Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 19, No. 4, 2020
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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Bernard Dubé
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David Solway
Louis René Beres
Nick Catalano
Chris Barry
Don Dewey
Howard Richler
Gary Olson
Oslavi Linares
Jordan Adler
Andrew Hlavacek
Daniel Charchuk
  Music Editors
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Jerry Prindle
Chantal Levesque Denis Beaumont
Emanuel Pordes
  Past Contributors
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Mark Kingwell
Naomi Klein
Arundhati Roy
Evelyn Lau
Stephen Lewis
Robert Fisk
Margaret Somerville
Mona Eltahawy
Michael Moore
Julius Grey
Irshad Manji
Richard Rodriguez
Navi Pillay
Ernesto Zedillo
Pico Iyer
Edward Said
Jean Baudrillard
Bill Moyers
Barbara Ehrenreich
Leon Wieseltier
Nayan Chanda
Charles Lewis
John Lavery
Tariq Ali
Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward





Donald Dewey has written some 40 books of fiction and nonfiction, as well as contributed scores of stories to magazines and other periodicals. He has also had some 30 plays staged in Europe and the United States. Dewey was editor of the ASME-award winning magazine Attenzione and was editorial director of the East-West Network, overseeing a dozen in-flight magazines and the PBS organ Dial. Don's latest book, Franchisement: The Alan Gibb Story, is now available.

In the evolution of the human species personal relationships have never been so mottled with insecurity and fraught with peril as they have been at the dawning of the millennium. Rare is the day the average gendered individual does not feel his self lapsing into angst or her spirit being enveloped by ennui upon exposure to somebody else. Miscommunication, inadequacy, conflicting tastes in cereals, and entirely different thoughts on the part of two or more people thrown together -- all these phenomena identify social chasms hourly. Other people remain other people; they are not Us.

At the same time, the Us remains invisible in our mirrors. What we see, at best, is a single form requiring technical assistance in more areas than we care to count. And though we might resist being defined by what we see, we see nothing else. Yearning for a higher purpose in our lives founders on everything from the squatting of negative cynicism to the eviction of positive imagination. When we tell ourselves to forget about a higher purpose, to be satisfied with the self-fulfillment due solely to Numero Uno, we worry we won’t be able to count that high. Our 12-step programs to physical and moral recovery have shaky banisters, our 10 commandments seem like any other Top Ten list, and we keep forgetting what the score is. Together with the problem that other people remain other people, we suffer from the doubt that we may or may not even remain us.

What has lent special drama to our plight, of course, is the backdrop of the new millennium. To find a comparably arduous testing of personal relationships we would have to invoke the previous millennial dew, at the beginning of the 11th century, in the bowels of what we smugly refer to as the Dark Ages. In that period the quest for emotional commitment (as well as for bread) was constantly undermined by non-supportive world events; e.g., the assassination of Kenneth III in Scotland, the poisoning of Bloody Otto of the Holy Roman Empire, the ascent of the Seljukian Turks in Asia Minor and of the Fatamite caliphs in Egypt. It does not require a schematic mind to recognize similar pressures on embryonic 21st-century sensibilities from the fatal drug overdoses of popular music stars, the unhampered global expansion of fast food franchises and the rise of religious fundamentalism from the caves of Afghanistan to the studios of the Christian Network.

But as tempting as it might be to suggest that the present crisis in human relations is merely the latest lava from an inevitable millennial eruption, such a conclusion would be more consoling than accurate. One elementary fact alone precludes all the analogies that might be drawn between the two epochs: PEOPLE OF ALL GENDERS HAVE LIVED ONE THOUSAND YEARS SINCE THE ELEVENTH CENTURY! Put another way, we are one thousand years older since Bloody Otto sampled the wrong dish, we have had a thousand more years of experiencing the traps of non-nurturing relationships, and we have spent 10 centuries more of potential solutions for maximizing the profitability of human interconnection and minimizing losses from failed investments. And with what result? Existential malaise. A sense of futility that we have tried everything and nothing works. Increasing gratuitousness as a response to the feeling of futility. Relentless violence as a companion to the gratuitousness. House and Senate committees investigating all the violence and endorsing the use of V-chips on television monitors. The physical -- not to mention mental and moral -- repulsiveness of presidential aspirants and their stooges. We aren’t in a situation analogous to that of the 11th-century peasantry for the simple reason that, unlike us, it didn’t squander 1,000 more years of opportunity for grasping our terrestrial misery. We are WORSE OFF.

