Category Archives: Current Events

Comments on the Passing Scene #1

French President Emmanuel Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron

Editor’s note. From time to time, Simone sends us short commentary like the one below. We will publish the most interesting of these. These thoughts came in response to the Macron victory in the French election.

I am glad France has reversed course. I am glad Macron is pro-European. But why? oh why? couldn’t we do it here? Why do we have to put up with these Mafia criminals in the White House? And who will have the guts to sack them?

Our current resident makes Nixon look like a saint and George W like a genius. (and Marine Le Pen like a nuisance)

I guess we can thank our overly long campaign season and our electoral system for our woes.

Macron was a dark horse but perhaps will prove to be a good one.

Better or Worse (Part 2, a year later)

better-or-worse-signs

 

Editor’s note…This is a guest post from Simone’s daughter, Dina

About a year ago, my mother and I were discussing things that had gotten better or worse in our lifetimes. This developed into a blog post about practical matters like service, medical care, and email. Recently we visited this topic again and looked at things that had gotten better or worse in the larger social and economic plane. Again we realized that in some areas we make progress; in others we lose ground, and in still others, we progress only to slide back.

Worse The issue of income disparity and the erosion of the middle class is an area where things have gotten worse in our lifetimes. Both the blue-collar and white-collar middle class have suffered loss of jobs and loss of job security. The middle-class dream of working hard, buying a house, taking vacations, and sending your kids to college is harder to attain today. Many jobs have been out-sourced overseas; unions have lost much of their power; housing and college have become much more expensive. At the same time, the famous one-percent controls a much larger proportion of the nation’s wealth than ever before. In economic opportunity, we have slid back.

Better We thought about women’s rights. Women have made huge strides. In my mother’s day, the only way to leave your parent’s home was to get married. Women did not simply go out and get an apartment and a job, which is more normal today.

Most women did not go to college and worked very often as secretaries, usually stopping after marriage. Generally their only choice if they did have a college degree was to be a teacher. Today, more women than men go to college. The law, medical and business schools are full of women. While still facing limitations at the highest levels, women have career opportunities that their mothers and grandmothers could not have imagined.

When I was a child if you went to the doctor the doctor was a man and the nurse was a woman. Today, very often, the doctor is a woman and, in a turn that has liberated men as well as women, the nurse is often a man.

The development of the birth control pill in the late 1960’s went far to liberate women and allow them to take control of their own lives. Today women tend to get married and have children later, and are free to use their early adulthood for education and to start their careers if they wish.

Better, then Worse In 1973, women gained the right to a legal and safe abortion. While abortion is a personal matter, the point really is to give women a choice. In this area we have slid back, as individual states have enacted many restrictions on the right to get an abortion. Today it is harder to get an abortion than it was in 1973.

Better Then we thought about gay rights where there has been enormous progress in our lifetimes. For a long time, homosexuality was not a topic that many heterosexuals were comfortable with or even understood. Gay people did not dare let their orientation be known; they risked losing their jobs or being attacked in the street. Same-sex marriage was allowed by certain jurisdictions only in 2004 when Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriages and all the rights that come with them.

Gradually at first and then very rapidly, our society’s attitudes changed and opened.

And then, in June 2015, the Supreme Court made gay marriage the law of the land – a huge leap forward.

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better-or-worse-500

 

 

Post-Scripts…..

An advance we never thought we would see – Obama

A regression we never thought we would see – Trump

I Object! (second publishing)

objection

If you are seeing this for the second time, we are sorry. Something went wrong with the first send
and want to be sure everyone got a copy…. -.ed

I object to the picture of a beautiful woman in a red dress seated at a banquet table with a painful smile pasted on her face. I object to her having to listen to the jokes of her husband which she has heard too many times. I object to her being displayed like a valuable diamond or a royal snuffbox. I object to her not being able to get up and say: “Please excuse me, I am tired of this farce.”

I also object to the picture of a Chinese woman equally imprisoned in her seat. She is probably tired and not enjoying her food but at least she does not have to smile endlessly. I object to the two men who dominate this picture.

I object to a hypocritical Republican Senate which has firebombed long standing Senate rules and practices in order to force-feed us their Supreme Court candidate. Judge Gorsuch will inflict severe damage on the American scene long after most of these cynical Senators are gone.

I object to a hypocritical man who bemoans the fate of “beautiful babies” whose parents he will not admit into the United States.

I object to the abominable fact that we were denied an intelligent and competent woman president because a Russian barricade stopped her at the gate.

