Category Archives: Current Events

Remembering Simone…..

Editor’s introduction: The offices of Simone Says are quiet and sad. We know there won’t be a sudden email from our author with another insight, another topic, another unique perspective.

Here’s how we see the future now……

We have some wonderful memories from Simone that we will share with you……here’s a short clip from a talk we had. Take a look….

December 2019

And we have received some comments from Simone’s fans and friends….here are a few;

“She was an extraordinary person and her wisdom made a difference in many people’s lives including mine….”

“She was truly a person for all seasons…”

“A beautiful human being culturally, in her spirit, in her achievements and also literally. She made such an impression on me even in our one meetings.

“I read everyone one of her blogs and was often overwhelmed by the depth and breadth of her knowledge…Her thoughts were brilliant…”

“What I will miss the most is her extraordinariness…”


And the plan is to republish some of the timeless things Simone wrote so they can be enjoyed again.

And finally, dear readers, we ask those of you who appreciate and were inspired by Simone to send us your own essays, thoughts, memories and recollections and we will share them with our readers.

When you notice something new in the world (or something old), ask yourself, “What would Simone have said” and see what inspiration may come to you…..then send it to us!

Please submit anything you create to:



Here’s a post from January 2020…


TV News is different these days. It looks like we are watching a team in a single studio but in most cases, the anchors and reporters have separated themselves and are speaking to us from their own homes.


Books confer authority


It’s interesting to get a glimpse of the rooms they are in, the art on their walls, or even of a cat or dog on the sofa. On the PBS Newshour as Judy Woodruff, Mark Shields and David Brooks discuss the events of the day, I see a curious thing: they have all chosen to populate their rooms with books in order to add credibility to their comments and legitimacy to their prognostications.

This visual element of books is often used as a ploy by those who want to persuade us. In advertisements, there, in the background, is the shelf with the books. Sometimes the room is full of books, sometimes it is only two or three sickly worn paperbacks sharing shelf space with other bric-a-brac. The important thing is that books are present.

Why do we accord such respect to books?



I think it is because they allow us to look at the world from a different window from the one we habitually use. This different widow reveals insights and feelings which we often share but also shows us different landscapes which we had never seen before.

Mario Vargas Llosa wrote: “We would be worse than we are without the good books we have read, more conformist, not as restless, more submissive, and the critical spirit, the engine of progress, would not even exist; reading is a protest against the insufficiencies of life,
a way of traveling without leaving home”.

Another way to measure the importance and power of books is through the people who would destroy them.

In 213 BC, Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huang ordered the burning of books of poetry and history because he felt threatened by the ideas they represented. The library in ancient Alexandria was burned many times. After the invention of printing, it became more difficult to eradicate books when they were present in many copies.

John Milton said in 1644: “Who kills a man kills a reasonable creature but who destroys a good book kills reason itself”. And Heine wrote, “Where one burns books, one will soon burn people.”

In 1933 university students across Germany burned 25,ooo books including authors such as Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud and Ernest Hemingway.

As long as there have been books, there have been men who burned them. As recently as 2012, in Timbuktu priceless manuscripts were being burned. People risked their lives to protect them and smuggled out 350,ooo of them. In China Mao Zedong ordered books burned if they did not conform to party propaganda.



Books pose a threat to some but procure delight and happiness to others. In addition to their contents they are a great artifact in and of themselves. The book is one of the most capable, easy, accessible, never-breaks- down technologies ever invented. You can read it anywhere, indoors or out. It does not need to be plugged into anything and so is always available. You can pick it up anytime or put it away. You can sit in the sun with it. You can go back and reread something that struck you. You can skip pages of boring material. If you can’t afford to buy one, you can borrow it from the library. As long as there are books in a library you will never be bored.

Books preserve the ideas and knowledge of all time, for all time.



“A little something in other people’s minds”





January 14, 1922 – April 29, 2021

From the editor: Shortly after Simone turned 91, she accepted my invitation to create this blog. Here’s the reason she gave when, to my delight, she said yes.

“Not everyone can be Mozart or Darwin and live on and on, but we all like to leave a little something in other people’s minds…so I am giving a green light to making a blog.”

