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Sunday, June 21, 2015


HOMETOWN HERO in 6-15--Dupont 5



Chuck Olroski said...


At least a decade ago, I read either an essay or letter written by George Orwell, and unfortunately, I can not remember the name/source. However, tonight, as I look at your series of Duryea "Hometown Hero" pictures, one line has come to mind. It is, "People worship power in the form they can understand it."

Not long after I originally read that sentence, I considered my childhood heroes and how I came to worship the Lone Ranger, Lassie, and Superman. Later, come early 1960s, I grew in understanding and began to worship Baltimore Orioles baseball players, Brooks & Frank Robinson, Boog Powell, Luis Aparicio, etcetera. None of these individuals bravely hit the Normandy Beach, and by the time I graduated high school, my heroes were fallen J.F.K., Mercury and Apollo program astronauts, the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Vincent Bugliosi, and very frankly, the actresses who played Dustin Hoffman's girlfriend and Mrs. Robinson in "The Graduate."

Orwell again, "People understand power in the form they can understand it."

Soon I devolved, and come mid-1980s, & with full disclosure, I bought into the power & glory of President Ronald Reagan and even stupidly had respect for Oliver North, and actually once told a sweet member of the U. of Scranton Campus Ministry, "Give War a Chance."

Today, instead of following our government's directive to worship anything that breathes and wears a U.S. military uniform, I tend to commit treason and pay homage to activists like Kathy Kelly, and writers like you and Paul Craig Roberts who typically tell me the truth. I acknowledge mentioning your name here sounds like pure kissing ass.., and had I the chance, I'd probably kiss Bo Derek's ass, although she's now somewhat a has-been.

To end here with the Orwell quote front & center, when my son Joseph went to watch the movie, "American Sniper," I must say that I was not surprised when he came home and emphasized how he was in rapture over what the "brave" sniper did with his life, and how he saved so many brother soldiers.

My gosh, Linh, such incredibly successful military socialization & population worship effect -- and be it known that Joseph pays scant attention to U.S. fighter jets flying above N.F.L. stadiums, he doesn't know General Stanley McChrystal from General Giap, and (thanks be to God), he never tunes into Rush Limbaugh show.

Help me here? Has U.S. Empire simply mastered and implemented what power the masses are persuaded (allowed?) to understand and inculcate? I realize they also promote a pantheon of lesser heroes... I have no time to name the sick star names!

Suppose the Duryea people like the Ozark family who apparently paid for the war hero banners (depicted in the photos) can not be altogether blamed for failing to recognize heroes like Crystal who walks daily almost three (3) miles from home in order to reach her low paid Dupont workplace, "Burger King."

Good night and good luck.

Linh Dinh said...

Hi all,

As I was photographing this, Chuck saw a young woman walking to work so offered her a ride. It turned out to be Crystal, roughly 25 years old, and she's been employed for 14 months at Burger King in Pittston, one town over. She started out at minimum wage, $7.25, but was given a 25 cent raise after a year. Her boyfriend works in a warehouse, and her 52-year-old dad is disabled and needs a liver transplant.

Beside Duryea, Crystal has lived in one other place, State College, PA.

All of the info above, I heard from Crystal herself as Chuck and I saw her the next day, when Chuck also gave her a ride.

I asked Crystal if she liked working cashier or grill, and she said she really had no preference.

At a truck rest stop across from the Burger King, Chuck and I saw another young woman. Sitting on the curb, she held a cardboard sign. We couldn't make out if she was hitchhiking or panhandling.

Crystal gets the dayshift each time, so at least she doesn't have to trek home in the dark after work.


Linh Dinh said...

P.S. I should clarify that Chuck didn't know Crystal. Though small town folks aren't as guarded as city dwellers, it's still unusual for a young lady to accept a ride from a stranger. Yes, Chuck is disarming, but so are countless psychopaths, obviously.

Ian Keenan said...