I object to the very existence of the man in the Oval Office.

I Object!

objection

I object to the picture of a beautiful woman in a red dress seated at a banquet table with a painful smile pasted on her face. I object to her having to listen to the jokes of her husband which she has heard too many times. I object to her being displayed like a valuable diamond or a royal snuffbox. I object to her not being able to get up and say: “Please excuse me, I am tired of this farce.”

I also object to the picture of a Chinese woman equally imprisoned in her seat. She is probably tired and not enjoying her food but at least she does not have to smile endlessly. I object to the two men who dominate this picture.

I object to a hypocritical Republican Senate which has firebombed long standing Senate rules and practices in order to force-feed us their Supreme Court candidate. Judge Gorsuch will inflict severe damage on the American scene long after most of these cynical Senators are gone.

I object to a hypocritical man who bemoans the fate of “beautiful babies” whose parents he will not admit into the United States.

I object to the abominable fact that we were denied an intelligent and competent woman president because a Russian barricade stopped her at the gate.

I object to the very existence of the man in the Oval Office.

The 1000-Year-Old Cinderella…(glass slipper or squirrel fur?)

It's Almost Midnight at the Ball....

It’s Almost Midnight at the Ball….

It is one of the oldest tales recounted and it exists in one variant or another in most places in the world. Call it a “goodness rewarded” parable, a “rags to riches” tale or a “damsel in distress” story.

It recounts the same events. A man has three daughters: Two are mean and ugly, the third one (always the youngest) is lovely and kind and is mistreated by the other two. Her mother is dead and her stepmother uses her as a servant. Among the menial tasks assigned to her is the cleaning of the chimney and she is covered in ashes or cinders, hence she is known as Cinderella. Her goodness and beauty are recognized and she is rewarded by a marriage to a Prince who falls in love with her and makes her his Queen.

The Disney Version

The Disney Version

 

The oldest version of this tale appeared in China around the year 860. Ye Xian is the good and beautiful daughter who is rescued by a king who marries her. The same legend exists in Vietnam and Indonesia. Remarriages and reconstituted families were even more common in ancient times than today because so many young women died in childbirth and left infants to be raised by other women.

 

The Russian Cinderella

The Russian Cinderella

In Russia Cinderella is called Zolushka. In another version she is Vassilissa the Beautiful and Marco Polo is her rescuer. There is a ballet by Prokoviev called: Vassilissa the Brave.

In Germany in the 19th century the brothers Grimm created yet another fairy tale in which the same heroine is Aschenputtel.

 

Spooky Macedonian Cinderella

Spooky Macedonian Cinderella

The version which we are familiar with originated with Charles Perrault who in 1697 wrote: Les Contes de Ma Mere l’Oye (Mother Goose stories). He also added the Fairy Godmother character (a sort of mother substitute?). Walt Disney’s animated creation is pretty faithful to Perrault’s Cendrillon. (French for Cinderella)

Perrault is also the originator of the “glass slipper” element of the plot which I always found difficult to accept. How could one stand up on glass, let alone dance with shoes made of glass without shattering them? A possible explanation for this is that Perrault was referring to “une pantoufle de vair” which translates as a “squirrel fur slipper” but as the tale went through many copyings, translations and retranscriptions “vair”(squirrel fur) became “verre” (glass). This makes me think of a
miscopying of letters in the genetic code resulting in a mutation of the original which is then repeated in all subsequent versions.

There are kindred stories with slight twists in which one can recognize some elements of the Cinderella theme. In Shakespeare’s King Lear, the youngest daughter Cordelia is the good one. Alas she is not rewarded for it. David Copperfield is a gender reversed story in which the young boy whose father is dead, is mistreated by a stepfather.

And then there is Rossini’s opera: La Cenerentola which takes great liberties with the original plot. The Fairy Godmother is replaced by a kindly Godfather. There is no pumpkin coach. The glass slippers become a pair of bracelets and there is no ball, only a supper. The two sisters are a grotesque caricature of womanhood. These changes seem random and unnecessary to me. In a brilliant coloratura final aria, La Cenerentola, in a halo of goodness and almost sainthood, forgives and embraces everyone.

(editor’s note: We’ve attached a wonderful video of Maria Callas singing this aria. The quality of voice and image is remarkably good. Listening to this helped me understand, for the first time, the singular place Callas occupies among divas. I was particularly struck by her composure and preparation during the first part of this as she waits for the moment to begin singing)