The Enduring Easter Bunny Fetish

I was going to write something more serious when my eye caught a photo on the Sunday Los Angeles Times where two security guards were trying to wrest a large plastic trash bag from the hands of one of the prodigious street vendors  working the downtown area. The large plastic trash bag was filled with rabbits. Easter rabbits.

It would make sense that come the Easter Holiday, rabbits would be a featured attraction in the hustling market area known as Santee Alley. Santee Alley is roughly ten square blocks and is centered by the alley itself where clustered stalls offer the shopper everything from cheap toys and electronics, to knock off designer jeans and counterfeit designer wallets and handbags, and the ubiquitous bootleg DVD’s.   And animals. On any given day iguanas and large, green turtles are offered for sale, with the occasional chicken or rooster.

The vendors are a polyglot of ethnic diversity, a regular lower shelf market bazaar where unclaimed shipments from China and irregular offloads compete with the counterfeit accessories to attract the passersby.   To be kind, Santee Alley is not typically filled with high earners, unless they are slumming or looking for the odd bargain on counterfeit purses they don’t mind carrying to  buffer the bad economy while still impressing their friends.   It is more the working class shopping mecca, mothers in toy with their multiple children, the in-laws and grandparents tootling on behind.

On weekends, the Santee Alley area is seriously crowded and to enter the Alley itself one does the slow shopping shuffle. Some vendors will proffer their wares, and others may whisper that lurking inside the canvas duffel bags or plastic garbage bags in the back of the stall some fine counterfeit handbags, wallets, jeans, DVD’s and whatever are waiting for your perusal. Some will claim they come from the same manufacturer as the original authentic designer version.  Some are too bored to bother with any conceivable ruse.

But it is Easter time and there are rabbits.  People often ask how rabbits came into the Easter story, but I have no definitive idea.   Something about fertility, as with the eggs, those painted eggs, signifying fertility and renewal.  If rabbits laid eggs it would be an easier legend to comprehend.   But they don’t. So suffice it to say the fertility aspect of Easter is left to both mammals and fowl, humans notwithstanding.   Humans having sex and multiplying, despite all Biblical notions, is something to be kept on the quiet.   Even if the concept of human sex oddly is an obscure notion given the large families in Santee Alley.

But to the rabbits.   So here are the rabbits in little cages, being offered for sale at the going rate of $20 apiece.   That seems expensive, but then I am hardly the rabbit farmer of legend.   In fact in my youth and relative innocence I had one bunny that I kept over Easter and then gave back to the pet store, once I discovered all rabbits really do is wiggle their noses and crap round turds just about everywhere they travel.   But my brief rabbit ownership came a long time ago when the information network was confined to pretty much what your parents told you and what Cold War events were delivered on only three television stations.   In one’s ignorance about esoteric things about rabbits and such, one just went with the flow until self-discovery changed the course of direction.

Of course these were the times when pet shops and farmers markets sold painted turtles and spray painted chickens, all done up in Easter colors of pink and yellow.   For the most part, the whole Easter chicken and rabbit business was a genocide program.   The dyes in the spray paint would usually kill the baby chicks soon after sale.  Although I did have one friend who actually raised the chicken to maturity.   It was so odd seeing a grown chicken living in a console television box in the basement of a row house.   It was if nothing else a marked testament to survival.

The turtles were year round and survived longer, despite the garish colored images that were spray painted on their shells.  Longer here is a relative issue, as was survival.   Everyone I knew had a story about the dog or cat eating the baby chicks and rabbits, or giving the rabbits to the neighbors where it was eaten for dinner the following night.   The turtles would escape from their plastic bowls and either be eaten by the cats or lost to the crevices in the house or found a week later a victim of the rinse cycle on the washing machine.

But that was long ago.  For the most part I thought the whole Easter Bunny fetish was long gone, along with the painted baby chicks, as the society has advanced and had access to information regarding the health and well being of these long eared creatures.  I guess not.   According to the Times article, the Bunny trade is booming.  These are young rabbits that are not weaned and suffering from malnutrition.   In all, buying one of these rabbits and taking it home gives a whole new meaning to dead on arrival.

But, either way, once purchased for the Big Easter pageant, the Easter Bunny is in for a real rough time.  He is either DOA, perhaps a mercy killing given the choices.    Or the rabbit who lives through the rigors of the holiday season may ultimately face extermination when he wears out his welcome.  Perhaps as  the main course for a Saturday dinner,  if  he miraculously manages to grow plump and mature.

