Saturday, June 22, 2019

A Visit to Quebec City

We just returned from Quebec City, my husband and I, and I can honestly say that it is the most beautiful city in north America.

We made a stop over on our way up from Boston, to visit some friends who live in the northern most part of New Hampshire. The North Country is part of the Great North Woods, a vast wooded area stretching across most of the Eastern States. It is the area north of Franconia Notch in the White Mountains, that most tourists find too far and too remote. That is why we like it so much.

The North Country is a mix of pine forest, and mostly non-working dairy farms and, as is often the case when cultivation meets wilderness, the result is a unique landscape of rolling fields covered with yellow dandelions against a background of dark green pine forests.

Our friends live on a 300 acre property, set deep in the forest, away from the small town of Colebrook. Sadly, ATV’s (All Terrain Vehicles) are taking over this northern-most corner of the state. Giving these monstrous vehicles access to the habitat of the remaining wildlife will certainly kill the goose that lays the golden egg, but the locals see it as one of the few sources of income for an area where most residents are on welfare. The local authorities have opted for a shortsighted and temporary solution by allowing their pristine forests to be destroyed. It’s either the deer and local fauna or food on the table.

The day we left, the ATV season opened. There is a hunting season, a snowmobile season and an ATV season. We heard them thundering down the peaceful country lanes, usually in groups, which made the noise deafening. At the local gas station we saw them stack up on six-packs and cigarettes before hopping onto their ‘quads’ and ‘goosing’ them until the air was filled gasoline fumes.

Ten miles up the road, we arrived at the Canadian border. Gone are the good old pre-9/11 days when all you needed to cross was a driver’s license. Now, you need a passport. It is not les Canadiens’ fault. The US won’t let you back in without proof of residency and valid identification. Because I was a political refugee for most of my childhood, I felt the butterflies having a field day in my stomach while we were waiting for the border guard to come back with our documentation.

With a sigh of relief, we drove on. Speed limit signs in kilometers left us guessing at our speed, so we just followed other cars’ lead, hoping that they were are law abiding Canadians. Read more...

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Why do we Age? *

According to Hemingway, getting older happens two ways: Slowly over a stretch of time and then all at once. He compared it to bankruptcy, but I like to compare it to falling asleep, since I am an insomniac.

The slow way is what gets you. There are no signs on the road of life marked ‘hazardous period ahead’ or ‘bumpy stretch of road’. Then, out of the blue, you find yourself on a road with a large ‘dead end’ sign looming in the distance.

You see, most life stages give you clear warning signs that changes are ahead. It is no longer acceptable to suck your thumb and you need to recluse yourself in a small room instead of staying put, when you have to pee. You start growing boobs and get your period, clear signs that things will be different. Pregnancy gives you 9 months to recover from the shocking realization that you are not the most important person in the world and although raising kids is too time consuming to worry about what comes next, just watching your kids grow is clear evidence that things are about to change.

Kids gone, free at last, you think. But that’s when the trouble starts, because once you are done reproducing, the road signs are few and far between. Who cares about those few wrinkles? It makes you look exotic. Prescription glasses? No problem. Don’t young kids have them too? Grey hair is in these days, isn’t it? Life is good! Until one day, it isn’t. Read more...

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Violence; John Wick 3

 My wife and I just saw the movie John Wick 3 - Parabellum. Or actually, we just saw about half of it. Then we walked out.

It takes a lot to make me walk out of a movie. I’m a miser. I don’t like wasting my money. I generally consume everything I pay for.

I find this new movie’s enormous popularity and the rave reviews it gets from both the public and the critics a scandal. During its first week, the film ranked Number One at the box office.

The audience rating at IMDb is 8.2 out of 10 - the same as classics such as Metropolis, The Third Man, and Indiana Jones. Absurd! The audience of Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 93% approval rating, and the critics at Rotten Tomatoes nearly as much - 89%. The general public’s taste can be expected to be flawed, but the critics? What’s the matter with these folks?

Of the 216 reviews published by Rotten Tomatoes, only 24 are negative. The remaining 192 are superlative. Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times writes that this film is “superb wall-to-wall action entertainment, filled with dark humor...” he gives it three-and-a-half stars out of a maximum four. I usually like Roeper’s reviews. I really enjoyed his show with Roger Ebert, and I miss it. But this? Shame Read more...

