Saturday, April 27, 2013
We’ve belonged to the Cincinnati Zoo for a long time. When J was a little kid, I’d take him there each Saturday morning while Katja was out doing errands, and it always was exciting. Now it’s a favorite destination when our grandkids come to town. The zoo was good back in the 1970’s, but it’s changed dramatically in the 35 or 40 years since. Nearly 80% of the current exhibition sites didn’t exist when we first started going. One of the most recent additions is the $3 million Cat Canyon. It replaced the former Tiger Grotto that had been built in 1934. The Cat Canyon is divided into several separate areas. The biggest, designed to simulate a tropical habitat, houses two white tigers: Akere, a male, and Popsuy, a female. White tigers, of course, are extremely rare – making up only one out of every 10,000 tigers that are born. Here’s how our handsome zoo pair looks.
The second Cat Canyon area is occupied by two six-year-old Malayan Tiger brothers, Taj and Who Dey. Malayan Tigers live in the wilds in Malaysia and southern Thailand, and there are only about 500 left in the world. The new zoo exhibit includes a pool in which Taj and Who Dey can cool off on hot days.
Three snow leopards live in a third area which is designed with the look of a rocky Himalayan riverbed. Renji, a three-year-old female, came from the Chattanooga Zoo. Nobo, a male, is two and a half, and Olga is an older female. The leopards are about the size of Old English Sheepdogs, live in high mountain areas of central Asia, and are an endangered species. Their diet in the wilds is mainly blue sheep and ibex. Now that spring’s in full bloom we’ll stop by and see these babies in the next week or two.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
St. Louis Cathedral, Jackson Square
Our family members live in or near lots of special places, e.g., New York City, Seattle, Santa Cruz, Philadelphia, Princeton, San Francisco, Saranac Lake. But none is more extraordinary than New Orleans. Our son and daughter-in-law, J and K, moved there in the mid-1990’s, and now our sweet grandchildren draw us there as well. We’ve gone down at least once a year for quite a while. I plan to visit in a few weeks, and, as part of my psychic preparation for taking in the city, I’ve assembled a potpourri of informative and fun historical facts. Here’s a short account of NOLA from its beginnings:
1541: The region was first visited by Europeans when a Spanish exploration party led by Hernando de Soto discovered the Mississippi River.
1718: New Orleans (Nouvelle-Orléans), just a trading camp at the time, was founded by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville on the first crescent of high ground above the Mississippi’s mouth (a hundred miles from the Gulf).
1718: The first St. Louis Cathedral building was erected, and now it’s the oldest continually operating cathedral in the U.S.
1721: Priest-chronicler Pierre François Xavier de Charlevoix described New Orleans as “a place of a hundred wretched hovels in a malarious wet thicket of willows and dwarf palmettos, infested by serpents and alligators.”
1727: The Urusuline nuns braved five months of high seas, pirates, shipwreck, and sickness to come to New Orleans. Their convent was finally completed seven years later.
1762 and 1763: France signed treaties ceding Lousiana to Spain, making New Orleans a Spanish city for the next 40 years, trading heavily with Cuba and Mexico and adopting Spanish racial rules that allowed for a class of free people of color.
1765: Following the French and Indian War, Acadian immigrants from Canada (Cajuns) began settling in French-colonized Louisiana, including New Orleans.
1788 and 1794: The city was ravaged by fires that destroyed 80% of its buildings, then was rebuilt with brick buildings and a cathedral that are still standing today.
1789: New Orleans' earliest cemetery, St. Louis No. 1 at 3421 Esplanade Ave., was established.
1791: With a population nearing 10,000, New Orleans had twice as many tavern keepers as it did merchants.
1796: The first opera in the U.S., Ernest Grétry's Sylvain, was performed in New Orleans on May 22.
1803: To gain control of the vital Port of New Orleans, Thomas Jefferson negotiated the Louisiana Purchase with Napoleon I of France for $23 million, thereby doubling the land area of the United States.
1805: New Orleans was incorporated as a city.
1805: A New Orleans census (probably under-counted) showed a population made up of 3551 whites, 1556 free blacks, and 3105 slaves.
1806: Named for its showy gardens, the Garden District was laid out by Bathelemy Lafon as an open, semi-urban system of interrelated parks with basins, fountains, and canals.