If the growth of our corporeal and incorporeal needs has taught us anything by now, it is that misery not only loves company, it positively adores SYSTEMS. Across the centuries we have rushed to one deceptively organized corpus of thought after another in the vain search for clues to the dynamics of human behaviour and to the appropriate governors for supplying the right mixture of JOY, HAPPINESS, and PROFIT. The two most venerable systems we have resorted to have been religious and philosophical. On a religious plane generations of forebears have been attracted to the theology, morality and ritual stipulated by spiritual belief, trusting it would deliver workable relationships in an afterworld as much as on this planet. Those of a more philosophical cast have sought explanations for their thoughts and feelings in arguments that, at their extreme, have proposed that there are no such things as thoughts and feelings in the first place. But while followers of both approaches have been numerous at every stage in history, triggering wars and disputes over academic copyrights, neither religion nor philosophy has ever encompassed the full range of human striving and its practical implications for emotional sharing, self-esteem and fruitful career paths. To use their own vernaculars, religion has proved to be godless, philosophy to be mindless.

Aside from religion and philosophy, there has been a myriad of other tantalizing systems drafted for explicating human direction. Our most distant ancestors, for example, identified their characters with the animal life of the forest and plains. Although commonly confused with the earliest forms of religious exercise, this zoographic vision actually accorded a respect to the material and spiritual worlds that the average religion paid short shrift to in its overriding priority of confirming some transcendent entity or biochemical progression as the only desirable goal; i.e., if I’m 75 and have a brain tumour, I must be ready to meet my Maker. By contrast, the zoographic vision perceived in the annual behavioural cycles of the bear, the eagle and the salmon the caprices and obligations of societal living; it posited mauling, screeching and spawning as indispensable expressions of sharing. That many of these animals later underwent ‘conversion,’ becoming symbols even for chastity and contemplation, reflects the fears organized religion had regarding their competitive appeal to the typical woodsman.

But even before religions had tamed its contents, the zoographic vision had revealed itself as an insufficient model for human interaction. Most obviously, there was the fact that animals ‘liked’ being in a rut, and had little incentive for changing their ways. The ambivalences of cohabitation, the insecurities sparked by mysterious nightly prowling, the seasonality of sex drives, the lack of ambition beyond commanding a waterhole -- none of these qualities promoted long-term human identification. In the end, our anxiety for a systematic illumination had little to show for its pangs except meat, bones and fur.

Other would-be ordinations from the animate world have been even less compelling. The humours of black bile, yellow bile, blood and phlegm might have appeared comprehensive to some ancient Greeks, but not to many of their descendants, who had to wonder why success had to be synonymous with the viscous or the disgusting. The Bodyists of 12th-century England had their moment in the outlook that human beings broke down into Nose, Chest, Elbow, Nate, Knee and Foot types. While they would be influential again in the 20th century, the Bodyists failed to inspire for any great span of time the Yorkshireman who, on a good day, liked to believe he could derive pleasure and fulfillment from ‘all’ his parts and who, on a bad day, watched ‘all’ his parts being drawn and quartered. Equally unsuccessful, after fads of varying duration, were the 13th-century Barbers of Turkey with their emphasis on Canine, Molar and Incisor personalities; the 14th-century Retinas of Samos with their divisions of the Green-Eyed, Blue-Eyed and Brown-Eyed Trait Bearers; and the 15th-century Dominican Friars of Inquisition Spain who classified men in honesty and purity as Ten Fingers, Nine Fingers, Three Fingers and Stumps.

