The Present and recent Past:
A father, husband, teacher, and author, my first book is Technophobia! Science Fiction Visions of Posthuman Technology. available everywhere. Last year I wrote a short ebook: Finding Fela: My Strange Journey to Meet the Afro-Beat King in Lagos, Nigeria, available on Smashwords.com, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, & iTunes among others.
I wrote the chapter "Techno-Totalitarianism in Alien" for the book The Culture and Philosophy of Ridley Scott (2013). In addition, "Lucifer Rising and Falling is in The Rolling Stones and Philosophy (2012) & "AutoFac" is in Philip K. Dick and Philosophy (2011). I contributed a chapter “Cyborg Goddess" for the 2010 book Anime and Philosophy as well as a chapter "The Wretched of New Caprica" for the 2009 book Battlestar Galactica and Philosophy. An essay "Island of Lost Souls" was also published in Quarterly Review of Film and Video [V.28]. I've also written a chapter "Technological Transcendence" for the forthcoming 2014 book Avatar and Philosophy.
In 1994, my chapter "On Killing and Letting Die" was published in the book Killing and Letting Die (Fordham University Press). This article has been included in two other books and cited in more than 50 books including Bioethics - Oxford Readings in Philosophy (Oxford University Press, 2001). Originally, I wrote the paper for an Ethics and Philosophy class in my senior year at University of Illinois Chicago, 1968. My teacher urged me to revise and submit it to a philosophy journal. Shockingly, it was published in the venerable British philosophy periodical Analysis, the first journal to which it was submitted.
As a filmmaker, I directed two episodes of the Comedy Central show Strangers With Candy, starring Stephen Colbert, Paul Dinello, and Amy Sedaris. "To Be Young, Gifted, and Blank" can be found on the Season 1 DVD; "Yes, You Can't" can be found on the Season 2 DVD. The first one went great, the second didn’t go so great with various location, script and outside casting issues. Still, it turned out pretty well.
In the 1990s, I made several award-winning films with my nephew Paul Dinello, Stephen Colbert, and Amy Sedaris. These films included "Beyond the Door," "Shock Asylum," and "Wheels of Fury." My most fun in filmmaking was collaborating with my hilarious nephew Paul and hilarious friends Stephen and Amy. Since 1979, I’ve taught at Columbia College Chicago mainly in the Film and Video Department but also in the History, Humanities and Social Science Department. I directed the school’s first multi-media program that has since evolved a game design major.
I married Maureen Musker on August 11, 2001. My son Bryan works in New York as an editor on The Colbert Report; my daughter Dana sells real estate in Chicago. My first marriage, to Joyce, ended in 1984.
November 9, 1946, I was born Italian in Elmwood Park, Illinois, to Italian parents - Mary and Frank. My brother Frank (junior) was 18 years old at the time. To her everlasting guilt, my mother had been forced, by my father and his mother, to abort a child born when they first got married. My father abandoned the family when I was two years old.
My mother and father married in 1927 or 1928. They could not have been older than 17 or 18. He had a brother Anthony. According to Frank: the happiest years of the marriage were 1940-1942. They lived in Appleton, Minnesota. Father started a teaching business which covered four different towns. Frank and father would attend PTA meetings in the surrounding towns and they would play Bach’s double violin concerto and he would sign up students. Father was also the local scoutmaster and each day would travel to a different town to give violin and guitar lessons. As usual, Frank tried to play the perfect child.
For fear of hurting his fingers, Frank wasn’t allowed to play baseball or football (although he did secretly). Even then father had a career in music outlined for Frank. When the war started, his brother Anthony got drafted so father, mother and Frank were forced back to Elmwood Park, IL where father’s mother lived. Dan was born shortly after that. For Frank, this was the start of an unhappy period. Frank felt uprooted and did not do well in high school. They moved to the West side of Chicago and lived behind a cleaning store while Frank finished high school at Proviso West.
Charming and liked by people, father made lasting friendships though he was a phony and used his friends. His mother brought him up to believe that he was the Great One. Grandiose, he had ambitions and dreams that remained far from reality. He must have hated women and considered them beneath him. He humiliated my mother in front of Frank. He made her crawl on her hands and needs to apologize. “Look at what an animal your mother is,” he would tell Frank. They were always arguing. He always won: she was emotional, he was logical. Still, he was not violent and never hit Frank. He loved guns and was a police photographer at one time.
