Saturday, May 25, 2019

Memorial Weekend

Memorial Weekend (in the USA) has come around once again. Memorial Day itself will be on Monday, 27 May.

I can, in good conscience, do no other but post the following, with which I wholeheartedly agree.

In 1974, Howard Zinn was invited by Tom Winship, editor of the Boston Globe, who had been bold enough in 1971 to print part of the top secret Pentagon Papers on the history of the Vietnam War, to write a bi-weekly column for the op-ed page of the newspaper. He did that for about a year and a half. The column below appeared June 2, 1976, in connection with that year's Memorial Day. After it appeared, Zinn's column was cancelled.
Memorial Day will be celebrated as usual, by high-speed collisions of automobiles and bodies strewn on highways and the sound of ambulance sirens throughout the land.

It will also be celebrated by the display of flags, the sound of bugles and drums, by parades and speeches and unthinking applause.

It will be celebrated by giant corporations, which make guns, bombs, fighter planes, aircraft carriers and an endless assortment of military junk and which await the $100 billion in contracts to be approved soon by Congress and the President.

There was a young woman in New Hampshire who refused to allow her husband, killed in Vietnam, to be given a military burial. She rejected the hollow ceremony ordered by those who sent him and 50,000 others to their deaths. Her courage should be cherished on Memorial Day. There were the B52 pilots who refused to fly those last vicious raids of Nixon's and Kissinger's war. Have any of the great universities, so quick to give honorary degrees to God-knows-whom, thought to honor those men at this Commencement time, on this Memorial Day?

No politician who voted funds for war, no business contractor for the military, no general who ordered young men into battle, no FBI man who spied on anti-war activities, should be invited to public ceremonies on this sacred day. Let the dead of past wars he honored. Let those who live pledge themselves never to embark on mass slaughter again.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Good (but rather whiffy) Old Days

This question at Quora a few days ago received an answer from yours truly. This is what I wrote in response to:

Are you old enough to remember when outhouses were used?
I am indeed! My grandparents lived in a tiny village in East Yorkshire, England. They had no indoor plumbing until the early 1950s, so water had to be brought in from a pump in a communal yard, catering to a row of five cottages. Each cottage had a long narrow garden at the back, at the end of which was the outhouse - though it wasn’t called an outhouse in Yorkshire. I don’t remember what we did call it in conversation; in formal language it was called an ‘earth closet’.

I also recall visiting my great grandparents’ small farm in an even more rural setting, and seeing their earth closet : an earth closet made for two. Very sociable! :)

Using earth closets wasn’t pleasant, but imagine the poor souls whose job it was to empty them! These men, of ultra-strong constitution, were called ‘scavengers’ , they toured the area once a week or so, emptying the earth closets into a big specially designed truck with sliding lids. The stink was indescribable as the scavengers passed by.
After pondering, later, on the question of "what we called it", I eventually recalled my grandparents' comments when they were about to use the earth closet: "I'm just going up t'garden" - translated into British English = "I'm just going to the loo."

Monday, May 20, 2019

Monday's Mumbles about Movies

On Saturday evening we watched a couple of movies via Amazon Prime. I picked them because, from the brief outline themes, neither promised beaucoup gratuitous violence, blood and guts.

Big Night (1996)

Big Night is one of those often engaging "foodie" stories. Two Italian brothers, immigrants to the New Jersey Shore, run a restaurant, The Paradise, serving fine Italian food. Primo is the chef, Secundo Maitre d'. The business is not doing well - near to foreclosure in fact - possibly Primo's wonderful food is simply "too good for this place". Another restaurateur with a business close by hears of their plight. He suggests that he should contact a celebrity and friend of his to ask that he and his entourage should visit The Paradise one evening to bring in some custom and help in spreading the word about the excellent Italian fare available.

I'll not spoil the film's theme further, but will say that, though we didn't dislike the movie, there were some weird omissions and a really iffy ending. It was nice to see Tony Shalhoub (Monk) in an early role here, and Allison Janney too (CJ Cregg in The West Wing).