1813: Governor Claiborne offered a $500 reward for the capture of legendary pirate Jean Lafitte, whereupon Laffitte countered with a $1,500 reward for the capture of Governor Claiborne.
1815: Colonel Andrew Jackson led a coalition of free blacks, pirates, and Tennessee Volunteers to defeat a British force outside the city in the final battle of the War of 1812.
1815: Charity Hospital was built.
1823: The first permanent theater in the U.S., the American Theatre, was established in New Orleans by James Caldwell.
1823: What is now the oldest existing pharmacy in America was built at 514 Chartres Street in the French Quarter.
1827: New Orleans' first Mardi Gras ("Fat Tuesday" in French) was celebrated.
1830: Most New Orleans residents still spoke French.
1834: Tulane University was founded in 1834 as the Medical College of Louisiana.
1835: The New Orleans & Carrollton Line opened and remains the oldest street railway line still in operation in the country.
1837: The Picayune newspaper began its publication.
1840: Antoine's Restaurant opened for business.
1850s: New Orleans was the third largest city in the nation with a population of 166,375.
1853: City Park was established.
1862: The city was captured and occupied by Union forces during the Civil War.
1862: Cafe du Monde opened for business at the French Market.
1866: New Orleans successfully operated a racially integrated public school system during the Reconstruction era.
1871: Santa became the first Mardi Gras thrower when he rode in the Twelfth Night Revelers parade and passed out gifts to the children in the crowd.
1872: In order to entertain Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff of Russia, Rex became the city's first krewe to stage an elaborate daytime parade.
1873: The first parade constructed entirely in New Orleans was Comus 1873, built by George Soulé. Earlier New Orleans parade floats in the 1860s were built partially in Paris and finished in New Orleans.
1874: Armed forces led by White League segregationists defeated the racially integrated metropolitan police and their allies in an intense battle in the French quarter and along Canal Street, forcing the temporary flight of the governor and his administration.
1877: Buddy Bolden was born, an early jazz musician who music historians credit as the inventor and first bandleader of jazz from 1895-1907.
1881: Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau died at age 98 after influencing tens of thousands of multiracial followers since the early 1830s through her legendary rites.
1884: The city hosted the 1884 World's Fair, called the World Cotton Centennial. Though a financial failure, the event marked the beginning of the city's tourist economy.
1886: New Orleans philanthropist Josephine Louise Le Monnier Newcomb created Newcomb College, the first degree-granting university for women in the U.S.
1897: City alderman Sidney Story wrote legislation setting up the legalized red-light district known as Storyville in order to limit prostitution to one area of town. Storyville's black and white brothels, venues for many of the era’s great jazz musicians, flourished until shut down in 1917.
1919: Louis Armstrong, age 18, replaced King Joe Oliver in Kid Ory's jazz band.
1933: Pat O'Brien's Bar opened on St. Peter Street at the end of Prohibition.
1934: The Live Oak Society was founded. Composed entirely of trees with the exception of an honorary human chairman, each member tree is required to pay dues of 25 acorns per year.
1938: Tennessee Williams arrived in New Orleans, and less than a decade later "A Streetcar Named Desire" became the most famous New Orleans literary work.
1950: Fats Domino Jr., born in New Orleans in 1928, had his first major hit with “The Fat Man” (Imperial Records).
1953: Café Lafitte in Exile opened on Bourbon Street, the oldest gay bar in the country.
1956: LSU-New Orleans was established.
1960: The school desegration crisis branded the city as a stronghold of racism, and whites began relocating to the suburbs in huge numbers.
1967: The New Orleans Saints football team was formed.
1970: Jazz Fest had its first season.
1975: The Superdome opened, the largest fixed dome structure in the world.
1977: Tipitina’s music club, which has hosted the likes of the Neville Brothers, Kermit Ruffins, James Brown, Bonnie Raitt, Pearl Jam, and innumerable other artists, opened on Napoleon Ave. in Uptown.
1978: City Councilman Ernest N. Morial became New Orleans’ first African-American mayor.
2005: Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, 80% of the city was flooded after the city's levees failed, and total economic losses in the region were estimated at $100 billion.
2010: The city's population rebounded to 343,829 after a post-Katrina low of about 223,000 in 2006.