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Toxic Masculinity: A Confusing Term


In ‘My Cousin was my Hero, until the Day he Tried to Kill me’, a fascinating article about the toxic aspects of male identity, author Wil S. Hylton describes how his cousin and best childhood friend beat him up so badly that he had to be hospitalized.

There is a lot of talk about ‘toxic masculinity’ these days, especially since sexual harassment and abuse scandals have dominated the news. But what is meant by ‘toxic masculinity’? According to the ‘Good Men Project’, a..., ‘toxic masculinity is a narrow and repressive description of manhood, defined by violence, sex, status and aggression and showing emotions is considered a weakness.

But doesn’t the word ‘toxic’ mean ‘poisoning’? It mostly affects the one that is exposed to the toxic substance directly. Which are men. If the term 'toxic masculinity' is to be taken seriously, we should be focusing on men, not women.

What is meant by masculinity?
Your biological sex and your gender are not the same thing. Being borne a male does not predetermine gender identity — one’s sense of being male, female or another gender. So if you are born a male, you are not necessarily masculine.

The image of Neanderthal man with his club fighting saber toothed tigers while his woman is cooking dinner leads one to the conclusion that gender distinction between male and female is a natural state of affairs. But in fact, a new scientific study, headed by anthropologist Mark Dyble, shows that hunter-gatherer tribes were much more egalitarian and the social inequality between the sexes came later with the advent of agriculture. In other words, we ‘invented’ a version of masculinity that does not necessarily reflect what’s going on in nature.* Read more...

Friday, May 17, 2019

The Absence of Racism

 As children, my sisters and I spent several years (1950-52) in a French boarding school. The place was called Valmondois, near the town of Auvers, about 80 kilometers north of Paris. This was the dark and grizzly place made famous by Van Gogh and his paintings of the potato people.

The boarding school was actually not unattractive. The setting was rural, located in a lush wooded region. The supervision and teaching were adequate.

The Institution housed about seventy kids. It was a relatively middle-class boarding school, not a penal institution or a place for wayward juveniles, but neither a fancy Swiss-like place for millionaires’ kids. It was an institution where hard-working Parisians parked their children for a few years, visiting them on weekends, as did our mother.

The children ranged in age from seven to fourteen. When my mother dropped us off, my sisters were nearly eight and I was nearly ten. Not that toughness wasn’t expected. Any group of young children has its pecking order, its bullies, its sadists, its victims, its conflicts. Cliques always exist, groups gang up on their weakest members under the demagoguery of brutal and cunning leaders. Lord of the Flies is a familiar scenario. Read more...

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The Mueller Report

Like many Americans, I have come to see the “Russiagate” scandal as tedious. I find our current president disgraceful, a man who is inflicting irreparable damage upon our country. However, after two years of scandal mongering, I find the democratic response pathetically ineffective. And the status quo may not change in the foreseeable future. Trump has a very good chance of being reelected. The Republicans have a good chance of holding on to power.

Plus: Russia-mongering has never appealed to me - not during the Red Scares of the 1950s and not now. To me, stoking the flames of anti-Communism in the past looked like a diversionary tactic by the plutocracy, and today’s anti-Russian frenzy feels a bit like a déja-vu.

I clicked on the Mueller Report ’s URL anyway, lukewarmly, just for a quick glance at what I thought I already knew.

Well, let me tell you: It’s surprisingly impressive! The report shows beyond any doubt in juicy detail what sort of abominable regime a minority of the American people “elected” in 2016. Read more...

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

The Old New World Order


I went to see the documentary ‘Apollo 11’ yesterday. It was the first of a series of manned moon landings, all of them American. The suspense was palpable. Even though every member of the audience knew the outcome, we were on the edge of our seats as the Eagle approached the surface of this never explore celestial body. It left me with a sense of awe and admiration. This happened a life-time ago, when I was in the prime of my life and still living in Europe, but this first landing was a symbol of what a super-power at the zenith of its ascent can accomplish. That was America at its best.

After WW2 ended, the United States established what is known as the “New World Order’. It was to prevent the world from repeating the mistakes that had led to a world that had been filled with wars and conflicts. Behind it was an ideology of liberalism backed up by military power.

I was born during the Second World War and have spent my entire life in the comfort and ease of what the United States created. The New Liberal Order was not created out of a sense of altruism, but because, as we all know, Americans are pragmatists: they do what is best for them, as most nations do. And what is best for America is a world with as little conflict as possible. It was to guarantee that the world would be a safe place to conduct trade, promote liberal values and avoid conflict by diplomacy and compromise. Read more...