PSA-230226-When Negativity is Good

John Wagner, Hallmark artist since 1970, says Maxine was inspired by his mother, his maiden aunts and his grandmother, the woman who bought him art lessons when ‘fill in the pumpkins’ was about the extent of his art classes at St. John’s Catholic School in Leonia, N.J.

John remembers doodling as a preschooler and says both his grandmother and his mother encouraged his artistic interests. He eventually attended the Vesper George School of Art in Boston and landed at Hallmark as part of a new artists group. But it was the birth of the humorous Shoebox Greetings (a tiny little division of Hallmark) in 1986 that added a new dimension to John’s professional life. The Shoebox way of seeing the world unleashed his talents and he created Maxine.

Why the name ‘Maxine’? ‘People at Shoebox started referring to the character as ‘John Wagner’s old lady,’ and I knew that would get me into trouble with my wife,’ John says. The Shoebox team had a contest among themselves to name the character and three of the approximately 30 entries suggested ‘Maxine’. John says the name is perfect.

John, who says he’s humbled by such acceptance of Maxine, admits he’s proud of her. Now you know the story of how Maxine came to be.

Will I Ever Learn?

I find it humorous that it has taken me a lifetime to learn what a community organizer is, and I’m still not sure I understand it yet. In the latest book I read “In Dubious Battle,” author John Steinbeck created a narrative about 1930’s workers starving to death while searching for work. The great Depression had forced many people out of their livelihood and into desperation. People from all over the US had migrated to California where they heard there were jobs harvesting fruits and vegetables. The one thing these poor souls did not figure on is that there would be a hundred people ahead of them for each job that existed. The situation was a big benefit for the growers because the workforce was quickly available and they could reduce pay to a bare minimum. Workers who were broke from the long trip getting to the promised land accepted what ever was offered. As more, and more people came to pick apples the growers lowered the pay to those coming in last. The more pickers a farmer had the quicker his crop was harvested, and the shorter the work lasted.

In this story, Steinbeck follows a family who has been running from job to job only to learn that they could not earn a living at the wages paid. However, they were not alone. The encampment where the migrants stayed while at a farm was filled to the capacity with new workers coming in daily. Conditions were appalling, and hunger abounded. In come Mack, and his friend Jim, fresh off a boxcar from a town that was lacking in jobs. Neither of these men had any intention to become apple pickers, but they did harvest men to a cause. The growers referred to these men as “reds” because they associated themselves with the Communist Party of America. Mack’s sole objective was to organize this camp into a mob with a goal to get higher wages. Mack was good at finding men who were natural leaders, who people would follow. Mack also taught the leaders the tricks of staying out of jail.

The eventual outcome of this story is that the pickers went on strike. They were trained by Mack, a community organizer. I’ll stop exposing the story here. Read the book to learn who won the Dubious Battle.

The first time I heard the term “community organizer,” was during the 2008 presidential campaign. It turns out that Barack Obama began his career as a community organizer before getting into politics. After reading Obama’s biography I learned that his job as a C.O. was in a neighborhood near my own boyhood neighborhood of Burnside called Altgeld Gardens. Other than knowing where Altgeld Gardens was I didn’t know a thing about it except that is was a dangerous place. After later research I learned it was a government housing project for poor blacks. As are most government projects this place was badly neglected, and a once proud community had become a ghetto. Obama speaks about his time there, but never really speaks about accomplishing anything other than to get a few people to meet as a group to identify common problems and to learn which government agency to call for help.

This month I scoured Netflix for a new series to watch, and found one called The English Game. This story too, has a theme of rich versus poor, and of course the rich are very organized and the poor are not. The rich mill owners face a downturn in business and they solve the problem in the only way they know which is to cut wages. The mill workers are a bit more sophisticated than the pickers of the western states, but they get the idea to strike without a formal organizer.

I figure that if I get enough of these messages from life, (movies, books, newspapers) I will eventually understand what a community organizer does. At this point I see the community organizer as one who helps the people of a specific community to help themselves.

Give Up Your Car

This is a story I have told on this blog many times over. Basically it is about an experiment I conducted with myself as an argument for using public transportation. My brain was triggered by a news flash I read today on Breitbart which is: Pinkerton: The Greens Aren’t Just Coming for Your Gas-Powered Car—They’re Coming for All Cars.

The test came to me when I questioned how I would get to work if I didn’t have a car? I researched all forms of public transportation available to me from my home in Alsip, IL to my place of work in Tinley Park, IL. I found a way to do it by researching the bus schedules of two different companies: the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), and PACE a suburban transportation system. Uber was still fifty years away from reality, and cab companies existed mainly in large population centers like Chicago, and the Metropolitan Train Authority (MTA) trains were inconveniently too far away from me. The distance between my village and that of my work place was 9.2 miles, and by personal car it took twenty minutes to commute on a bad day. I devised a plan and set a goal to ride the buses to work. I left the house at 5:00 a.m. and finally arrived at work at 10:00 a.m. I bummed a ride home at the end of the day. Another five hour commute was not in my schedule. I am only one out of millions of people who commute to work by car because it is the most convenient way to do it.

