither faculty nor students knew exactly how things were going to progress. And we all understood that going in. But the positive was that everyone in that inaugural class was offered the basics of how a film comes together and we all worked collectively as each other's support, from gaffers to actors. Why we didn't try to team up and create a production house of our own is one of many sad questions I will never be able to answer.

Of course, we were shooting on... )
penpusher: (Eclipse)
My one and only year of attending Public School was at P.S. 32 in Yonkers, New York. I was the only non-white student, from the First to the Sixth grade, at that institution during that term and one of only two minority people that entered those doors, the other being Special Needs teacher Miss Holland.

Yonkers, as a location, was a place filled with anger and hatred. It was too far north to be a part of New York City and the advantages that might have come with that. And it was south of the more affluent suburbs like Bronxville, Hartsdale or Scarsdale. Yonkers was decidedly working class, and, as such, very protective of its own people. If you were not in that group, you were not welcome, a fact which I have to believe my mother, sending me to this school, was completely unaware.

I was always up for an adventure... )
penpusher: (Ringling Logo)
You’ve seen them, at sporting events or in a parade, at a store opening or a theme park. Stilt walkers! They stand tall among the crowd and are definitely a festive part of any event.

At Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College, stilt walking was part of the curriculum, as the Circus typically has a set of stilt walkers as part of the Opening and/or Closing Spec (short for “spectacle” – when all performers are greeting the crowds on the arena floor).

I'm not completely sure how... )
penpusher: (iTunes)
I was the ripe old age of six and living in South Jersey when I really understood how music could alter your mood. It was a pageant for the lower school, and my first grade class just sang a medley of “America the Beautiful” and “This Land Is Your Land,” and then, as we exited the stage through the audience, something happened that didn't occur in rehearsal: someone played a recording of John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever,” and I got it. I proudly marched off to the song and even got some impressed looks from parents who *weren’t* my own.

Coming back to New York City... )
penpusher: (Ringling Logo)
I had been through an endless parade of schools: a pre-k, a different kindergarten, three different first grades (as my parents arranged their divorce), the same school from second to fourth, a year of terror, verbal and physical abuse in fifth, a settled three years for junior high, an all boys school in ninth grade before moving to the high school I would graduate from in tenth, and then on to college, the first time I ever spent four years at the same institution.

Always being the “New Kid” taught me an important lesson: using humor can get people to like you quickly, assuming you were actually funny and assuming they didn’t hate you on sight. By the time I was eleven, my role was defined: comedian. Unfortunately, humor didn’t make for lasting relationships of any kind, either friendships or romances. Or, perhaps it might have, had I stayed in any one place long enough.

Though most of the schools I attended were small... )
penpusher: (Ringling Logo)
Away back on February 18, 2003, I posted THIS ENTRY all about how I appeared in this funny little instructional video that Ringling Bros. produced during my Clown College class called "Be A Clown," Produced by Ron Severini, a former Dean of Clown College.

So, it seemed that the kid in the video, one Joey Severini, Ron's son, has posted it on youtube, so now you all can see the nonsense I got myself into when I was at dear old RBBB CC.



Daffy Dean Invites You Into The Big Top )
penpusher: (Heart By <lj user=groovyamy>)
It has been a while since I have done a "State of the Love" address. I haven't had much love for anything recently and I haven't had much motivation for it.

But it is time for a change. It's time to return to the values, the feelings, the things that make us who we are at our core, the essential elements that display what we are about. And that means a return to love.

What is love? Why is it so important? Why is it so difficult to achieve, so tenuous to hold onto, so fleeting and so fragile? And what's the element of love that makes it what it is and makes us what we are?

There are different kinds of love. And we can love people in different ways. We can love people for their physical beauty, their mental ability, their charm, their foibles. We can love people because they know we don't love them. Or we can love people in spite of who they really are.

But right now, in the world, we are all dealing with a situation that could overshadow things: the global economy.