That bright light has guided us through over 200 posts during the last 7-1/2 years. Simone’s thinking and writing have given us all so much pleasure and insight….

In this edition of Simone Says, we begin the celebration of her life. In weeks ahead, we will republish some of her previous posts that still have a grip on us today.


Simone on her 91st birthday

A century ended today. My mother, who was a pillar of our family, died of a sudden heart attack this morning. She was an extraordinary person who had led an extraordinary life. She lived on three continents and spoke five languages fluently as well as bits of a few others. She had several careers, most notably her many years at the UC Berkeley Library, where she was a Reference Librarian and their first online searcher, back when no one knew what that meant. She survived her husband of 54 years, my father, by 23 years. She lived life on her own terms and knew exactly what she wanted. Of critical importance to her was that she not leave her home of 63 years in Oakland with her expansive Bay view. She got her wish.

She was a world citizen who influenced all her family, and she lives on in all of us. We all share a love of travel, reading, politics, writing, cooking, and critical thinking that we get from her. She would have wished to meet her great-grandchild, whom she loved dearly, but she at least got to meet him on FaceTime and in videos. He brought her much joy in her last year through his pictures, which she viewed on her computer. In her last years, she was known for her blog “Simone Says,” where she shared her views on many subjects. Glancing at it gives you an idea of the breadth of her interests. When I FaceTimed with her last Sunday she looked very much herself – cheery, pink-cheeked and interested in life.

Dina Cramer Manhattan Beach, California




My grandmother, Simone “Measle” Klugman died a good death this morning.

She wouldn’t have wanted any fuss made about her, so I’m not going to tell you about how she lived, what she did, etc.

I would like to share with you what I learned from her, and how she shaped me.

She showed me that it’s okay to live how you want to live. She just did what she wanted with her time and never fretted about if it was the “right” way to spend time. If she wanted to read, she read. If she wanted to go to the store, she went to the store. If she wanted to cook, she cooked. I never saw her worry about if she was doing the “right” thing or the “best” thing or the most productive thing…she was usually just content to do whatever thing she wanted to do.

I can hear her voice clearly saying, “what would I want with all that stuff?” whenever someone might suggest something to add to her home, or a device she might enjoy. Until the end of her life, she regularly went to the library to get books and return books, seeing no reason to buy them and clutter up her house. She was thin her entire life, never seeing a reason to eat a piece of food she didn’t need. Always content to stop the moment she was full. It wasn’t that she made a point of being frugal, she didn’t re-use plastic bags or wash tinfoil and hang it out to dry. Rather, she knew what was enough for her, and only wanted that much, and only had that much of anything. About 20 years ago, she did splurge. Her last car was a Mercedes, but it was the smallest, cheapest Mercedes they made at the time

She enjoyed whatever she could do when she could do it. When she could no longer drive, she gave up her car. When she could no longer handle an airport, she stopped traveling. When she could not walk so well, she had the rugs taken up from the house so she wouldn’t trip on them. And never once did I hear her complain, or lament what she had lost. She never seemed bothered by the changing levels of her function. She just enjoyed this moment, and her ability still to get to her backyard bird feeder and watch the birds.

I could go on for a while, and I’ll stop with this observation for today…through 99 years of life, she kept enjoying all the little things. A great olive. Pictures of my kitten Mittens. A bird playing in her yard. She never grew tired or weary of enjoying her everyday life.

The last time I spoke to her was about 7 weeks ago, she couldn’t hear very well, so what we ended out doing was mostly this – I put the iPad on the ground, and we followed Mittens around. He came up and sniffed the camera, wanted away to play, and we just watched him together, and she laughed and talked to him and enjoyed 15 minutes of cat time through the screen.

She lived a good, long, happy life in the way she wanted, and went out of it in the best way possible, staying in her quiet home at the top of 52 steps for over 60 years until her very last day on earth.

It’s exactly what she wanted, and she got it, and for that, I am very grateful.

Zachary Cramer, Portland, Oregon


The Editor again:  We ask you, our appreciative readers, to submit your thoughts and memories of Simone directly to us. We will share them. We’ll also accept original writing that is in the spirit of Simone’s work or on topics she discussed.