The Los Angeles Security Guards and law enforcement authorities try their best to rein in the illegal Easter Bunny Business.   They rescue these poor creatures and place them in a shelter where they at least have a chance to survive.   The rabbits are fed kitten formula and colostrum pills.  The ubiquitous lettuce the condemned rabbits are seen nibbling on ever so cutely will destroy the system of young rabbits.

Oh well…rabbits and lettuce…another myth all shot to hell.   So this is pretty serious, after all.  Happy Easter.

The Vintage Whine of Academia

Some years ago when asked his opinion about campus politics, Henry Kissinger said, “University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.”   This was an interesting response and one that has endured with me for quite some time.    Nevertheless,  when confronting academia, socially or otherwise,  it isn’t long before  Kissinger’s explanation of the vicissitude of campus politics regurgitates like a bad burrito.  I am struck by how  so many academics are sad cases burdened by the years of repetition that has led in many cases to a total lack of originality in thought  and expression.

Given that I have a jaundiced view of much of academia, I still found it surprising that several professors claimed that tenure fights are stressful and can lead to emotional breakdowns.   According to  an article in Boston.com, entitled Professors Say Tenure Fights Creates High Stress Situations,   David Yamada, director of the New Workplace Institute at Suffolk University Law School, and James Alan Fox, a professor of criminology, law, and public policy, at Northeastern University urged separately that the Universities should reevaluate the tenure process.  They urged that the tenure process be more transparent and less “gut wrenching,,” as Fox put it.

Yamada noted that college officials should be “more in tune with the psychological health of the tenure-seeking professor.   It was noted in the article that the tenure process can take about six or seven years and prove very stressful.  Those applying for tenure, it was reported, are under intense scrutiny and may have to contemplate the possibility of failure.    All in all, the article described the tenure process as long and tough.  It can make the teacher a nervous wreck.   It can lead to tragedy.

The two professors cited the recent incident with Amy Bishop as an example.  Bishop was the Harvard educated professor who when denied tenure shot six college professors at the University of Alabama.  She killed three and wounded three others.   This was their example of a stressed out tenure applicant, reacting to the pressure.   They did admit this may be an extreme case, but still…oh the pressure.

Never mind that Amy Bishop had a history of nutty behavior.  Not the least of that nutty behavior was the reported accidental killing of her brother.   Her finger was somehow on the trigger and, BANG, the shotgun just went off.  This is a woman with all sorts of graduate degrees and a Harvard education who reportedly had a problem cleaning a shotgun..   Well…okay.

This was the Amy Bishop who was charged with assault at an IHOP, after demanding another customer yield her booster seat so Bishop could use it for her child.  When the woman refused, Bishop punched at her and screamed some not-very-professorial epithets at the poor woman.   This nut job who should have never been teaching in the first place  is their example of tenure stress.

I take issue with the two denizens of the Ivory Tower, by writing every job worth having is stressful.    Every day in the real world people sweat out their working careers, hoping they are not fired because of age, race,  or sexual or social predilections.   They hope they won’t be downsized because of a merger and acquisition.   They pray they won’t be laid off with the economic meltdown.

What kind  of insular perspective believes that academics should not be under scrutiny for performance and ability?  This is the case in private industry, so why not at a college or university?   You can be sure at that same college or university someone is eyeballing the janitor to make sure he is doing his job.   The kid at the local Dominoes better not burn too many pizzas, otherwise he is out pocket money for his condoms and pot.   Everybody is under stress.

In fact, with the economic downturn, millions are out of work and the millions left are forced to pick up the slack of being overwhelmed and undermanned.    Employers are working with bare bones staffs, and heaven forbid if they can’t maintain performance.  Everyday millions of people either hope to hang onto their jobs or strive to find another one.

There are millions or workers out there who aren’t just stressed, but terrified they will lose their jobs.   Some, like Amy Bishop, who are tightly wrapped, have revisited their workplace to shoot and kill their bosses and fellow workers.  Most won’t.  Most will steel up and do the best they can, given the fears and pressures of unemployment.

I realize that in the name of esteem issues, much college curriculum has been dumbed down so the students can feel better about themselves.   This is not true in all cases, but it is apparent when you have college students that are near functionally illiterate, can’t spell,  and can’t put their thoughts into a cogent sentence.

