Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Lets Be Counted Early and Often

So two weeks ago I got a note letting me know the census form is on the way. Nice little bit of excitement. Last week it arrived. More anticipation. They want to know who is living in my place on April 1. They also want to know if somebody who doesn’t have anyplace else to stay is there. And in a different context if there is anybody who happens to be staying over, even though they might be listed some place else.
I immediately was thinking about finding a bunch of homeless guys to stay over so that what the genealogy bug bights some future descendant, they can be utterly confused by the 2010 census that includes me. My brother had this experience with the 1920 census report on 48 Anderson Avenue Fairview NJ which included a mysterious Italian teenager of the female persuasion along with the Lyons brothers , their wives and children one of whom is my mother. Fortunately my Aunt Dorothy, cousin really, was around to explain the collection.

Since I really don’t have time to arrange the homeless party and it isn’t really the legitimate business of the census to be checking on whether someone counted elsewhere is visiting me on that night, I probably could have filled the form out.

But you never know. “What is the greatest wonder of all ?” “The greatest wonder of all is that each day death takes lives beyond counting and each day each of us says ‘Not me – not today’”. A lot can happen between now and April 1.

Which is why I was disturbed to get a card in the mail yesterday to confirm that I had gotten the census form and thanking me if I had already sent it in.

Back in the good old days when we did tax returns by hand my favorite review note was RTFI. Which stood for READ THE INSTRUCTIONS. I think I might write that on the card and mail it back.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Listen Pete Reilly Has Come Unstuck in Time

It started when I was trying to figure why I found Avatar so upsetting. It happens that I have no central vision in my left eye. Besides making it difficult to parallel park and hammer nails the lack of natural depth perception made the visual effects somewhat less stunning. Also the colors and odd creatures are not quite as amazing to those of us who have labored long in Azeroth leveling our own avatars. So I paid a little more attention to the plot.

Talk about heavy handed. Bad military. Bad businessman. Mercenary very very double plus ungood - bad bad. Nice scientists. Wonderful wonderful indigenous peoples - especially female ones. Dances With Wolves meets Apocalypse Now.

I realized that what was bothering me was the Mexican War. My friend Jonathan and I are working on a film that will focus on Margaret Fuller. All my reading is focusing on the project now. It happens that I'm in New York with her reading her articles in Greeley's paper, the New York Tribune. (I keep wanting to call it the Herald, because I fondly remember the Herald Tribune. My father would bring it home from work and we would read Art Buchwald.). (I’m not literally in New York now you understand. That’s where Margaret is. Or rather was in 1844 – 1846.)

The Mexican War was her generation’s Vietnam. Only it didn’t last as long. And there wasn’t a draft. And what was probably the worst part for her generation was that the United States won that war. It wasn’t just proto-hippy Henry David Thoreau and his ilk that were against the war -

"Generally the officers of the army were indifferent whether the annexation [of Texas] was consummated or not; but not so all of them. For myself, I was bitterly opposed to the measure, and to this day regard the war, which resulted, as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation. It was an instance of a republic following the bad example of European monarchies, in not considering justice in their desire to acquire additional territory."

Although he quit the Army in 1854, possibly under questionable circumstances, the above officer, known to have a serious drinking problem, had no cause to complain about his career. He was the first US Army officer to be awarded a fourth star and he went on from there to be president.

To compound my problem with all this, when I was watching Avalon I happened to be in Arizona. And I didn’t have my passport with me. So an alternate ending to the Mexican War might have put in tough circumstances.

By some quirky coincidence I finally stumbled on a movie that I had long wanted to see. One Man’s Hero. One Man’s Hero is about the San Patricios. The San Patricios were a battalion in the Mexican Army that contained numerous deserters from the US Army, most of whom were Irish. There were a mixture of motives including shabby treatment of Catholics by the US Army. I was extremely distressed to find that One Man’s Hero had exactly the same plot as Avatar – except for the wonderful indigenous people losing the war. There was the same romantic triangle and – spoiler alert – after surviving his fifty lashes and being branded with a D the hero manages to hook up with the woman who saved his life and embodied Mexico for him.

Nonetheless it is comforting that if I really do slip into that alternate reality where Arizona is still part of Mexico it will be peopled by an alliance of Irish Catholics and Unitarian abolitionists and I'll feel right at home.