Monday, February 25, 2008

ESL: Preface

So I've been reading about East Saint Louis. I have one book at home, another I've requested from the library and I've been looking on the internet. There's so much material, so many little tangents to follow, more than I even realized when I decided to start exploring.

I've also been surprised, given the complexity of the problems the city has faced, to find that there is a lack of information about exactly what has happened in the city during a certain time period in the 1980's while Carl Officer was Mayor. Some of it has to do with the fact that it happened before the internet, But sometimes I think it's more than that. Sometimes I think that there is some sort of collusion not to talk in detail about these things, but why?

First, I suspect that some of it has to do with a 'code of ethics' that keeps a lot of journalists who might have some interest in the city from a humanistic standpoint from digging it up, perhaps out of a sense of decency. The city already has a horrible reputation, why besmirch it further by focusing on everything that's gone wrong? It wouldn't help anything, it might make things worse.

Another factor that I'm sure is in place making it difficult to find out certain things is because no-one involved will talk about it. They don't want anyone meddling. ESL has a lot of municipalities and a lot of people in politics and everyone is interconnected and they cover each others butts, I'm sure that the old 'conspiracy of silence' thing is going on here. The politics of ESL have been compared to Mayor Daley's machine if that tells you anything.

Sadly, I suspect that another reason for this vacuum of information simply has to do with the fact that a lot of people really don't care, as long as ESL problems remain contained within ESL, they will look the other way. Most local people will tell you that it is their own damn fault anyway. (A partial myth that I intend to dispel, it's certainly much more complicated than that!)

A lot of things about ESL intrigue me. This may sound strange, but I love the way the city looks. It's not a beautiful city, instead it's surreal, it has this crazy post-apocalyptic appearance. I've heard that there is not another city like it in the US. The city looks just like it did when my mom was growing up there, 60 years ago. Little has changed or been repaired in many cases. When I go there I get this odd feeling that the people and the cars and anything modern have been super-imposed on the city, that we are somehow the ghosts. I get that feeling every time I go there and I can't really explain it any better than that. I'll write about this.

The history of the city is rich and exciting and horrible in some cases. Robber Barons, Southern Illinois Mafia with the redlight district and the bootlegger, the politics that went into forming the city. This city you will find, reflects the story of the nation. I will write about this.

Then there was the race riot. Leaving it out would be a glaring omission, it must be talked about. I will write about that.

And of course there is the decline of the city which is what it is known for and the reasons for this and how bad things finally became in the 1980's. Things like this are the shame our nation and no nation has the right to hold it's head up high as long as this is occurring. East Saint Louis has influenced my politics. I can never look at it and live the lie of denying that we have some serious domestic issues. So, I will write about this too.

Did I say earlier that Mayor Daley's machine had nothing on ESL? Well, I'll write about politics too though as I mentioned earlier, I'm having a hard time finding information pertaining to a certain recent time period. But I think that I can find out, it may just take me awhile. So, see how much fun you have to look forward too? And you thought Christmas was over!

On a more personal note, IT SURE IS HARD TO BLOG WHEN YOU ARE WITH A FOUR YEAR OLD 24/7! I get so frustrated sometimes, I start jonesing for my blog and I just can't get to it. But don't think I'm complaining, I love being at home with her. (I just wish she would take long daily naps!)

Another thing: I'm so easy to entertain. All I need is a piece of yarn. Today I cleaned the house with a piece of yarn tied onto my shoe so that I could watch my cat act the fool while I went about doing my thing. It added quite an element of fun. I wish that on my next job, I can go to work with a piece of yarn tied on my shoe and bring my cat along, it would make it so much more bearable. Maybe I can say that I need this as a job accommodation.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


And no-this is not my house.
Haven't had much time lately. Had to help my fourth grader with her science fair project. She thought it was due next week, but it was due yesterday. Had to play catch-up but got it done in the nick of time. Twenty minutes before it was due as a matter of fact. Incidentally, hot water and cold water reach 32 degrees at the same time. but we didn't let it turn to ice.

I'm working on a post that I've wanted to do for a long time about East Saint Louis, Illinois. I don't know how long it will take.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Time to Learn More

The elections this year are very interesting. Unfortunately, it is making me uncomfortably aware of how little I really understand about some of the issues. And since not knowing prompts one to learn and thinking you know is static..I don't think that this is a bad thing in every way.