But this sudden whining about the tenure process is the equivalent of academic dodge ball.  Some educators decided recently that the competition in dodge ball engenders negative extreme issues.    The same here holds true.   Competition apparently is not seen as distinguishing the best of our educators.    Instead, competition is viewed as the enervating demon that hovers about, nullifying the creative process.

In fact, one has to look askance in general at the creative process in academia..  Not to paint it with a broad brush, but I have never been overly impressed with creativity among academics.   There are exceptions, and there are certainly are those who have distinguished themselves in various endeavors in the private sector and decided to give back to the community by teaching at universities.    There are those who have distinguished themselves in more esoteric pursuits, and though their creativity is well received in a niche market, they can’t make a living  just by what they produce.   So they teach.  Understood.

There are exceptions among those in the  physical and economic sciences who through private funding and university resources  perform  much needed research and development that can benefit us all.   And there are those who are simply damn good teachers.

But then there are there those who engage in the campus politics of Kissinger’s description.   This is their world.   they live in it and even thrive in it.   In the real world, where you actually have to actualize theory, many will perish.   It is a group dependent on grants and foundational offerings and neither entrepreneurial or self-sufficient.

They give pointed views on subjects and issues that are best left to theory.   They pronounce with certainly ambiguous concepts that simply can’t flourish any other place but academia.   They impose questionable points of view on our kids and rigid definitions of creativity and artistry.    Anything other than their own insulated thoughts are threatening and deemed the prejudices of the ignorant and misinformed.

And then they complain that their jobs are stressful.  Tenure is a demoralizing bitch of a process that in its extreme can lead to bloodshed on the ivy.   Teaching is tough.  Life is tough.  They are under scrutiny.   They are being forced to perform.

Well cowboy up.   And get real.  At least you are working.

Puppetry of the Pearly Penile Papules

For many years now, the running commentary is that a man’s penis has a mind of its own.   Or we have heard it said that the little head is in command of the big head.   Maybe so.  Maybe not.

But here is a case where a man’s penis should have maybe done the thinking for him.   Apparently the big head was cajoled and pressured into thrusting the little head into public scrutiny, where both person and penis were met with derisive comments and otherwise embarrassing results.

According to an article  the Courthouse News Service, a man has filed a complaint against CBS Television Network.  The man alleges the producers of the reality show, “The Doctors” tricked him into discussing his  laser surgery before a live studio audience.   The laser surgery was intended  to remove “pearly penile papules.”   Pearly penile papules are seemingly harmless skin colored bumps or pimples that I’m sure do little to enhance one’s sex appeal.

The man contends that he contacted the doctor at the surgery center, in La Jolla, California, for an appointment to consult about this $4,500 surgery.   A couple of days later, the would-be patient received a call from “The Doctors” requesting he appear on the show.   The offended party contends that he was unduly  pressured into appearing on the show.  He wasn’t told about the live studio audience.    The show was broadcast, he alleges, without his consent.

The man now claims he has suffered “relentless embarrassment and harassment.”   He claims he receives less than complimentary phone calls and emails from friends and acquaintances who have commented on his television debut.   We can only imagine the content of the voice mails and emails, but there is little doubt they can prove unnerving.

Honestly, I feel bad for the guy.   He may have a case.; he may not.    He may have been tricked or he may have imagined himself aglow in the light of celebrity.   I don’t know.    Television producers in need of willing and gullible subjects can be very persuasive.   They can work their charms and hammer you in every way until your relinquish yourself to their programming needs.

In  the mood of the times, it is flattering at first that you Joe Blow from wherever are suddenly a point of focus.  It can bring some distraction to your everyday life.  People will notice you.   In a bad economy with jobs outsourced and not all that many prospects out there, you could make yourself famous.   It’s like marathon dancing during  the Great Depression.  A long shot.  And often painful.

But long shot or not, if you play your cards right there is that glimmer of hope  you can parley your media  appearance into some profit making marketing scheme.  Look at those men and women who could parley a self-made porn video into a branding institution.  There are any number, Paris Hilton not being the least of whom started out blurry and naked on a DIY video.    There are the ones who utter something stupid, but that stupid utterance somehow resonates with a certain  market segment who prints it on tee shirts and coffee mugs.   There are book offers and breakfast cereal, maybe all in one package.