Please send submissions to:



Ladies Killed (part 2 of Lady Killers)

As women continue to take their equal role in the world, some who have made the most dramatic strides have been cut down by assassins. These woman have had the audacity to aspire to bigger roles, to step onto the world stage, to lead political parties, to govern countries. Their reward for this effort, in several important cases, was assassination.

Indira Gandhi with the Mahatma. (not her father)

Indira Gandhi was born in India in 1917, the daughter of Prime Minister Jawaahaaral Nehru. She was active in the National Congress Party and served as Prime Minister of India twice, from 1966 to 1977  and from  1980 to 1984.

Gandhi was assassinated by two of her bodyguards in retaliation for a military operation meant to remove armed Sikh separatists from the Golden Temple in India.

Benazir Bhuto with Family.

Benazir Bhutto was from an aristocratic Pakistani family. She served as Prime Minister  of Pakistan from 1988 to 1990 and again from 1993  to 1996, she studied at Harvard and Oxford.

She was killed when leaving a rally on December 27, 2007. The killer was a 16 year old suicide bomber who was acting on the orders of the Pakistan Taliban.

Anna Politovskaya

Anna Politovskaya was a Russian-American journalist who reported on violence in Chechnya . She was also a political activist and a critic of Vladimir Putin. She wrote a book titled “Putin’s Russia, Life in a Failing Democracy.”

She was killed in the elevator of her Moscow Apartment, it is thought on orders from Putin.

Ironically her murder drew attention to her activities and put them in a spotlight.

So, yes women are now important enough to be assassinated. They have achieved this dubious status of equality with men.

Editor’s Note: Friends, readers, family….send us your comments!

Top 10 at 99*

I was recently asked by a friend to name my 10 favorite things. I am happy to do so. Here is that list in no particular order of preference:

  1. My family, including the newest arrival, a jolly little guy  with a round face who enjoys his life and likes to engage with the world.



  1. Keeping in touch with people; I am always happy when people share their joys, concerns and interests.

  1. Writing my blog which involves picking a topic of interest, researching it, learning more about it, and, yes, sharing my opinion.

  1. Reading stimulating books, learning about facts and events I had not known before.


  1. My home, high on a hill with a panoramic view of San Francisco, The Golden Gate Bridge and the East Bay, which I appreciate so much.

  1. Listening to classical music especially, Mozart, Chopin, Verdi, Donizeti, Bach but excluding the two Richards, Wagner and  Strauss.

  1. Opera, really a subset of 6 with drama added.

  2. Good television drama like The Durrells in Corfu or A Place to Call Home.

  1. Traveling. Nowadays mostly on TV with Rick Steeves but I am glad that I was able to do so much of it during many years, discovering different places and talking to people about their lives.

  1. Cats. I like their independence, aloofness, soft fur and willingness to be friendly and be petted.

*Editor’s note: Simone turned 99 last Thursday…….

The Triumph of Idleness

In “The Art of Stillness” the author Pico Iyer says:
“In an age of constant movement nothing is more urgent than sitting still”.

Pico Iyer at a Ted Talk

My parents didn’t see it that way. They indoctrinated me with the idea that idleness was to be avoided at all costs, even feared.

To my parents, even reading was a kind of idleness. There was nothing tangible to show for it. So when, as a child, I was alone in my room and became absorbed in a book, my mother would erupt into the room saying, “How can you read in all this mess?”

In those days, there was no talking back. I cleaned up the room and went back to the book. And as I read Pico Iyer’s words I reflected back on the past and found that it still affects me.

To this day I have this feeling that if I am not doing something useful like cleaning or dusting or cooking, I have failed somehow. My upbringing tells me appearances have the upper hand and rambling thoughts should somehow be tamed. Absorbing your surroundings with all your senses is not a valued endeavor.

However, I have learned to overcome these ancient attitudes, and have finally achieved the triumph of idleness

When I go outside and sit in a sunny spot in my very quiet totally private backyard I just look around and admire the colorful flowers, enjoy the sun warming my back, and observe a black and white cat vigorously washing his face. I do usually have a book, but it often sits in my lap and whatever I’m doing, I no longer hear “get to work” in the back of my mind.

I hear the birds and enjoy the peace.