All in all, New Orleans’ history offers a portrait that testifies to its uniqueness among American cities: ethnic and cultural diversity, European heritage, extremes of wealth and poverty, Deep South elegance mixed with cosmopolitanism and tolerance, abundant nightlife, jazz, booze and drugs, sex, crime and corruption, racial conflict, Catholicism, voodoo, gay-lesbian culture, literature and the arts, theater, international commerce, ghost and vampire stories, and a legendary past. I’m eager to be off on my trip and will file a travel report when I get back.
Selected Sources: www.answers.com (“New Orleans”); www.encyclopedia.com (“New Orleans”); www.experienceneworleans.com; www.funtrivia.com ("New Orleans"); www.history.com (“New Orleans”); www.neworleans.about.com; www.neworleansonline; www.wikipedia.org (“History of New Orleans”; “Timeline of New Orleans History”)
Friday, April 19, 2013
I made up my mind about heaven’s existence when I was nine or ten. By then I’d figured out that Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy were frauds perpetrated by the elders just to bemuse the younger generation. I’d spent a lot of time trying to decide whether ants or frogs went to heaven; then suddenly the whole thing seemed far-fetched. Heaven, I concluded, was just another make-believe adult concoction. Now that I’m more senior, though, I find myself reconsidering. This isn’t due to age or fears about mortality, but rather a personal policy that it’s a good idea to change your basic beliefs every few decades.
Heaven is also on my mind because our beloved sheepdogs celebrated their eleventh birthday this month. According to most vets, the breed’s life expectancy is around ten. The dogs don’t know this, of course, and they seem to be happy and youthful enough despite their circumstances. It make me nervous though. Because I’ve come to rely on the Internet for all sorts of information, I googled the question, “Do dogs go to heaven?” This turns out to be a very popular topic since I got back 218,000 hits. That’s a lot more than you get for questions like “Does heaven exist?” (12,700), “Do cats go to heaven?” (22,100), or “Do dogs go to hell?” (128,000), though not as many as for “Will I go to heaven?” (393,000).
Needless to say, there’s a lot religious discussion of this important question about dogs’ post-death fates. The more grumpy theologians conclude that dogs don’t have souls and their brains aren’t complex enough to accept Jesus as their savior, so they will just die and that’s it. Some cite the Book of Revelation (22:14-15) which, in discussing the Heavenly Jerusalem, says, “Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and every one who loves and practices falsehood.” Categorizing dogs with sorcerers, etc., seems confusing until one learns that the word “dog” in the Old Testament sometimes means male prostitutes rather than our four-legged friends.
In general, the Bible has zillions of references to animals, e.g., Daniel in the lion’s den, Jonah and the whale, the snake in the Garden of Eden. The Bible never mentions cats, but there are 40 references to dogs. In fact, dogs are among the top Biblical animals, edging out locusts (36 references) and horses (33), though falling far behind lions (130). One biblical scholar suggests that this means that dogs are the “messengers of God.” A skeptic, however, points out that most of the relevant Bible passages refer to dogs as loathsome and despicable, e.g., noting that one of the worst fates of sinners in the Bible is to be “devoured by dogs.” Proverbs 26:11 is typical of the Bible’s attitude: “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.”
The Bible never says, one way or the other, whether dogs will be in heaven, but there are definitely some other animals up there. The Book of Revelation (19:11) states: “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True.” Likewise, the prophet Isaiah says God will include various animals in the new heavens and new earth: "The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent’s food." (Isaiah 65: 25) No less a figure than Martin Luther, the 16th century father of the Reformation, said, "Be thou comforted, little dog. Thou too in Resurrection shall have a little golden tail."
For those who don’t take the Bible as their primary source of information about the world, you might be asking if there is any other firm proof that dogs go to heaven. Fortunately there is – i.e., the thousands of authenticated cases where deceased dogs have contacted their owners from the spirit world. While I haven’t read the books yet (since, because of years of googling, my attention span has shrunk to 500 words), author Kim Sheridan in Animals and the Afterlife relates numerous stories about dog owners who have had visits from their dead pets, either through Near Death Experiences, dreams, or waking state visions. Famous psychic Sylvia Browne in her book, All Pets Go to Heaven, recounts simllar experiences. "Why would thousands have these experiences if they weren't true?" Browne asks. Good question.
