Shorpy, a favorite photo site, ran this picture with this caption today:

February 1939. Brawley, Imperial County, California. “In Farm Security Administration migrant labor camp during pea harvest. Family from Oklahoma with eleven children. Father, eldest daughter and eldest son working. She: ‘I want to go back to where we can live happy, live decent, and grow what we eat.’ He: ‘I’ve made my mistake and now we can’t go back. I’ve got nothing to farm with’.” Photo by Dorothea Lange for the Farm Security Administration. **

Now the father may think he’d made a mistake, but having read about the Dust Bowl, the hundreds or thousands of children who died of dust pneumonia, and how awful life was back where they came from, I think he’s being way too hard on himself.

And the “she” statement. she wants to grow what they eat. A sentiment from a different world! Today, most of us are suspicious of anything that hasn’t been processed through a factory first.

Just as I was wondering, “What ever happened to that family? Their great-grandkids are probably having kids now. How did they all survive? DID thy all survive? Did they become auto mechanics, cooks, what? Did their grandchildren go to college? Do they all keep in touch; do they realize that Dorothea Lange took family photos of them?”

Which takes little time to think, because it all comes at once.

And just at that moment my eyes strayed down to this ad, right underneath the family.

Hey, maybe that’s a great-great granddaughter of the man who has nothing!

Would he be proud, if it is? That the beautiful woman in the photo has likely never done what he would call work in her entire life? (Hardly a fair statement, because I’m sure that woman works hard at her craft. But we’ve all met tough old guys that value people by their physical labor output, and that’s what I meant.)

Unlike the family who went without food often, this woman likely deprives herself to maintain that heedless, svelte look so that she will be worshiped and sought after. Everyone wants to be her or have her. No one would want to be in that Depression-era family.

I remember a Dick Cavett Show episode in the early 70s, in which a Greek actress brought or talked about a Greek woman who had been tortured by the ruling Junta. Terribly intense, gut-wrenching conversation. Then they cut to a commercial that began “The heartbreak of psoriasis.”

Cavett apologized for the ad when they came back, and made a small joke about its inappropriateness. Back then, ads were consistent wherever the show ran. But I kinda feel the same way looking at the Shorpy page (which does change, and the ad you see might not be this one. They rotate.)

It’s just a weird juxtaposition of images, that makes you think philosophically and ironically. Hardscrabble, starving family with nothing, not even hope. Airbrushed beauty that cannot stand up to the light of day.  What’s the meaning of life?

** I don’t think I’m violating any rights of Shorpy’s, since the photos Dorothea Lange took are in the Library of Congress and I believe are public domain, as are the captions. But if you like crazy old photos, some rescued from 2nd-hand stores, you really should follow Shorpy!

 

Are any of these part of most political actions, lately?

Wouldn’t you like to believe, as my Mom said in the previous post, that our leaders cared about us? That we could trust them to do the right thing? Liberal or conservative? Because, when confronted with facts and thoughtful analysis rather than fear-mongering and insane threats, what’s right is usually not all that obscure.

Here’s a quote from the latest column by Paul Krugman:

On climate change, influential conservatives have for years clung to what is basically a crazy conspiracy theory — that the overwhelming scientific consensus that the earth is warming due to greenhouse-gas emissions is a hoax, somehow coordinated by thousands of researchers around the world. And at this point this is effectively the mainstream Republican position.

Do G.O.P. leaders really think this conspiracy theory is true? The answer, surely, is that they don’t care.

The title of the piece is “Making Ignorance Great Again.”

The last sentence inspired me to blog: The answer, surely, is that they don’t care.

I believe Krugman’s right, that they don’t care.  So how on earth did we get to a point where our elected leaders do not care about the future we hand over to their children and grandchildren?

Not caring about the future and doing only what pays benefits in the present and the next election cycle has become all that matters. That is a heinous attitude for our leaders to adopt; almost as heinous as dismissing all who disagree by calling them names. (What an awful behavior to have to defend. Sometimes I really feel sorry for Trump adherents.)

And again, how did we get here?

My opinion: The economic excesses of the 1980s played a big part. We became tolerant of avarice, and sat by as big companies gobbled up small ones. Reagan deregulated; safeguards that had been enacted during the Depression were either done away with, or undermined by underfunding. (Sleepwalking Through History by Haynes Johnson described it well.) Dividends and the bottom line justified everything, and still does.

Ironically, everyone now looks to Reagan as a paragon of decency. I’m not saying he was or was not. But he was convinced that removing rules and oversight would free businesses to soar, ignoring historical lessons that he should have known well, since he experienced them in the Depression.

