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December 02, 2007

A Shouting Thomas Moment

Michael Blowhard write:

Dear Blowhards --

* Loyal Democrat Yahmdallah finds much to agree with in Shouting Thomas' comments at 2Blowhards, and confesses that righties often seem to make better neighbors than liberals do. Sigh: Why can't more Loyal Dems be as honest as Yahmdallah is about how infuriatingly messy and incoherent life often is?

* Shouting Thomas himself praises Louis Armstrong's Hot Five and says that Filipinas are anything but submissive.

* A form that I've come to love thanks to the Web is the mini-memoir: quick snapshots -- verbal and visual -- from people's lives. ST puts a welcome spin on the form in a photo-illustrated series documenting Woodstock's Tinker Street: here, here, here.



posted by Michael at December 2, 2007


Thank you so much for the links, Michael.

My band, Saints & Sinners got our first album in the can this weekend. I think that we'll call it "Sinner Blues."

My series of snapshots of Woodstock's business district will continue this week... and until I have my say about every one. I've got a story tell about every building.

I'm still struggling to put out my memorial CD for my late wife, Myrna. It is a compilation of work we did together, as well as some songs I wrote for her. While the CD is finished, I find myself constantly re-arranging it and re-doing the artwork. Every time I listen to it, I am plunged into an emotional storm and it takes me days to recover.

When I met Myrna, I also underestimated her. I just thought she was beautiful and wonderful. It took me a long time to understand what she really was... the breadth of her vision and intellect and her incredible courage and imagination. All people may be created equal, but they certainly do not stay that way.

I did not do her justice in this life, and I struggle with the guilt over that every day. If only I had seen earlier the enormous scope of her abilities and her determination...

I would suggest that every visitor to my site read Myrna's eulogy. I no longer care whether other people think I'm crazy... for a short time one of the great mythological goddesses graced my life. I did not do as well as I should have. Myrna challenged me far beyond my ability to respond. I'm still struggling to make up for it by telling the story of my incredible and brilliant Myrna. It is not an easy story to tell. One day, I will get it all out.

As she was dying she only asked two things of me: "Don't feel guilty about anything." And: "Tell our story."

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on December 2, 2007 7:42 PM

I wonder if it's in the air or something; ST is returning to his first love, Louis Armstrong's Hot Five recordings from the late 1920s, and I'm tunneling back into 1920s and 1930s music as well. The best 'new" (well, to me) recording I've heard in years is a version of Royal Garden Blues with Fats Waller, Benny Goodman and, I think, Jack Teagarden. What a crew! What a song! As Fats remarks, "It's mesmer-RIZIN'!"

There's a quality in music of that era that you don't hear too much in contemporary music; to wit, jauntiness. Very little contemporary music makes me want to light up a big cigar, put on a straw hat and armbands, and go promenading about making gallant remarks to the ladies. It's like a whole department of life has shrunken away.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on December 2, 2007 11:09 PM

In the sometimes rough and tumble give and take here on 2blowhards it is inevitable that metaphoric toes sometimes get stepped on. On a number of occasions soon after I'd begun to offer comments here I thought I was being personally attacked by various commentors and complained about it. Shouting Thomas coolly reminded me it was, after all, a forum for blowhards and that I needed to have a thicker skin. It was helpful and accurate advice. Unfortunately, it also seems to have had the effect of making me that much less concerned with being polite and considerate of others when engaging in debates here.

Shouting Thomas often makes disparaging comments about feminists, gays, hippies, liberals, political correctness, etc. here. In a thread on immigration that took a detour down the side issue of diversity I responded to one of his comments in an insensitive way that hit a painful nerve. What was meant to be a poke at ST's views on feminism and diversity issues in general was phrased in a way that could be interpreted as a personal comment about his own relationships. While this really was not my intent, as I tried to make clear in subsequent comments, my first comment was poorly enough phrased that the damage was already done. Once again, I apologize.

