What exactly IS the American dream?

Ever since I was a kid I’ve heard that phrase but I’ve never quite grasped its full meaning.  At times I thought I understood it but at other times I wasn’t quite sure.  It was all kinda vague. And now, at this ripe old age, that same  refrain still begs and asks that question. Furthermore,  I would not be surprised if many others share that same uncertainty though they might be ashamed to admit it. In my particular case however, a young kid, knowing only poverty, the concept of an American dream was far beyond my comprehension. In fact, even beyond the comprehension of the adults that surrounded me.  And so, the concept of an ‘american dream’ escaped me, even into my adulthood. As time moved on however, it no longer mattered. Life went on, and as my personal circumstances improved, the question of an american dream was no longer relevant to me.

As it is my nature to be curious about almost everything however, I was still intrigued about the continued use of the phrase; especially since it is used constantly, almost to the point of monotony. So, one day when I had nothing else to do, I decided to dig deeper into its origin. First stop, Wikipedia, where I found James Truslow Adams, the man who first defined the American Dream as “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to their ability or achievement.” Impressed by that definition I made a visit to Ellis Island.

ELLIS ISLAND

I could only imagine the euphoria those refrugees felt when they stepped on  shore; and who would they find there to greet them but Lady Liberty.

LADY LIBERTY

What I learned there opened my understanding and my appreciation as to what acheivements were possible, acheivements made possible by the United States of America.

When I was a school boy, I was naively led to understand that the american dream meant one thing, and one thing only, that is, that anyone could grow up to be  president. It didn’t include other signs of success. Since I knew it was unlikely I would ever become the president of the United States I concluded I would never attain the american dream .
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Later, I have come to learn the American dream means more than just the right to be free, it is also the right to pursue your dreams and goals; it your right to free speech, as well as the right to demonstrate and to assemble;  in general the right to pursue all that is legal.

Yes, there have been ugly periods in our history, witness: slavery, racism, Japanese internment, Native American atrocities, the inability of women to vote. These are nightmares that have at times marred the American dream. Some still exist. As we have progressed as a people however, many of those blotches have been eradicated. Others issues still remain and must be addressed if we are to truly attain that ‘more perfect union.’

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The United States is a relatively young country and still have much to learn, despite some of its shortcomings. A brighter day however always dawns over the horizon for our country.

There are varied examples that depict the face of  the American dream. This is one.

WALL STREET MOGUL

Follow my next blog: May 30, 2012

 
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SAYINGS I WISH WOULD GO AWAY

For years I have wanted to do away with those mindless words and cliches that have trivialized our everyday speech. Take for example, the overused phrase of ‘the middle of nowhere’  Can anyone in the world tell me where I can find ‘nowhere? and if so, how would I know it once I was in the middle of it?

Could this be perhaps the elusive NOWHERE?

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How about this one: ‘illegitimate child‘ ?  Although a child conceived out of wedlock is considered illegal, it is the behavior of the parents that are illegal, not the child. Therefore, the term illegitimate, as it pertains to the child is, in fact, an oxymoron and I wish it would go away.

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Here’s another worn-out phrase: “caught between a rock and a hard place” Instead, how about saying “caught between Scylla and Charybdis” one of my favorite expressions. For those of you who are mythologically challenged however, and asking themselves ‘what the heck is Scylla and Charybdis?,  here’s the story. In Homer’s Odyssey, the hero Odysseus was challenged to navigate  his crew past two narrow passageways and into the open sea. On either passageway however, there lurked  a hideous monster. One was named Scylla, the other named Charybdis. Either choice however, threatened immediate death for the crew. Fortunately the hero survived but sadly, many of his sailors were killed. So, whenever I find myself in a situation where there are no good options, I consider that I am caught between Scylla and Charybdis.

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HEBREW MAN

Due to the influence of the Yiddish word (yatata, yatata) the expression yada, yada was born and used to imitate many people talking at once.

There is one saying however, I wish never to hear again; that is the expression ‘jew’m down’, a slur used by many uninformed people and needs to be erased from our vocabulary forever.

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In recent years it seems cliches have hit the sports scene in a big way. The biggest saying these days is now: step up to the plate. Don’t get me wrong. I am a big baseball fan, but what’s so great about stepping up to the plate?

Playball!

After all, just because you stepped up to the plate doesn’t mean you’re gonna knock one out of the park.In fact, you’re more likely to strike out: so while we’re at it we might as well get rid of that cliche too.

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Here is one cliche I do like. Every time I hear it, I can’t help but laugh when I hear: “cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.

On the surface this expression is not what it appears to mean. In the 1700’s cannon balls and black powder were carried by boys who were referred to as “powder monkeys.

Perhaps I like this phrase because it is colorful and not so frequently used as the other overused cliches.

