Loving the Alien

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It feels like I am riding on a psychotic carousel in these political times.-tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

Never in my wildest dreams did I envision living in a dystopian society, but here I am, stuck in the current political swamp. Now, there is an “executive order” from the man whose own mother emigrated to the U.S. from Scotland as a young woman, and whose paternal grandparents emigrated from Germany. Apparently in his mind, Western European immigrants are acceptable, while those from predominantly Muslim countries are not. My own father and my paternal great-grandfather were Italian immigrants, so I guess they would still have been deemed worthy. l hazard to guess that Malala Yousefzai would have been suspect because she is a practicing Muslim. Maybe because she won the Nobel Peace Prize, she would still be considered “fit” ideologically to enter the U.S., but perhaps not under the current regime.

There is this major issue called Human Rights. Hello? Can you hear me? I reiterate: HUMAN RIGHTS. David J. Bier, an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, wrote yesterday in The New York Times’ The Opinion Page an essay entitled, Trump’s Immigration Ban Is Illegal. Bier explains that The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 banned all discrimination against immigrants on the basis of national origin, replacing the old prejudicial system and giving each country an equal shot at the quotasSeeking to deny entry to the U.S. to only Muslims, yet granting entry to Christians and others of minority religions, screams of discrimination and ignorance.

Over the years, I have taught English as a Second Language and English as a New Language to hundreds of Muslim students from around the world. Indeed, my graduate degree is in Linguistics from Indiana University Bloomington. Focused on academic studies, these students were neither proselytizer, nor terrorist. They were family oriented, good people who only wanted to further their education. This “executive order” is barring these highly intelligent foreign students from studying in the U.S. because of what: Fear, racism, and hatred? As one of my international students said after the November 2016 elections, “Who does he think is going to develop technology in the U.S.?” The student had a point since technology in the U.S. is populated primarily with Asian, Indian, and Middle Eastern people. Building a wall to prevent Mexicans from illegally entering the U.S. is one of the more moronic ideas spouted from the incumbent. Did he learn nothing from the history of the Great Wall of China, or from the history of the Berlin Wall? Apparently not.

When a population is persecuted and banned, think Native Americans, Jews, Armenians, Bedouins, no matter the insidious forms of deprivation, humiliation, exile, and torture, these races and cultures have managed to survive. They persevere in spite of demagogues and twisted ideologies through sheer guts, dignity, faith, and help from sympathetic, more humane governments, like Canada.

I used to be proud to be a U.S. citizen. Now, David Bowie’s song, I’m Afraid of Americans reverberates in my head, as does his song, Loving the Alien. Come to think of it, his wife, Iman, who is a native of Somalia, would now not be able to enter the U.S. because she is from one of those seven countries Big Brother fears. Here is a reminder: Every one of us came from aliens, with the exception of Native Americans. It is disconcerting how mostly old, white, wealthy men harbor the paternal illusion that they are “protecting” their interests, under the guise of “protecting” the common people’s interests. They are driving policies in the U.S. that create more divisiveness, anger, and horror of U.S. Americans. I don’t know how the Electoral College can sleep at night after what it has done to place That at the head of our government when over two-and-a-half million more of us voted to give the other candidate the majority of the popular vote. Each night I pray for sanity to prevail.

Ciao for now.

 

 

 

 

Melancholy, Baby, Over You

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

One year ago today, on January 10, 2016, David Bowie slipped away from the world. Like his song Slip Away from his 2002 album, Heathen, the world awakened on the morning of January 11, 2016, to learn that he had died after enduring cancer for 18 months. Liver cancer, to be exact, a cancer with a less than rosy prognosis for the Rock Icon.

Oddly enough, David Bowie’s friend, Lou Reed, of Velvet Underground fame, succumbed to liver cancer after surgery in 2013. Bowie produced Reed’s landmark album, Transformer, in 1972. Mick Ronson, Bowie’s lead guitarist on the landmark The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, 1972, also died of liver cancer in 1993. There is something unsettling about the idea that Bowie, Reed, and Ronson all died of liver cancer. Maybe it had to do with the copious amounts of alcohol and drugs they supposedly ingested in the 1970’s. Or perhaps the cancer was caused by a something else; I am neither physician, nor scientist, so I had best not hazard to guess.

All I know is that I am still heartbroken over David Bowie’s death. Having seen him in concert twice, once in 1983, in Houston, with his Serious Moonlight Tour, and again in Houston, in 1987, on his Glass Spider tour, I can only say that listening to Bowie’s music throughout a lot of his 50-year career proved transformative. Always inventive, always musically intriguing with his chord progressions, melodies, and lyrics, and always physically easy on the eyes, he fascinated me. Courageous and unendingly talented, he gave hope to those of us enthralled by his music to be brave, too, and follow our dreams.

