Saturday, December 30, 2017

Fired Up: Glass by Women Artists and Music on Glass by Rela Percussion

At the TMA's Glass Pavilion with friend Jud for Fired Up: Contemporary Glass by Women Artists.
Every time I've been at the Fired Up exhibit at TMA's Glass Pavilion I see something new, something extraordinary.  This time, along with my Peace Corps friend Jud, who was visiting from DC, I saw another layer of  beauty in the art of bringing an image to life in glass.  While the larger pieces stood out on my first visits, like Josepha Gasch-Muche's Pyramid  (German) and Karen LaMonte's Dress Impression (American), this time the little pieces sparkled.  Incredible shapes, colors, use of different materials, tremendous technical innovations, all fused into remarkable art, all catching the light in magical ways.

It's fitting that the Toledo Museum of Art organized this exhibit, and that it's staying up for several months. Afterall, the Studio Art Glass Movement began here. Toledo was the incubator of a new worldwide art movement, truly "the glass city."  In its earliest decades, however, this Movement "dealt with the same sexism that plagued the art world in other areas; women artists faced an uphill battle in their demand for fair recognition of their contributions and their work." (All quotations from TMA artMatters magazine, Sept.-Dec. 2017)

Fired Up features 50 stunning objects showcasing the women who now rank among the most creative and celebrated glass artists in history.

The exhibit draws from the Toledo Museum of Art's renowned glass collection, precious pieces that seemed hidden from view for many years, along with items from personal collections. When my children and I visited TMA in the 1970s and early 80s we loved Dominick Labino's pioneering glass panels that served as the entryway into the fascinating world of glass. But women glass artists? No, I don't remember any.

The Fired Up exhibit changes that. It's easy to see what enormous contributions women from around the world have made to the  movement. The exhibit focuses with laser clarity on "the art that helped women forge a path in the male-dominated Studio Glass Movement of the 1960s to the ingenuity of 21st-century innovations."

 "Their art documents almost six decades of underappreciated influence." (TMA magazine)

A glass artist teaches students
of all ages the art of  glassmaking.
After the exhibit and some lunch at the cafe, delicious beef and mushroom soup, Jud and I went to a glass-making demonstration, which the museum offers daily.  Popular and well-attended, they have engaged thousands of people in the complex process and challenges of using intense heat to shape beautiful glass. The women artists who led this particular demonstration were amazing--physical, creative, confident, a perfectly synchronized team. We watched intently as they created a lovely snowman out of glass, replete with buttons, a nose, a hat and scarf.  The snowman was safely" broken off the pipe" (in the parlance of the craft), paraded in front of the audience to enthusiastic applause, and put away to cool. We left the museum in awe. The demonstrations and classes were still going strong when we returned to the Glass Pavilion that evening.

It was a last minute decision. As I prepared dinner, ads for a concert by a group called Rela Percussion popped into my head.  I asked Jud if he wanted to go back to the museum to hear them. Fortunately, he was as eager to do it as I was, even though we had no idea who they were or what kind of performance it would be. We hastily finished our dinner, bundled up, and took off into a freezing seven-degree snowy night.

What an amazing evening of music and glass it turned out to be, like nothing we had ever experienced before. We were mesmerized as four talented young musicians (who met at Central Michigan music school) started playing on marimbas, a rippling, tingling sound that transported, and then moved gracefully like dancers to playing their soft mallets on a variety of exquisite and colorful fluted bowls, vases, plate glass gongs, goblets, and various art pieces.

We heard the sounds of glass for the first time in new ways: mysterious crackling sounds, harmonic or dissonant riffs, the sounds of bells maybe, or of xylophone, marimbas, pipes, African udu drums and various other drums. I learned later that there is such a thing as a glass marimba, so it might be more natural than I thought to move from playing on a glass marimba to playing on real glass. That's the magic of Rela Percussion, the most innovative fusion of glass and music imaginable. 

The piece was called "Glass Cathedral" and it's four "movements" were taken from the four key elements of nature: Earth, Wind, Fire and Water. Jud and I were grateful to have a handout explaining the music. We couldn't tell when one movement ended and another began, of course, but we sure were drawn into the unique, eerie, ethereal and unusual sounds.  It felt like we were in a New York City avant garde venue listening to music of the future, music made out of glass, the sounds of glass, the sounds of angels perhaps.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

EXPOSED! The Consequences of Male Privilege

We are all victims, men and women, of the centuries-old belief that women are somehow less than fully human beings, that males rule the public sphere and women the home, that males have rights, privileges and prerogatives, and women have socially acceptable roles. The fact that women are born with the same range of talent, intellect, interests, and dreams as men does not figure into this equation. Never has.