Many important thinkers of our times have weighed in on the question of heaven for dogs. Here’s a sampling:
- Rev. Billy Graham: "I think God will have prepared everything for our perfect happiness. If it takes my dog being there (in Heaven), I believe he'll be there."
- Pope John Paul II: “Animals…are as near to God as men are.”
- Robert Louis Stevenson: "You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you, they will be there long before any of us."
- Will Rogers: "If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they are.
- James Thurber: “If I have any beliefs about immortality, it is that certain dogs I have known will go to heaven, and very, very few persons.”
- Stephen Colbert (addressing whether all dogs go to heaven): “Sorry, kids. It’s only the dogs who’ve accepted Jesus Christ.”
It’s not only celebrities that we can turn to for answers. One wonderful feature of the Internet is that allows regular people like you and me to weigh in on the major issues of the day. There are probably a million virtual answers to the question, “Do dogs go to heaven?” Here are just some of the cogent thoughts I’ve run across:
- I have always wondered this. I happened to read about 2 different people who died, went to heaven, and came back and said they saw their beloved animals. (lolaloves)
- Dog spelled backward is God, Nuf said. (masterman)
- All living things go to heaven except plants. (number3bieber)
- My dog is a corgi. So it goes to corgi heaven. (PrincessBeulah)
- Yes, except in Korea, where they go into the stir fry. (dollahrbill)
- Dogs are like Atheists, they don’t have religion. (DejaVu08)
- My dog experiences heaven on earth. (AskMeNoQuestions)
- Only Christian dogs? (Nimrad)
- No, they go to the grave just like us. (DissenterMan)
- Only if he accepts Dog Jesus as his Lord and Saviour. (DarkSleigh)
- No. Dogs do not have a sole. (acegal1)
- Worry about yourself, Are you going? Forget the dog!!!! (AdamP)
- Are you Barking Mad? (raybbees)
Many people observed, probably correctly, that dogs have their own heaven. That only makes sense. In people-heaven you wouldn’t want to hear noisy dogs barking while you’re sleeping or step in dog poop when you’re out for a walk on the gold-paved streets. In dog-heaven angels would throw tennis balls for the dogs 24 hours a day. There would be grassy fields to run in, glorious smells on every tree and shrub, and hordes of squirrels and chipmunks to hunt. No dogs would ever get into a fight. Not only that, but there would be portals between the heavens so that people could come and hug their dogs whenever they wanted.
To get a concrete handle on the matter, I made a list of all our family dogs over the years, then added family members, friends, and various acquaintances. For each I carefully judged whether they were likely to go to heaven or to the other place. Though you can’t be entirely certain, I felt confident about my judgments. As it turned out, all of the dogs I’ve known would go to heaven without question, as would all my family members and friends. Overall, the dogs generally ranked ahead of the people. Number one was sheepdog Sophie, Mike and Duffy’s younger sister, because she is so sweet, loyal, affectionate, well-behaved, and perfect in every way. Mikey was number two for similar reasons. Duffy was further down the list, though he too was ahead of most of the human beings. Only three people on my list weren’t slated to go to heaven: two of my former work colleagues and myself. I failed to make the cutoff because of past misdeeds, mostly toward my brother Steven in childhood. Now I’m upset by the thought that the dogs will go to heaven and I may not get to see them there. I’m not going to be selfish about it though. I think they’ll still have a swell time.
SOURCES: www.agilitymach.hubpages.com, "Do dogs go to heaven? A Christian perspective"; www.ask.com, "Do dogs go to heaven?"; www.christianity.about.com, "Do Animals Have Souls?"; www.claytonmethodist.com, "Do dogs to to heaven?”; www.fanpop.com “All Dogs Go To Heaven”; www.huffingonpost.com, "Do all dogs go to heaven?; www.patheos.com, “Do dogs go to heaven?”; www.powerofaith.com, “Will dogs go to Heaven?”; www.thesacredpage.co, "Defintive (sic) Biblical Evidence AGAINST Dogs Going to Heaven"; www.voices.yahoo.com, “Dogs in the Bible – Messengers of God”; www.wikipedia.org, “List of animals in the Bible”
Monday, April 15, 2013
This is the most stunning week of the year in Southwest Ohio. It’s because all the springtime flowering trees have suddenly burst into bloom, and the streets and parks have turned into a festival of color. Our winter wasn’t harsh, but the chilly temperatures went on and on, so the budding flowers were two or three weeks late. The prettiest place that I’ve been to lately is the Frederick A. Hinkle Magnolia Garden in Eden Park, just west of the Krohn Conservatory. It’s named for a long-time Park Board member in honor of his many years of service. There are at least half a dozen different species of magnolias planted there, and they’re currently in full bloom. The area also includes a gazebo and a granite and bronze fountain with the inscription, “Let Justice roll down like water and righteousness as a mighty stream” (Amos 5:24), dedicated in honor of the late Judge Gilbert Bettman.