Do we even have time for love as we all scramble to make certain we don't lose our personal financial stability?

Really, now, more than ever, we need love in our lives. We need it; we deserve it; we must have it.

Love makes life brighter, happier, more meaningful, more valuable. Not to say that if you don't have love, your life is no good, but love is like a spice... it definitely adds flavor!

my first State of The Love Address in 2002 wasn't even that yet. I was just posting some thoughts I had about Valentine's generally. But then the following year, This post took on a more austere tone. but it was 2004 when The State of the Love Address became official. 2005's Address only helped to make things more focused.

The most recent "official" address: 2006 Edition, focused on "The List"®, the qualities you hope to find in the person you want to have in your life. I still believe this will help anyone who is seeking their true love because it will focus yourself on what you are seeking, and that automatically makes it easier to locate what you are looking to find.

and the 2008 entry which wasn't official, rehashed that valentine's mailbox story, yet again. I wish I had other stuff to talk about, since that's really old at this point.

But to get back on track, and to look ahead for this year and all the years that are to follow, love is what we are about. I think back to 9/11/01 and to the people trapped in the flaming towers of the World Trade Center... knowing that they were going to die, calling the people they cared about to say goodbye. That represents humanity at its worst and its best. The hatred of the people who committed that act and the love of those who couldn't escape their fate.

Now, we're in another situation, where institutions are demanding, where we are not as able to afford the trappings of success, or the items that can help define what traditionally have been markers that demonstrate what this emotion is supposed to create.

That's over.

Do we care about each other? Can we relate to each other? Will we ultimately celebrate each other? Is it possible to forgive each other?

I don't know where the world is headed. But I do know that when we get wherever we're going, we're always going to need a few things. Air. Food. Water. Clothing. Shelter. And Love.

Thanks for reading my journal. I may not always say it, but I always think it. I appreciate you being there.

Much love to you tonight, and always.
penpusher: (Ignoreworthy)
In case anyone was wondering about my amazon.com issue, here are the pathetic, sordid and embarrassing facts.

I might never have discovered any of this if someone hadn't made a comment to one of my reviews. So I replied by crafting a well formed answer. When I hit return, the system erased my reply and told me I was "not a member in good standing in the Amazon community," so I was not permitted to post anything to any reviews.

I wrote to amazon for an explanation. They told me I had been "harassing" and that I had lost my "good standing" privileges. Therefore, I could not ever post comments.

Upon further explanation, the "harassing" I did was directed at Harriet Klausner, who is one of the top reviewers for the website, and who was (and continues to be) frequently criticized for her book reviews, as she can't possibly be reading all of the books she reviews in the time she gets her reviews written. At best, she's reviewing the book jackets. But ok, that's not my argument. It was the argument of some very harsh critics who constantly complained about her reviews. I mean, there was a severe battle royal going on between the people who were against her and her team of supporters, and, being new to me, I sort of found it amusing, in a way. I wanted to have a little bit of fun with this, without stooping to the tactics some of these vehement vocal vanguards were voicing.

So, I decided to write "The Top 25 anagrams for HARRIET KLAUSNER." I had some free time one Sunday afternoon, and this must have been nearly two years ago, actually. Some of the better ones were "A SURREAL THINKER" and "RITUAL RANKER SHE." Really I pulled my punches, because there are a lot of very nasty ones you could make from her name. I wanted to be amusing, not insulting!

At any rate, I placed each of the 25 anagrams used under one of her reviews. That probably was my mistake, as that amounted to twenty-five different "attacks," instead of just one. Each listing appeared exactly like this:

"The Top 25 Anagrams For HARRIET KLAUSNER."

"UNEARTH REAL RISK"

Find them all!


No commentary. No criticism. Simply what the rearranged letters spelled. And I even tried to place them under appropriate books where possible, like the anagram "RAREST LUNAR HIKE" I put under a book review about space travel.