So when life is drab and your money is short, when Hollywood calls you may want to consider the possibilities.   This is the age, after all, were privacy woefully lacks the currency  it once had.   In a bad economy, especially, you can’t make yourself rich and famous by secreting your most intimate biases, dreams, and sexual proclivities.   Just walk down the street or stand on any elevator where someone is yammering away about their love life and not-so-secret desires.   Do they care that you are standing around wondering what kind of imbecile makes all this known to the public?  Not in the least.   Either they don’t care or they want you to look at them, take notice, think of them as someone engaged in a life more exotic than its somber reality.

Integrity and decorum have long fallen by the wayside as the multitudes seek to gain the advantage over their peers by exhibiting themselves in some absurd fashion, by having more babies, uttering believed to be metaphysical by some and nonsense to the  dwindling quantity of discerning minds.   Couple this was the fact that most people are in fact functionally illiterate, so signing away their life on documents they are unable to read is more commonplace than ever before.    They buy houses, cars, and get involved in get rich quick schemes by passing over the fine print.   They claim in the aftermath that they were victimized by virtue that they were either incapable or too lazy to read the documents with which they were presented.

The quest for fame is even greater than the quest for sex.   Both may be ephemeral and ultimately unsatisfying, but the quest for celebrity in this day and age is the strongest urge.    The quest for celebrity emanates  from conditions of  alienation and anonymity.   More often than not the feeling of one’s loneliness and insignificance can only be sated when not one but thousand or millions of eyes turn their eyes away from their iPhones and cast them onto you.

For that brief recognition people will subject themselves to damn near anything.   They will have sex with animals or talk about their worst moments to their twenty million best friends.   They will humiliate themselves at every level and willingly swap their dignity for celebrity with only the slightest bit of prompting.   Where there once was a time where you had to pry out someone’s innermost secrets, in quest of celebrity you can’t shut them up.

What is remarkable is that someone who finds the cure for AIDS will have the same amount of celebrity as, say, the Octomom.   There is no discrimination.  Famous is famous.   We may claim otherwise, but it’s not the truth.   They are here and they are gone.   Unless they manage in some way  through some gift of accomplishment or media savvy to sustain our fickle attentions.  Otherwise, they are off the show and back on their cell phones, pumping up their inflated sense of accomplishment.

When Unemployment Makes You Goofy

These are tough times.  These are tough times globally, but for the United States this is also no day a the beach.  These are tough times economically, what with personal wealth devastated by the real estate  market, the depletion of pensions funds.  Money is scarce and credit is tight.

What money there is in the banks and among the fat cats is being horded.   The government seems weak and ineffective in forcing the banks to literally get off a dime.   While the media shifts back and forth, trumpeting contradictory statistics, supposed financial and industrial experts inveigh equally conflicting predictions about the the economic recovery.   The more honest of the pundits, after hemming and hawing on air time, in order to collect their money or sell their book, finally admit, “hell, I don’t know.”

Whether there will be an economic recovery or where there will be a double dip, where the economy drops, recovers and then drops again like some erratic  roller coaster ride, it all remains to be seen.   Meanwhile, people need to find work.  They need to make bucks just to survive or in the luckier cases supplement their diminished savings, before it leaves them looking like bit players in “The Grapes of Wrath.”

So where do you find work when there is not work?  Good question.  Where do you find work when a great many jobs have either been rendered obsolete or have been outsourced to another country?   Simply.  Why you go to Disneyland, of course.

If not Disneyland, then you attend the job fairs at any one of the amusement parks and destination sites where people with a couple of bucks left still take their families.   According to an article in The Los Angeles Times, amusement park job fairs are enjoying, if that’s the word, record turnouts.   It’s not just kids anymore, recent high school and college graduates looking for a summer job or something to do until they can find something else, that are attending the job fairs.   Be it the Disney Parks, Knotts Berry Farm, Six Flags,  Universal Studios, or  Hoolah’s Tuba Land, job candidates from every background and of every description are lining up and looking for work.

At a recent job fair at Six Flags Magic Mountain, in Valencia, California, more than 1,600 applicants stood in line in search of work.  Another 1,100 attended the job fair at Universal Studios,  Hollywood.   Those who attended were mortgage agents and sales clerks.   These are teachers and construction workers, forklift operators.  These are office managers and restaurant managers, loan processors and once-retired seniors who thought they had enough to retire until the economic meltdown and the loss to their portfolio and pensions made them think again.