The film received very good reviews - most of which I feel were way overblown - but the sight of great food can do that to some people!

The Virgin Suicides (1999)

Based on a 1993 novel by Jeffrey Eugenides, the film was directed by Sofia Coppola (in her feature directorial debut), co-produced by Francis Ford Coppola, and starring James Woods, Kathleen Turner, Kirsten Dunst, and Josh Hartnett. The film also features Scott Glenn, Michael Paré and Danny DeVito in minor roles, and a voice narration by Giovanni Ribisi.

I found this to be a rather peculiar movie. Like Big Night, above, it received excellent reviews. Perhaps I just didn't get it. Maybe I don't remember what it was like being a teenager (but actually, I do, though I was not one of five!)

I like a movie with a good plot, a twist or two, and a satisfying end. I do wonder if the famous surname of the director of this movie might have....well...influenced critics more than a tad! None of this story felt at all real, reasonable or believable to me - except, perhaps the first suicide.

Without giving away too much (as though the film's title doesn't!) the story's focus is on 5 young sisters, aged between 13 and 17, living in suburban Detroit with their loving but ultra-strict and over-protective parents. Those facts along with the title is really all you need to know, apart from continually needing to ask, "Why?"

I read around some reviews of both the novel and film later. I came across one comment which put a more metaphorical spin on the novel's, and therefore the movie's theme: "I see the suicides in this book as an expression of the often senseless loss and decay that is happening in the world around us today." Remember, too, that the story is set close to Detroit, a centre of recent loss and decay. So... watching the movie through that lens, perhaps it wouldn't seem quite so peculiar.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Astrology in the 21st Century

A good read for anyone with views on astrology and its validity:

Approaching Astrology With a 21st Century Mind
Written by: Armand Diaz, PhD.

Some paragraphs from the beginning of the piece:

When I tell people that I am an astrologer, I get a range of reactions, from bemusement and even anger at one pole, to excited enthusiasm at the other. Many people seem to wonder what went wrong – how could an educated, intelligent person in the 21st century possibly give any credence to something like astrology?

This article is in no way an attempt to convince anyone of anything about astrology. All I’m doing here is laying out a few prerequisites, things that are “necessary but not sufficient” to consider that astrology may have some validity. Without some experience of astrology – good astrology – none of this is going to seem particularly compelling. To be honest, we’re going to have to get a bit heady if we really want to understand how we can approach astrology with a 21st century mind.

Not Fitting In
If you’re already comfortable with astrology, it might not seem necessary to work out the details, but I think it is worthwhile to try to see how things fit together. Many people who have an interest in astrology or other metaphysical things tend to keep quiet about it, because although they see value in them they know that they don’t quite fit in with the rest of their world view.

In recent years, astrology has gotten a bit of support. For example, Richard Tarnas, who wrote The Passion of the Western Mind, a popular book on the history of Western thought that is widely used in colleges, has also written Cosmos and Psyche. Stanislav Grof, a pioneering psychedelic researcher, physician, and psychologist has endorsed astrology as means of predicting when transformative breakthroughs will occur.

However, suggesting that astrology may have some value frequently does less to elevate astrology than to lower the status of the endorser. It is a trap that catches anyone who looks outside of mainstream thought: no matter how “skeptical” and careful you are, if you are even looking at astrology, energy healing, psychics, life after death, any anomalous phenomenon, you are already something of a kook.
[Note from me: Ain't that the truth!!]

The first thing we should consider is temperament. William James, the great American psychologist, used the terms idealist and materialist, which Jung saw as something like what he meant by introvert and extrovert. But this distinction in temperament has been in operation for a long time. In the West, we usually trace it back to Plato (the idealist) and Aristotle (the materialist).

Materialists see the physical world as the real stuff, and mental and emotional contents as somewhat ephemeral. To them, the reality of a material object with all of its concrete, measurable properties, is obviously more substantial than the changeable world of ideas, which are just “in your head.”