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Though I know there are literally thousands of cliches that we use daily, we can’t go around creating new ones each day. Every generation however, should at least cast out the old ones in place of the new.

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I would like to hear what you think.  Go to this blog and send your favorite and least favorite sayings.

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Next blog: May 15, 2012

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GRINGO


A MEXICAN'S IMAGE OF THE QUINTESSENTIAL GRINGO;

Do you know where the term “gringo” originated?

If you don’t, don’t lose any sleep over it. In reality, its doubtful anyone really knows. Nonetheless there are probably as many explanations and speculations on the topic as there are people who claim to be authorities on it. In fact, Wikipedia claims there are 53 versions. In listening to those “authorities” I have concluded there are perhaps 3 or 4 basic themes. Variations over time however, have swelled the actual number to 53, that is, if you believe Wikipedia.

One recurring theme suggests the term originated during the Mexican American War in 1846-1848. This theory holds that the word Gringo comes from “green coat,” in reference to the American soldiers and the green color of their uniforms.

Another story, also from Mexico, and similar to the one above, holds that those Mexicans who could read and write English used to write “greens go home!” on street walls referring to the color of the uniforms of the invading army and subsequently it became common for the rest of the population to yell “green go!” whenever U.S. soldiers passed by. These explanations are unlikely however, since the U.S. Army did not use green uniforms until the 1940s.

One of my favorites is the assertion that one of two songs – either “Green Grow the Lilacs ” or “Green Grow the Rushes ” – was popular at the time and that Mexicans heard the invading U.S. troops singing “Green grow…” and contracted this into gringo. However, there is ample evidence that the use of the word predates the Mexican-American War.

In fact, that version has morphed into one in which Mexican cowboys, gathered around their campfire along the Rio Bravo River (Rio Grande in the U.S), would listen to their U.S counterparts camped on the opposite side of the river singing “Green grow the Lilacs.” Not understanding English however, they referred to their U.S neighbors across the river as the “gringos” or those who sing the song, “gringo”.

There are many popular but unsupported origins for this word, several of which relate to the United States Army in some way or another.

Many people from the U.S assume the term is exclusive to Mexicans. In fact, most, if not all of Latin America use the term and not all of them use it to refer exclusively to U.S. citizens.

Wiki tells us that “gringo, gringa” is a Spanish and Portuguese word used in Latin America to generally denote people from the United States, but in some cases it is also used to denote any foreign non-native spanish speaker regardless of race, especially English speakers.

Here, in Mexico, I have come to learn from my mexican friends, the term applies to white U.S. citizens only.

The only controversial issue concerning the word is whether it is a derogatory term. Even in this however, there is no unanimous agreement. Dictionaries such as the American Heritage Dictionary classify gringo as an “offensive slang,” “usually disparaging,” and “often derogatory.” The authoritative Diccionario de lengua de la Real Academia Espanola however, disagree on whether or not gringo is derogatory.

Latin migrants to the U.S. occasionally use the term as a more derogatory synonym of Anglo. However, it is also said the term may apply to anyone who lives in the U.S. regardless of race.

In Mexico and Colombia the term applies exclusively for U.S. citizens and is , widely accepted as a colloquialism. Depending on the context, it may or may not be an insult.

In Central America, the word is not derogatory. In Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama the term refers to U.S. citizens (regardless of race)

In the Dominican Republic it also means a non-free range store bought chicken (pollo gringo).

In Puerto Rico, the term refers to U.S. citizens in the U.S. mainland.

In the countries of South America where this term is used, the word is not derogatory. In some countries it may be used to refer to any foreigner who does not speak Spanish as a native language, or in Brazil, someone who does not speak Portuguese as a native language, but in other countries it is used just or especially to refer to U.S. citizens; it may also be used to describe a blond or brunette white native person with soft facial features and light colored eyes. It is also a popular nickname.

In Uruguay and Chile, apart from being used to refer to citizens of the United States, it can be applied to all Europeans; particularly those who conform to the physical stereotype (tall, blond hair, blue eyes, fair skin).

In Peru the word gringo is used all over the country among white and non white population. It is used to refer to white people but it is not insulting.

In Ecuador the word gringo can be used to refer to foreigners from any country, not only the United States, though the likelihood of being described as a gringo increases the closer one’s physical appearance is to that of a stereotypical northern European.

In Argentina it was used in the past to refer to European immigrants. In modern times the term is rarely used at all, but it can be used to refer to small and medium farmers from the Pampas that still use it as a nickname.

So there you have it. Hope it answered any questions that might have kept you up at nght.

Sleep well!

