Saturday, 18 December 2010

“My Life as a Traitor” by the Persian/Iranian woman Zarah Ghahramani.

If you are ever tempted to think that the torture of human beings is justifiable:
               Read “My Life as a Traitor” by the Persian/Iranian woman Zarah Ghahramani.

If you are ever tempted to believe that women should be submissive to men (a common belief amongst Evangelical, Anglo-Catholic, and Fundamentalist Christians):

               Read “My Life as a Traitor” by the Persian/Iranian woman Zarah Ghahramani.

If you are ever tempted to say that human rights are relative, and that a passion for them maybe fine in the western democracies, but is inapplicable in other cultures/countries:

               Read “My Life as a Traitor” by the Persian/Iranian woman Zarah Ghahramani.


If you accept without question the premise that each and every opinion, of each and every person, is equally valid:

               Read “My Life as a Traitor” by the Persian/Iranian woman Zarah Ghahramani.


“My life as a Traitor” by Zarah Ghanramani was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, in New York , 2008

Friday, 17 December 2010

An Eagle in sight

As I walked out this morning a neighbour pointed out the glorious sight of a Bald Eagle, perched high on a Pine tree, about half a mile from my home.  I walked back home, jumped in my car, and drove back to the tree, camera in hand.

She/he was still perched atop the tree.  What a wonder. ‘Tis the first time in my life that I’ve seen an Eagle!

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Ike, Oscar and Diane

Amidst the wasteland which is American radio and television there is one programme which is ever worth hearing.  It is the Diane Rehm Show: see

You can read Diane’s own story on the website.  She is a remarkable woman.  Her programme is one which I enjoy in my car most mornings.  The first hour is usually devoted to politics (argh), but in the second hour Diane often features items from the broader cultural world: viz the arts, literature, poetry etc.

Yesterday, (Dec 15th 2010), her guests were David Eisenhower and Julie Nixon Eisenhower. They talked about the Presidency and legacy of Dwight David Eisenhower (1953-1961).

President Eisenhower was always known as “Ike”.  There is no doubt that he is among the “greats” in the pantheon of American Presidents.  He was a Republican in those days before bitter partisanship took over.  He was a Republican for whom many Democrats would vote with enthusiasm.

(A personal note)  I was a politically precocious child who read newspapers from a very young age.  I can clearly remember reading English newspapers (it would have been in 1952 when I was 8 years old) which referenced the Eisenhower slogan “I Like Ike”.  The word “Ike” made no sense to me!  I had never before encountered it as a nick-name.

Diane’s show today (Dec 16th 2010) had to do with Oscar Hammerstein, the lyricist for the fabulous Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals.  Hammerstein’s grandson, Oscar Andrew Hammerstein, was interviewed about his family legacy.  Amongst other things he reminded we listeners of the powerful lyrics from “South Pacific”:

You've got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught to be afraid

Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught before it's too late,

Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught!

Wow!   These are words which are as apt now as when they were first penned.

I am grateful that Diane Rehm re-introduced me to President Eisenhower and to Oscar Hammerstein.

The material below is from the Diane Rehm Show website.

He was the legendary commander of the allied forces of World War II and a two-term president during a time of peace and prosperity. Millions around the world knew him simply as Ike. Now, his only grandson offers a unique perspective on Dwight Eisenhower’s life after he left the White House in 1961 until his death at Walter Reed Hospital in 1969. Historian David Eisenhower reflects on the kind of person his grandfather was. With his wife, Julie Nixon Eisenhower, he has written a new book shedding light on the relationship between Ike and his successors, his influence on politics during his retirement and their personal reflections on one of the 20th century's great leaders.


