Category Archives: Musings

Lilacs in the snow

Look closely and you’ll see the lilac buds. Lilacs are early bloomers, and their buds are already beginning to swell. The indomitable buds point straight up in defiance of the snow. It may have triumphed today, but the snow’s victory is ephemeral. Already it is weakening, its icy grip melting in the sun.

But what about America? Winter is coming. Trump’s grip is tightening. He is beefing up the army, fortifying the police and expanding the reach of the ICE. The power of all three is growing. Trump is adding soldiers, police, agents, jails and judges to enforce his decrees. Does this sound like the beginning of a police state? Does Trump want a Wall to keep his enemies out or will he have to keep Americans in?

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A cat, some ducklings and World Peace

This story about the love between implacable enemies suggests to me that if individual Israelis and Palestinians were to try to see each other clearly, they would learn that they have many of the same fears and needs. With greater and more subtle knowledge of each other, they would begin to cultivate mutual respect, then friendship and eventually, even affection. Then they could be well on their way toward healing and overcoming the mutual hatred that is eroding both societies.

This is of course applicable to all relationships based on fear and ignorance, the parents of hatred.

If this seems like pie in the sky fit only for Pollyannas, please watch the video. I guarantee you will be amazed.

HT: Wafa Faith Hallam

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Hire great writers

“If you are trying to decide among a few people to fill a position, hire the best writer. It doesn’t matter if that person is a marketer, salesperson, designer, programmer, or whatever; their writing skills will pay off.

“That’s because being a good writer is about more than writing. Clear writing is a sign of clear thinking. Great writers know how to communicate. They make things easy to understand. They can put themselves in someone else’s shoes. They know what to omit. And those are qualities you want in any candidate.”

I found this on LinkedIn. It was posted by Tim Perez, who honestly said he stole it. I assume it’s been circulating for some time. It is also an  excellent justification of a liberal arts education. The humanities are losing ground rapidly, and with them go the creativity and critical thinking needed to analyze problems and communicate results clearly.

 

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Filed under American Society, Journalism, Musings, Writing

Dreaming of Cuba

1955 Chevy on El Malecón in Havana, Cuba, with El Morro Castle

1955 Chevy on El Malecón in Havana, Cuba, with El Morro Castle

When I was growing up, I spent a part of every year in Cuba with my Cuban family. I almost remember — I heard the stories so many times — standing at the railing of my grandmother’s balcony when I was two years old. Pushcarts teeming with fruit and vegetables, others with knives and cutlery, yet others piled high with many-hued fabrics, each vendor hawking his wares with a distinctive cry, kept me pressed against the railing, fascinated by the colors and the sounds. When my grandmother saw something she needed, she’d lower a basket on a rope so that the vendor could fill it with mangoes and papaya or bacalao (salted codfish) or sacks of black beans and rice. Then she would hoist the basket back up, remove the groceries, count out the pesos she owed and send the basket with the money back down to the peddler waiting below.

I remember a Havana that was noisy and garish, rhythmic and musical. At dinnertime it was redolent with the smells of ropa vieja, picadillo, arroz con pollo, tostones, frijoles negros and the like. Bananas grew in the backyard. At 11 in the morning, we had a break at school and ate pastelitos de guayaba, flaky pastries filled with guava paste that I still savor and crave today. I remember the incomparable beaches and the people who loved me.

That was before Fidel’s triumph. During the long decades that followed, my memories persisted, even as the distance between them and harsh reality continued to grow. Today I’m reading Havana Nocturne, T.J. English’s account of the seamy, violent and thoroughly corrupted underbelly of the beautiful city in those halcyon days. Cuba is very much on my mind as it is for many in the wake of the rapprochement between Pres. Obama and Raúl Castro. In the weeks to come I will be reconciling nostalgia and history as this new era unfolds.

Photo by James Seith Photography

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Filed under Cuba, Food, Musings, Personal, Random

Do you love Cole Porter, Rodgers & Hart, et al.?

AnythingGoesLast night I went to a wonderful show — classical music from Broadway, by which I mean Rodgers & Hammerstein, Jerome Kern, Lerner & Loewe, Irving Berlin … There are many more, but what’s the use of naming them? Only audiences “of a certain age” not only recognize but love the music created by those names. (I and a few of my friends know all the lyrics and can sing them all.) I often wonder MyFairLady2when I look around me at the audience at the opera or chamber music or even pop standards like those I heard last night, and see only grey and balding heads: What will happen to this music when the greyheads are gone?

Guys&Dolls2Peter Gelb is doing a masterful job of revamping the opera, things like ripping “Rigoletto” from its 16th-century palace setting and plopping it down in a casino in 1950s Las Vegas. I think that is a brilliant move, since the power plays of the debauched nobility differ little from the depravity of 20th-century gangsters. Jealousy, pride and a father’s love aren’t bound to time or place. With novel staging in new productions and free outdoor showings, Gelb may well succeed in enticing new audiences. SouthPacificGreat theater deals with the human condition, and since that doesn’t change from one age to another, the costumes worn by the players in no way alter the themes of love lost and won, jealousy, treachery, death, cleverness, stupidity and so on.

I suspect the musical theater is different. OklahomaThe “younger set” no longer swings to the music of Glenn Miller or Harry James — they don’t need to cling to each other on the dance floor when they can hook up in bed with no effort. Cole Porter’s marvelously witty lyrics no longer resonate.

Every age, of course, has its own passions, styles and crazes. And each age thinks theirs are the best. As they should.

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Filed under Music, Musings, Personal

The Raven’s many colors

Once upon an evening dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over bunches of notes and notebooks and pages from studies of yore—
    While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a banging,
As of something sharply whomping, well outside my chamber door.
“’Tis some blasting there,” I muttered, “blowing up my chamber door—
    Must be that and nothing more.”
So I gazed outside my chamber, and this is what I saw:
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Eagerly I kept on watching, watching from my chamber door.
Only that and nothing more.
And the fireworks kept coming, exploding by my chamber door.

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P1010208

 

 

 

“What could they be?” I wondered as I looked and looked some more.

Finally I went to Google, asking and inquiring wherefore.

 

 

“For the Chinese New Year,” came the answer.

Only that and nothing more.

 

 

Apologies to Edgar Allen Poe

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Obama, the Crusades and American values

Monks bless Louis IX as he sets off on 7th Crusade

Monks bless Louis IX as he sets off on 7th Crusade

President Obama tripped in a snare at last week’s annual Prayer Breakfast in Washington. Essentially warning the pot not to call the kettle black, the President reminded the members of Congress and leaders of many faiths that no one is sinless, and that vicious atrocities have been committed in the name of religion by many peoples throughout history, including Christians and Americans. The spark that kindled a roaring flame was this:

And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.

No one likes to be reminded of his own transgressions. Many deny them, expecting others to join them in denial. One of these is former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore (R):

The president’s comments this morning at the prayer breakfast are the most offensive I’ve ever heard a president make in my lifetime.

He has offended every believing Christian in the United States. This goes further to the point that Mr. Obama does not believe in America or the values we all share.

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Filed under American Society, Musings, People, Politics