Old Age

Clouds of Sils Maria, A Review

Surrendering to Age

Aging. For some of us, it is a gradual process of surrender. For others, it is a panic-driven free-fall into mortality.

Maria Enders (Juliet Binoche), in the latest Assayas film, “Clouds of Sils Maria,” is a middle aged actor who is thrown head-long into the realities of her age. After some grueling moments of rage in learning the lines of an aging lesbian character in a play she once starred as the older woman’s younger lover, she eventually, but reluctantly, takes the role.

She takes on the elder lesbian character only after being prodded by her assistant, Valentine (Kristen Stewart), and more forcefully by two other characters in the movie, particularly the new director (Lars Eidinger) of the play, who replaces Maria’s long-time friend and director who dies unexpectedly. Continue reading

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Consumerism in America

To Consume or Not To Consume

Politicians and economists love talking about how the “consumer”  is the main engine of the American economy.

Keep in mind that if they are Congressional politicians, they are probably making around $170,000 a year.

If they’re an economist being quoted by a newspaper, there’s a strong possibility they are a tenured professor at a university; on a speaker circuit; doing consultant work for the government; and on their fourth or fifth unreadable book.

On the other side of the coin (no pun intended), the religion I was brought up in taught me that materialism is not conducive to a spiritual life, that the “poor” will indeed “inherit the earth.”

So, my friends, the dilemma: Should I shop for things I really don’t need, or should I live on the fringes of society and only buy what I need to survive?

Or, since I can’t afford what the 1% affords, should I go for what I call “fashion lite”—a used BMW with over 150,000 miles; a winter Florida trailer five miles from the ocean; name brands at Marshall’s or TJMax. Continue reading

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“The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock”

“I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,” says T S Eliot’s Prufrock.

He goes on to say that he sees the “Eternal Footman” holding his coat, snickering, suggesting that even the personified death figure would find Prufrock an amusing irrelevancy.

Later on, he admits that he is “no Prince Hamlet,” but merely “an attendant lord….Deferential, glad to be of use.”

What are we to make of Prufrock’s draw? Why do English teachers seem to love this poem? Why are we attracted to a guy whose life is without drama or vitality? A guy who seems to huddle next to the inconsequential; to revel in a world of what-might-have-beens; or to languish in a life that has never been completely or satisfactorily consummated. Continue reading

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Sex and the Old Guy

(I dedicate this Blog Post to Joan Rivers, the comedic master of the irreverent, the bawdy, the unseemly. RIP, Joan)

I am divorced. I’ve had many post-divorce and diverse relationships. I have also had a few live-ins. Some time ago, I just stopped having long-term relationships. I remain single.

That’s about it, for now, anyway.

Mind you, I’m a post-Social Security guy. I was born the year of Pearl Harbor (Google it). I grew up believing Bing Crosby should have been a priest; that a field of bushes were the only private places where mom and dad would never find me and my friends touching each other when we were kids; that a lay-away wasn’t about sex; that “girly magazines” had a reason for being. Continue reading

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The Great Beauty, Film Review

The Great Beauty
Directed by Paolo Sorrentino
2013

The Squandering of Talent

“Therefore, let this novel begin. After all, it’s just a trick. Yes, it’s just a trick.” This is one of Jep Gambardella’s final statements in the Italian film, “The Great Beauty.”

Spoiler Alert: So, now we know that Jep will begin writing again as the movie ends. Even if Jep’s goal may be more aspirational than real, we are left with imagining what the sequel to his 65 year-old life will be.

Up to that point, it looked as if he would squander his one-novelette talent, living among Rome’s “idle rich.” And my God, are there many of that ilk in this film.

In another of his final soliloquies, Jep says, “This is how it always ends, in death. But first there was life hidden beneath the blah, blah, blah.”

And what was that life, according to Jep: “the silence and the emotion; the excitement and the fear; the fleeting and sporadic flashes of beauty amid the wretched squalor and human misery.”