These social expectations and cultural beliefs are hard-wired into us from birth. This is what Patriarchy is all about. Betty Friedan, in 1963, called it "the feminine mystique."  And  a "mystique" it is.  The mystique that men are born to rule and women to follow, to obey.  The mystique that men's experiences, needs, ways of thinking and points of view are dominant and have authority, while the voices of women are mute, less important.  Persistence is not considered a virtue in women as it is in men, for example, nor is achievement.

These expectations and roles have become so "normal," so pervasive, so ubiquitous, that they are as much an unconscious ideology as a conscious pattern of behavior.

The ideological rigidity of male and female roles drives men to act on their prerogatives in lots of ways, now painfully evident in the exposure of the extent and depth of sexual harassment. It leaves women to deal with it in their own ways. Some succumb, some recoil, some get hurt, some get angry, some laugh it off as 'men will be men, boys will be boys.'  I don't know of any woman who has not dealt with this behavior, from moderate to severe, in one way or another.  I do know, like most women, that lots of men have fallen into this patriarchal trap, and it's not pretty.

Look at Matt Lauer, the most recent to be exposed.  "As his 20 years as a fixture of U.S. morning television came to an abrupt end, the married 59-year-old Matt Lauer found himself joining the fast-growing ranks of powerful men in U.S. entertainment, politics and media to be felled in recent months by accusations of sexual misconduct." (yahoo news, 11/30/17). While Lauer said some accusations were "untrue or mischaracterized," several of the accused have said something similar, he had to acknowledge that "there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed."

Feeling embarrassed and ashamed.  Doesn't feel good. Women know this feeling well. 

Not too long ago, an all-male Congressional committee made fun of a talented women who struggled to become a lawyer, earned a good government job on her merits, and was then sexually harassed in the workplace. Brave enough to step forward, Anita Hill was put down, her words twisted, in order to put an abusive male on the Supreme Court.

This is the misogyny condoned by patriarchy. Whether conscious or unconscious, it is an abuse of women, especially virulent against achieving women. Anita Hill, in the face of her courage even to confront the issue of sexual harassment, let alone do so in public, was treated as if she were less than human, treated with disdain and disrespect, a life to use, abuse, and demean.

Patriarchy (male dominance) and misogyny (ill-treatment of women) are indeed a central theme of  American history, consigned to what's called "women's history." I started the women's history course at the University of Toledo in the mid-1970s and have taught it off and on for some 30 years, here and in DC and Florida. Whenever I get a chance, I still recommend Eleanor Flexner's Century of Struggle as a basic text. Lots of studies have since been published, but it remains a thoughtful introduction to a complex subject. Teaching women's history has been a labor of love, and the field has exploded, but it's also been a daunting effort to have a voice.

Finding a voice is the essence of women's history. From the beginning of the new experiment in democracy, women's experiences and points of view, the way they think and they way they communicate, have been diminished and silenced. Women had few rights and lots of responsibilities for hearth and home and child raising, for working from sunup to sundown on farms large and small. They had no legal rights (married women were "femme covert" in English Common Law), no right to education, no path into the professions, no right to vote.  Abigail Adams, John Adams' wife, urged the "Founding Fathers" in 1776 to "Remember the ladies," but that was not about to happen.

The ladies were forgotten until they forced the issue at the first-ever Women's Rights Convention at Seneca Falls in 1848. And that was just the beginning.  Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Matilda Gage, and Lucretia Mott are American pioneers, but who remembers them?  Who remembers the ordinary men and women who trudged to that epic meeting with a mixture of fear and hope in their hearts?  Who knows that the platform of the Seneca Falls Convention, all-encompassing, transcendent, is still valid, still relevant, still a work in progress. Everyone should read it.