Chuck, Wonderful writing as always.. I saw the documentary Hearts and Minds a few months ago which deals directly with Vietnam War propaganda and socialization. American Sniper I don't think I'll ever see but I heard it deals with the locals in the war zones as a pure abstraction without culture or identity. When televisions were popularized it became a way for the military to get into people's homes with propaganda and then marginalize, distort, and stigmatize any dissent to what they were proposing. Despite that, two thirds of the public didn't want to go to Iraq in 2003 without UN authorization but that didn't matter. In 2008, presidential campaign contributions from enlisted soldiers went two thirds to Ron Paul, one fifth to Barack Obama, who positioned himself as you know as more anti-war, in contrast to all the other major candidates, than what he did when he became president. These are people with very little expendable income for donations. So the heroes apparently don't want to be those kinds of heroes unless they are indeed defending the American people or the constitution. If they're killed in duty they can't speak or donate to anti-war candidates. 'Honoring the soldiers' is a propagandist tactic with no relation whatsoever to the well-being of the soldiers, requiring the soldiers to be voiceless.

Chuck Olroski said...

Dear Ian: Thank you for making such intelligent comment, and very frankly, I can only look-up and admire your GIFT for thinking and writing. I am hoping your dynamic insight about "heroes don't want to be heroes" is becoming a majority opinion among contemporary Americans sent to Rich Man's war. Can not recall who said it, but an American writer wisely called current military enlistment an "Economic draft."

Having served as a soldier, 1971-1979, I really appreciated YOUR poetic voice, "If you're killed in duty you can't speak or donate to anti-war candidates." Ian, this sentence reminded me of a lyric in Peter Gabriel's powerful song, "Biko." If possible, please try and listen to Gabriel's song, available on You Tube? "You can blow out a candle, but you...." Too bad aging Mr. Gabriel has put such song composition behind him. Thank you very much!

Ian Keenan said...

Chuck, That is quite a song, Biko. I was listening to that on some 'alternative' radio show some time when I was 14 or younger with no idea who Gabriel was and when I heard the song I had no idea it was about South Africa. I thought, "I like that singer, I want to listen to more of him" so it was the first Gabriel song I heard. Then we got into him enough - by others provocations - to the extent that one of my high school friends brought "Visions of Angels" - perhaps a riff off Rilke's Duino Elegies - from Tresspass into senior year English for the assignment of 'bring in a work of art.' Tresspass is still my favorite album of his* - I got into Lamb Lies Down (of Gabriel Genesis), then Nursery Crime, then Selling England by the Pound, then Foxtrot later. In high school we listened mostly to Trespass and the '80 and '82 solo albums.

* from the Wikipedia: "Trespass was largely ignored by the music press at the time of its release. Rolling Stone printed an extremely brief but unambiguously negative review of the 1974 reissue, saying "It's spotty, poorly defined, at times innately boring, and should be avoided by all but the most rabid Genesis fans."

Chuck Olroski said...

Ian: On September 21, 2012, at Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center, a friend and I enjoyed a Peter Gabriel concert. As Bradley Manning sat in a U.S. military prison, Peter Gabriel ended his show with the stirring "O Biko." His percussion musician beat upon a log drum, and thousands of people departed the arena singing "Biko, Biko, Bee-ko!"

Not as much as you, but I am somewhat familiar with his beautiful work during the "Genesis" days, and I must listen to "Trespass" as you recommend, below. I like the Rolling Stone Magazine to some degree, I recall the late-Michael Hastings published a scathing investigative article on the "hero," General Stanley McChyrstal. Wish Peter Gabriel will one day rite a song for Michael Hastings but I doubt that's in his Canon. Also, long ago, Rolling Stone magazine writer compared Gabriel's natural talent to Mozart. Word is "Genesis" plans a reunion and might tour the U.S. Thank you very much, try and tune into Peter's incredible soundtrack for "The Last Temptation of Christ"!

Ian Keenan said...

I forgot the Last Temptation soundtrack. I would play the four sides and then start again with the first one in no particular order, at which time I had access to a college library so I could stack up the Kazantzakis books and try to make sense of them until they would blink the lights.

Chuck Olroski said...

Ian: The Catholic Right-Wing lambasted the film, "The Last Temptation of Christ" and presently they are attacking Pope Francis for his sound views on the excesses of capitalism & corresponding "New Tyranny," and ex-Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, a Roman Catholic, has made a statement against the Pope's plea for environmental sanity and the Earth being made a "filthy place."