Businesses that invest people’s money need rules. Otherwise, money isn’t real to them. The people whose life savings are invested disappear. All that exists is a big pile of money to play with–whoppee! Make it rain!

Reagan and some (not all) other Republicans, then and now, admired Ayn Rand and pointed to her philosophy as something to be championed. Hey, I loved Atlas Shrugged too! But it’s science fiction. Please remember that. Rand engaged in world-building to play out a scary future. Using her theories as an economic model makes as much sense as searching for an addictive spice that will turn the whites of your eyes blue, and building an empire on that.

Well, I’m getting side-tracked. The point is that Paul Krugman nailed it, once again. Here’s one more paragraph:

But does any of it matter? The president, backed by his party, is talking nonsense, destroying American credibility day by day. But hey, stocks are up, so what’s the problem?

My mother would have turned 100 this year. She went to high school during the Depression, and was a young wife during World War 2. She had to raise smartass kids during the 1960s; that must have been toughest of all..

Like so many families, we were affected by the news and the polarization of side back then. She was “My country, right or wrong,” I was “Nix on Nixon” and “Never trust anyone over 30.”

We managed, both of us, to survive and learn.

So years later, I was at Mom’s house when Richard Nixon was mentioned on the news for something, a few years before his death in 1994. “I can never forgive that man!”

Her outburst took me by surprise. “Why, what has he done now?”

“It’s what he did!” She didn’t look at me. She focused her eyes on the TV screen, even though the news had moved on and the sound was muted.”You will never know – young people will never know –  what it’s like to trust your president.

“When Roosevelt had to send men to war, we knew he was doing the right thing. We knew he was doing what he had to, to protect our country. You trusted the president to do that. You will never know what it means to trust the president like that.

“Nixon ruined it all.”

I knew she was right then, and 25 years later, experience has validated her point. No one has trusted a president since Nixon, have they? Well, maybe Reagan. I am consistently amazed at the reverence in which Ronald Reagan is held. I feel that way about Obama, so there’s two … out of eight.  The other six we mostly judged dishonest, inept, or dumb, often suspected of being crooked themselves or the hand puppet of more sinister power brokers.

And now, gravitas and decorum and whatever was left of respect for the presidency, is gone. The Oval Office is home to a circus barker, and that’s the nicest term I can apply. It’s too nice, actually; it doesn’t convey the bullying, the selfishness, the total disregard for truth, ethics, and appearance. There is no presentation of the current occupant as a protector or a judicious, wise leader. He’s the president, right? Means he’s king of the hill, has the most marbles, and can do what he wants, even call names like a 12-year-old. And I think that’s all it means to him.

 

The Los Angeles Times has a longish story/interview with Cheech Marin today,

Cheech — who will, ever and always, in spite of his many accomplishments, be known to Baby Boomers as stoner Cheech of Cheech and Chong — has written a memoir. So the article is about that, about his life, his eclectic passions, and more. Here’s a link to his book on Amazon, Cheech is Not my Real Name … But Don’t Call Me Chong.

And below is my favorite photo from the many printed in the Times.  Because I’m a Baby Boomer, and all Baby Boomers have a pony picture!

Back in the bad on’ days that we all miss, guys with camera and a Shetland pony roamed residential neighborhoods, stopping at houses and offering to take pictures of the kiddies on a pony for cheap. They had Western gear to dress up the kids: cowboy hats, kerchiefs, fringed vests, chaps. Everyone got a black and white photo, and everyone loved it … except, probably, the pony. But we never thought of that back then.

Here’s Cheech. I’m going to go look for my pony photo so I can scan it and post it here.

A friend is taking a series of high-priced classes to empower her. The classes teach her to build up a business and get people to sign up for her products. She tells me that fellow students have varied businesses. Some are life coaches and some are doing woo-woo stuff (my friend’s description). Some are selling technical skills and others are artists.

The teacher is great, I hear. Some million dollar figures are tossed around to describe her business and her home. My friend is trying to pull all this training and information together so she can start making money. The tech stuff – the social media posting and mailing lists, etc.-– is hard, but other than that, it’s just hustle. And my friend, a native New Yorker, knows how to hustle.

“I’d be dead,” I tell her. “I hate hustling.”

“I know. I can tell.” She admits she’s not crazy about hustling herself, but that’s what she’s gotta do. Hustle. Make those calls and get those people, those speaking gigs, those sales.

Know why I hate hustling? Because the core principle of hustling is manipulating another human being to enrich yourself, whether it’s good for her or not.