Magnolias, it turns out, were named after a French botanist, Pierre Magnol. They are the earliest known flowering plants on earth, dating back some 130 million years. Found on every nonarctic continent, there are about 210 different species. They include both evergreens and deciduous (leafy) varieties. Some magnolia trees grow as much as 90 feet tall and 50 feet across. Their flowers can be white, pink, purple, green, or yellow. Magnolias rely on beetles rather than bees or butterflies for pollination. They are considered a southern flower in the U.S. and are the official state flowers of Louisiana and Mississippi (which is nicknamed the Magnolia State). Magnolia bark and flower buds are used in traditional Chinese medicine, and magnolia leaves are used to wrap food and as cooking dishes in Japan. When archaeologists found a 2000-year-old magnolia seed in Japan, it was planted in 1982 and produced an unusual flower with 8 petals.
I went to the Hinkle Garden on a recent weekday morning. A couple of young couples were walking around hand in hand. People sat on benches, relaxing in the sunshine and taking in the view. A majority of visitors, like myself, were photographing the flora. Here’s how the Hinkle magnolias were looking.
SOURCES: www.ehow.com, “Interesting Facts About Magnolia Trees”; www.ehow.com, “Interesting Facts on the Magnolia Tree”; www.houseandhome.org, “Magnolia Facts”; www.theflowerexpert, “Louisiana State Flower”; www.southernliving.com, “The Complete Guide to Magnolia Trees”; www.theblogfarm.com, “Fun Flower Facts: Magnolia”; www.wikipedia.org, “Magnolia”
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Every six months they put on a big Psychic Fair out in the suburbs. I always get curious when I see the ad, but then I seem to forget about it. This year, though, a couple of friends were going, so I decided to tag along. The admission fee was a hefty $14, but I gritted my teeth and got my ticket. It was a huge place. There must have been at least 150 booths in the convention hall ballroom, and by midday the place was filled up with fair-goers. There were many more women than men; nearly everybody was white; lots of middle-aged people. Except for a minority dressed in New Age garb, it would be easy to mistake the people for a typical mall crowd. Being a newcomer, I felt a little self-conscious at first, but everybody seemed busy doing their psychic stuff, so it was easy to blend in.
The biggest batch of vendors were the psychic readers, variously self-labeled as mediums, psychics, clairvoyants, astrologers, angel readers, channelers, palmists, tarot card readers, handwriting analysts, spiritualists, etc. The going rate was typically $35 for a 15-minute consultation, and many of the readers were already booked solid for the entire day. There were also several animal psychics. We talked to one who explained that she’d had a special gift for communicating with animals since childhood. Given a name and description of an animal, she’d be able to communicate telepathically with it and give us information about its bodily condition, needs and wants, emotional state, and whatever else the animal conveyed to her. A poster showed pictures of her communicating with dogs, cats, rabbits, parakeets, horses, wolves, cows, and what I think was an alligator. According to the psychic, it didn’t matter if the animal was alive or dead since telepathy worked equally well in either case. That made sense.