Women like Susan B. Anthony, the Grimke sisters, Sojourner Truth, and Lucy Stone were among the first to speak out against slavery, pioneer abolitionists, but who remembers them? Who remembers that it was when women were forbidden to speak out against slavery that the women's rights movement was born? Who remembers that it took a century of struggle to win the right to vote? Who remembers that Jane Addams, M. Carey Thomas, Carrie Catt, Alice Paul were reformers and pioneers in social justice at the turn of the 20th century, before men climbed onto the "progressive" bandwagon?

The silence of women's voices in American history, the lack of knowledge about women's efforts to gain rights and respect, to pioneer in equality and social justice, has led us to the present predicaments over sexism in our culture.  So has the lack of interest or concern about the meaning of patriarchy and most of all its consequences.  That's what we are dealing with today. Men in power positions are being exposed and we haven't even gotten to the voices of ordinary women, women of all ages, in all fields of endeavor, who are juggling home, child care and work.

Most of us find nothing gleeful about the exposes. They are not a political game of "gotcha," although men are making it so.  Not about conservatives or liberals, Reds or Blues. They are about a changing culture, about questioning societal roles, attitudes, and expectations.  They are about exposing the excesses of an unconscious but powerful ideology. They are the sad consequences of unfinished business in the area of  equality and human dignity, unresolved issues in the long struggle to find places for women in the broader world.

One day society will recognize--for the good of all, for the common good--that women have many talents, skills and points of view to contribute to our society and to lead us into a strong future. Then women will be found wherever their inherent talents and interests take them, without the barriers of an ideology or role expectations in their path to self-fulfillment and human dignity.  It's never been an easy climb.
Still at it after all these years. Women's March in DC, January 2017
For a copy of the Seneca Falls Declaration, see
One grievance reads that men "have endeavored, in every way that he could, to destroy her confidence in her own powers, to lessen her self-respect, and to make her willing to lead a dependent life.... " A powerful statement at the time.  The Declaration concludes: "Now, in view of this entire disfranchisement of one-half the people of this country, their social and religious degradation--in view of the unjust laws above mentioned, and because women do feel themselves aggrieved, oppressed, and fraudulently deprived of their most sacred rights, we insist that they have immediate admission to all the rights and privileges which belong to them as citizens of the United States." from Elizabeth Cady Stanton, A History of Woman Suffrage , vol. 1 (Rochester, N.Y.: Fowler and Wells, 1889), pages 70-71.  The most radical of the rights called for in 1848?  The right to vote. And it took incredible effort over several generations to achieve it. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Republican Tax Cut "Reform" is a Trojan Horse

“The tax legislation passed by House Republicans last week shouldn’t really be understood as economic policymaking in any traditional sense. It’s not about stimulating growth or investment or improving incentives. It’s class war. Republicans are assisting the efforts of a very small, very rich faction to take an ever-growing share of the nation’s wealth from the rest of us.”
Zach Carter, "Welcome to the Class War," Huff Post, 25 Nov. 2017.

Thomas Nast, Boss Tweed
Trump, the White House trasher, and Congressional Republicans, enabling it to happen, are doing the Koch brothers' and dark money network's bidding to pass a prize tax cut for the 1 percent. They are pushing all the propaganda buttons and ramping up the doublespeak to beat the band. The poor are rich, the rich are poor.  

Get it done, or else,” is the word from the Koch brothers. They said the same about the repeal of Obamacare. 

The Senate bill, McConnell hungering for some victory, will hurt the middle class, workers and the poor. It will set the economy back by increasing the national debt and throwing millions off health care. The House bill is equally damaging for the majority of Americans and for our national economy, thanks to grinning Paul Ryan who smiles at the thought of screwing ordinary workers to get money for the super rich. Whatever any of the Republicans say in support of these bills is a bunch of lies.    

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report is damning. It notes that by 2019, people earning less than $30,000/year would be worse off under the Senate bill. By 2021, Americans earning $40,000 or less would be net losers, and by 2027, most people earning less than $75,000/year would be worse off. The poor would be hit hard. Health insurance premiums would rise if the bill becomes law, leading 4 million Americans to lose health insurance next year, and 13 million by 2027.  On the highest end of the economic scale, millionaires and those earning $100,000 to $500,000 would be big beneficiaries, as would Wall Street bankers and big corporations.