David Eisenhower: Director of the Institute for Public Service at the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania and author of "Eisenhower at War."
Julie Nixon Eisenhower: author of "Special People" and "Pat Nixon"

Oscar Andrew Hammerstein: "The Hammersteins"

Oscar Hammerstein was perhaps the most influential lyricist of the American theater. Together with collaborator Richard Rodgers, he helped define the modern musical, winning eight Tonys and two Academy Awards in the process.
Oscar Hammerstein was perhaps the most influential lyricist of the American theater. Together with collaborator Richard Rodgers, he helped define the modern musical, winning eight Tonys and two Academy Awards in the process. Oscar Hammerstein wrote the lyrics to some of the most enduring songs and shows in history -- from Showboat to Oklahoma! to South Pacific and The Sound of Music. Fifty years after his death, Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals continue to pack houses on Broadway and throughout the world. But he was not the only Hammerstein to influence musical theater. Oscar Hammerstein’s grandson joins Diane to talk about how his family changed Broadway.


Oscar Andrew Hammerstein: a painter, writer, lecturer and Hammerstein family historian.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Why the grumps?


Yes, I “got out of bed the wrong side yesterday”.    I didn‘t think too much about it until I arrived at St. Boniface, faking good cheer. But when a secretary (C.T.) asked, “how are you? I gave an honest reply “I am feeling very grumpy today”.  I was so glad that she did not try to chivvy me up. Instead she replied: “so am I, every little thing seems to bother me these days”.  

 Later in the day I read the blog “Telling Secrets” which is posted by my Deleware colleague Elizabeth Kaeton.  She commented on “the winter of our discontent”, revealing that grumpiness is not confined to Florida.

I can identify some of the sources of my own grumpiness.   

First, I have been feeling under the weather for a few days with a cold which seems to come and go just about every other day.   

Second, I decided to stop taking an anti-depressant a few months ago.  That was not wise and I must start taking them again. 

Third, I spend far too much time alone (by choice), and this leads me into some introspective “stinking thinking”.

It hasn’t helped that I’ve been reading Taylor Caldwell’s “There was a time”.  It’s a dark book which has a dismal view of human nature. Just over 2/3 of the way through I lost all interest in the miserable protagonist Frank, and could care less how his story ended! I took the unfinished book back to the library today.

Yet, there is a source for my gloom which based on matters over which I have no control.  I am a starry eyed liberal optimist, an unabashed progressive.   That of course leads to my having unrealistic expectations of what is politically possible in this centre-right Country.

Part of me dreamed that President Obama would, if not overnight, then certainly within a year:

close Guantanamo Bay;

repeal “Don’t ask, don’t tell”;

get us out of the unwinnable wars in Iraq and Afghanistan;

reform our regressive tax code;

and introduce a single payer healthcare system.

I suspect that candidate Obama truly believed that those were worthy and accomplish-able goals. But he has discovered something which I should have remembered. It  that “politics is the art of the possible”. Given the makeup of the Congress on both sides of the aisle a truly progressive agenda is simply impossible. 

Hence the recent “Tax deal”.    


It does not help that the President “comes across” as a technocrat, or a policy wonk.  Those may be valuable skills, but they hardly inspire.  

Nor does it help that the President has virtually abandoned the grass roots movement which helped to get him elected.  When a senior White House staffer (possibly Rahm Emmanuel, former Chief of Staff and “Prince of Darkness”) described we progressives as “ retards”  we knew that we no longer had the ear or care of the President.

It “feels” as if we now have “Government on the people, by the Party hacks, for the oligarchs”.   

All this leads me to feel that as a voting citizen I am utterly powerless, a cause for deep gloom.

There is another side to this story which has to do with the obstructionist Republican Party, and the regressive Tea Party Movement. 

I’ll probably blog about that at a later time, but for today “these are the confessions of a gloomy progressive.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Grumpiness and humour

I've been feeling very grumpy today.  I cannot identify any particular reason, but I know that there is a general spirit of grumpiness in the air.  My colleague Elizabeth Kaeton addresses this in her blog today ( Telling Secrets ), and one of the staff at St. Boniface also told me that she too felt grumpy.

I will get back to grumpiness in my blog tomorrow.

In the meantime my spirits were lifted, albeit temporarily.

 In my final and chilly walk with Penne this afternoon I encountered Colleen. 
She and I see each other most mornings on our walks.  Colleen is a dedicated walker so she and I do not linger to chat -  we simply exchange warm greetings; comment on the weather; and celebrate or commiserate about the most recent news of the Boston Red Sox or the New England Patriots.