There were hour-long seminars going on all day long in downstairs conference rooms. The first one we went to was the best. It was given by a clairvoyant named Maria whose spirit guide was the ancient wizard Merlin from Arthurian times. Merlin accompanied Maria wherever she went and relayed messages from the spirit world. Maria looked around the room and said that Merlin was conveying a message that very moment from the mother of someone present. She said the mother had suffered from a heart condition but had actually passed away from a lengthy illness unrelated to her heart. She asked if anyone could relate to that, and two women in the audience raised their hands. Maria wasn’t surprised to get two responders since it’s not unusual to receive an initial communication from one loved one, then have an additional spirit piggyback on the first one’s message. Merlin and Maria acted as mediators for messages from the first mother to her daughter in the audience, then did the same with the second pair. In each case the dead parent sent her deep love and reassured her daughter that she was doing very well. One of the recipients broke into tears; the other just looked dazed. Then Maria said Merlin had just gotten a new message from someone’s brother. Maria said the brother was associated in some way with the letter P. She said the brother was very outgoing. a life of the party, and lots of fun to be with. Though I didn’t raise my hand, I thought immediately of my brother Peter. Maria said that the brother was together at that very moment with a second being, perhaps another family member. Maria got a vague sense of alcohol being involved. She said the two spirits were very happy together and were sending their love. I felt a brief tingle in my spine. I knew that if I were ever to be contacted by anyone from the spirit world, it would definitely be my brother Peter. It did sound like it could be him. Very eery…
While there were readers all over the place, there were also 40 or 50 booths occupied by healers. Psychic fairs, I decided, have a lot to do with alternative mental health services – New Age ways of dealing with loss, grief, physical illness, depression, anxiety, loneliness, financial problems, etc. People were busy doing Reiki energy healing, crystology, Akashic records, spiritual detox, Chakra balancing, basking in serenity boxes, and hypnotherapy (including past life regression). We stopped at one booth where several people sat with their bare feet in tubs of yucky water that had turned to various shades of brown. The healer’s husband explained that each tub had initially contained clear tap water, but the tubs were outfitted with ionizers which were drawing out toxins from the people’s internal organs through the bottoms of their feet. The different shades of brown indicated whether the toxins were coming from the liver, the gall bladder, or the colon. One former client had reportedly had his stomach cancer healed by the ionizer, and I wondered if a worldwide cure was in the offing.
There was, of course, tons of stuff to buy. The fair was not exclusively psychic or spiritual – there was a tangible material presence. Healing crystals, gems, and stones were the most popular products, and you could spend anywhere from a dollar to several hundred. Many of the psychics had authored books which they offered to sign, and others had CDs for sale. There was healing music and healing art and lots of jewelry with mystical symbolism. Native American paraphernalia was popular. A couple of booths offered high-tech electronic equipment for detecting ghosts. Others took photographs of one’s aura, followed by a spiritual interpretation. There was a plentiful supply of Tarot cards, pouches for carrying gems and stones, musical instruments, oils and herbs and incense. All in all, it would be easy to transform one’s entire living quarters into an other-worldly retreat if you spent enough money.
At the end of the day I did a little homework on the psychic services industry. According to websites listed below, there are currently about 80,000 providers of psychic services in the U.S. That’s nearly six times the number of McDonald’s restaurants in the country. It’s also double the number of psychiatrists in the US (39,500) and close to the number of clinical, counseling, and school psychologists (approximately 85,000). Psychic service firms (usually one person) take in $2.1 billion per year. In contrast to most businesses, profits from psychic services grew during the recent recession, presumably because worried consumers turned more often to psychics for advice on financial matters and employment problems.
A 2001 Gallup poll found that 54% of a national sample of American adults believe in psychic or spiritual healing and 50% believe in extrasensory perception (ESP). About a third believed in clairvoyance (the power of the mind to know the past and predict the future) (32%); that extraterrestrials have visited the earth (33%); and in mental telepathy (communication between minds without using the traditional five senses) (36%). A 2009 poll by the Pew Research Center found that 29% of Americans say they have felt in touch with someone who has already died, 26% believe that spiritual energy is located in physical things like trees or crystals, 25% believe in astrology, 24% believe in reincarnation, and 18% say they have seen or been in the presence of ghosts. Such New Age beliefs (e.g., reincarnation, astrology) are more likely to be endorsed by younger persons than older, women than men, minorities than whites, less-educated persons than more-educated, Democrats than Republicans, and Catholics than Protestants. 15% of American adults report having previously consulted a fortuneteller or a psychic. White evangelical Protestants are least likely to have consulted a psychic (10%); white Catholics, most likely (17%).