Leading bi-partisan economic and financial analysts, including CEOs, confirm this analysis.  CEOs acknowledge they cannot promise more jobs or wage increases. Everyone knows "trickle down" has never worked. Some 400 hundred CEOs are writing Congress to let it know they are worried about what increasing income inequality and the national debt will do to the economy.  The media is doing a good job of laying out the facts, getting past the smoke and mirrors, searching for the truth of the matter.

Trump only knows the tax bill would enrich himself and his family. He's pushing it like the lowlife Willie Loman he is. He knows as much about tax policy as he knew about the Obamacare repeal.  He cares nothing for the facts, as usual; doesn't consider options or consequences, no surprise there; and is not informed by principles or beliefs, as McCain reiterates. 

Does the CBO report on its ill effects on his fan base bother him?  Does he care that's it's giving corporations a $2 trillion tax break at a time they're making record profits?  Does he care that the Senate bill would kick 13 million poor people off  health insurance? Does he care that the tax bill is full of loopholes for Wall Street's wealthiest, or that the 1 percent now hold a record 38.65 percent of the nation's total wealth, up from 33 percent a decade ago?

Nah. He's calling the Republican tax "reform" a "Christmas gift" to the people. Tax cuts for the middle class. Tax cuts for all. Best thing for the economy since sliced bread. These are outright lies, shallow and without substance, but Republicans are hammering home the message and ramming it down our throats anyway. 

So we have Ohio Senator Rob Portman shamelessly selling the tax plan as if he's giving out candy on Halloween. It's how Portman operates in his fake compassion for the opioid crisis,too, giving aid on one hand, taking it away on the other, throwing platitudes to the masses on one side, screwing them on the other. This is Rob Portman: a Koch-funded politico par excellence, selling an unconscionable tax scam as a gift to the people when he knows it's a killer of the American dream. It's all a lie, like those slick Koch-funded ads that made Portman look like a choir boy in a hard hat and got him elected to serve his wealthy masters. As someone who calls him almost daily, like thousands of other Ohioans, the hypocrisy is overwhelming.

The Republican tax reform effort is a trojan horse. Adding $1.4 trillion to the national debt, cutting the needy from health care, hurting workers, the middle class, ordinary Americans in order to give tax cuts to the very rich, is about as cruel a trick as the Trojan Horse the Greeks used to destroy Troy. 

It's a trick on the American people.  It's a trick to fool them into believing it's about them, when the truth is, it's all about the super rich. We have to look this trojan horse in the eye and say 'no way.' We did it for health care. We can do it for the Trump/Republican tax scams as well.  

Some Sources:  "The letter calls on Congress to not to pass any tax bill that adds to the debt and that "further exacerbates inequality." Instead of cutting taxes of the wealthy, the letter tells Congress to raises taxes on rich people like them. It is being released publicly this week, as Republicans debate legislation which would add $1.5 trillion to the debt to pay for widespread tax cuts for businesses and individuals."

From Wikipedia: Trojan Horse is a tale from the Trojan War about the subterfuge that the Greeks used to enter the independent city of Troy and win the war. In the canonical version, after a fruitless 10-year siege, the Greeks constructed a huge wooden horse, and hid a select force of men inside. The Greeks pretended to sail away, and the Trojans pulled the horse into their city as a victory trophy. That night the Greek force crept out of the horse and opened the gates for the rest of the Greek army, which had sailed back under cover of night. The Greeks entered and destroyed the city of Troy, ending the war./
Metaphorically a "Trojan Horse" has come to mean any trick or stratagem that causes a target to invite a foe into a securely protected bastion or place. A malicious computer program which tricks users into willingly running it is also called a "Trojan horse" or simply a "Trojan"./ The main ancient source for the story is the Aeneid of Virgil, a Latin epic poem from the time of Augustus. The event is also referred to in Homer's Odyssey.[1] In the Greek tradition, the horse is called the "Wooden Horse" (Δούρειος Ἵππος, Doúreios Híppos, in the Homeric Ionic dialect).

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Remembering Loren on his 70th Birthday

Today is my dear brother Loren's 70th birthday. I'm not sure he would have liked it, but he would have carried on, as he always did.  He would keep my sister Andy and me on our toes, too.  He would rant with us, and keep us resisting. He was a warrior for truth and justice. He embraced diversity. He was a compassionate Aspie. He would never be silent, never give up.  His spirit lives on. 