I read the eulogy to his wife Myrna on Shouting Thomas' web site and found it incredibly moving. She was a powerful, brave, beautiful and talented person who undoubtedly brought great joy to the life Shouting Thomas. I urge everyone to use the link and read ST's heartfelt tribute to an amazing woman.

Posted by: Chris White on December 3, 2007 10:22 AM

* Loyal Democrat Yahmdallah finds much to agree with in Shouting Thomas' comments at 2Blowhards, and confesses that righties often seem to make better neighbors than liberals do. Sigh: Why can't more Loyal Dems be as honest as Yahmdallah is about how infuriatingly messy and incoherent life often is?

It's not news to say that conservatives of a certain type are often wonderful people in daily life. But we must compare apples to apples. You can't compare the friendly, tolerant, conservative family man with some leftist nuts in Colorado. That's as fair as comparing the liberal who's devoted her life to service to that conservative guy who's constantly ranting about the ayrabs and the gays and how Hitlery Klinton is going to destroy us.

Posted by: JewishAtheist on December 3, 2007 12:06 PM

Chris, I do have a pretty thick skin. I’m a public performer, and I’m used to the rough and tumble. I do appreciate and accept your apology.

The notion that political beliefs are a reliable indicator of a person’s personal relationships is perhaps the most corrupt idea in the contemporary left. The theory seems to go like this: if you aren’t a partisan of feminism, you like to beat up and oppress women; if you won’t swallow the black nationalist line, you’re in favor of hanging blacks from trees; and if you aren’t in favor of the gay activist agenda, you believe in forcing gays into the closet and forming gangs to beat them up on the street.

I don’t believe that my personal relationships are subject to ideological scrutiny. Women seem to like me fine… all kinds of women. While it is common for men to complain that I have the wrong attitude, women in my personal life don’t seem to care. I’ve lived in black neighborhoods, play music and basketball with blacks, and I’ve taught whole classrooms of affirmative action black kids at SUNY. My relationships with my black friends and business associates are just fine.

One of the weirdest examples of this dilemma occurred when I wrote a review of “Brokeback Mountain” for a small newspaper. I attended the movie with my closest friend, a gay man who has AIDS. He and I agreed that the movie was a heavy handed propaganda movie, and not very believable. The almost universal response to my review was that I am a homophobe who must hope for the day when gays are executed for their sexual behavior.

I wrote my bit about Louis Armstrong because a variety of websites had recently referred to him, bringing up the old argument that he was an “uncle Tom.” Apparently, these people believe that Armstrong should have struck a defiant, angry pose in the face of white audiences. Armstrong, at least in public, seemed to believe that that had no place in his performances, and I think he was precisely right. If you read his biography in Wikipedia, you’ll discover that a Jewish couple gave Armstrong his first cornet when he was living in an orphan’s home in New Orleans. In gratitude, Armstrong wore a Star of David pendant throughout his life.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on December 3, 2007 12:15 PM

Liberal communities have better extra-curricular activites. Conservative communtities have nicer lawns and more neighborly chatting. It all depends on what you're looking for.

Posted by: JV on December 3, 2007 2:20 PM

On Roissy's blog a commenter Hope writes this profound commentary on love. The context is different than ST's eulogy but still relevant. Italicized passages are ones she's responding to.

Great deal of foul language in the thread, but not in Hope's comment:

where from an outsiders perspective these people are latching on to each other out of fear or laziness and they seem unhappy or - I dont know - resigned to the relationship but pursue outside interests

I have received similar comments from people - most notably men - while I was in the relationship. They said it seemed like I only stayed with him out of familiarity, fear and laziness, and one of them in particular said that the relationship seemed unhealthy, too co-dependent, and just doomed to failure. Perhaps they are right. As two people living together for almost 7 years, we did start to need each other.

