Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Genius and Love

The last time I wrote about Theodore Dreiser's “The Genius” (July 4th), Eugene Witla was romantically involved with two young women, Angela Blue and Ruby Kenny, at the same time. Because, unlike with Ruby, Angela didn't yield herself to Eugene, he found this particularly titillating. As a result, Angela slowly gained the ascendancy over Ruby for Eugene's affections.

Angela was hoping Eugene would offer her his hand in marriage, for her situation was getting to be desperate. She was five years older than Eugene, nearing thirty – the age when she would be in danger of becoming forever an Old Maid.

While Eugene liked romance, he wasn't big on marriage. Angela, realising that if she was to hold on to Eugene she would have to yield herself to him, accordingly did. Then she said to him in so many words that if she couldn't be married, so to be left on the shelf as an Old Maid, she would drown herself in a lake.

Being not totally devoid of conscience, Eugene promised to marry Angela. First, though, he planned to move to New York City where there were more opportunities for him as an artist. Once established there, he would send for Angela and they would marry.

However, in New York City, Eugene met young women, like Miriam Finch and Christine Channing, who, through their sophistication and erudition, made Angela seem to him a country bumpkin.

Nonetheless, and with a heavy heart, Eugene eventually did send for Angela, and they were married. Then they moved to Paris for a short while.

Angela was the very model of a selfless wife. She took care of all the household duties, thereby freeing Eugene to devote all his time to his painting.
.....Only at night when there were no alien sights and sounds to engage his attention, when not even his art could come between them, and she could draw him into her arms and submerge his restless spirit in the tides of her love did she feel his equal – really worthy of him.

These transports which came with the darkness or with the mellow light of the little oil lamp that hung in chains from the ceiling near their wide bed, or in the faint freshness of dawn with the birds cheeping from the one tree of the little garden below – were to her at once utterly generous and profoundly selfish. She had eagerly absorbed Eugene's philosophy of self-indulgent joy where it concerned themselves – all the more readily as it coincided with her own vague ideas and her own hot impulses.

Angela had come to marriage through years of self-denial, years of bitter longing for the marriage that perhaps would never be, and out of these years she had come to the marriage bed with a cumulative and intense passion.

Without any knowledge either of the ethics or physiology of sex, except as pertained to her state as a virgin, she was vastly ignorant of marriage itself; the hearsay of girls, the unequivocal confessions of newly-married women, and the advice of her elder sister had left her almost as ignorant as before, and now she explored its mysteries with abandon, convinced that the unrestrained gratification of passion was normal and excellent........

Beginning with their life in the studio in Washington Square, and continuing with even greater fervour now in Paris, there was what might be described as a prolonged riot of indulgence between them, bearing no relation to any necessity in their natures, and certainly none to the demands which Eugene's intellectual and artistic tasks laid upon him. She was to Eugene astonishing and delightful; and yet perhaps not so much delightful as astonishing.......”

Could “Fifty Shades of Grey” do better?

Can we even wonder why “The Genius”, shortly after being published, was Banned, and could only be re-published several years afterwards?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Ten Favourite Songs

The writer of a blog I sometimes visit had read a book by a psychologist that said the stuff you have in your house, and the stuff you have in your garbage bin, and the clothes you wear, and the songs you like, say everything about you.

So she (the blogger) made a list of the ten songs she likes best, and invited her readers to list their ten best songs in the “comments” section. I accordingly did this.

While I found it extremely difficult to decide on the ten songs I like best, I decided to list the ten songs that are among my favourites: Here they are, and in no particular order:

- *Windmills of Your Mind* – Dusty Springfield

- *It Was A Very Good Year* – Frank Sinatra

- *Morning Has Broken* – Cat Stevens

- *Solitaire* – Neil Sedaka

- *Long, Long Time* – Linda Ronstadt

- *Cat's In The Cradle* – Harry Chapin

- *Scarboro Fair* – Simon and Garfunkel

- *Old Man* – Neil Young

- *Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues* – Danny O'Keefe

- *Night Fever* – Bee Gees

Since, according the psychologist, the songs we like say a lot about us, what does my liking these songs say about me? I don't know. Or maybe I do, but would rather not talk about it. But I notice that most came out in the 1970s, which is odd, since I'm of the generation that thought the songs of the 1960s were the be all and end all of all that was good in popular music.

