Enzo Titolo

Politics, Paranoispiricies, neologisms, diary, creative, ruminations

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Summer is Bullying Season at Camp

The New York Times covered the latest trend for elite summer camps: anti-bullying training. The coverage and the trend are well overdue. It seems that folks are afraid that there will be a camp version of the Columbine Massacre.

I couldn't remember why I hated summer camp until this article uncovered some repressed memories. The last camp I attended was 25 years ago. Six years ago I paid a visit as a 31 year old with my lovely girlfriend, my dogs, in a rented car, which was nice because I had a life of my own, and could leave that place when I wanted to.

After looking at the idyllic setting, which included two lakes, two mountains, and for our surprise and pleasure a leaping stag, strutting peacocks, and a petting zoo. This woman who never went to sleepaway camp as a girl, who had to eat quick or her many siblings would eat all the food first, could not understand why I was not grateful and happy to go to Camp Timberlake. At the time I was hardpressed to give her a sensical response.

After some reflection I figured that maybe it was my fault, that I didn't fit in because of my family's problems which made me feel so unique, and not in a good way. My parents were seemingly on the verge of divorce. My mother spoke to me about her and I moving to Alaska, which is far from Long Island. She was making big plans, or so it seemed to a twelve year old. One of my close relatives was heavily into barbituates and drinking, and the combination with emotional instability and driving was a scary combination that shook me. He totaled the family car in our garage after driving across several lawns; he was crying with a knife over a heartbreak; the cops were beating him up in his room after my parents let them in to 'take care of him;' he was carried off in a straight jacket on a stretcher. I wasn't allowed to talk of these things, and I am probably breaking some family code of silence now. At the time my Dad coped with all this by throwing himself into his business and on business trips that lasted weeks at a time.

In addition, I was scrawny, artistic, bookish, and somewhat effete. As a result, according to the linked article, I had awful problems with bullying for four awful summers at three camps from 1976-1979, causing me to dread the end of school culminating with the inevitable breakout of 'colorwar' in which bunks were split in mutual 'warfare,' as if things weren't bad enough.

At all the camps, 'counselors' routinely ignored bullying, and at Timberlake, the counselor himself physically abused us in the bunks, lifting us off the beds by our nipples. We had to submit to this as proof of our toughness. Fortunately, his mom was the camp's nurse, in case we got really hurt.

All these problem camps (Camp Olympus, Timberlake, and Cejwin) advertised in the camp section of the New York Times Magazine. They were prestigious, and three of them had jewish orientations, one with services and prayers several times daily. So much for the stereotype of Jews being wimps and mamma's boys!

Yet this religious camp allowed a fellow nine year old camper in my bunk to sexually abuse fellow bunkmates by forcing youngsters to perform fellatio on him until he peed in their mouths. I refused and was terrorized for it. I went to school with this kid, so he bullied me from fourth through sixth grade. It was difficult to get the camp or my grade school to help me cope with him. (At our ten year high school reunion we buried the hatchet; he reportedly works with troubled youths on carpentry projects.)

I had repressed these memories until I read the NYT article today. So many people, including my mother, who was a gregarious, beautiful and precocious youth in her day, have great camp memories, so I felt that something was wrong with me for absolutely hating the competitive, pro-conformity, jockish nature of camp. My girlfriend in 1998 thought I was a candy ass for not loving such a beautiful place. I would have if I could have had more chances to wander the woods, make some art, read, do more plays, and mix with the kids who shared my interests.

When I was a teenager, I asked my mother why she kept sending me to Jewish sports camps even though I obviously hated them. My friends who went to arts camps seemed happy. She explained that she was afraid that I'd be raped by gay camp counselors.

I am glad that parents and Camp Directors are paying more attention to bullying in camp. Still, I would be very nervous sending my children to camp, and I resolve to pay more attention if my children were to send me tear stained letters or no letters
at all, two tactics I used futilely to get out of camp early.

Bringing these issues out in the open is a good first step. People say that mass violence events like Columbine are senseless. When they happen, they are. They happen out of rage and depression and desperation. They are caused by a complete lack of perspective, but they don't happen in a vacuum. These events are sown and grown. Five years after the Columbine Massacre we can start to make some sense of the senseless, and, perhaps some good can come of it if children can be spared the pain of bullying, and if adults try to listen to children, guiding them and caring.

Monday, June 28, 2004

What is Freedom? I prefer Liberty.

President Bush talks about Freedom so much, and I distrust him so much that he's tainted the word for me and it has no meaning. No one I ask seems to know what it means.

I prefer Liberty, which implies mutual respect and responsibility without oppression.

Freedom in the Bush2 regime has become a bully's word. The freedom to do what you want, drive your S.U.V. where ever and however you want; everyone else: go to hell! The freedom to invade or take over whatever country you want, including ours. The freedom to disturb the peace or destroy the environment. Freedom to make a killing, not just a fair profit. Freedom to enjoy your privilege, and freedom to trample whomever gets in your way.

Today, at the NATO summit, Condi Rice sent Bush2 a note that Iraqi 'sovreignty' has been achieved. (That's another word that seems to have new dual meanings now, too.) Bush2 wrote on her note, "Let freedom reign."

Is there antigravity affecting Newports and Malta litter from getting into garbage?

Is there a discriminatory antigravity field around garbage cans in the East Village that repels Newport Cigarettes Packs and bottles of Malta? These two brands are the ones most likely to be on a sidewalk or right next to a garbage can. It has been this way for over ten years, since I've been keeping track.

Lately, I've been noticing the sides of Newport packs ripped off. What is that about? Are they having a mail-in rebate or something?