How is that right?

I hate being hustled; that’s probably why I loathe the idea of being the hustler. When someone hustles you, or pushes you, or manipulates you, you become a mark. Not a partner, not a fellow human being. Just a mark, to be used for their enrichment.  And the best hustlers, sadly, are the ones that look at you warmly, use your name, and treat you like you’re special.

That system sucks. We need a better one.

Here is a post from my History Los Angeles blog,  Links to stories about artist Janet Bennett, who says she designed the mosaic walls at Los Angeles International Airport in 1960, and I believe her; about the past and future of a Hollywood restaurant; about one of Hollywood’s first female executive producers; and some Really Cool Vintage Photos, like this from the 1880s (it’s Santa Monica, and that is a roller coaster).

Santa_Monica_roller_coaster, 2/13/14, 9:46 AM, 8C, 6778×7364 (147+1610), 100%, bent 6 stops, 1/25 s, R95.5, G76.3, B90.8

Just got comment cards back from my last talk on Baby Boomer Holiday Trivia (with pictures):

“Outstanding presentation in every way.”
“Wonderfully nostalgic!”
“Excellent & fun talk”

So nice to hear!

I gave a slide show (Power Point) presentation with pictures of aluminum Christmas trees, Shiny Brite ornaments, the Hollywood Santa Claus Lane Parade, Gene Autry’s album covers and Rudolph’s creator, Robert May, the original Chipmunks (not that cute), Slinky creator and family, Ginny, Barbie and the Bild Lili doll, and more. And I have stories–funny, sad, and true stories–about all of those things.

So if you’re in the Southern California area and need a speaker, drop me an email via the contact page and we can talk!

 

Fer yer eddificashun, from my other blog:

http://historylosangeles.blogspot.com/2017/03/los-angeles-past-and-future-and-theatres.html

A hundred years ago, lots of men and women made money by plugging songs. They were known as song pluggers.

Huh?

Yup; even George Gershwin did it in his early years, before his songwriting efforts took off like Seabiscuit at the starting bell. So what’s a song plugger?

Someone who, in the days before radio, stood on street corners or outside of stores, or even rose at the end of a Vaudeville show or movie, to belt out a tune that was for sale nearby. “For sale” meant as sheet music, to be played on piano. Remember, no radio, no recordings, very few records. The idea was to get that song to a customer’s ears. If they liked it, they’d hurry to Woolworth’s or a music store and plunk down a nickel for the 12 inch by 15 inch pamphlet of notes, and learn to play/sing it themselves. This was advertising before 1925, and a little bit after.

Easy work, if you’ve got a pair of lungs and a bit of nerve. Not sure how well it paid. Gershwin supposedly made $15 a week, as a 16-year-old kid. The profession  evolved into a pitchman-type of thing, but has mostly disappeared.

Today, we have jobs that people a hundred years ago could not have envisioned. Even fifty years ago. I’m not talking about the latest flavor of astrophysicist or network administrator; that high-tech and scientific jobs would get more specialized and complex IS predictable. But who could’ve foreseen, for example, that ordinary, middle-class folks would be hiring coaches to help them deal with life?

Life coach is a career path. It’s rather competitive now (so was song-plugging), but ever since Tony Robbins became famous and started pulling in bazillions o’ bucks for pumping up the rich and famous to perfect their craft/swing/tone and become more rich and famous, coaching has become a respectable way to make a living.

I know writers who pay to meet with coaches each week or two and be encouraged to set goals, make outlines, take x number of actions towards achieving said goals, or maybe just be gently chided for not fulfilling the promises of the previous meeting. Sometimes this graduates into buying packages of weekly online sessions or empowering weekends with a particular coach and other supplicants.

I also know mild, sweet people in the coaching business. They don’t rant and scream; they honestly want to help all their clients and make a living doing so. I see training programs for coaches offered. It’s a business, I fear, that is fast reaching the coach-client saturation point.

But it is a business no one saw coming.

Another example of a profession no one could have foreseen: Mata Amritanandamayi, the religious figure that gives hugs. Tens of millions have received her hugs; her entourage is apparently fifty strong. She works hard; hugging up to 15,000 people a day. Is there any precedence for such a career?

Is this a one-shot op? Maybe not. There’s a 7-year-old child traveling the USA giving hugs to policemen, supported by a GoFundMe account.

 

It seems that someone at Kohl’s assumes I am too overwhelmed by their incredible selection to figure out for myself how to keep track of the clothes I want to buy. How thoughtful of them to provide these guides: