Saturday, April 23, 2016

April 23, 1564-1616

A historian belives that this is the only surviving image of William Shakespeare produced in his
lifetime. To the right of the head is a cipher, which translates as William Shakespeare.

I received a clipping from my mother's mother, Eudice Bernstein -- the
original Yuie (as she shares a cognomen* with my daughter Eugenia) -- in 1978.
Arthur Weyne’s sister used to take the Avenue A bus from 10th Street to Houston almost every work-day morning. "At Fifth Street," he recalls her telling him, "almost every morning, a short, frowzy, chunky shlump of a woman would be waiting for the bus and board it with groans, glowers,protests, and have exertions. She carried bundles – always. They were of a clumsy dimension, varying sizes and divers degrees of vulnerability; there were never fewer than four."

"She always paid her fare grudgingly, then flopped into a seat at the front, sometimes commandeering one with an authority no one ever disputed, and sat there frowning, creaking and giving off emanations of menace. Since she had started her cascade of complaints on the step of the bus, and went on from her seat, haranguing the driver: he stopped too far from the curb; the step was much too high; the fare was unreasonable; he drove like a wild Indian. She went on beyond Houston, so my sister never knew whether she ever stopped caterwauling.

"One day in April, as my sister's bus was approaching Fifth Street, she was relieved to see that Complaining Cora – as of course she known: her name was Cora – was
not at the curb.

But a woman was waiting for the bus, and the driver stopped to take her on. Lo and behold! – my sister insisted this was the only way to express it – the woman was Cora: bundleless, dressed in a lovely frock, a flowered hat and long white gloves. More startling than her costume was her face. She was beaming – pleasant, jovial, gay.

"Cora didn't merely board – she made an entrance. She paid her fare, even the coins tinkled gaily. Then the startled passengers began to call out, 'Is that you, Cora – really you?' The driver pulled the bus to the curb, stopped and faced her, 'What's "hoppen", Cora?'

"'Nothing is "hoppen"', she said, as though proclaiming an amnesty. "'Today is Shakespeare's birthday.'

--Lawrence Van Gelder New York Times,
The Living Section, page C2, June 27, 1979.

*Look it up

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Cleaning for Passover: Removing Chametz

imageThose who know me best, often accuse me of being obsessed with tidying up.

Mind you this is largely because I am the one telling them to pick things up.

But I have been enjoying cleaning up for this Pesach (Passover). 

We will be hosting both a first and second night Seder again, but the second night will be somewhat special, as invited the cast from the play I was participating in will be joining us.

Despite the play being put on by the Seattle Jewish Theater Company, half the cast were not Jews, and the Jews mostly had other plans, so it will be for me an ecumenical affair.

But back the to the cleaning.

The idea of cleaning before Pesach is to remove Chametz – leavened items (also to get the gook out of the shelving). 

Anthropologically, this may relate to an older festival of restarting the bread yeast at the turn of the seasons, which was coupled with a lambing holiday.

There is a rabbinical teaching (some older than Corinthians I 5:8), that this makes Pesach a useful time to think of what is metaphorically old and tired dough, and remove it.

Sort of making the holiday (which is also a Jewish New Year) do double duty.

So, between contracts, having finished the play, and I suppose I should give this some thinking* on what I should/need to clean up in my life.

I try and get rid of bad habits, or figure out what do with my life.

There is also garden weeding, the family filing system, and the front gate.

Taking advice from the cats, nap first.

*Queue the dog standing on its hinder legs comments.

Monday, April 18, 2016

He who troubles in his own house....

The article, Why populist uprisings could end a half-century of greater economic ties - The Washington Post, is somewhat pedestrian, as are most the the comments in it.

One stood out to me, for its cluelessness

"There’s a sense that it [trade policy] hasn’t delivered,” IMF chief economist Maury Obstfeld
You think?

It is not a sense, but a fact that it has not delivered for a lot of people

One would expect in a democracy, that if a lot of people had a serious problem with a policy, we would call it a valid point -- at the very least.

Instead these people get:

“Trying to go back in time, trying to safeguard the achievements of the past will backfire. Because we cannot do that,” said Hans Timmer, the World Bank’s chief economist for Europe and Central Asia.
Not only does that beg the question, it misses the point.  Going forward as we have been has backfired for lots of people.

As a response, this is just as bad as:
“This movement toward isolationism and the movement away from trade is very bad for poor people,” Kim [World Bank President Jim Yong Kim] said last week in Washington.
Gee, losing your way of life, too bad, but in the long run it will help people you don't know -- and the very rich.

I have often wondered if the extreme hard turn toward 19th Century liberal economics and the end of the Soviet threat as and economic, and then a political model, may have some relation. It would make an interesting doctoral thesis question 100 years from now.  Assuming we still have history.

Social Media Etiquette and the future God-Empress of the Universe.