See you May 1
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SPRING BREAK

SPRING IS IN THE AIR

Ah Spring! birds are chirping, flowers are blossoming and nature is in its full glory. With it comes its most anticipated ritual: Spring Break

Due to a lack of chairs this young woman found a way to improvise

Another young woman makes a similar choice

Let the dancing girls begin!: bikini clad young women demonstrate their dancing skills as they crowd the stage at Cabo San Lucas

A multitude of Spring Breakers, armed with tents and canopies, descend upon the otherwise small town of San Felipe in Baja California, Mexico

(Next blog: April 15, 2012)
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AIR SHOW

The Naval Air Facility (NAF) in El Centro California is the winter home of the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron otherwise known as the Blue Angels. Each March NAF kicks off the Blue Angels’ season with their spectacular air show. Other feats of skill and heroism are also displayed as shown below by an aerial helicopter rescue.

Commissioned in 1946 as a Naval Air Station, the base was previously viewed as a Marine Corps Air Station. Through the years it served as a Naval Air Facility, a Naval Auxiliary Landing Field, a Naval Air Station, and the National Parachute Test Range. The main attraction for air show enthusiasts however, are the Blue Angels. The image below captures four Blue Angel jets as they fly in formation at the annual Air Show at El Centro California

The F/A-18 Hornets (Blue Angels) perform at air shows and special events to boost recruiting for both the United States Navy and the Marine Corps. They first performed in 1946 and is currently the oldest formal flying aerobatic team.

Spectators walk beneath the C-17 Globemaster III carrier. Capable of rapid strategic delivery of troops as well as all types of cargo, the C-17 is the newest, most flexible cargo aircraft in the airlift force.
These demonstrations of might and skill attest to the miltary power of the United States armed forces.

(Next blog: April 1, 2012)

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GOT HOBBIES?

Don’t know about you but I’ve been a hobbyist and, more specifically, a photo philiac (if that’s a real word) since childhood. As time went by, my passion for photography increased. I became an aficionado, then a hobbyist and finally a professional. Prior to that final step however, I spent several boring years employed in the financial industry. While the pay was sufficient, the passion just wasn’t there. The passion for photography however, was. Now, at this ripe old age, I’m still going strong, loving what I do. Many others have followed similar paths to their own destinys. Some are content to remain hobbyists, while still enjoying the fruits of gainful employment. Others, however, have abandoned their yokes to follow their passions. Take offroad racing for example.
When most people think about hobbying the words “danger” or “mishap” is not the first image that comes to mind yet certain hobbies expose these enthusiasts to danger. Take, for example, rock climbing. Think there might be some chance of mishap there?

Every year the city of Ouray in Colorado holds an Ice Festival where daredevils climb up and down an immense ice canyon. Do you think there might be some chance of mishap there?

Then there’s the young man who makes an upside down flip on his BMX bike at the annual Indianapolis, Air Show.

Aficionados of hot air balloons float high above enjoying an exhilarating experierce, notwithstanding many past catastrophies.

Even photographers have lost their lives while straining along narrow precipices in hopes of capturing that one great shot. For me, I have great respect for those hobbyists and professionals who pushed the ultimate envelope, but in the end my Canon camera and I are content to trudge along doing the best we can, hoping to catch tomorrow’s great shot. Thank you very much!

(Next blog: March 15, 2012)

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PEOPLE at WORK

Recent times have seen employment, or should I say unemployment, become a key issue effecting many sectors of society. This issue has impacted, not only U.S workers, but also our neighbors south of the border. Despite this hardship however, many have managed to secure gainful employment. As an editorial photographer I have chosen to take to the road, and with camera in hand, document those who were successful in their quest for work.

When looking for work it helps to have a skill or a trade as these two welders prove.

Crop workers, on the other hand, are considered to possess neither trade nor skill. They earn their pittace by the sweat of their brow as they pick fruit or vegetables in the oppressive heat of the mexican sun. These hard workers provide the staples a majority of americans and mexicans cannot do without. Though not technically skilled as tradesmen and women, what they do provide can be considered as such.

This poor mexican man below gets down on his knees to create a walkway. The entire process involved scooping sand, turning it in to clay, creating a wooden frame, then pouring the soft clay into the frame where it would later harden. As I looked on, I could see the man took great pride in his work. Standing alongside, I was impressed by his precision and his accuracy. In the end the proceeds of his efforts equalled the cost of a Big Mac in the U.S. Nonetheless, he was thoroughly gratified with his work and happy with his pay.

Turning my attention to another hardworking, poorly overlooked and underpaid group, I drove to Aspen, Colorado. It was there I found them, hard at work; a mass of photographers. It was pre-dawn and they had gathered there to take photos of a famous mountain. Although I, too am a photographer, I chose not to join them but rather, make them a subject of my blog.

BTW: That last segment was meant as sarcasm.

(Next blog: March 1, 2012)