This afternoon she was a-walking with her husband Bill.  I'd never met him before.  So we stopped for a while for brief introductions; to complain about the weather; and to allow Penne to be the centre of attention as she met Colleen once more, and as she discovered that Bill is a good guy  (i,e,  he likes dogs!).

Colleen and Bill live in Glen Oaks Garden Condominiums (treble story buildings).  I live in Glen Oaks Ridge Condominiums (single story homes). 

We were each walking in the fancy and more upscale  "Glen Oaks Manor".

After Penne and I had completed two peregrinations of the Glen Oaks Manor pond, we returned to Glen Oaks Ridge, only to see Colleen and Bill again.   

They were walking right by my Condo, maybe 15 yards ahead. I cried out:  "I live here at Villa 67".

They ignored me.  I found this to be odd since we'd had such a good chat some 15 minutes before.

I repeated: "I live here at Villa 67" .

They turned around, with looks of bewilderment and nervousness.  

It was not Bill and Colleen.    'Twas another couple  (whom I've never met before).   They were wondering just why I'd called out  "I live here at Villa 67".

I understood their bewilderment.Then I began to blush and to giggle.  I saw the funny side of things.

Truly it must have sounded very odd to this couple when a complete stranger started to announce that he lived in the Villa they happened to be passing.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Ovaltine anyone?

It’s been chilly by Florida standards today.  Although my outside thermometer registered 48f,  it felt much colder because of the winds which have swept down from the arctic. These winds have reached 32 mph.

The temperature will probably fall to below freezing tonight -  this is abnormal for this part of Florida at this time of the year.

There’s no doubt about it.  My bodily metabolism has changed after 4 ½ years in the “Sunshine State”.  

It is all very mysterious.  

I would have welcomed a 48f temperature in Massachusetts at this time of the year.  Now it feels downright cold.

So I’ve had to “bundle up” for my walks with Penne.   She seems to be oblivious to temperature, so we have done our usual 5 miles.  Her head was held high, and her tail was a-wagging, even as I shivered.

In the midst of my shivers I decided that a hot drink was in order.  Neither coffee nor tea appealed to me. 

Instead I thought about a steaming mug of Ovaltine -  something which I have not tasted in more than 50 years.

My local “Sweet Bay” supermarket carries the stuff, so I was able to buy some this afternoon, and then enjoy it.  

Mmmmm ---  It was “pretty good”, and  it, as they say, “hit the spot”.
But I had not realised the provenance of Ovaltine, or known of its history. 


Who could believe that such a simple drink has such a complicated history!

Sunday, 12 December 2010

All in the end is harvest

Yesterday, within the space of half an hour, I was assailed by a cold which left me sneezing and nose wiping.  By 6:30 p.m. I could not even face the prospect of eating.  So I did not eat dinner. Instead I took a couple of anti-histamine pills before taking myself to bed. Then I slept through until 5:00 a.m.  I have been snuffling and sneezing all day, but the anti-histamines are at least mitigating the symptoms.

In the absence of the Rector (he and his wife are in Germany to visit family members who live in Leipzig), I had double duty at St. Boniface Church this morning.

I facilitated the 10:15 a.m. Bible Study.  It was an energising time.  The 25 attendees were fully engaged with the texts. That led to some truly useful dialogue.  

I love to teach the bible, and my teaching was enriched by what I learned from the “students”.

It also fell to my lot to Preside at the 11:15 a.m. Eucharist. One of the choir members (Rachel) sang after we’d all received communion. She has a rich contralto voice. Her solo was “O rest in the Lord” from Mendelssohn’s Oratorio “Elijah”.  Rachel sang it so beautifully.

I was “all ears” since this was one of my Mum’s favourite pieces. I thought of all the times she and I had heard it on the “wireless” back in England.   We most frequently heard the piece as recorded by the legendary English contralto Kathleen Ferrier.



Music has such a skillful and cunning way of evoking memories (both sad and glad).

Earlier today I came upon this snippet from a poem by Edith Sitwell.  (1887-1964)
Love is not changed by death
and nothing is lost,
and all in the end is harvest.

Damn!  Those 17 words fill me with hope and longing.  Thus they also made me sad.