His wife, Iman, posted a photo of New York City taken on the day her husband died last year. A double rainbow appeared in the sky that day. I like to think those rainbows walked David Bowie our Starman across the sky to his galaxy home.

Ciao for now.

The Year the Music Died

 

David Bowie performing his iconic song Heroes, in Berlin, in 2002, courtesy of YouTube. – tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

I do not consider myself a morbid person, yet casting a look back on music in 2016, I believe a case could be made for going a step further than The Day the Music Died, to recasting it as The Year the Music Died. Beginning with my beloved Rock God David Bowie’s death on January 10, followed by Glen Fry’s, and then by Prince, Leonard Cohen, George Michael, and others, it seemed the Grim Reaper loomed large.

Today marks David Bowie’s 70th birthday. I still cannot believe he ceased making music on Planet Earth, but I envision The Starman rocking on, overlooking us all, especially watching over his beloved family. We all now know that three months prior to his January 10, 2016 death, doctors had told him the cancer treatments were over; they were no longer working. It appears the liver cancer won out over medicine and science, as deadly forms of cancer do. I despise cancer in all forms; it has killed people I personally have known and loved. The scourge of cancer and its treatments fast-forwards the ageing process, often emaciates its victims, and plays funky with the brain. It is a curse.

The miracle of David Robert Jones, a.k.a. David Bowie, is that in spite of 18-months of aggressive cancer treatments, he forged ahead, and spun music [his album Blackstar], theater [Lazarus, his off-Broadway collaboration with Enda Walsh], and videos [Lazarus and Blackstar] during his remaining days on Earth. A towering figure in music, theater, film, art, fashion, performance, and in the Internet, David Bowie towered above others, epic and heroic, a visionary who remained true to his Muse to the very end. I respect that he refrained from revealing the extent of his illness, that he protected both his family and himself from invasive press and curiosity seekers. After all, his mother-in-law, his wife Iman’s mother,  was suffering from cancer at the same time; she succumbed in March 2016, after his January death.

Still, I would have liked to have seen David Bowie again in person, the multifaceted, talented meteor that fell to Earth, the man who shifted culture, and whose light burned brightly for us for over 50 years. I am certain that my desire is nothing compared to that of his family’s.

Happy Birthday, David Robert Jones, you are much loved.

Ciao for now.

 

The Un-Valentine’s Weekend

David Bowie’s song rather captures my Valentine’s Day this year.-tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

Friday evening I left work with a spring in my step, for it was Valentine’s weekend. My daughter had decided to come home on Friday evening instead of Saturday afternoon. I zoomed over to Whole Foods to purchase shrimp for linguine with shrimp scampi. Picking out three fresh lemons to enhance the flavor experience, I had plenty of garlic on hand. I then sampled Brie cheese on some kind of high-end cracker. Before the Brie cheese, I struck up conversation with a delightful man whom, it turns out, knows someone I know. It was so much fun talking with him that I wished I had another thirty minutes to spare. Excusing myself, I then speed-shopped through the pastry area, where I picked up Valentine’s Day vanilla cupcakes for dessert, and a box of hot cross buns to complement an egg breakfast.

My daughter greeted me at the door and we had a happy reunion. I fired up the stove, and placed a large pasta pot on a burner for the linguine. She started to heat the butter, olive oil and garlic for the shrimp. In the meantime, I sliced a fresh lemon into narrow rounds, removing the seeds. The kitchen hummed with activity as my daughter put together a salad. As I stood stirring the pasta, waves of an odd sensation came over me. I shrugged it off and focused on the al dente nature of the linguine. As I served up the shrimp scampi, linguine into pasta bowls, queasiness overcame me. Choosing to ignore it, I sat down with my daughter to dinner.

I made it through one tiger shrimp and two small forkfuls of pasta.

It was then my body was overtaken by a school of piranhas, or so it felt.

The remainder of the night was akin to “The Exorcist”.

First, my temperature soared. Later, it plummeted. I wore my soft North Face gloves and socks to bed. My daughter covered me with extra blankets. Valentino, our big black cat sprawled across my feet to help warm me. It was a night that resulted in little sleep on my end.

Throughout the night it snowed. The next morning offered a winter wonderland with blustery winds and massive icicles hanging down from the house past the windows. I showered, thus lessening my ghoulish look. Throughout the day, my daughter brewed me pots of chamomile tea. I dined on buttered toast, warmed chicken broth, and applesauce. Our original plan had included eating sushi at a favorite Japanese restaurant. Unfortunately, sushi was beyond my digestive capabilities.

Now Valentine’s Day itself has dawned. It is 4 degrees above zero. The only thing that appeals to me is yet another cup of chamomile tea. I told my daughter I would make it up to her next weekend. At least today we can watch David Bowie’s “Valentine’s Day” video from 2013.

Ciao for now.