Saturday, October 26, 2013

Reaching Out and Conversating

And spring became a summer
Who'd believe you'd come along
Touching hands
Reaching out
Touching me
Touching you - from "Sweet Caroline" Neil Diamond, 1969

Glasses Through Glass - Moscot on West 14th
When did I first hear someone say, "That's a first world problem"?

If I could place it in relative time, it'd be before I had seen "Inbox me!" and definitely after I had heard "conversating" an action word - or verb as we used to say - from the noun "conversation".

Conversating is all about flexibility, and barely a week goes by without a new word or phrase being adopted into American English.

Lately it is all about "reaching out", which I believe is an East Coast sort of thing. Just as West Coast people started the "sharing" thing - "Thank you for sharing", East Coast people now talk of "reaching out".

You "reach out" to someone who isn't there, but who you want to talk, inbox or conversate with, some time in the near future. You could also use "reach out" if you wanted someone else to inbox a third party.

Although you might think could just as easily use the verb "contact", as in "Please contact Emma tomorrow" - that'd sound a bit too in your face. "Reaching out" is softer, more caring. Just as "sharing" is softer than "telling".

These "reaching out" and "sharing" things are all very First World.

Third World people in America say quaint things like "tooken". As in "I had tooken my car to the gas station when you called me." I kinda like it. For some reason it conjures up hobbits and New Zealand airline safety announcements. Tooken, Tolkien, all very hobbitish.

I love the way Americans dream up new words, make verbs of nouns, and nouns from verbs.

Mosgot on 14th
It is very freedom of speech. I used to think "freedom of speech" had something to do with democracy - I didn't know it was about grammar and lexicons.

Freedom of speech is taken very seriously in New York.

I was having my hair washed at on 14th today when I heard the unseen hair-washer-person behind me talking. Not being able to see her or to work out what she was saying - I was lying back with my hair dangled in the basin - I asked her what she had said. "I am talking to myself!" the disembodied voice came back.

And then more disembodied animated talk. "What was this?" I thought to myself. I am used to such people saying things like, "How was your day?" or "Are you going out tonight?" So I asked again if she was talking to me. It was awkward. She literally had my head in her hands and I was becoming anxious. I couldn't see her. The situation was becoming very Polanski à la 1968.

I was feeling edgy, uncomfortable, when the invisible person answered me, "Listen this is America and it is a free country and I can talk to myself if I want to!"

"I think I will leave NOW!" I said with pretend bravery; after all I had a hair full of foaming shampoo. ASIF I could walk down 14th Street looking like a mad woman.

And then, so New York - the customer at the basin next to me conversated. New Yorkers just cant let anything go without putting in their two cents. "Can you two stop arguing; let there be peace in this world!" Fair enough, OMG - all I had done was drop in for a cut and blow-wave! Excuse me for existing!

There might be freedom of speech, but there are limits. It is as if there is only a limited universe of words, so that if new words come in taking up space, old ones are assigned to the past. Like "gone" which has literally gone.

So it isn't "I had gone to school", but "I had went to school". I wonder if auctioneers are up to date with the current lingo. Do they end the bidding with "Going, going, went"?

And "dived". That has been replaced by the universal peace symbol. "She dove into the pool after Ethan had went." Which brings me back to the hair salon. There's an association I cant quite put my lips on. Aha - it is Bob Dylan and his "Motorpsycho Nightmare". How does it went?

Well, I don’t figure I’ll be back
There for a spell
Even though Rita moved away
And got a job in a motel
He still waits for me
Constant, on the sly
He wants to turn me in To the F.B.I.
Me, I romp and stomp
Thankful as I romp
Without freedom of speech I might be in the swamp

Which reminds me, it's late so I had better get wenting.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Thinking about the government

Johnny’s in the basement
Mixing up the medicine
I’m on the pavement
Thinking about the government
The man in the trench coat
Badge out, laid off
Says he’s got a bad cough
Wants to get it paid off
Look out kid
It’s somethin you did
God knows when
But you’re doin’ it again - Bob Dylan "Subterranean Homesick Blues " 1965

Central Park Idyll
A hundred years ago - or was it only 38 - when Australian Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, stood on the steps of Parliament House, Canberra and said, "Maintain your rage!"

Remembrance Day 1975, the same day and month that Australian bush ranger and folk hero Ned Kelly was hanged. November 11th - a day to remember the fallen.

The occasion of Gough Whitlam's speech on the steps of Parliament House in November 1975 was the dismissal of his government by the Australian Governor General.

There had been a deadlock in the parliament. The House of Representatives had passed the government's budget "the Supply Bill", only to have it blocked by the Senate where the governing party did not have a majority.

The Governor-General of Australia, Sir John Kerr, dismissed Mr Gough Whitlam as Prime Minister and appointed Mr Malcolm Fraser, the leader of the opposition in the House, as a caretaker Prime Minister.

The dismissal was the most dramatic event in the history of the Australian federation. For the first time, an unelected vice-regal representative had removed from office a government which commanded a majority in the House of Representatives.

A double dissolution election was held on December 13th 1975, at which the Whitlam Government was soundly defeated.

Australians who were around back then, remember that day November 11th, when the Governor General broke the deadlock. The Australian constitution allowed for other options, but Australians on both sides of the political spectrum did not countenance a shutting down of the government. It was unthinkable.

Here in America, this appears not to be the case - there is no way apparently for the current deadlock to be broken Instead the government is "turned off" until one side caves in, or a compromise is reached and the budget it passed by both house - Congress.

I couldn't' believe it when I first experienced it shortly after I arrived in America in 1995.

During a shutdown, federal employees are "furloughed" - sent home without pay. Federal employees are not the only ones affected - vendors who make a living selling sodas and hot-dogs near national monuments, ferry operators who used to take tourists to the Statue of Liberty, the stock market, people whose retirement savings are held in "401Ks", lots of people in America, and if it goes on much longer, much of the world.

The only way the deadlock can be broken is if there is a compromise. "A really good compromise is the one that leaves both sides equally dissatisfied" - a quote attributed to Winston Churchill.

Great! As well as the adverse effects on the stock market and people's retirement benefits, when the deadlock is finally broken, we are ALL going to be unhappy.

The only consolation is the the Tea Party people will be unhappier than everyone else. They unashamedly want small government. And you cannot get much smaller the zero.

But what I find even scarier than the shutdown, is the reaction of the people here. In Manhattan you would never know the government was shutting down. Life carries on, superficially at least, as normal. In Australia when the Senate refused to pass the budget - or "supply" as we call it in OZ, we were all horrified. And in any case the deadlock lasted a bare two weeks until a temporary government was appointed. And guess what was the first thing the new government did? That's right, they passed the budget.

For of course, it wasn't REALLY about the budget back in Australia in 1975, just as it isn't really about the Affordable Care Act here in the United States. It is about getting rid of the government.

Is this democracy? Not in my book. If it happened in Africa or the Middle East, we would all be horrified. After all WE live in a political stable society.

What was it called when governments were overthrown in the Middle East? "The Arab Spring"?

Guess we are now in the "America Autumn". Or should is say, "Fall"?