I didn’t get a personal reading on my visit to the fair. It would have cost $35, I’m shy with strangers, and I was too wary. But now I sort of regret it. That’s not the best approach. When you go to a baseball game, you should immerse yourself in baseball. At a rock concert, you should let yourself flow with the music. To enjoy a psychic fair, you need to get into a fanciful and metaphysical frame of mind. Otherwise, what’s the point? When I get in the proper mindset, I conclude that my day’s experiences were mind-blowing. I’d visited a completely different world from the one that I normally inhabit. I’d been present in the same room with 1500-year-old Merlin who I’d only known previously from stories and legends. Not only that, but Merlin talked with my brother and passed along his greetings from the spirit world. And I got to hear a lot of supernatural messages from other peoples’ loved ones too. Then I saw people’s bodily toxins being extracted through their feet by a machine that can cure cancer. And I probably absorbed a year’s worth of positive energy from walking past thousands of healing crystals. If that’s not worth a lot more than $14, I can’t imagine what is. I guess I’ll go back again next year. Maybe I’ll work on collecting crystals in the meantime.
SOURCES: www.apa.org, “American Psychological Association”; www.bls.gov, “Bureau of Labor Statistics”; www.gallup.com, "American's belief in psychic and paranormal phenomena is up over last decade" (June 8, 2001); www.huffingtonpost.com/2012, “10 biggest fast food chains in the U.S.”; www.pewresearch.org, "Eyed by evil" (Dec. 29, 2009); www.PRWeb.com, “Psychic services in the US industry market research report…”; www.psychiatry.org, “American Psychiatric Association”; www.psychiatryonline.org; www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychologist
Friday, April 5, 2013
Even though they were vicarious experiences, movies provided the most thrilling moments of my childhood. I started going with friends about second grade. We lived a couple of blocks from the Menominee Theater in the old Opera House, and I'd go there each Saturday for the matinee. Then, on Thursdays after school, the D.A.R. Boys' Club had a movie time for kids. It usually featured a full-length western (e.g., Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy), but the most exciting part was the 15-minute serial which preceded the main feature. The serial was always about a lone hero (or superhero) battling hordes of vicious bad guys, and nearly every episode ended in a calamity in which the hero was apparently destroyed or was facing imminent death. Miraculously, by the next week’s show the hero had dodged his demise and was off on a new spine-tingling adventure. Hollywood produced about 95 such serials during the 1940’s: war, crime and detective stories, jungle adventures, aviation, the Old West, sci fi, etc. Here’s a quick peek at some of the most popular offerings.
The Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941, 12 episodes)
Captain Marvel was my favorite for a long time, and this was the very first superhero serial. Based on the comic books, an ancient wizard gave teenager Billy Batson the capacity to turn into Captain Marvel by uttering the magic word “Shazam”. Captain Marvel battled against the Scorpion, an evil hooded figure who, with his army of blood-crazed demons, strove to destroy the world with the most powerful weapon ever known.
The Green Hornet (1940, 13 episodes)
When the city is beset with a menacing crime wave, crusading newspaper publisher Britt Reid dons a disguise and, with the aid of his brilliant Korean valet Kato, fights back against the Leader, the criminal mastermind who is behind the Syndicate. The Hornet and Kato take on an auto-theft ring, a crooked insurance racket, and a dishonest flying school among others.
Jack Armstrong (1947, 15 episodes)
Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy, and his friends try to rescue a famous scientist and inventor of a revolutionary atomic engine from the clutches of Jason Grood, an arch-villain who is bent on dominating the world with the death ray on his spaceship. The quest takes Jack and friends to a remote island where they must deal with a fierce tribe led by Princess Alura as well as with Grood's evil henchmen. We kids poked fun at Jack because he was so All-American.
Dick Tracy vs. Crime Inc. (Republic Pictures, 1941, 15 episodes)
Originally a comic strip by Chester Gould, Dick Tracy featured a hard-hitting police detective who used forensic science to track down the bad guys. Critics regard “Dick Tracy vs. Crime Inc.” as "one of the best serials ever made." Tracy battled the Ghost, an evil master criminal who possessed the ability to make himself invisible. One of the Ghost's plans was to destroy New York City by dropping bombs along a fault line to create a huge tidal wave engulfing the city. Viewers held their breaths.