The inanimate world has been no more forthcoming, even when the physical sciences have been recruited for the effort. Thus while alchemists from fifth-century China all the way up to 12th-century Europe were adept at characterizing metals by their potential for being transformed into gold or silver, their failure actually to achieve any such re-composition discouraged disciples who, as willing as they might have been to accept themselves as Lead or Tin types as a premise, found themselves having to abandon all real hope of moving upward to more lustrous self-images. That same kind of anti-climax has contributed to the more recent aversion to seizing upon the Atomic Table for emotional guidance; moreover, there has been an added suspicion since Hiroshima and Nagasaki that, however suggestively idiosyncratic a specific element might appear, its true Atomic Table value (and thus of the person identifying with it) could be measured solely by its capacity for being vital to a nuclear fallout. In a similar vein, attempts to align the struggles of human enterprise with the properties of precious stones have expired before chemical realities; to name merely one, how the outwardly versatile, affluent, and subtly majestic Opals Personality is prone to disintegrating and disappearing without warning.

In our own time, the social sciences have held out one archetypical system after another for gauging, comparing and projecting human tendencies. For psychiatrists (with their obvious borrowings from the 12th-century Bodyists), we are inclined to be oral, anal or genital in our affective priorities. For sociologists, we are traceable as white collar, blue collar or police collar. For economists, we relate to one another as the employed, the underemployed, the unemployed or the welfare cheat. Political scientists mark us as Democratic Republicans, Republican Democrats or Irrelevant. Television ratings researchers transcribe our tendencies as those of Network, Cable or Streaming. Opinion poll scholars compartmentalize us as Being Against Train Collisions, Being For Train Collisions or Not Knowing What a Train Collision Is, And Wanting to See One Before We Make Up Our Minds.

The social sciences systems have been as popular in our age as the religious and philosophical systems were to eons of incomplete people now completely dead. But just as with those abandoned forms of intellection, the social sciences systems have survived on mere familiarity long beyond their actual grip on the imagination. Anecdotal evidence alone indicates it has been decades since anyone outside a singles bar or AA meeting felt truly insightful about cataloging a date as oral, anal or genital in tendency. To a great extent, in fact, it has been the very failure of the social sciences systems that has precipitated a critical phase in our present difficulties. Unlike the relationship-addicted at the end of the 19th century, say, when even critics of Freud’s Id, Ego and Superego personalities could still look forward to the demarcations being brewed by Jung, Adler and Dr. Phil, contemporary anxieties about our place in another’s life and insurance coverage have little promise of rescue. We seem to have used up all the systems we have been capable of devising. We show increasing vulnerability to hot flashes, shortness of breath and irritating allergies. We throb, we pant and we scratch as though these physical responses in themselves will summon forth some new antidote for our ailment. With what consequence? At most, INFLAMMATION and INFECTION.

If there is one school of systematic projection that might appear to be unaffected by the present crisis, it is that postulating the daily influences of other worlds on our needs; that is to say, believers in the astrological sciences. Certainly, the zodiacalists have not been inhibited by the vacuities revealed over time by religion, philosophy, zoology, bodyism, gemology, psychiatry and sociology. On the contrary, it has been their assumption from the start that earth-inspired representations of a particular person’s possible parameters for positive power provided, at best, a self-fulfilling prophecy. In their emphasis on emotional objectivity, zodiacalists have instead always looked skyward -- to the stars, to the other planets, to the orbs. If they have occasionally given the impression of accepting some of the oldest premises of religion (for instance, in their adoption of names tracing directly back to Greek theisms), and have also sometimes looked captive to the accidental sequences of calendars, they have equally demonstrated an openness in conceding the expediency of many of their constructs, acknowledging that their working hypotheses could be perfected through further knowledge of the cosmos and its disparate parts. Thus astrological adepts have eschewed dogmatism, recognizing that Hindus, Hebrews and Chinese have different healing and bonanza schedules with the sky than do, say, Bulgarians and Mohawks. They have also rejected simplistic conclusions that would equate an individual destiny with birth dates, birth hours or birth minutes. In their elaborately plotted conjunctions of cosmic phenomena and human self-assertion, zodiacalists have indeed ultimately argued that anything can happen to anybody at any time. If that insight has struck critics as too indiscriminate for personality analysis and tactical application, it has impressed its own adherents for its open-minded tolerance of planetary and extra-planetary developments.