But I miss him. It's been seven years since his last hike. He died along the trails of the Aucilla River in northern Florida, a place he loved. I was in Ukraine then, and my grief at the news of his sudden death from a heart attack knew no bounds. I don't think he was ready to go, but the goddess he loved called him home. I wasn't ready for sure. Nor our sister Andy, who greeted two very nice, grim-faced police officers at her door on a late Saturday afternoon in May 2010. She knew something was wrong, and fainted when the officers told her the news. So sudden, so unfair, just a few months before his autobiography, An Asperger Journey, on which he had worked so hard and for so long, came out. 

Loren would have been on fire at the outrages of the tRump regime and the blatant efforts of the oligarchs to enrich themselves at the expense of ordinary, hardworking Americans. He would have railed against the lies, the destruction of government agencies, the tyranny of the Bannon/Mercer/Pence cabinet and Senate Republicans to destroy our democracy. He would have been on the front lines of the Resistance.

Now, only the memories remain. And the fighting spirit, the voice of compassion and empathy, the light from a lovely soul. 

Here is a song for Loren on his 70th, a Mary Oliver poem he would have loved because it is about nature in harmony and at peace with itself.

Song for Autumn 
by Mary Oliver  

In the deep fall
     don't you imagine the leaves think how
comfortable it will be to touch
     the earth instead of the
 nothingness of air and the endless 
     freshets of wind? And don't you think
of the birds that will come--six, a dozen--to sleep
     inside their bodies? And don't you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
     the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow?  The pond
     vanished, and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
     its blue shadows.  And the wind pumps its
bellows.  And at evening especially,
     the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way.  

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Media Literacy: Fighting Fake News and Disinformation Propaganda

Believe in truth. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power because there is no basis on which to do so." Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny

It's been hard to watch Trump and his surrogates dissing the mainstream media as "fake news," with abandon and without discernment, while touting Bannon's Breitbart, FOX, and other right-wing extremist media outlets that support whatever he says and does as "real" news.

It's a false dichotomy. It's a form of tyranny. Trump and his surrogates take glee in presenting "alternative facts" as "real" news.  But facts matter.  Truth matters. And it's as dangerous for a president of the US to alienate a free press as it is to alienate the intel community and its 17 powerful security agencies.

It started early, during Trump's campaign, when he accused CNN of being "fake" news and surrogates like Kelly Ann Conway intentionally spouted lies as "alternative facts."  These "alternative facts," now put forward in frustrating press conferences, have been fact-checked, and most all of them found wanting. Lies, mostly lies. As historian Timothy Snyder, author of Bloodlands and an expert on tyranny, has warned, "to abandon facts is to abandon freedom."

We, the public, need to be smarter. We need media literacy. I learned through a little google research that there is a common definition among educators and journalism scholars:
"Media literacy is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and create media. Media literate youth and adults are better able to understand the complex messages we receive from television, radio, Internet, newspapers, magazines, books, billboards, video games, music, and all other forms of media."
Educators and scholars on college campuses have been teaching media literacy courses for many years. It has long been a stable of journalism studies. But has this knowledge reached the general public. I think not.

We need to bring these studies and media literacy scholars out of academe and into the public domain, similar to what the State Programs of the National Endowment for the Humanities do for history, literature, and cultural studies. We need community forums and free public humanities-type programs that teach us how to apply critical thinking skills to reading and viewing media messages, how to discern fact from fiction, lies from truth. We need continuing education to learn how to become media and social media detectives, thoughtful and discerning. 

A great example is a new program offered in Ukraine by IREX, an international education and funding NGO (non-government organization) that teaches people in public forums how to analyze the Russian disinformation campaign that led to Putin's invasion of eastern Ukraine and his illegal occupation of Crimea.  IREX "has broken new ground in stepping outside the education system to promote media literary," says a report by Edward Lucas and Peter Pomerantsev in"Winning the Information War."  We need this here in the USA, too.

We also need media literacy courses in our schools, beginning in Kindergarden and continuing into high school, technical training programs, and college. In this area a good example is Finland, which has been resistant to Russian influence in part, many experts believe, because of its media education program that begins in childhood and continues into adulthood. 