More Zoo Apes to Take Revenge on Aping Public

One of my predictions for the 21st Century will be increasing scientific, and perhaps general, knowledge and appreciation for animals' intelligence and feelings. I will occassionally highlight news stories that feature this trend.

From the New York Post:

Lincoln Park Zoo Apes Get to Take Revenge

Associated Press Writer

CHICAGO (AP) -- The apes at Lincoln Park Zoo are finally getting a chance to take their revenge on people who for years have been pounding their palms against the glass walls of the primates' old home.

At the zoo's new Regenstein Center for African Apes, chimpanzees can touch a panel hidden from public view that will shoot harmless bursts of air at unsuspecting visitors.

"You often hear about chimps spitting or throwing," said Steve Ross, a behaviorist at the zoo. "They do that to get a rise out of the public. This gives them that opportunity but in a safe way."

The feature is one of many in the 55,000-square-foot habitat meant to help people connect with their primate cousins.

Lincoln Park Zoo was already renowned for its primate breeding success, with 45 gorilla births since 1970. With its new facility, opening July 1, it joins a growing number of U.S. zoos striving to make exhibits more exciting for people and more natural for the animals.

Zoo officials hope the exhibit's realistic environments will give visitors new respect for apes and allow scientists to observe the apes acting as they would in the wild.

Its predecessor, the Lester E. Fisher Great Ape House, was dark and cavernous, but the $26 million Regenstein Center, the most expensive facility ever built at the 35-acre zoo, is spacious, airy and green. A downed tree forms a bridge that apes can use to cross a waterfall, and mulch-covered floors imitate a natural forest and are gentler on apes' joints.

The zoo's 24 apes can climb trees and see the John Hancock Center to the right and Lake Michigan to the left.

The primates also can control fans hidden in boulders, helping them moderate the effects of Chicago's muggy summers and icy winters, and touch panels in fake tree trunks that will catapult snacks toward them through grates in the walls.

Many zoos are striving to make their ape exhibits more natural and interactive to serve an increasingly sophisticated public, said Diana DeVaughn, spokeswoman for the Louisville Zoo in Kentucky, which won a top American Zoo and Aquarium Association award last year for its gorilla exhibit.

The Los Angeles Zoo, for instance, made its ape exhibit interactive by letting the animals pull ropes to ring bells near visitors or spray water at people, said Jennie McNary, curator of mammals at the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens.

"The chimps were smart enough to figure out they could startle people with it," she said.

Ross said he's not yet sure how people or apes will react to the air blasters at Lincoln Park.

Zoo officials hope the habitats will help visitors feel physically and emotionally closer to the apes, zoo president Kevin Bell said. Connecting with the animals could inspire people to care more about helping apes in zoos and in the wild, he said.

Only 375 gorillas now live in U.S. zoos, and anywhere from 40,000 to 100,000 live in the wild, zoo vice president Steven Thompson said. Experts suspect that the wild gorilla population has declined 30 to 50 percent in the past 15 years because of hunting and damage to their natural habitats.

"They're so close to humans," Bell said. "Yet there's very few of these animals left in the wild."

Can YOU tell ME how to get to Sesame Street?

I am from the first generation of Sesame Street viewers, having been two years old (and able to walk to the TV and put the show on) when it premiered in 1969. I can attest to the fact that TV can cause jealousy and anger due to my experiences with Sesame Street (the original and best example of educational television worldwide).

I yearned to be on Sesame Street, hanging out with Mr. Hooper, Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, and eating cookies with the Cookie Monster. After all, each episode had kids like me on the set.

What irked me was the opening song in which kids sing while running through fields: "Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street?" Then, similar kids would be on the set playing, partying, and learning with the Muppets.

What got me angrier and angrier was that these kids were singing a song asking ME if I knew how to get to Sesame Street, when it was obvious that they were literally the insiders: inside the TV, inside the show, and on the opening credits, taunting me with their privilege and insider status, while I was on the outside.

Every episode, I'd watch, wondering how I could get to Sesame Street, and I never found out.

Epilogue: In the early 1990s after I became an adult, I stumbled onto Sesame Street, while applying for a job at the Children's Television Workshop, the Producer of Sesame Street. It turns out that this place is inside a drab beige 1960s era building across the street from Lincoln Center. No hills or fields there; just traffic. It seemed obvious that Sesame Street was actually mired in unions, bureaucracy, paperwork, and disgruntled clockwatching employees.

Perhaps my childhood's initial brush with disappointment was for the best. Subsequently, as an adult, I applied twice for positions at CTW, never to be hired. Perhaps that was for the best.

Public Service Announcement - Innoculating Against Martial Law in the U.S.

Prediction that I wish would never come true:

In October 2004, if it looks like Bush2 is losing the election, the U.S. could see about two dozen coordinated terrorist attacks in three cities, most likely NYC, L.A., and Washington, D.C.

Details of the plot could include three major buildings (apartments, hotels, malls) in each city being devastated by gas bombings, much like the plot currently being ascribed to Jose Padilla, who in 2002 was formerly accused of being the proto-dirty bomber. In addition, these three cities could have car or truck bombings in up to seven locations each to really sow fear, uncertainty, and doubt (F.U.D.). The result: martial law / code red / suspension of the constitution and the November 2004 Presidential Elections.

What would you do if President Bush suspended the elections indefinitely and continued to serve indefinitely until the War on 'Terror' is 'over?' Would you go to work, business as usual when the dust clears? Or would you join me in Union Square with signs like 'On Strike' and 'This is Bush-shit!'

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