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Jewish World Review
August 17, 2007
/ 3 Elul 5767
Some various and random thoughts from the far-reaching corners of my mind. (And if that doesn't sound like a lyric from a song out of the late sixties I don't know what does.)
Random thought number one: In a desperate attempt to find something remotely entertaining to watch on television the other evening, we stumbled onto a PBS program featuring pop singers from the 50's. This wasn't the usual Doo-Wop rock and roll stuff that they broadcast from time to time, this show was all about the early fifties popular tunes that were hits during that brief pre-rock period. Songs like "Wheel of Fortune," Shrimp Boats," Moonlight in Vermont," "There's a Valley," "Harbor Lights," "Mona Lisa," and "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" were some examples.
Singers like Patti Page, Andy Williams, Kay Starr, Ed Ames, Tony Martin, Margaret Whiting, Jerry Vale, and others reprised their hits from more than fifty years ago. Additionally, there were film clips of others such as Rosemary Clooney singing "Hey, There" and Peggy Lee doing her great "Fever." It was a pretty good show, interrupted of course by the obligatory "pledge breaks" which seemed to last upwards of ten to fifteen minutes each.
"If you are enjoying this wonderful show highlighting the great music of yesteryear, and if you want to be sure that more shows like this one continue to be broadcast in the future, then you need to pick up the phone and make a generous pledge to PBS now!" So goes the spiel designed to appeal to all those folks who love the "good ol' music" and the "good ol' singers" back in the "good ol' days." It's a spiel meant to tap into the nostalgic, conservative tastes of an older generation.
There's only one problem, PBS broadcasts shows like that ONLY during their pledge periods. You NEVER see those shows in a normal time slot without the ten to fifteen minute pledge breaks. For the rest of the year, PBS specializes in a preponderance of progressive, liberal-leaning programming like Bill Moyers. Interesting isn't it, how the network will appeal to the conservative, traditional values of the "How Much is That Doggie in the Window" crowd for donations, but on a daily basis they will televise shows which celebrate decidedly non-traditional social agendas like multiculturalism, pro-gay lifestyles, New-Age living, and revisionist history.
Random thought number two: I wish there was something that could be done about the rampant misuse of the term "guys" which is thrown around far too frequently these days. I walk into a restaurant with my wife and even though we'd never been in the place before, the person who shows us to a table will say, "Right this way, guys." Well, I may be a guy but my wife is assuredly not.
"Guys" used to be a slangy, informal term for men, like "gals" was a slangy, informal term for women - now "gal" is never used for a woman, and "guy" has become a term for all living things. Little girls are "guys." Old women are "guys." Dogs and cats are "guys." Fish are "guys." I've even heard it used for flowers and plants and other inanimate objects, for instance, in reference to several potted plants, "Let's move those guys out of the sun and under the awning so their leaves won't burn."
It's all part of the overall informal attitude which permeates society today, and I don't much care for it. Informality by itself isn't all that bad when used in the right place and at the right time, but when a lack of respect accompanies it, which is so often the case, then it becomes yet another chip, chip, chipping away of civilized decency and common courtesy.
Like the 25 year-old health care worker in the doctor's office who calls the 8o year-old patient by his or her first name, to me it denotes a lack of respect much more then any innocent attempt at informal friendliness. Believe it or not, it is actually possible to be friendly and still address a person with respect for their age and station in life. Yes, a distinction should be made between a five year-old and an 85 year-old. They should not be considered just a couple of "guys."
Random thought number three: I've long ago come to the realization that I am much more comfortable with things that are dead. I prefer the dead writers to the writers of today, the dead singers, the dead musicians, the dead actors, the dead presidents, and the dead artists are all preferable to me than are the people who do these things today.
Although there are a couple of exceptions, the books written by writers long dead say more to me than most of the books produced by contemporary writers. The movies produced by dead directors, producers and writers have more to offer me than those released to multiplexes in 2007. And the paintings, sculpture, and architecture of those dead masters are far and away better to me than anything being done now.
I like the dead values, ethics, and manners of those who lived before me. The decency and courtesy so commonplace in yesteryear and so dead today. I find the past a much kinder place. A place that, for whatever reason, I feel closer to than the culture I see around me today. I would definitely, for example, be much more comfortable walking into a nightclub in 1945 than I would walking into a nightclub in 2007. I would be happier with the music, the ambience, the food, the wait staff, and the dress of the patrons than I would anywhere in town now.
I prefer the dead department stores to the big box stores of today. They had class. They had service. They had a better merchandise mix than the made in China rags you see at all the stores now. What I wouldn't give to walk down the street and turn into an I. Magnum or Bullocks Wilshire of about forty years ago.
And the people. The people were brought up differently. Values were taught and honored. People had class. Elegance. Refinement. Music had melody. Real talent was rewarded. Things were cleaner, or at least looked cleaner. Beauty in art. Gentleness in behavior. Consideration for others. Humbleness. Responsibility. Manners. Civilized deportment. Respecting others' property. Discriminating, in the true sense of the word. I could go onÖ. These are just some of the dead values of long ago.
This is why I say I prefer to be among the dead - not that I want to be dead, it's not that at all. It's just that the dead, when they were alive, had it all over the living today.
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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.
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