I think the key thing missing from these people’s assessment of the relationship was that it had ceased to be just a "relationship." He and I became family somewhere along the way. Not all families are perfectly happy 100% of the time. Families often fall apart nowadays, too. Everyone knows that it's hard to get along with family. But getting married is just another way of setting up a family, or the formal acknowledgment that two people are a family.

Just curious what your thought is on that as someone who stayed in a relationship that went through hardtimes whether from internal or external pressures...

People don't usually treat their mother or father like disposable diaper once they no longer give financial support, so why would you drop your spouse like a bad habit when they stop making you as excited as before? If your brother or sister went through some financial troubles, a normal person’s first response is not to cut all ties. Maybe I was more affected by this 90's pop song than I realized.

I got the distinct feeling tha her feelings were based on liking and caring about him but no deeper than that. Actually more than a feeling - she pretty much admitted as much.

Being with him feels like "coming home," if you can grok that. A good spouse is family and friend and lover all in one. The kind of love we feel for each other has a kind of quiet but visceral intensity, and what we provide for each other we would miss only when we've lost it... like the way he comforts me after I have a nightmare, or the way I help him fall asleep at night. This is an incredibly deep feeling, but society has elevated the feeling of sexual lust above all else. I was blind to everything but the sexual feeling when I was younger, and I thought that only arousal mattered. It’s not that simple.

I think this is why the fabric of modern society is often said to be more fragile now. It is torn not only at an individual level but at a cultural level. Neighbors no longer care so much for each other, nor do families, nor do friends, nor do lovers. Humans are a biologically tribal creature, but now most of us are alienated from the rest of our "tribe," so to speak. I yearn sometimes to be close to more people, the way I was when I was little and being with my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. But they’re all far away now. So I cherish what I have, and even though things do get difficult, they can always be worked through if I want them to be.

There are emotions just as powerful as romantic love that exist between people, and the Greeks knew this and distinguished them: agape, eros and philia:

Although eros is initially felt for a person, with contemplation it becomes an appreciation of the beauty within that person, or even becomes appreciation of beauty itself. It should be noted Plato does not talk of physical attraction as a necessary part of love, hence the use of the word platonic to mean, “without physical attraction”. Plato also said Eros helps the soul recall knowledge of beauty, and contributes to an understanding of spiritual truth.

Agape is used in ancient texts to denote feelings for a good meal, one’s children, and the feelings for a spouse. It can be described as the feeling of being content or holding one in high regard. The verb appears in the New Testament describing, amongst other things, the relationship between Jesus and the beloved disciple. In biblical literature, its meaning and usage is illustrated by self-sacrificing, giving love to all–both friend and enemy. It is used in Matthew 22:39, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and in John 15:12, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you,” and in 1 John 4:8, “God is love.”

I’m not a religious sort, but after experiencing both eros and agape, I now have a much deeper understanding and appreciation of more forms of love.

Posted by: PA on December 4, 2007 11:41 AM

Link to the above comment:

Posted by: PA on December 4, 2007 11:42 AM

Re.: Neighborhoods

We have Republicans, Democrats, Independents, firemen, policemen, Apple programmers, social workers, teachers, accountants, pharmaceutical sales folks, cookie sales people, law school students, waitresses, entrepreneurs, retirees, and an enclave of loonies living on our block. We pretty much get along, regardless of our lawn manicuring practices. What ties us all together and why we all seem to get along is the unspoken magic of neighborhood. We watch each other's kids like hawks, making sure they are safe and care-free as they play on our front lawns and on our streets. We chase down cars like crazed dogs that are speeding through the neighborhood and hand out tongue-lashings. People move away for larger houses and come back to visit because they miss their homes.
I don't think a neighborhood is about the political bent. It's about preserving the carefree airs of a neighborhood ramble. We find ourselves very lucky. Our house is small by modern American standards, but our home is a large neighborhood.

Posted by: DarkoV on December 4, 2007 12:02 PM

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