I watched a little clip the other night, prepared by a reporter from the Rolling Stone who did a story on how the press recieves information on the debates. They go into a room with a TV screen and watch and then they talk to PR people from the campaigns. The PR people thrown out little slogans and the journalists write them down and write an article based on this. Then the stories start coming out and they are often uniform articles written by people who don't really have an strong understanding, whether it's through their own fault or it's just because of the process, But it reminded me of kids in school who go to class unprepared and then copy the answers from each other.

Here is something else that I always notice, especially on television. They say that ageism is very entrenched in American society. Sometimes I watch these shows that seem to be staffed by young attractive reporters and they will make comments about the past with these self-assured tones and I wonder to do they know? They weren't born. They had to have read it, did they learn it through some sort of required reading while they were in college? And if so, whose opinion is it, really? And please, I'm not knocking young people, we all offer a perspecive that is important. I don't think that the perspecive of the young or the older should be discounted.

I love Lisa Ling (though she is a different type of reporter than what I am talking about) when she reports she does it in a way that you feel that she is exploring life, trying to understand things, on a journey to obtain mature perspective, she never acts like she already knows it all and this is how it should be. Even older people should not lose that quality. If older people had opportunites to be something besides conservative pundits, how would perspectives differ? It is a mistake to discount older people, even if you don't disagree with them, they still have a knowledge based on experience and that counts for a lot.

Given the nature of media, there seems to be a lot of people who strike one as parroting popular phrases that make it sound like one is well-informed in actuality, many really aren't. I'm guilty of it too, that's why I don't talk too much about politics. I hate that feeling that I am throwing out a popular catch-phrase to hide the fact that I don't really understand this obscurity at all, I'd rather not say anything at all. The only things that I feel comfortable talking about and don't feel like a phoney talking about are things that I saw myself or things that I have made a genuine and deep effort to analyze. I always intend to correct the gaps in my knowledge by finding out more and then I get distracted by something else that I am interested in and I leave it. But the elections have inspired me to learn more and what I have learned has only given me more questions, which as I said is not bad.

Last night I spent some time on the internet reading Noam Chomsky, I've meant to do this for a long time and never have and he made a comment about NPR that I found interesting. He seemed to consider NPR as one-sided as say.....Mike Savage. He was very cutting. He made a comment to the effect that wealthy people who graduate from Ivy League universites are completely out-of-touch and elitist. This is also what conservatives always say and I found this interesting for of course, Noam Chomsky is about as liberal as they come. He also said that Obama thinks that the truth lies somewhere between conservative talk radio and NPR. I'm not sure what this means. Does this mean that Obama is centrist? Or does it mean that NPR is not genuinely liberal, that it misses the point because it stands above and apart from real-life observing from an anthropoligical viewpoint instead of participating in it? Or both?

I also found this disturbing because I've considered NPR a good source of news and I'm not sure what I think of what he said but it gave me something to mull over. Ultimatley, I think he is right in his belief that we need the voices of people who have lived it as well as those who are removed from it. We need people who have made an effort to cogently form an idealogy that doesn't come entirely from books...we need another Studs Terkel.

Another thing that this made me think about is you know, even reading Chomskey gave me the feeling that I was recieving someone elses pre-digested ideas. I suppose there is no other way to understand history you have to read the ideas and perspectives of another person if you weren't alive then, it's inescapable, it takes a great effort to be truly informed and I'm not sure that very many people can achieve it though some come closer than others.

Well, I'm trailing off.......without any conclusions and I think that is good....we should always be asking questions, we should never stop, none of us, young and old...that's how we learn. We value people who seem to give us answers but we shouldn't, the searching for answers is what is the most valuable. I think I'm going to write more about these things.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

This and that

Has anyone else been having weird weather? The other day, I took my daughter for a walk around the block because it was so nice and warm and sunny. We weren't even halfway done with the walk when it started raining and the temperature began rapidly dropping. I ended up picking her up and jogging home with her in order to get home quicker because we were getting so cold and wet. The clouds were coming in so fast that it looked like special effects, later the wind got up to 75 miles an hour.