While three songs in my list (It Was a Very Good Year, Windmills of Your Mind, and Scarboro Fair) did come out in the 'sixties, only one (Scarboro Fair) was a stereotypical 'sixties song.

Because I consider that the songs of the 'seventies were better than those of the 'sixties, this is no doubt why no Beatles songs made it into my list. Not that the Beatles didn't come out with good songs and deep songs, for they did come out with many. Somehow, though, none of the Beatles' songs spoke to me as did the songs in my list, which speak to me now as much as they did then, those forty-or-so years ago.

Were I to make another list of ten other songs I like, I might well put some Beatles' songs in there, as well as some Kinks songs, and maybe some Elvis songs too.

In my list, one song (Night Fever) seems not quite to fit, for it is of the disco genre, and therefore frivolous compared to the others. But I had a weakness for the disco songs. They were a welcome break from the heaviness of the 'sixties and early 'seventies. Besides, I always particularly liked the Bee Gees.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

More on Education

Here's another comment I left on the blog posting on a blog I read often, that I wrote of last time (July 11, 2012):
Based on the comments so far, the quality of taxpayer-funded education, once excellent, would seem to have gone downhill, continues to go downhill, and will go yet further in this unhappy direction unless Something Is Done.

While it might be nice to have taxpayer-funded education that’s once again excellent, the question I ask is: excellent for what?

I suggest (and most humbly so) that there’s no longer a need for excellent taxpayer-funded education because there are no longer the jobs for excellently-educated young people to go to. Consider how it was in the 1950s and 1960s in America. There were jobs galore then, that needed educated brains, most of which had to be American-educated.

Today, on the other hand, most jobs needing educated brains have been moved overseas. Those still remaining in America can be done by brains imported already-educated.

This state of affairs isn’t because those who run corporate America - the ones who have moved these jobs overseas - are any more wicked now than they were in the 1950s and 1960s. It’s just that the technology has changed. While the American-educated brain was once the best means for corporate America’s profits, the foreign-educated brain is now the best means.

As for corporate America, the point has been made by certain knowledgeable people, that most of the big corporations are no longer really “American”. Rather, they’re global networks that design, make, buy, and sell things in wherever in the world it’s most profitable.

Hence corporate America no longer has any loyalty to America. It just needs lower taxes, fewer regulations, and less public spending, which would include less spending on education.

Since what corporate America (or corporate anywhere, for that matter) wants, it usually gets, taxpayer-funded education will likely continue in its present unhappy direction.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

On Education

The writer of a blog I visit often, was bemoaning in a posting the state of public education in the State of California, where she used to teach.

She asked despairingly, “What's wrong with California Public Education?”

In a comment to the posting, I said:
Better to ask, what’s wrong with public education everywhere?

A problem is that public education hasn’t responded adequately to the huge changes in society, particularly the huge changes in the way people now earn a living.
The compulsory education of children should be only to the point where they can handle a job at the likes of a McDonald’s. So they should be able to add and subtract in order to give out the correct change, and be able to operate a cash machine or even a personal computer, and to write English well enough to compose a letter accompanying a job application.

This is because most jobs in the New Global Economy require skills no more complicated than needed to work at a McDonald’s. Consider the shop-assistants, waiters, salesmen and assorted hucksters, truck-drivers, window-washers, clerks, janitors, hot-dog stand operators etc. You don’t need rocket science to do what they do. You just need a grade 8 education or less. These jobs comprise 80% of all jobs in the New Global Economy.

So then, what about the other 20% of jobs? What about the engineers, doctors, nurses, mathematicians, computer-programmers, economists and scientists? Where will they come from?

From outside America, that's where.

Why should the American taxpayer have to pay to produce scientists, doctors, engineers and their like, when they can be imported ready-made from beyond America's shores?