Idealists think very differently. For them, the material world is real, all right, but it is transient. This or that physical object will be around for a while, but the underlying idea or form of it is transcendent. This snowflake or that leaf will last a short time, but the overall pattern of the seasons is a different story – it remains while the particulars change...............

Last paras:

Almost no one today could hear about astrology and think that it made sense or that it was coherent with their view of the world. Experience with it might do the trick, assuming that one has both an idealist bent and the requisite understanding of the creative nature of symbols, and a sense that matter and meaning may co-occur.

Even so, it’s a lot of work. If all we got for it was a bit more understanding of our relationships and a good time to ask the boss for a raise, it probably wouldn’t be worth it. But astrology – for those willing to take a look – offers something more: an experience of the harmony of matter and meaning, experiential evidence that we are not empty shells scattering through a meaningless void.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019


The International Day of Families is observed on the 15th of May every year. The Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 with resolution A/RES/47/237 and reflects the importance the international community attaches to families. The International Day provides an opportunity to promote awareness of issues relating to families and to increase knowledge of the social, economic and demographic processes affecting families

In honour of the day, I'm borrowing some vintage photographs of families, identities unknown, from my husband's collection at Lost Gallery and Flickr

If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people.
Thich Nhat Hanh quotes (Vietnamese Monk, Activist and Writer. born 1926)

The family is one of nature's masterpieces.
George Santayana

Rejoice with your family in the beautiful land of life! ~Albert Einstein

The Only child?

In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future.
Alex Haley

Proud Relatives of Sons "called to arms"?

A family is a unit composed not only of children but of men, women, an occasional animal, and the common cold. ~Ogden Nash

"The occasional animal" (+ my husband's caption)

Oh. I was just looking for my um...ball. Yeah, that's it. Pork chop? No. No, I haven't seen any pork chop.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Maximum Age Limit for Voting ?

A question posed at Quora: Should there be a ‘Maximum Age Limit’ for voting in elections?

Oh dear! A quote: “Discrimination on the basis of age is as unacceptable as discrimination on the basis of any other aspect of ourselves that we cannot change.”
― Ashton Applewhite, This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism.

Elections, in the UK, USA and in most other countries are an opportunity to vote for representatives in government (local and national) for a limited period - 4 years, 5, 6 and with the opportunity, in future elections, to extend, within limits, those periods. Older voters most certainly have a stake in how their city, town, county, state or country will be governed during the next few years. To argue otherwise has no basis in fact.

A few snips from Quora answers:

At what point do you feel a Senior Citizen’s opinion has become so worthless that his/her Constitutional right should be revoked? As I see it: understanding, knowledge, experience, preferences, and opinions do not come with a shelf life like a carton of milk. (from Al Nolf's answer)

But just to be devil’s advocate, the best reason to limit the voting right of the very aged (say 85+) is that they are not going to have to live with the long-term consequences of their vote and so their votes should not have as much sway. My own parents actively decided not to vote once they got to be in their mid-late 80’s for just this reason. They felt the world belonged to the younger folks and they should be the ones to decide how it went forward.
(From Ellen Garbarino's answer.)

Yes, there should be a maximum age limit for voting. It’s better known as death. Up to that point — but hopefully not beyond — we need the input from people who have actually been around the block a few times.
(From Susan C Weber's answer)

Absolutely not. Only someone young and inexperienced who has not experienced the process of aging, who has not looked back on their lives with regret in regards to the assumptions they were so sure about would propose such a ridiculous idea. (Ridge Green's answer)

Mark Hartman wrote (with the added disclaimer "/sarcasm"):
I am all in favor of imposing a maximum age limit, and raising the minimum age limit.
No person below the age of 30 should be permitted to vote.
No person above the age of 150 should be permitted to vote.

And Al Eisenmenger wrote:
If it were not for the Senior Citizens that fought for your right to vote you wouldn’t have a Country to vote in….