But that said, the zodiacalists have also had problems of their own of late, making them as vulnerable to the current crisis as any other group. One problem has stemmed from accelerating immigration patterns, leading to a growing confusion in our great metropolitan centers about the most relevant calendars and astral houses. On top of that, dissidents within the astrological science community have been stepping up efforts to have some pet sign, celestial movement, or stellar influence dominate charts, in effect demanding a total reinterpretation of mankind’s traditional relationship with the cosmos. And even these rebels have been a minor headache compared to fragmented but best-selling Yahoo cults that would dispense with the entire solar system in favour of identifying the complexities of human need and succour with a salvageable planet or two (e.g., Mars and Venus). Spurred on by the material success of the Yahoos, astronomers have begun claiming discoveries of new orbs and even new non-existent orbs with no fixed place in established horoscopy. The upshot has been interpretative anarchy, waning faith in the stability of the heavens, and a suppurating cynicism among former disciples that has reduced astrology to just another bankrupt social science.

It has been against this background of overwhelming negative energies that Dr. Alan Gibb, most notably but not exclusively in his milestone work You’re a Peewee, I’m a Bambino, has stepped forward with a revolutionary proposal for seizing, directing, and profiting from the human process.



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Also by Donald Dewey:
The Finger
Smoke Blowers
Noticing Death
Passive Resistance
Not Playing It Safe
The Expectation Medium
Crisis in Critics
Words Not to Live By
Knowing the Killer
Racism to the Rescue
Punk Times
Not Playing It Safe
Meeting the Author
The Overwriting Syndrome
Writers As Ideas
Let Them Entertain Us
It's a Kindergarten Life
Being and Disconnectedness
History of Humour in the Cinema
Cartoon Power


Before becoming the world's most respected life, death, and everything in between coach, Alan Gibb shared that common frustration over the failure of astrology, numerology, and similar religions to direct all aspects of human behavior. They might have all been sacred systems for establishing a personal identity, but there was a rusty screw at their core. Even when the revolutionary tenets of Franchisement occurred to him, he knew they might remain stillborn without the attacks, arrests, and tragedies customarily accompanying an original vision. Happily for Gibb and the tens of thousands of his fellow believers, he was assaulted in physical, mental, and dietary ways and hauled in as a fraud, thug, and stalker even as he pressed forward on his crusade to share Franchisement with the hordes crying for it as a national pastime superior to baseball. More happily, the tragedies struck others, not him, enabling him to enjoy the millions Franchisement brought through the Internet, the telephone, and pay-on-demand cable. As he noted repeatedly, the delivery vehicle was unimportant as long as a customer thought he wanted what he was getting. "If you listen to people, the world is divided between the Yankees and the Red Sox," he liked to chuckle fondly. "Tell that to those with a crush on the Minnesota Twins. A vision that isn't comprehensive sees only its own nose."


"Granted there are many similar books too numerous to count, but this book is sui generis." --- Benjamin Acocella, S.J., President of the Council for Mental Observances.

"This book changed my life when it most needed changing." --- Sidney Willinger, Leisure Sciences Department, University of Indiana.

"Sometimes love is a 13-letter word." --- Jennifer Pryor, Harvard School of Theoretical Business.

"Gibb demonstrates how life is more than steak knives and storm windows." --- Joel Sternheim, Informercials Institute.

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