Search of America!
by K.S. Sivakumaran
John Steinbeck Travels
with Charley (A French poodle) or the famous writer's Love Affair with
America was a best selling paperback published some 40 years ago. In
1960, John Steinbeck (then 60 years old) travelled all over America to
rediscover his own country.
first hand experiences are beautifully described in his inimitable style
in this book. It was indeed an extraordinary odyssey. His novel The
Grapes of Wrath was written 84 years ago. Recently I saw a movie adapted
from his novel in a classroom in a High School in Cincinnati. It was part
of a learning process in a Language Arts class for Grade XI students. And
his other books including East of Eden and Of Mice and Men
were classics. Some of his books are taught in High Schools in the U.S.
America in the early 21st century is not what it was in the 1960s, naturally.
Reading this travelogue recently, I found several passages of striking
Here is a sample of Steinbeck
writing: "I thought I might do some writing along the way, perhaps essays,
surely notes, certainly letters. I took paper, carbon, typewriter, pencils,
notebooks, and not only those but dictionaries, a compact encyclopaedia,
and a dozen other reference books, heavy ones.
I suppose our capacity
for self-delusion is boundless. I knew very well that I rarely make notes,
and if I do I either lose them or can't read them. I also knew from 30
years of my profession that I cannot write hot on an event. It has to ferment.
I must do what a friend calls "muller it over" for a time before it goes
Fifty years of TV guide in America
Reading about the launching
of Crusz's book on Lankan television prompted me to write a little note
on a book on 50 years of a Television Guide in the U.S. One of the most
popular weekly magazines in America, reaching 30 million readers is "TV
Guide" Since April 3, 1953 it is in continuous publication.
The publishers brought
out in 2002, a volume of 272 full-colour pages with more than 250 photographs.
It also included more than cover pictures of the Guide with relevant notes.
The book presents an overview
of American popular taste. When the Independent Television Network in Sri
Lanka started operating first within the premises at Torrington Square,
I could remember the late Chandra Munasinghe, Arjuna Ranawana, Sharmini
Boyle and a few others working for the ITN then.
For entertainment, some
American and British TV programmes were channeled. ' Jesus of Nazareth',
'Who Pays the Ferryman', "Dynasty", "Charlie's Angels", The Knight Rider",
"Sesame Street" "Crown Court", "The Cosby Show', "The Jefferson", were
just a few entertainers the Lankan audiences enjoyed. Brief accounts of
a few productions like this along with colour photographs of these productions
are included in the "TV Guide Fifty Years of Television".
The Great Gatsby
One of the earliest American
novels to portray the 'American Dream' was 'The Great Gatsby' by F. Scott
Fitgerald. Power, Money, Luxury, Social standing - that's the dream described
in the novel. Nick in this fiction struggles to attain his vision of the
perfect American Dream.
But he is disillusioned.
His encounters with the cream of the society - the upper class- teach him
that the perfect life he perceived was not really perfect. He soon realizes
that what he thought was great life was really marked by loneliness, superficiality,
disregard for the others and the like.
The portrayal of the High
Society is remarkably executed. Through the eyes of Nick Carroway, we see
an illusive world. Nick's neighbour Gatsby, imagined to be a happy man,
is not really happy. Nick feels for Gatsby, who is lonely and not cared
for despite his throwing of big parties to which many come but have not
met him nor cared to know about him. Gatsby's love interest is also a failure.
The girl Gatsby loves Daisy
does not want to marry Gatsby, because he doesn't have enough money to
get married to him. But Daisy too is lonely. Her husband Tom while loving
her has also an affair with another woman. Daisy pretends to be a fool
or ignorant and hopes her own daughter would also remain a fool and live
in a pretended world. Please read the novel to form your own opinion.
Hugging warms the heart
I read this news item
in the USA Today: "Cuddling may be good medicine for the heart. A brief
hug and 10 minutes of holding with a romantic partner greatly reduce the
harmful physical effects of stress, according to a study reported over
the weekend at the American Psychsomatic Society meeting in Phoneix."
In the U.S. if a woman
hugs a man, it is not something unusual, but if a man touches a woman even
accidentally, it could be construed as 'sexual harassment' But if the touching
or 'grabbing ' is mutual, then there is no problem.
However, in a feminist
world, a woman can initiate touching, but not the man, unless she is close
to him. The legal implications are confusing and my first impression is
that civil and permissive society in the west is partial towards women
Please do not get me wrong
- I am not an antifeminist, male chauvinist. The reality, however, is unreasonable
towards males. If a woman seduces a man and the man doesn't want to respond,
then he can report it as sexual harassment, a friend says. Maybe, I am
The news story further
adds that" the findings suggest one reason that isolated, lonely people
tend to have poorer health. The older you are, the more fragile you are
physically, so contact becomes increasingly important for good health ".
Attraction of the opposites
What do men and women,
boys and girls look for in the opposite sex ? Here are some aspects of
sexual attraction, as found in a survey: Looks, Personality, Athlectism,
Confidence, Sense of Humour, Intelligence, Popularity.
Teenagers seek advice most
often about the opposite sex from the Internet, magazines, radio call in
shows, parents, friends, siblings, an opposite sex friend, teacher/school
counsellor, mentor/preacher. Dating and premarital sex even among teenagers
are permissible in the west. Sex, divorce, remarriage, adultery and the
like are not a big deal in this part of the world.
Not that it is absent in
our part of the world, but not so openly primarily because the damaging
effect in aping the west in this regard would be much worse. That is why
such shocking cultural traits in the west are not for us Lankans. The editorialist
of the Daily News (May 26) said that the private lives of public figures
are carefully scrutinized by the public.
Who are some of the public
men of style in America currently ? Razor, a magazine published in Arizona
but edited from Toronto in Canada has picked 30 Mavericks among the top
50 Men of Style in its May 2004 issue. Most of these people, I must confess,
I have not heard about.
This is because I was never
interested in people who are in the limelight as most popular people fancied
by people at large. However, some of them featured in this magazine had
attracted my attention because they had individuality and stuff.
I shall mention a few names
from the lot, but some readers would have known almost all of them. For
instance, some of you might have listened to Howard Stern. I have not.
We learn that he had long been America's most popular radio personality
(eight million people tune in each week for his host show).
I surely know people in
the movie world in the like of Mel Gibson (actor/director), Sean Penn (actor/director),
Dan Brown (novelist), Clint Eastwood (actor/director), George Clooney (actor)
and I admire some facets of their personality.
The other names among the
30 besides Howard Stern are: Donald Trump, Jonathan Ive, Russel Simons,
Mark Burnett, Michael Bloomberg, Tom Ford, 50 Cent, Al Franken, John Currin,
Michael Arad, Larry David, John Galliano, Outkast, Troy Hutubise, P. Diddy,
Andrew Jarecki, Oliver Theyskens, Tony Kushner, Eli Pariser, Jamie Johnson,
Paul O'Neill, Thomas Keller, Roger Ailes, Guy Laliberte.
Ezra Pound: In a
Station of the Metro
The apparition of these
faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black
Toffler in The Third Wave almost 24 years ago wrote: ...many of today's
changes are not independent of one another. Nor are they random. For example,
the crackup of the nuclear family, the global energy crisis, the spread
of cults and cable television, the rise of flex time and new fringe-benefit
pakages, the emergence of separist movements from Quebec to Corsia, may
all seem like isolated events. Yet precisely the reverse is true. These
and many other seemingly unrelated events or trends are interconnected.
They are, in fact, parts of a much larger phenomenon: the death of industrialism
and the rise of a new civilisation.
Courtesy: Daily News,