The infrastructure necessary to link suburban areas to central cities like Chicago and to link the hundreds of smaller towns surrounding the city will be exorbitant in cost, take hundreds of years to accomplish, and the result would be impractical. So, when the Greens write articles like the one referenced above they are either completely clueless to what happens in the real world or they envision that everyone has molecular-transporter capability to move themselves from place to place. If you are not familiar with molecular-transport search your archives for Star Trek an ancient TV show. I would be the first to buy a transporter if it ever comes available. Unfortunately, it may not be available until the year 3023.

The Greens have shown me that they are totally unable to think in terms of practicality. Not only will we not be able to get rid of cars within the next hundred years, but they will continue to be powered by fossil fuels. The scenario they envision is looking into the past not into the future.

I solved my personal green commuting dilemma by riding a bicycle to work. Riding the bike safely to and from work was possible only between the months of March through September. In those months there was enough daylight to been seen by drivers, the temperatures were still civilized, and the probability of snow and ice on the road was still minimal. Risking my life to live Green was not a priority. I commuted by bicycle only because it enabled me to double up on time by giving me exercise as well as locomotion to the job. I often imagined everyone in the Chicago area riding bicycles to work. The visions streaming through my mind saw thousands of riders using the interstate highway system within the city. In other words it looked a lot like images I saw coming from China of people riding bicycles. Again, this vision was not forward thinking, but rather retrograding. The pictures coming out of China today are more typical of photos of morning traffic in Los Angeles, i.e. six lanes of traffic all going in the same direction bumper-to-bumper, and most likely moving at seventy miles an hour.

The greens have convinced me over and over again that their vision can only be achieved by returning to the age of dinosaurs where people relied on their feet to move about, ate greens for energy, lived only in warm climates during daylight.

PSA-230219-For Those Who Enjoy Winter

PSA-230217-Top Ten Things Not to Do

This list came to me from a blogger friend who got it from his blogger friend. Since the title of my blog is GRUMPAjoesplace I thought it appropriate to share it with my readers as well.

Grumpa Joe

Top Ten Things Not to Do if You Want to Remain an Unhappy Grump

10 If you want to remain unhappy, do not take care of your health. If you don’t take care at best, you’ll have a lot to complain about. At worst, we will all be glad to be rid of you. (Not a nice thing to say at the memorial service, eh, Ralph?)

9 If you want to remain unhappy, do not engage in a hobby that you are passionate about. If you don’t engage, at best, you’ll have nothing to talk about with others. At worst, Tiny, the WWF champ, will engage you in his hobby. (Tiny loves to bounce grumpy people off hardwood floors, Ace. Is that him heading your way now?)

8 If you want to remain unhappy, do not connect with some good friends and laugh heartily. If you don’t connect, at best, the frown will become permanent. At worst, you’ll become that old guy that people call in for a welfare check. (Better put away that hash pipe Stewart. The police are checking on you again.)

7 If you want to remain unhappy, do not concern yourself with having enough income and bank balance to live comfortably. If you aren’t concerned, at best, you could collect aluminum cans. At worst, trying to make a living with that “Will Work for Food” scam is tough. (Is that snow falling, Skipper? It might be time to call it a day.)

6 If you want to remain unhappy, do not help disadvantaged people in any way you can. If you don’t help, at best, you’ll keep your Howard Hughes profile. At worse, you need not expect anyone to give you a hand when you need it. (Forget that lift to the gas station, which is only ten miles from here, Dork)

5 If you want to remain unhappy, do not travel to new places with friends and family. If you don’t travel, at best, you can keep looking at those travel magazines. At worst, you will believe your trip to the corner store is a major outing. (You want to try a different direction this time, Ferd?)

4 If you want to remain unhappy, do not listen to music you like. If you don’t listen, at best, you can hum that same tune off-key. At worst, you’ll fall for every conspiracy theory proffered on talk radio. (I see you have your new tin foil hat in place, Nerd.)

3 If you want to remain unhappy, do not take pleasure in seeing your children grow into fine individuals who do well for themselves. If you don’t take the pleasure, at best, you can cuddle that fur ball you call a cat. At worse, maybe you can apply to adopt a grandpa and take pleasure in someone else’s kids. (Of course, you have to be nice, Putz.)

2 If you want to remain unhappy, do not read a book that is of interest. If you don’t read, at best, those coloring books may help. At worse, you can stay glued to the TV and go from one mindless show to the next. (With any luck, most will be reruns. Excuse me, but does it feel like your brain is running out of your ears, Slug?)

1 If you want to remain unhappy, expect everyone to give you what you need, and do not accept what life throws at you. If you want this attitude, at best, you should not leave the house. At worst, every day will be a monumental hill of disappointment to climb. (You are the pessimist’s pessimist, Roy. I’m glad you don’t live next door to me.)