The temperature ended up dropping 50 degrees that day and finally it began to snow. It snowed 8 inches, which is more snow than we have had in the last 10 years. Then by Monday, the temperature was in the 70's and all the snow melted, when me and my daughter attempted another walk (this time we made it!) the snow was melting so fast that there were little rivers going down the streets and sidewalks and you could hear the water rushing through the storm drains. By tonight or tomorrow, it is supposed to snow again.

Super Tuesday!! I'm hoping for some good news as I guess we all are. Who do I want to win the Democratic nomination? Obama. I like Obama and Hilary, but I think that Obama has a better chance of going up against the Republicans than Hilary does. I don't think Hilary could win. I was driving the other day and there was a young girl outside on the road holding a Vote for Obama sign. She was happy and grinning and I caught her eye and gave her a thumbs up and she did a little jig! If he wins methinks there will be lots more people dancing.

I saw a comment on a blog the other day that surprised me. It surprised me because it made me realize that this person was a hardcore conservative and I just never would have pegged them that way. So, I went to their blog and read for a little while and I was really confused. There were lots of comments on liberals and I thought, "Who are they talking about? I'm liberal and so are a lot of people that I am close to and I don't recognize anyone I know in this description." Maybe aspects here and there but that's all.

I even saw one comment in which someone said that a relative of theirs, away at college, had become liberal. They were razzing him about it and someone told him, "You may say your liberal but I'll bet you would never marry a liberal girl." And he was apparently chagrined by this comment and agreed with his family I was completely bewildered by this apparently inside joke that you I suppose just can't understand unless you are conservative as well.

But you know, we all caricature each other. I've seen liberals do it to conservatives as much as I have seen conservatives do it to liberals and either way it makes me uncomfortable. It does not create dialogue, it destroys it. And I find it interesting that each side tends to accuse the other of the same things. Each side thinks the other is trying to control the media, and each side think that the other is trying to destroy the middle class, for instance. Each side also seems to have it's own version of history which is interesting, sometimes I wonder how much a lot of people really do know about history, even if they think that they do.

My son graduated from Saint Louis University and went to school with kids parents who were...well....much wealthier than me and so he was exposed to lots of kids who have more of a Republican outlook. It is interesting sometimes to talk to him, since he is young--history is just that to him--history. He doesn't remember--he's only read about it. He knows the facts but not so much the why's and since he's a computer major, he really didn't have a lot of classes in it.

One night he was complaining about and making fun of polical correctness. I told him that I wish that he would remember that a lot of these things were begun for a very good reason. Yes, some of it has gone too far, sometimes it gets petty and silly, sometimes it bogs down discussion but if he looked into the past and saw what people used to say before, he would understand why it came about. (I'm imprinting him.) Somehow the lessons of the past had been lost with only the results apparent, sort of standing alone without people remembering why other people thought they were necessary at one time. We all do that to each other.

My mom has always been into the Tao. She taught me to see how everything is always striving for a balance and how the further things get out of balance, the more they will swing in the opposite way to compensate. Sometimes I can understand politics better if I stop thinking of everyone as having their own evil agenda (though I know that there are people who do) and just see it as society trying to reach some sort of balance. It's easier for me to think of it that way. ( I guess my mom imprinted me too.)

Been reading a lot of Biographies lately. Biographies about writers. I also read a fun book about famous literary feuds. Ernest Hemingway vs Gertrude Stein. That one was a gas! They were both so sly and sarcastic and genteel about cutting each other down. Truman Capote and Gore Vidal. That one was a lot of fun as well. And finally Tom Wolfe (Bonfire of Vanities) vs. everyone. I got an interesting insight from that one, one that really affected me.

In summation, Tom Wolfe's writing style is journalistic. And according to other writers, this does not constitute true literature. Tom Wolfe differs with them all saying that the standard is what is flawed, not his writing. He says that literature has become too introspective, that plot is sacrificed and that nothing ever happens.

And you know, he's right! Around the turn of the century when the study of psychology really started to influence societies view of reality, literature did turn introspecive. A type of writing called impressionistic writing became popular and has never really gone out of style. If someone writes a book containing action and plot, it will be on the paperback rack. If someone spends 200 pages writing about how they felt when their childhood pet died, that is literature. Of course, I'm exagerating but I think Mr. Wolfe is onto something.