These are people looking to work for less than $400 a week.    To be  Goofy in an amusement park.    In this day and age, $400 a week is a long way from big money.  It is a long way from what most of us deem “a living.”  It is the kind of salary that makes you feel impotent and humiliated, that assures your purchases will be largely guided by what is being featured at the Dollar Store.   It is the kind of money that allows you to believe at least you are doing something to tide you over and feed your family, until something better comes along.  And then, if nothing better does come along, it is the kind of money that reminds you at the end of every week there is probably no way out.

In short, we have not only ruined an economy.  We have damaged its people.   Through greed, unnecessary risk, and blatant audacity we have all but bankrupted a country.   We have caused such grievous harm to ourselves, and yet we wonder why there are so many among us who become Tea Baggers or whatever, to vent their anger.   No matter how misdirected we believe the anger may be, there is no denying people have the right to be extremely pissed off.

We have allowed the few, the venal, and the undisciplined to not only steal away our money but steal away our future as well.  For this they are rewarded.   For this, we make excuses and mumble something about our institutions being too big to fail and then pray that people will be distracted by one more stupid romance, an athlete gone awry, or a prefabricated news event.   We hope that the distractions will prevent the anger from escalating into more tangible manifestations, other than parading around with misspelled signs.

Some claim this is the Great Recession and second only to our Great Depression.  While much of it may be true, I also beg to differ.   When the Great Depression ended, American people had jobs to which they could return.  We had our industries intact.  There wasn’t talk of technical innovations and alternate fuel sources creating new jobs, while our present industries were demoted to the trash heaps or shipped offshore.    We didn’t have a situation where the greatest concern was the bottom line, to the point where industries were downsized and American workers deemed obsolete by virtue of their professions and job descriptions.

When we recovered from the Great Depression, there was industry and with the industry there were jobs.  And from the jobs came money, and with the money people were able to buy what they needed.  But after the Great Recession, many jobs are gone and will never return to these shores.   These were jobs were people worked, made their livings, had their dignity.   But not now.

If there are no jobs, then where do people come up with the money to buy what they need?  How do they send their kids to school?   How do they enjoy the brief time they have on Earth?   Certainly those who used Tarp money to consolidate their own businesses and award themselves bonuses haven’t given it much consideration.   Clearly, from the way they ran this country into the ground,  they are not prone to think that far in advance.

In short, we may have demoted ourselves to a second tier nation.   We have former industrial workers now performing menial service tasks in rusted and blighted cities.   We have journalists out of work, news sources collapsing around us.  Small businesses are in jeopardy and have no credit sources.    We have collapsing infrastructures and a public education system that does anything but make our kids competitive in the global economy.

I know, I hear others say, “well hey compared to other countries around the world, we are still doing pretty well.”   This is sophistry.     We have been reduced as a nation to comparing ourselves to less fortunate nations, developing nations, so that we can somehow feel better about our own condition.   It is no longer a nation where we are looking toward a brighter future, except for maybe in television commercials and in the rhetoric of politicians.    Never mind that our condition stinks, and as adults we are looking for jobs in a theme park.   We should take refuge in the fact our long term outlook isn’t quite as dismal as that of some other country.

In an oblique way, it may be a good thing millions of us are on Prozac or some other antidepressant.   If not, then the wacky outbursts we are seeing in the news with increasing frequency may turn into ever more violent wacky outbursts.  The pissed off may become more organized and encourage true public disobedience.  The Tea Baggers in true American tradition may put down those misspelled signs, grab a little tar and feathers,  and start hoisting the bonus babies on rails.   Out of work intellectuals could join them, along with the downsized and disenfranchised and the permanently neglected.

I am not saying this should happen.  There are better ways to address our problems and to solve the present and future crises.   But when the political body proves unresponsive,  and when people feel they are being overtaxed and without representation, true representation, legislators concerned with the public interest and not lining their own pockets, then history dictates that things can get out of hand.   History is indeed in this way a cruel teacher.  History is an even harsher teacher when its lessons are ignored.

I don’t believe we are in anyway near the breaking point, reaching critical mass, if you will, where the people start acting up and the Shays Rebellion and the Boston Tea Party start looking like good ideas.   I think we are a country too smart to tear itself entirely apart, having learned that lesson 150 years ago in our previous debacle known as The Civil War.   But life is full of surprises, and with the advent of modern media and technology, news travels fast if not all that accurately.

But let’s face it.   Unemployed people need something to do.   If you are an adult and working a menial job for $400 a week, then the magic is gone from our magic mountain.