I suppose Harriet or one of her many minions considered this an attack, reported me to the amazon abuse team and the rest, as they say is history. I am now a permanent pariah in the Amazon community.

There it is.
penpusher: (Heart By <lj user=groovyamy>)
I haven't done a "State of the Love" address in a couple of years. And, really, I'm not doing one this year, either. Check with me again in 2009.

Let's be clear. Valentine's Day really has almost nothing to do with St. Valentine, one or more martyred Italian guys way back when Rome was the most important city on the planet. It doesn't even have that much to do with some Chaucerean legend of chivalrous guys courting ladies of import.

It's really there to

A. help make the winter go by faster

and

B. Provide merchants and retailers an excuse to get you to buy stuff.

not necessarily in order of importance.

Having "events" helps make the time go by. So stick a bunch of stuff into a month and you have a faster moving scene. Groundhog Day? Come on! I mean, that isn't even logical. But Valentine's Day... at least that has some sense there could be a meaning there. We're halfway through February now. Presidents' Day is up next, we're two more weeks from March, and then 3 weeks later, it's the equinox! See, it's not long until the snow and cold go away and we get the sun back in the Northern Hemisphere.

VD really is a Hallmark Holiday, and we all know it. It was orchestrated and devised specifically, not to be about "love," but about commerce. And to me, that suggests something more evil and less caring. Why do we have to bother with the trappings of candy, flowers, and other such stuff, when that isn't needed? But, if you have someone you care about, you'll do something nice today, so you're stuck!

Maybe I'm a little cynical about this day because I only had one truly "Good" Valentine's Day in my life. And it happened when I was 9.

I was in the 4th grade and my teacher, Miss Virginia, was into fun and funny stuff. She was a Sutton Place socialite who tooled around town a forest green vintage Stingray convertible and she encouraged a lot of classroom participation. She managed to make all of us feel special and loved and I think we all felt the same way about her.

In January of that year, we were flipping through some idea books and came across a thing where you could build a "Valentines Mailbox." Miss Virginia mused that this might be a fun thing to have... but then she breezed on to some other stuff and I suppose she completely forgot.

But, I didn't.

So, I got the directions from the book and asked my mom if we could build it. She said yes, and so we set about getting the materials we needed, from Party Bazaar, a shop on Madison Avenue that had tons of stuff like construction paper, glue, doilies, tubes, hinges, metal brads, all things we would need to construct this fairly elaborate mailbox.

We took home the goods and set about to building the box. Me with my Lefty Scissors, cutting out heart shapes from the red thick paper, and gluing them very carefully. Snipping the doilies so they were arranged correctly on each side of the box. A tube suspended a large heart in the top center of the box, and pink and red streamers came down from the sides, with a touch of glitter and confetti and when it was done, it looked just like the picture in the book! Better, because it was three dimensional.

I couldn't wait for the 14th to come! When the day finally arrived, I marched into the classroom, carrying the Valentines Mailbox and Miss Virginia was simply bowled over! I think she was more excited about it than I was! She gave me a hug and thanked me for taking the time to do this, then she asked everyone in the class to bring their Valentines up and put them in the box before we started class.

Then, at lunch time, she assigned me the role of postmaster, and I got to deliver the Valentines to all of the kids in our room. I think I only got one or two that year, but I didn't care. It really wasn't about that for me. I was happy to be such a big part of it all, and that my teacher was so pleased with the effort.

Looking back on that moment, I guess I'm not really a cynic when it comes to Valentine's Day. I guess I still am a romantic. And I hope, if you are, you have a wonderful time, today and tonight.

One thing is certain... you may or may not have someone special in your life, but you are special to me.

Love to you and Happy Valentine's Day!

VD4U

Feb. 14th, 2002 02:32 am
penpusher: (Pen)
I've never had a Valentine on Valentine's Day.
That sounds pathetic, doesn't it? )

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