Father hated TV, thought everyone should improve his mind. My father was demanding and compulsive, like Frank and myself. He did everything on schedule. Frank’s whole day was organized. Frank one time found letters addressed to him - they contained advise for each year of his life. They were to be mailed to him on each birthday after his father died. The letters discussed problems that he anticipated Frank would be confronting during that year. A fanatical violinist who loved Fritiz Kreisler, father taught Frank the instrument.
Frank thought father was perfect. He desired to please him, to receive his approval. Father decorated his violin case with medals across its top. The medals were either awards from playing or phony. Frank copied this medal decoration of his case with ones father gave him. When Frank won a gold medal - after much hard work - he expected that father would be proud. But Frank could never please father, who responded with indifference. Still, father expected Frank to be a great violinist.
Frank won a violin scholarship to the University of Wichita in Kansas where he discovered that he had no interest in a career in music. Despite the havoc caused at home, Frank decided not to go back to Wichita. Father had nothing to say about that but he acted displeased. Father had been playing around with another woman at the time and was already considering leaving Frank and Mary. When Frank quit Wichita, Father felt his responsibility was over, despite a new-born child, namely me. Within a couple months, he had left along with the violin he had given Frank to take to Wichita. Frank returned the medals his father had given him, keeping only those he had won himself.
Frank only saw him once after that. When Frank was drafted, he went to see him figuring he would probably get sent to the war in Korea. Father treated Frank in a very distant way. While in basic training, Frank sent father a letter full of anger and recrimination for deserting his family and that was the last contact he ever had with him.
I have a vague memory of seeing father walk out the door. He never made contact with me. Described as an evil man by mother, brother and aunt, I had no conscious interest in him. Father sent support money for a couple months then stopped. He drifted from job to job. His life after this is vague. He apparently married two more times, only one confirmed. He met Simone in Canada when he had already married twice without divorce. He committed suicide by rifle in 1967 or May 25, 1969. He put the gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. The specific reasons for this are unknown. Someone speculated that his illegal marriages would become known and he would face jail. We recently learned that he had fathered at least two more sons - Alexandre and Christophe - in California.
Shortly after I was born, my mother Mary, my father, and my brother Frank moved to 518 N. Parkside on the West side of Chicago. It was located across the street from (Francis Scott) Key public school. We lived in the back of a cleaning store run by mother, though she had other jobs that included baby-sitting for Kenny and Kathy Quinn, sacristan at St. Lucy Church and later cleaning lady at Fenwick High School in Oak Park.
As for the kids who grew up with me, I liked Kathy (a year older) better than Kenny (a year younger). Innocently, I took baths with her and slept with her. Sometimes I competed with them for my mother’s attention. On the other hand, mother was always on the look-out for injustices. She would encourage me to eat quickly, so Kenny wouldn’t eat my food. Certainly, there were lots of times when I didn’t want them around. At one point, Kenny was suspected of stealing from my mother - I got ferociously mad at him and slammed him against a wall.
Mother had a brother Nick and sisters Lou, Ann, and Nancy. Nancy’s first husband Fritz killed himself after Nancy divorced him for the second time. Nancy’s adopted son Billy killed himself with a drug overdose. Supposedly Ann’s husband (Sammy’s father) was a top man in the Mafia. My mother’s father was a big man named Joe. She only made it to the 6th grade herself before being forced to work and support her family. A very emotional person, Mary was ruled by her instincts. During my childhood, she could be very kind or violently angry. Alternately strict and lenient depending upon her mood, her unpredictability made her difficult to deal with. When I did something that made her angry, she would say, “You are just like your father.” I never sufficiently appreciated how much she had done for me. Sometimes I hated her; mostly I was grateful for her unconditional love. She practiced strict Catholicism, going to mass just about every day, saying rosaries, novenas.