Consider the current practice of America's corporations in re-locating their manufacturing plants and service operations to third-world countries whose costs of labour are minuscule compared to those at home.

The captains of industry have learned that it’s cheaper, and therefore more efficient, to import goods than produce them at home. It follows that it's cheaper and therefore more efficient, to import highly trained and educated workers than to produce them in America.

Subjects like history, political science, geography, social studies, literature, foreign languages, music, painting, and other touchy-feely non-manly subjects, need no longer be taught in America's schools. You don’t, for instance, need to know where Malawi is, or who Abraham Lincoln was, to work at McDonald’s. You just need some arithmetic, a knowledge of basic sentence construction, elementary computer skills, and some psychology – the better to use in persuading customers into consuming what is unhealthy for them, or otherwise don’t need. For class reading, students need read no more than the works of Donald Trump or Lee Iaccoca.

The result would be more efficient use of schools, since they would no longer waste time and money teaching Arts and Humanities, an immersion in which also makes young people uppity. It isn't a coincidence that a high percentage of militant union leaders and political agitators have been schooled in the Arts, History, or Political Science.

Education budgets under this plan, would be a quarter of what they are now. Americans would thus pay less in taxes, and so would keep more of their hard earned money to do with as they please.

Nothing would stop any American learning the higher skills or becoming educated in the Arts and Humanities. He would simply pay for it from his own pocket. No longer would his children be forced to learn all that Shakespeare, or all that Moliere, if he doesn't want them to. If he wants them to, he himself would pay for it, not the hard-working taxpayers.

This wouldn’t mean the end of Harvard, Yale, UCLA, and the other hallowed institutions of higher learning. They would continue, but all their fees and revenues would come from the pockets of their students, or, more likely, the pockets of their parents.

Most of their students would likely be from outside America. But the entire costs of studying at an American university, regardless of nationality of the student, wouldn’t cost the hard-working American taxpayer a nickel.

Implement this education plan, and American education, and not to say the Californian, would once again be the envy of the world.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

The Genius

Theodore Dreiser's novel, "The Genius", first came out in 1915 or thereabouts. Its central character, Eugene Witla, when growing up, felt himself a fish out water, for his father was manufacturer of sewing machines in Alexandria, a town in Illinois. Eugene couldn't think of anything worse than being a manufacturer of sewing machines, for he had the soul of an artist.

As soon as Eugene had accumulated enough money after leaving high-school, he headed for Chicago, where he hoped to be rid of the sewing machine ambiance for ever. In Chicago he is employed in menial jobs, but at night takes art courses, where he meets the sort of people, artistic free spirits, who he feels more at home with than with the people he meets when doing menial jobs.

Eventually Eugene lands a job as an illustrator at a big Chicago newspaper. It being the late 19th century, photography was still primitive, so people still drew pictures when today they would take photos. Therefore if you could draw, there were more jobs, like in newspapers and magazines, waiting for you than today.

Eugene, in addition to liking doing drawing, also likes young women. When in Chicago he got involved with two of them - Ruby Kenny and Angela Blue. They were opposites, for Ruby, who was an artist model among other things, was a young woman of relatively easy virtue. Angela, a schoolteacher, was rather prim and proper, and so wasn't of easy virtue.

Eugene considered Ruby good to have fun with, rather than to take seriously. Angela, on the other hand, Eugene did take seriously. Angela's primness and properness inflamed Eugene's passion for her.

***

If normal, you'll probably condemn Eugene for having affairs with two women at the same time, and that he kept each of them ignorant of the other. You will call him a two-timer, a bounder, a cad, or something similar.

But, didn't Eugene's two simultaneous affairs draw attention to the fact that no one woman can supply all a man's wants? So he must go to another woman for meeting the unmet wants that the other woman can't supply? If more married men today did as Eugene did then, there'd be a lot less divorces.

***

Why did Dreiser call the central character "Eugene", rather than William, Robert, or Edward? Is it because the novel is called, "The Genius"? You will surely see that "Genius" is quite like "Eugene". I haven't noticed any literary critics talking about this.

***

I'm only a seventh of the way through "The Genius". I may write of it again another time.