YuieAndMax02_thumb2April 1, 2016, Eugenia Montsaroff -- for reasons sufficient unto to this day, known to her father as the future God Empress of the Universe – left Seattle to spend the next two months living in the commune of Lalinde of the Dordogne department in the southwest of the French Republic.

Her grandparents generously will be hosting her. They also moved some some of the French school bureaucracy, and she will be attending a local ‘college’*, for which we can’t thank them enough.

Social Media Etiquette is germane here because I wrestled with the appropriateness of posting this new item.

It is not that I am concerned about violations of Eugenia or my folks privacy, but rather a desire not to be intrusive to members of my social media “network.” 

There were similar concerns in my mind about mentioning the time I dislocated my shoulder, or Eugenia’s bat mitzvah, and similar items.

I have some difficulty being sure that people actually want to know about the content of other’s personal lives.

Generally, I post about political or social issues, or humor.  These I consider, perhaps wrongly, to be of general interest and annoyance**.

However, I decided, that for selfish reasons, I do want people to know about this trip – whether they want to our not.

But how much to tell?  I am, perhaps to the surprise of many, an intrinsically private person.  It isn’t in me to post a snap of a meal, or a lovely scene – not only is it generally no one else’s business, I can’t conceive of their interest.

Currently I am swamped by posts, most of which I ignore, though that some times means I miss things like – my husband had a heart attack, or I am going in for surgery.

So, should I say that Sam (younger brother, and up and coming bear of all trades) just got his yellow belt in Aikido, or that the run of my play has ended and how I feel about it, or that my buffer colored tabby is trying to sit on my hands as I type? 

Do people want to actually know no more about other people’s lives, and what should they be told?

*We had to work the Seattle School bureaucracy, which was harder and less satisfactory.
**The level of response suggests that not that much interest, but still.

Friday, April 8, 2016

It's a poor sword that cuts but one way.

I have a feeling that the latest campaign news, Bernie Sanders plans short hiatus from New York campaign trail to speak at the Vatican, will make so people happy.

I am not one of them.

Whatever virtues the current Pope has, to my mind this is inappropriate.

The Pope is a foreign leader (Prince Bishop of the Vatican City State), so he (like Netanyahu) should have no role in American elections.*

The United States is supposed to be republic of laws accepted and applying to people of fundamentally differing views**, and issues are supposed to be decided in conversation over the merits of the creation and enforcement of those laws.

Even a domestic a religious leader should no more role than that of any citizen, and appeal to religious argument is in and of itself dangerous to a republic.

I may be motivated by my religious upbringing to form certain political and economic positions one thing.  I cannot, and will not expect anyone (even my own people) to accept that as a valid political argument.

That one might (as I do to some degree) agree with the Pope's conclusions, does not validate the appeal to religious authority in public discourse. 

If it did, what of the Pope's other pronouncements, or the positions of the President of the Church of Latter Days Saints, the President of the Southern Baptist Convention, or the Lubavicher Rebbe?

I will not lift this sword, as I do not want it lifted by my enemies.

* I am no more willing to believe that this invitation was extended without consideration of American domestic politics that Netanyahu's speech to Congress.

** A paraphrase of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.: 'A Constitution is made for people of fundamentally differing views'.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Not an Arsenal for Democracy

Before it gets completely out of date, I thought I would let the world know what I had learned at my local Washington State caucus.

I could simply say how these caucuses aren't as good as the ones I participated in when younger, back home, which for me is in Minnesota.

This will make me sound like a cynical old man*.

But something about these proceedings struck me as fundamentally wrong.

From my perspective, a precint caucus is supposed to be a face to face a meeting of persons committed to a party and its idea.  That is a grass roots event.

It should occur more frequently than every four years, and be more than a tool of a presidential campaign.

I did not attend a precinct caucus, but attended a number of caucuses held in a moderately sized multi-purpose, Gymnasium basketball.

This denotes a certain lack of serious as a grass roots event.  We might have almost have been face to face but:

  1. No one could hear.
  2. The convenor didn't really know the rules 
  3. Information wasn't shared (I didn't find out the date for the convention for which I was selected as a noncommitted delegate until I googled)   
Worst of all, the only thing accomplished was vote on a presidential candidate.

We have an open congressional seat and an open state legislature, but we didn't discuss those.

We didn't select precinct officers, discuss party organization, or (shudder) the platform. should've been discussing those issues we should've been electing our precinct officers.

We didn't discuss how to get together and divide work for the election.

We didn't function as a party meeting.

What did happend was to fall into the tramp of personality cultism, which seems to permeate the American left.  Neither Sanders nor Clinton will govern without an effective political infrastructure.  The other side has it.

I don't know how to fix this locally.  Even if I thought there were those about me who thought this congenial, I am not a person who could rally them**.  Mind, even if I tried, literally no one would have heard me in that room.

To change the political system, an organized party, with some discipline, is required.  Not a hero culture.

*"The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it." -- GBS

**Contrary to what many people think, I am not unself aware, and know the limitations of my personality.