Editor’s note: Simone turns 99 on January 14th….for a lasting gift, comment on this post (or any other one…there are hundreds)

Anchors Away

Judy Woodruff

Over the course of a week, about eight million people (including me) get part of their daily information from The PBS News Hour now presented by Judy Woodruff. This show has an important place in American television journalism.

I welcomed this show when it first appeared in 1976 because of its contrast to what was showing on ABC, CBS and NBC. Their shows were a hodgepodge of events with what seemed an emphasis on unusual happenings in order to keep the viewers’ attention. They were also full of noisy commercials, which sent people to raid the refrigerator, often forgetting to return.

And it’s my understanding that some of the news, even way back then, was actually fake.

In my opinion, The PBS News Hour gave us something much better.

The show started out as the MacNeil-Lehrer Report in September 1976 and from the beginning, it pioneered big changes in TV news. The show was the nation’s first hour- long news program. It was independent from advertisers, so its writers were able to do longer, deeper reporting and the show could exercise its editors’ critical judgements more freely than on the networks.

And from the beginning the PBS announcers seemed more informed and well-read than the “talent” which fronted the network news.

Lehrer and MacNeil

The show did maintain the comfortable two-anchor format. Robert MacNeil reported from New York and Jim Lehrer was based in Washington although they appeared to be sitting side by side (early social distancing?).

Yamiche Alcindor

The two men shaped the program into what it is today, a solid comprehensive overview of what is happening in the world that leaves us to draw our own conclusions. Today’s anchor is Judy Woodruff, a white woman. The reporter covering the white House is Yamiche Alcindor, a black woman, and, waiting in the wings, being groomed to become an anchor is Amna Nawaz, born in the US to Pakistani parents. The wheel has gone full circle from white men to women of color.

Amna Nawaz

Smart, Funny, Honorable…Our guy Alex

Answer: He redefined what it was to be a game-show host.

Question: Who is Alex Trebek!

A few words about Alex Trebek whose passing is a loss to tens of millions of his fans, of which I am one. For 37 years as the host of Jeopardy, he did a remarkably hard job and somehow always made it look easy.

He lowered the temperature of the program by eliminating all the hoopla, the jumping up and down and fake enthusiasm of other game shows. There was nothing superficial or artificial in the show’s choice of topics. They were picked for substance rather than popularity. Trebek and his questions emphasized knowledge and critical thinking. Alex often added his own intelligent comments.

The Canadian-born Trebek elicited interesting facts from the contestants during his interviews between the two parts of the game. The questions also grew in complexity as the show progressed. I was always learning something new. I think he spent time shaping the questions to ensure their quality.

I always felt both entertained and enlightened. I hope that there is a rich quantity of shows in reserve for future programs. I don’t know who will ensure the continuation of Jeopardy but I hope it will maintain its integrity and scholarship.

How were Jeopardy and Alex Trebek special for you? Please use the comments section.

Editor’s note: Jeopardy not-so-trivial trivia…When the inventor of the show, Merv Griffin, sold his company to Coca-Cola in 1986, he collected $250 million.

But Griffin kept the rights to one thing, a little tune we all know too well which is played during Final Jeopardy. It is estimated that the Griffin estate’s earnings from that song are approaching $100 million.

Griffin said he wrote it very quickly as a lullaby for his five-year old son Tony and it was originally titled “A Time for Tony.”

It was retitled “Think” and has been used since 1984, when the Alex Trebek era began.

Beheaded in a French Suburb

Protest in France after beheading of Samuel Paty.

Abdalla Azonov had lived in France since the age of 6 but it was in a segregated Chechen community. He was not a good student and had not assimilated into the larger French society.

We might ask why he carried a large, sharp knife on his person. He also carried religious beliefs deeply embedded in his being. And on October 16th, he beheaded a French school teacher in a suburb of Paris.

As I listened to this on the French news and heard the word “beheaded” my mind went to images of the French Revolution. Tumbrels (two-wheeled open carts) conveyed “criminals ” to the guillotine, for their beheading, among them the French Queen, Marie Antoinette as well as King Louis 16th. It was not only for what they had done but for who they were.