My brother Frank tried to serve as both older brother and father. He occasionally took me to movies - I remember seeing the giant atomic ant movie Them and a jungle movie, during which he whispered to me “They’re far-y from the safari.” Once every summer, during the 1950s and early 1960s, he took me to a White Sox - Yankees double header. I grew up as a White Sox fan. (I was shocked to discover in 2005 that Frank was a Cubs fan. This is a testament to how little I knew him as one's allegiance to either the Cubs or Sox is central defining personality characteristic.) On the other hand, he wasn’t around all that much. Frank worked briefly for an insurance company, then got drafted. He went into the Army, but got assigned to Intelligence and was stationed in Baltimore during the Korean War. He went to the University of Illinois at Navy Pier, and married long-time girlfriend Ann Zeiler in 1956. Eventually, he gained a PhD. in psychology and became head of DePaul University’s Mental Health Clinic. He and Ann gave birth to five children - Donna, Lori, Linda, Paul, and David.
I went to kindergarten at Key School, the public school across the street from the cleaning store where we lived. My brother Frank taught me to read, essentially giving regular lessons that were fun not oppressive. In 1952, I started at St. Lucy Catholic grammar school in Chicago, near Austin and Lake, where my mother worked. My classes were taught by both cruel and kind nuns who were members of the Sisters of Mercy. Early on, I took tap-dancing lessons, wearing a white t-shirt, short pants, and shoes. I also did baton-tossing and often walked in local parades twirling a baton. My teachers sometimes brought me into various classrooms to tap dance for the class. For several years, I was a good, nice conscientious student. Teachers liked me, the kind of kid who stayed after school and helped clean the classroom. I did what I was told. I often helped my mother after school.
Sunday mornings were hell. Mother, who always slept bad, wanted to sleep and the slightest sound woke her up. Usually, I woke up early and couldn’t go back to sleep. I had to stay in bed, almost immobile since even the creaking of my bed woke her up. If I got up, she was likely to scream at me for waking her up. Often I had to piss, but couldn’t go to the bathroom for fear of making noise. Especially in winter, I would piss on my radiator in my room. On the other hand, mom made spaghetti and meatballs every Sunday which was really good. Aside from Italian food, she wasn’t much of a cook.
In 6th grade, I finally got rebellious and started fooling around. My teacher’s name was Sister Mary Michael. I hated her. I tried to get away with little things. I got interested in girls, though not in a sexual way. Sex hardly occurred to me.
Television came into our apartment sometime in the middle 1950s. Before that time, we would join the upstairs neighbors in their apartment and watch “I Love Lucy.” I still remember Uncle Sam and Aunt Nancy bringing over our first television. He carried it into our small apartment behind the cleaning store, they must have bought for us. It was small and sat above our shitty couch. For a while, stock car racing seemed to be the only program we could receive. I grew up hating car racing, I still do. My favorite television show was Shock Theater with its horror host Marvin. He dressed like a beatnik, with black clothes and sunglasses. Universal Films - after fighting television for years - eventually sold their old movies, Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolfman, the Mummy and sequels to television. Horror shows, like Shock Theater, sprouted up all over the country. I loved Marvin and wore sunglasses like his all the time.
I loved baseball and the White Sox. At that time, the Cubs and the Sox were both on Channel 9 with announcer Jack Brickhouse. On the night that they won the pennant in 1959, my mother and I hid in a closet when old Mayor Daley set off the air raid sirens. They played the Dodgers in the World Series and lost. At that time, the games were played in the daytime and, so being in school, we couldn’t watch. A brief exception was made by the nuns at St. Lucy. They let us watch one game, but when the boys laughed at a bra commercial, they pulled that privilege. During the winter, I spent a lot of time alone playing a baseball card game for which I kept statistics, like player batting averages. My favorite Sox - Nellie Fox (1959 MVP), Luis Aparicio, and Billy Pierce - always did well. Of course, I hated the Cubs - they had very few black players while the White Sox had several. It was pretty clear that the Cubs were a racist team. At that time, Chicago had two football teams - the Cardinals and the Bears, but the Cardinals hardly existed for me. At one point, I got an electric football game that was ridiculous - the players just vibrated in place on the field.
Frank taught me how to bat, making sure that I held the bat correctly, unlike him. He batted cross-handed because no one taught him proper technique. I got good at baseball. In 1958, I started playing little league at Lexon, near the Wonder Bread factory, between Cicero and Laramie near the Congress (later Eisenhower) Expressway. I was a left handed batter, center-fielder and pitcher. In my first practice game, I hit three doubles. In my first regular season game, I batted clean up and hit a homerun over the centerfield fence in my first at-bat. My socks kept falling down as I rounded the bases, I almost tripped trying to maintain my trot while pulling up my socks. This started a very good reputation at Lexon. I made new friends. Lots of time alone was spent in the alley of my apartment wherer I bounced a ball off the wall and would make leaping catches. I would create whole games - creating line drives, ground balls and flies that might be hits or outs. I would voice an announcer in my head - “Mantle hits a long fly ball - Minnie Minoso goes back to the wall, he leaps, he makes a spectacular leaping catch at the wall, robbing Mantle of a home run." Overall, I remember this time as happy.
