Monthly Archives: March 2014

political revolution

Square Politics

When a “democratically elected” government makes a mockery of democracy by reneging on its campaign promises or even turning in a diametrically opposite direction, do “we, the people” have a right to descend into the square and overthrow it?

This happened in 1992 in Algeria. The Islamic Salvation Front won a majority in Parliament in a free election. To save the country from an Islamic takeover the election results were annulled.

In Egypt in 2012 the people elected Mohamed Morsi to get rid of a dictator. He immediately started to create a new dictatorship, that of an intolerant Islam. Were the people justified in saying: “We did not vote for this”. Continue reading

Naming Names-Downton Abbey and Beyond

This is not scholarship, but rather some random thoughts that invade my brain as I am watching television. In Downton Abbey, the “upstairs” people are known by their first names: Lady Mary, Lady Edith etc. Downstairs, the male servants are referred to by last names (Bates, Carson) and by first name if they are women (Daisy, Ivy, Anna) except for the cook who is known as Mrs. Patmore.

(Does anyone know the whereabouts of Mr. Patmore?)

I also watch figure skating and notice in Asian countries people are called by their surname followed by their first name: Kim, Yu-Nah, Chen, Lu. I suppose that in these cultures you are a member of the Kim or Chen families first and an individual second. Continue reading

Franz Joseph I of Austria

The Last European Emperor

Once upon a time not so long ago, in a land not so far away there lived a monarch who reigned over the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His name was Franz Josef and he ruled for 68 years starting in 1848. Like many 19th Century monarchies, his empire fell into decline and during his reign, it lost wars, influence and territory. Still, Franz Joseph survived his tragedies and died peacefully in his own bed in 1916.

The Fates placed a malediction on Franz Josef’s family sowing havoc and mayhem.  Some of his siblings and children died in infancy although that was not unusual before the twentieth century.  His brother Karl Ludwig succumbed to an infection on his way to a pilgrimage. His son and heir Rudolf, unhappily married, fell in love with the very young Baroness Mary Vetera. In the winter of 1889 they rode to a hunting lodge in Mayerling  in the Vienna woods and committed a double suicide. This story became the theme of many books and films. I saw the one released in the thirties starring Charles Boyer and a 17-year old Danielle Darrieux.  To me it was the essence of a romantic and doomed love affair. A tear jerker but a very good one. Continue reading

Scrabble With Charlie

Writhen, sajou, kygat, kagus, zamia, piu. Is this some kind of exotic incantation? A mysterious encrypted message? No, these are all acceptable entries in the game of Scrabble, even though they look like they came from the Dictionary of Never Used Words.

I play the Hasbro version of Scrabble on my Ipad. My opponent is the computer (I call him Charlie) and those are the kind of words he throws at me. I have set the level to “advanced” knowing full well that my cyber-opponent will win far more often than I do. I am not a masochist, but I like the challenge, and it is less humiliating to be beaten by a computer than by a human being. Continue reading