“All,” Jep says, “buried beneath the awkward predicament of existing in this world.” Continue reading

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Obsolescence and the Upgrade

“You are what you eat,” they say. If you believe advertisers, we are what we drive, what home we live in, what rental car agency we use, how manicured our lawns are. And, if ads are getting it right, a clean, sanitized bathroom becomes the wished-for goal of every woman (clean bathrooms appear to be the exclusive domains of women in America).

On a more personal level, a friend and I were discussing used cars. She is at a point in her life when she can’t afford a new car in spite of the “Only-$250-a month-and-$2,000-down” high-decibel ads blaring from the television every fifteen minutes. My friend painfully tells me that she sometimes feels embarrassed about her tired, thirteen year old Camry with its 190k odometer miles. And God knows what the suburban neighbors think about the small gravey-like oil pools in the driveway.

I shared my own concerns with her about driving my 2005 Corolla, which only has 61,000 miles. This from a guy who traded his cars in every three years. I still feel the draw of those bright, shiny new BMWs, gas-pedal to the floor, as I speed into the Interstate from my usual entry lane, not quite from 0 to 60mph in 20 seconds. After all, I blithely think to myself, I am still the thirty-year old metrosexual stud with a walkup fourth-floor apartment in Greenwich Village. Not. Continue reading

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The Father

(In writing this Blog Post, I fully realize that the Marriage Equality movement in the United States has radicalized, and will continue to radicalize our traditional notions of fatherhood and motherhood. And I believe this is a good thing. This Blog Post deals exclusively with the heterosexual model of fatherhood I grew up with, even though the Roman Catholic male clergy did affect many of my notions of masculinity and my own role as a father. I would hope that my gay readers will understand that this post is not meant to exclude them from the conversation; it is only meant to express the fatherhood roles I experienced in my youth)

Growing Up in the 1950s

I grew up in the nineteen fifties in a section of projects outside of Buffalo, New York.

In my neighborhood, fathers went to work and brought home a paycheck. They loved to carry thick wads of singles. They liked to play cards, smoke cigars, and drink beer. They knew about carburetors, fuel pumps, mufflers, and battery cables. They sometimes hunted. They seldom explained anything.

They often had girlfriends. And they followed their wives to the communion rail but avoided confession (I grew up Catholic and never remember any adult males standing in the Confessional line).

Fathers talked politics. They loved hardware stores. They complained about sales taxes. They read the headlines. They frequented pawn shops. They swore a lot. They loved misogynist, racist, off-color jokes. They often liked a good brawl. Continue reading

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Senior-Citizen Fear, the Center Cannot Hold

Panic Dreams

I have these recurring variations of the same dream. I am running down a school corridor, desperately trying to find my next class or I am in front of a class that is paying no attention to me. In yet another panic-dream, I am a substitute teacher in a Chemistry class (I was an English teacher).

And then there’s the dream where I constantly punch in the wrong phone number of someone I am frantically trying to call or I am darting through mazes of streets trying to find a relative’s apartment. Continue reading

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Instant Cures and Quick Solutions, the American Way

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that Americans love instant solutions. Chris Prentiss, in a television ad promoting his book, The Alcoholism and Addiction Cure, does not claim outright that a cure for alcoholism can be acquired immediately. But there is no doubt that he views recovery as much less than a life-time endeavor. And there is little doubt that he views recovery within some kind of time-frame in which all the recovery/cure process will take place.

For all intents and purposes, once the cure process begins and the client surrenders to Prentiss’s approach, there will come a time when the addiction will be in complete remission (make no mistake about Prentiss’s model here; his time-frame for a cure is quite finite).

Prentiss’s how-to-reach-the-finish line approach is very similar to the world of television ads about instantaneous cures from headaches to menstrual cramps. The entire subtext of these pharmaceutical ads is all about the finishing line, the immediate conquest. Continue reading

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Is it Ageism or are Pensioners Really Smug Escapists

In economic hard times and an ever changing economy, older Americans are becoming increasingly paranoid about being let go or bought out by their employers—for the sake of raising the bar, let’s just call it the Willy Loman syndrome

Older full-time employees are often a high needs group in spite of the experience they bring to a workplace. Our salaries are often at the prime-rib level, our equity loans more numerous to pay for children’s colleges, our medical needs more extensive and expensive than they were when we were in our twenties.

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