Popular with boys and girls at school, I was very good at sports, especially baseball and football. I made friends, not only at my school but at the public school across the street from my house where I played softball and fast pitching every day. The older teenagers respected my baseball skills and, as a young boy, I was always chosen to play with the “big kids.” My best friend, at St. Lucy, was Salty (Billy) O’Rourke. He and I were patrol guards at the same corner. We talked about our shared love of music. My grades were always good, though I got into trouble for minor offenses and, at one point, got briefly suspended.
1958-1960 - transcribed from notes made earlier when I referred to myself in third person as Stone: He learned about fucking sometime during this time. Stone was playing a game called “Relivio” that is somewhat like ‘Hide and Seek.’ While hiding in a garbage can on a porch, a friend in an adjacent garbage can told him how sex happened. Stone thought it was incredible that people coupled in this way, although the parts seemed perfectly adapted for this purpose. Stone could hardly believe it. He had no sexual experience during this time although he always had a “girlfriend.”
He seems to have been generally happy though he believed the Catholic bullshit about mortal sins and venial sins and going to heaven, hell or purgatory. He had guilty feelings about lots of things. Going to Confession was a terribly difficult experience. He always worried that he had lied, forgotten something deliberately.
In the summer of 1959, he moved up to 12-year-old league and made the all-star team as a pitcher and center fielder. In fact, he was one of the 3 or 4 best players on all-star team. He liked playing ball there, got much attention and had confidence in himself. His good friend was 1st baseman Ed White. Phil Sloan, whose sister Margaret was in his St. Lucy class, was a year behind me. They played fast-pitch together and, at Lexon, he hit him very well.
He was a boy scout for a short time. His troop was probably the worst in the city. It was run by the boys not the parents, who commanded little authority. No one, Stone included, had ever won more than a swimming merit badge because no one gave a shit. (Stone’s brother had been a Life Scout, but didn’t put pressure on him to stick with it.) Few of his friends were scouts, so no social pressure to stay. His only vaguely homosexual experience occurred as a scout. They had a camp out as someone’s house. Following a suggestion, they showed each other their penises. One guy wanted Stone to touch his, but he refused.
He also had an early experience with black people at a real boy scout camp. Taught to say “negro” rather than “nigger,” Stone never engaged in taunting though he might be in a car when friends shouted “nigger” at black people on the street. At the camp, black people were in positions of power. In one instance, a black boy scout checked the mess table, after it had been cleaned, to make sure it was clean. He was difficult to please but we respected him. We shook hands at the end of camp.
Though Stone had “girlfriends” all through grammar school, they were just girls to hang out with, rather than individual separate dates. We might meet at a dance or the movies or someone’s house - no sexual relations. Once he gave a girl a ring. When she gave it back, he cried. During 8th grade, he and his friends drifted away from the girls who had become interested in high school guys.
Stone was pretty happy during this time, though he hated school. He would talk his mother into letting him stay home or would fake sickness by putting the thermometer under hot water or near the radiator. He had to be careful that it didn’t go to 120 degrees or more. He stayed home quite a bit and loved that. He wasn’t lonely, he had lots of friends. He had some conflicts with mother who had an unpr5edictable and explosive temper. She hated when she asked him to go to the store and he made face as if he didn’t feel like going. She would say “You are acting just like your father” or “you are ungrateful for all I’ve done for you.” One time she punished him by making him like naked in his bed with the shades up - his bedroom window looked out into the alley. He often felt she treated him unjustly. (End of transcription)
I usually brought my lunch to school - peanut butter and jelly sandwich or baloney. Occasionally, I was allowed to get a hamburger at the nearby drug store. I loved the infrequent eating out. My mother occasionally took me to Kresge dime store (later Kmart) where I loved to eat at the lunch counter - my favorites were the Turkey dinner (so great to have when it wasn’t Thanksgiving) or the Roast beef where they dumped gravy over a couple slices of white bread and the milk shakes at the lunch counter.