As an Environmental Project Manager for too many years, I got to read quite a lot of fairly respected & objectives scientific journals which usually asserted the reality of global warming and looming climate change, but to date, I have not read anything which addresses the problem and offers a solution which would not harm billions of common people who are dependent upon the planet's fossil fuel Way of life.

A cranky point I'll make, Ian? I had a front row seat for viewing how clever ownerships of environmental cleanup companies made astronomical profits when their crews came on scene for spill incidents and were tasked with saving contaminated air, water, and soil. Yes, oftentimes, I worked on projects which served to rid threats to soil & groundwater, but for one example, I actually witnessed a Home Heating Oil #2 spill's "Responsible party" weep bitterly after looking at the cleanup company's "drop dead" invoice. For me, both the uber capitalist & socialist "bottom line" instinct to Save the Planet is mankind's FIRST challenge to deal with, instead of going straight after chumps like me who run gasoline burning cars and eats with plastic forks, spoons, and plates in order to cut down on having to wash the dishes.

I guess you had it with me by now, eh Ian? But thank you for joining me in conversation on Linh's Blog, you are a top shelf thinker and writer with a heart. My -- I have not heard anyone around these parts speak of Kazantazakis since mid-1980s, and today I learn you're reading his books! Not to excessively offer praise, but your emails (and letter correspondence) might be placed in a scholarly collection like that of George Orwell.

Linh Dinh said...

Yo Chuck,

In 2012, I conducted a "Conversation with Ian Keenan" for the Poetry Foundation's Harriet Blog.

Now, as much as I admire Ian's insights and tremendous erudition, let's not get carried away here! That poisonous diet Coke fizz is messing with your head! People read Orwell's letters because Orwell's Orwell...


Ian Keenan said...

Chuck, I agree with you about environmental firms and have seen if firsthand.. How do people of modest means rebuild their post-industrial cities if they have to conduct all these studies to get approvals? The government should evaluate environmental threats in the cities so that people can rebuild them paycheck to paycheck. I'm not suggesting being apathetic about environmentalism but indeed it has become a racket like everyone else. What really gets me is how shade trees have to be eliminated because engineers can't understand their drainage, so nature has to conform to drainage plans that people can understand. About fossil fuels, cars can be transitioned to natural gas any time the word go is spoken, which would release a lot less CO2 than petroleum and not cost more, then you have electric and vegetable oils (which can have harmful environmental impact) before the development of algae and other long-range alternatives.

Linh, I don't recall you complaining when I called Walker Evans pre-Dinh, even if there was a grimace you didn't share.

Ian Keenan said...

Chuck, Here's a one hour video of a Genesis concert from '73 to check out some time (I just found it). They were like operas with their sets and costumes, but they were really a genre unto themselves. There was a Canadian cover band called Musical Box that reenacted the shows quite well recently, and the one time I saw them they started with pitch darkness with the singer playing Peter's eyes lit up for a Watcher of the Skies opening, same opening here.


About Me

Born in Vietnam in 1963, I came to the US in 1975, and have also lived in Italy, England and Germany. I'm the author of a non-fiction book, Postcards from the End of America (2017), two books of stories, Fake House (2000) and Blood and Soap (2004), six of poems, All Around What Empties Out (2003), American Tatts (2005), Borderless Bodies (2006), Jam Alerts (2007), Some Kind of Cheese Orgy (2009) and A Mere Rica (2017), and a novel, Love Like Hate (2010). I've been anthologized in Best American Poetry 2000, 2004, 2007, Great American Prose Poems from Poe to the Present, Postmodern American Poetry: a Norton Anthology (vol. 2) and Flash Fiction International: Very Short Stories From Around the World, etc. I'm also editor of Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam (1996) and The Deluge: New Vietnamese Poetry (2013). My writing has been translated into Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Icelandic and Finnish, and I've been invited to read in London, Cambridge, Brighton, Paris, Berlin, Leipzig, Halle, Reykjavik, Toronto, Singapore and all over the US. I've also published widely in Vietnamese.