The Phantom (1943, 15 episodes)
In a serial based on the comic strip, Professor Davidson and his daughter Diana are trying to find the Lost City of Zoloz in Africa to establish an archaeological site. However, a local crook is also searching for hidden treasure there, and a Nazi agent plans to destroy the peace of the native tribes and build a secret German air base. Diana's fiancé, Godfrey Prescott, who is also the Phantom, sets out with Ace the Wonder Dog to restore peace to the jungle and put a stop to the treasure hunters' and the Nazis' wicked plans.
The Shadow (1940, 15 episodes)
The movie serial was based on the 1930's radio series and on pulp magazine stories. Having the "power to cloud men's minds so they cannot see him," the Shadow posed as Lamont Cranston, a wealthy young man about town. Margo Lane was his love interest and crime-solving partner. In the 1940 serial the Shadow battled The Black Tiger who had the power to make himself invisible and was trying to take over Earth with his death ray.
Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940,12 episodes)
Based on the 1930's sci-fi comic strip, “Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe” was the last of three Flash Gordon serials made between 1936 and 1940. Buster Crabbe starred in the title role. The evil villain Ming the Merciless created a deadly plague by dropping "Death Dust" in the atmosphere. Flash and his companions travel by spaceship to the planet Mongo, eventually finding an antidote which they bring back to Earth. Ming sends an army of robot bombs after Flash, and the respective groups battle until Ming is killed. His last words were, "I am the universe," but one of the good guys observes that Flash Gordon has conquered the universe.
Son of Zorro (1947, 13 episodes)
Jeff Stewart returns home from the Civil War to find that corrupt politicians have taken over the county and are terrorizing the citizenry. Donning the costume of his ancestor, the famous Zorro, Stewart sets out to bring the criminals to justice.
Batman (1943, 15 episodes)
In his first screen appearance, the Caped Crusader (a.k.a. Bruce Wayne) and his junior partner, the Boy Wonder Robin, battle Prince Daka, the Japanese mastermind of a wartime spy-sabotage group which is located in Gotham City's now-deserted Little Tokyo. Daka has a death ray that turns American scientists into electronic zombies who do his bidding.
Superman (1948, 15 episodes)
Superman, of course, is the superhero of all superheroes. This first live-action film portrayal of Superman tells his story from the beginning when he is rocketed from Krypton to Earth as a newborn infant. When mild-mannered Clark Kent takes a reporter job on the Daily Planet, his alter-ego Superman soon tangles with The Spider Lady who considers herself the Queen of the Underworld and who obtains possession of a meteor fragment from Krypton, the only substance that can render Superman helpless.
Movies are entertaining in their own right, but they also provide moral instruction about the nature of the human condition, the world we live in, and our roles in society. More than anything else, I’d say that these 1940’s serials have to do with gender roles and socially sanctioned violence. We learn that the world is a dangerous place where powerful enemies – Nazis, criminals, murders and kidnappers, saboteurs, rustlers, inner city thugs, evil geniuses bent on world domination – constitute a threat to communities and law-abiding citizens. Basically, the world is split into the in-group and various dangerous, malevolent out-groups. Moreover, conventional institutions like the police are powerless in the face of overwhelming threats to the social order. It’s only the extraordinary individual who possess the ability and fortitude to battle the dangerous evil-doers. And, despite harrowing calamities and constant near-disasters, good always triumphs over evil.
For the most part, these are stories for and about males. Most of the heroes are men, as are most of the villains. We learn that ideal adult males are powerful, independent, courageous in the face of extreme danger, highly skilled and capable of physical force and violence, and willing to put their lives on the line for God and country. Perpetrating violence against the enemy is not only justified but glamorized and idealized. Most of the serials also include a secondary woman character who is the friend, companion, and/or love interest of the hero. She’s typically beautiful, good, charming, and loyal. Often in peril, she’s dependent on protection and rescue by the male hero.
The cultural messages we receive as kids, whether from the media or other sources, center on preparation for adult roles. A lot of content of these old-time movie serials consists of subtle and not-so-subtle messages about the role of the sexes in a patriarchal society. These, of course, reflect traditional stereotypes and gender norms. We could argue that we've come a long way as a society since the 1940's. However, when I think about the content of many action thrillers we’ve seen in the 2010's -- also predominantly male-centered and pro-violence -- I'm more struck by the stability of certain basic themes over the decades. I do like to go to the movies a lot, but these serials from years ago remind us that we need to reflect upon and be cognizant of what we're being told.