The summer before high school was very boring. He passed entrance exam to Fenwick. His best friend Salty did not pass and moved to Nebraska. On the night he left, they were on opposing teams in a Pony League game. Stone was pitching. Salty came to bat with the tying runs on base, two out in the last inning. Stone felt conflicted about whether to pitch his best or let him get a hit. He wondered if anyone perceived his dilemma. He also wondered if Salty had the same conflict. He struck him out. In the All-Star game, Stone pitched a one-hitter to win a District Championship. In the first game of the Regional Final, the Chicago Comets hit 3 consecutive home runs in the first inning - embarrassing, but funny. He hung out all summer and wished he had a sexy girlfriend and that other people saw that he did. (End of Transcription)
St. Lucy had no organized sports program. We played other schools but had to coach ourselves. We practiced anarchic schoolyard ball. We usually got slaughtered in both basketball and football, having no organized offense or defense. But we had lots of fun with no adult supervision.
The Catholic religion was a dominant force in my life for a while. As a youngster I believed the stories about hell and purgatory. I said prayers while walking to school as this was supposedly a device to acquire grace and avoid time spent suffering in purgatory. As an altar boy, I especially enjoyed the more elaborate costuming of Good Friday and Christmas to the everyday.
Besides sports, the most important thing that happened to me in 1958 was discovering music. A friend pointed me to Radio Station WLS where I heard the song “Beep Beep” by the Playmates. It’s a novelty song, only vaguely rock, but it opened my mind to pop music. My brother loved classical music and disdained rock. I was instantly obsessed, waiting for hours with ear pressed against the radio to hear the song again. In this way, I heard lots of other music. I loved r n b, like the Drifters “This Magic Moment” and doo-wop, like Dion and the Belmonts’ “Teenager in Love.” I also like sappier fare such as Paul Anka, Neil Sedaka, and Bobby Rydell. I eventually started watching American Bandstand and buying 45s. I discovered a store on Chicago Ave, near Austin, that would order me records that were not big hits. I would get the WLS top 40 list, peruse it carefully, and order 45s from the list. Some of my favorite songs of the era were: Sherry and Big Girls Don’t Cry by the 4 Seasons, Runaround Sue and The Wanderer by Dion, Handy Man and Good Timin’ by Jimmie Jones, Runaway and Hats Off to Larry by Del Shannon, Nowhere to Run and Heat Wave by Martha and the Vandellas, He’s Sure the Boy I Love and He’s a Rebel by the Crystals, The Gypsy Cried and Two Faces Have I by Lou Christie. There Goes My Baby and Up on the Roof by the Drifters. I was too young for Elvis, though I remember Ann had some of his records. I was also impressed by his ability to annoy adults. He went into the army in 1958 and came out defanged, though I did like some of later songs such as Stuck on You and Return to Sender.
High School, 1960 - 1964: By the summer of 1960, my brother, Ann and their first child Donna had moved from Chicago to Oak Park - 1156 S. Clarence. Frank had built a tiny apartment in the basement which consisted of a living room, a hallway kitchen and small back bedroom. My mother and I moved into this Oak Park apartment. My mother slept on a pull out bed in the living room, I slept in the small back bedroom. My old West Side Chicago neighborhood was transforming as African Americans moved there. There was no question that I would be attending a Catholic High School - there were three options: Fenwick in Oak Park as well as two Chicago schools St. Ignatius and Quigley. The latter was for priest preparation. St. Ignatius was ruled out when we moved to Oak Park. Fenwick Tuition at that time was $300/ semester, an outrageously high amount for poor people. But my mother worked there, so I went tuition-free. Few of my friends from St. Lucy went there.
My first two years at Fenwick were awkward as I adjusted to adolescence, sports and academic work. Since my mother worked there and since I used often help her, I was known by the priests. Since I went to an all-boys school, I found it difficult to meet women. There were dances at St. Catherine’s but I was too shy to dance with anyone so these were failures. I went out for the Freshman football team, but this didn’t work out either. I considered myself a running back and I got assigned to play the line or an end. Many other kids had played organized football in grammar school and were known to the coaches. St. Lucy had no organized sports.
I quit the Freshman football team. When I was a sophomore, I went out for football again, but only made the so-called “shit” squad - the practice punching bag for the varsity.
Religion became much less important.