Tumbrels carrying prisoners during French Revolution

And now, on October 16th of 2020 it was Samuel Paty who was beheaded by Abdalla Azonov in a suburb of Paris. Paty had been instructing his students about freedom of speech. In so doing he referred to the Mohammad caricatures which had appeared in the French magazine Charlie Hebdo as examples of the liberties of the French press to ridicule any religious or political topic.

Agonov, was offended by his “blasphemous” remarks and took it upon himself to punish the wrongdoer.

The French State and the French Schools, on the other hand stand for freedom from religion as the foundation of a secular state.

A few blogs ago, I wrote about Charlie Hebdo’s recent republication of those images. The proponents of freedom of expression seem prepared to go the extra mile to underline their position. They have hardened their stance and seem prepared to face the consequences.

This kind of stubbornness does not bode well for a resolution. But I don’t think they are interested in
a resolution as much as in entrenching themselves in their beliefs. The other side, of course, never even
aimed for a solution.

French President Emmanuel Macron called the decapitation “a typical Islamist terrorist attack”, thereby angering Turkish President Erdogan and other Islamic leaders. But it is now understood that Agonov as well as the members of the group that murdered three at a church in Nice, France on October 29th were not members of a political or terrorist group and espoused no political agenda.

The uniquely French conception of “laicity” (secularism) means the French simply won’t accept religious intervention in political matters.

The Islamists on their side, hold fast to their view of fundamental Muslim beliefs. To them, religious wrath is an acceptable way of responding to attacks on their faith.

You cannot see the same landscape standing on a fundametalist platform as you do standing on an secular one. These two positions are irreconcilable. There is no middle ground, no possibility of negotiation.

And so they face each other across a chasm of incomprehension.

I am gazing across that chasm.

If you have an opinion about this, please write me a comment. I’m interested in how you see it.

How Do You Justify Your Existence?

Let’s say you are here in the world for a purpose. You can’t “just be.”

But whose purpose? Some would say “there is a creator who had a reason for creating me.” But what if you don’t believe in a creator? Then what makes you what you are?

If you answer: I am here to procreate, that just postpones the question. Why procreate? So that your descendants can also ask the question “Why am I here?” We are back full circle.

Does everything have to have a purpose? What is the purpose of music, dance or art?

We are all members of a society. Each one of us participates in some function of that society. Often the society works to improve the welfare of its members by helping with jobs, family life or personal development.

We have skills we can use on behalf of this community. Here is a purpose we can reflect on. Is this society better off than when you entered it? If you can say “I leave this world in a little better shape than when I arrived,” perhaps that is justification enough for your existence.


The Right To Blasphemy

It has been 5 years since the deadly attack by militant Islamists on the Paris offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo which, along with an attack at a Kosher supermarket left 17 people dead.

The two attackers

Al-Qaeda took responsibility for the attack. The two brothers who conducted the attacks were deeply offended by the magazine’s publishing caricatures of the prophet Mohammed which had originally appeared in a Danish newspaper.

Eight days ago, a new trial opened in Paris to serve as an attempted closure to the events. With the main perpetrators dead, the Court will focus instead on those who provided aid to the attackers. It will also include a formal tribute to the employees of the magazine who were killed.

Cariane Rey survived the attack and testified at the new trial.

Charlie Hebdo, has continued to publish and at the start of the trial republished the same photos that were the subject of the original attack.

In response to the attack, four days after it occurred, two million people in Paris and four million throughout France gathered in a rally of national unity. The country is now remembering one of the worst chapters in its modern history. Demonstrations and unrest in the wake of the attacks left over a hundred people dead.

Demonstration in Paris after the shootings.

In France the right to poke fun at religion is sacrosanct and the right to “blasphemy” is protected.As early as the 18th century, aristocrats and the royal family were objects of satire. Challenging the powers that be is almost an obligation.

The Muslim faith (along with all the other religions by the way) is totally at odds with religious faith being ridiculed. Insult any of them and conflict is likely to ensue. The type and degree of conflict varies dramatically among the religions.

Security will be tight at the new trial. Some of the suspects are in hiding and could not be found. They will be tried in absentia; all the accused will be wearing masks. Charlie Hebdo’s magazine staff concluded their announcement of the trial with the words:

We do not forget
We will always continue to speak, to write, to draw.