Archive for March, 2010

I Swear…

March 31, 2010

Naively, yet boldly and proudly I exclaimed, first by spelling, then phonetically pronouncing my first f-bomb in the boy’s room at my first grade elementary school. Charlie and Brian both gasped and assured me that I was going to be in big trouble for what I did and that the wrath of Miss Harrington would swiftly come crashing down upon me. I was clueless to what great evil I had performed but even at the age of seven it seemed quite ridiculous to me that I could be in such trouble over a bad word. What exactly is a “bad” word anyways?

The two finks promptly sold out their playmate and I was ordered over to the teacher’s desk – I still remember that she was trying not too laugh as she explained to me that what I said in the boy’s room was a “bad” word and I should never say that again. But I avoided any serious trouble – including the possible death penalty at that age – a call home to the parents. I was proud of my ability to spell and pronounce a seven letter word at age seven – I am now forty-four and cannot pronounce any forty-four letter words – it has been a long downward spiral.

I probably did not swear for at least a week after this but then soon moved towards this colorful style of speaking and have not strayed far from it since. I survived this traumatic experience and quickly developed my repertoire in profanity. Swearing was a way to be cool, hip, funny, adult and subversive. It was also something of a club for young boys as we could not talk like this around adults until we were at least teenagers – it was something like the first right of passage – you fit it in and were part of the clique if you talk dirty.

No one in the history of mankind abhorred bad language more than my mother. My sister and I were not allowed to view PG movies until an embarrassingly late age. “MOM!!! I’m the only kid in the 5th grade that can’t see Jaws!” But she held her ground figuring that she was doing her part in the parental guidance suggested department to build children that were of strong moral fiber. As much as she hated gutter talk (the fact that at age 10 I heard my maternal grandfather use the always offensive c-word at my grandmother made me realize Mom was raised in an alcoholic and profanity laced home) she covered my ass (she would hate that word) one day when I came home from a street hockey game gone bad and I screamed as I walked in “Freddie London is an a-hole!” Like Ralphie in A Christmas Story after he dropped his notorious “oh fudge” I was sure to be executed when Dad got home. Surprisingly Mom sensed how stressed I was and told me to relax until dinner. I am not sure if Dad ever found out about my transgression – I never got punished.

As I aged I have realized that profanity has done wonders to keep the blood pressure down and it allows me the ability to vent without physically harming anyone or myself. I do not buy the argument that it is not classy or proper – although there is a time and a place for everything (are you listening Vice President Biden?), words are words. Yes they can hurt – but if the use of a word is to vent and not to insult another I say “no harm – no foul.” There are worse ways to vent anger – violence, drugs and alcohol or something that I think is even more harmful – bottling your anger inside and remaining silent.

In my adult life I have often mimicked a line from a classic 1970s film The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three where a subway controller states to his colleague after they hire their first female employee “How the hell can you run a goddamn railroad without swearing?” As a career mid-manager I have often wondered how you can run any type of business or office without swearing. If you plan on staying gainfully profanity cannot direct be directed at an individual, but you can swear at the situation. This practice works wonders for calming my nerves. Fortunately I work with colleagues who feel the same way. Being able to use profanity has saved me from lashing out at staff, colleagues and clients when dealing with the problems and situations that arise during the work day.

I live a clean and sober life – I work hard, have great friends and a terrific family – if I were not an atheist with little spirituality in my life I would have to say “I am blessed” – but I never use phrases like that. I am lucky. The worst thing you can say about my public persona on morality is that I swear a bit. I do not encourage this behavior in my two young sons, but I also will not fly off the handle when it happens – and I am a lot more lenient with what movies I will allow them to watch.

Dirty talk; bathroom talk; potty talk; vile; swearing; filthy mouth; gutter mouth; profane; bad language; colorful language; obscenity; cussing; scatology; vulgar. In a world filled with violence and hatred perhaps we would all be better off if just once a day we closed our office doors and say what Miles (Curtis Armstrong) taught Joel (Tom Cruise) to say in Risky Business – “Every now and then say, what the fuck.”

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“Point Omega”: A review of Don DeLillo’s latest novel

March 30, 2010

The latest short novel from award-winning author Don DeLillo is an interesting study of our present day world and the realities that people create to fit what the situation calls for. DeLillo is in tune with the vagaries of the modern world where society has grown accustomed to having news constantly made available and to have governments and media outlets constructing their own versions of reality.

The story revolves around a young documentary director who is hoping to shoot a film on an intellectual who worked at a think tank that created a lot of the spin necessary to produce a recent war. He visits his subject at a home in the southwestern desert that is occasionally used by Richard Elster (the intellectual.) Elster’s writing and work for the administration is broken down into simple components and he likes to consider his statements regarding war policy as thoughts that fit into simple haikus.

Notions of what is real, not real or real only in our minds, permeate the novel. The filmmaker only planned on staying for a couple of days but ends up staying for a month. Elster’s twenty-something daughter Jessie, with her own ambivalent life enters into the story and the filmmaker is soon attracted to her. The daughter eventually vanishes into the Arizona desert and the two men attempt to locate her with the authorities.

A thread that is followed throughout the book is the film director’s observation and obsession with an art exhibit in New York that shows the Alfred Hitchcock suspense thriller Psycho – but in a manner in which the film is slowed down so it takes 24 hours to view the entire film. The filmmaker meets a young woman at the film who he is attracted to – in fact he follows her out of the theater and they have some disjointed, ambivalent conversation. His attraction to this woman and to Jessie seems to be borne out of his frustration with his own so-so marriage and with his desire to connect with real people.

Point Omega is a quick read that takes a long time to absorb. DeLillo’s prose points towards many issues of the modern citizen of the world – issues of communication, feelings, space, time, distance and of being accustomed to finding all of life’s needs at your fingertips on a moments notice. DeLillo is acutely aware that people are often lost and need to connect with real people and not just in a fabricated, media driven social network that has consumed the way many people exist.

NOTE: I am an avid reader – not an avid literary critic!

Welcome to Symptom of the Universe

March 30, 2010

Welcome to Symptom of the Universe – the blog of Massachusetts native Michael Saporito. Here you will find general commentary on issues of the day, some politics, religion, pop culture and humor. Please feel free to add on topic comments. Welcome aboard! symptomof.theuniverse@yahoo.com