Nina Jankowicz, in an excellent New York Times article ("The Only Way To Defend Against Russia's Information War," 25 Sept. 2017), argues that the fight against "fake news" and the kind of disinformation campaigns we witnessed during the last election, "starts in people’s minds, and the molding of them."    She suggests that states in their K-12 curriculums "should encourage a widespread refocusing on critical reading and analysis skills for the digital age. Introductory seminars at universities should include a crash course in sourcing and emotional manipulation in the media. Similar courses could be created as professional development for adults, beginning with state employees. Large corporations could be offered government incentives to participate, too." 

These are all good suggestions. Maybe they will become the wave of the future.  I hope so. Media literacy programs are needed now more than ever. The preservation of our  democracy depends on it.

Some good sources for Media Literacy education:

Disinformation can be defeated without the establishment of a shiny new initiative cased in the language of Cold War 2.0. Instead of “rapid information operations,” the United States should work to systematically rebuild analytical skills across the American population and invest in the media to ensure that it is driven by truth, not clicks.
The fight starts in people’s minds, and the molding of them. In K-12 curriculums, states should encourage a widespread refocusing on critical reading and analysis skills for the digital age. Introductory seminars at universities should include a crash course in sourcing and emotional manipulation in the media. Similar courses could be created as professional development for adults, beginning with state employees. Large corporations could be offered government incentives to participate, too.
Training like this has a proven track record. In Ukraine, IREX, a nongovernmental organization, trained 15,000 people in critical thinking, source evaluation and emotional manipulation. As a result, IREX measured a 29 percent increase in participants who double check the news they consume. Another neighbor of Russia, Finland, has been resistant to Russian influence in part because of its media education program, which begins in childhood.
The American government should also work to level the information playing field, increasing its investment in public broadcasters and demanding a hefty financial commitment from companies like Facebook and Twitter — the unwitting agents of Russia’s information war — to support the proliferation of local, citizen-focused journalism. If social networks are unwilling to be the arbiters of truth (despite 45 percent of American adults’ getting news from Facebook), they should at the very least provide grants to reporters who cover the local issues that most immediately affect people’s lives and donate advertising to small outlets that cannot compete with national media giants.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Frank and Roselynn Curro Arts and Humanities Award

Old family portrait.
My sister Andy and I were remembering our parents, recalling the hard times and the good times, recalling their dedication to education and making sure we went to college. It was May 2011 and I had just returned from Ukraine. A year before, our dear brother Loren had died suddenly of a heart attack while on a hike with the Tallahassee Trails Association. He joined our mom and dad we like to say to this day.

That's when we decided to establish the Frank and Roselynn Curro Arts and Humanities Award at the Harley School, a wonderful private school in Rochester, NY.  We wanted to honor our parents, avid supporters of Harley and of the arts and humanities. The award would go to a graduating senior enthralled with the liberal and fine arts and going on to college to pursue their dreams.

Our parents made sure we had a strong foundation in the liberal arts. They were readers and thinkers. Dad, a small businessman, filled our home with music and was a great, and funny, storyteller. Mom was a teacher, artist and opera singer. They inhabited the culture and art of Italy and Europe and we imbibed it as naturally as the air we breathed. Mom loved the Italian and German operas and sang the beautiful arias. She made sure we studied the piano and learned how to read music and to appreciate it fully. I was okay at the piano, but my sister played beautifully and I still hear her playing Clementi, Bach, Chopin. We played duets for family entertainment.  We can still hammer those out.

Both parents belonged to a Great Books Club, popular in the 1950s, which made for interesting dinner-table conversations. Imagine discussions about Plato and Aristotle, Dante's Inferno, Cervantes, Tolstoy, and other classics of the western tradition. Once mom went on a rant about Sartre and existentialism. Andy choked on her pork chop. I was entranced. We went round and round until dinner was over. I remember another dinner where we talked about Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Mom, ever the teacher, made it interesting. The best thing about that memory?   Mom and Dad actually planned a trip to New York City, where we went to see “West Side Story!”  I can never listen to that brilliant score by Leonard Bernstein, with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and choreography by Jerome Robbins, such masters of their crafts, without remembering my mom and dad. The theater experience of a lifetime, one of my enduring childhood memories.

It's hard to believe that the arts and humanities are under attack today when we need them now more than ever. Trump and the extremist Republicans have zeroed them out in their proposed budgets, along with PBS and other cultural, historical, and environmental programs, including our national parks and historic sites. It will impoverish our spirits, impoverish our shared American culture.

What we took for granted so many years ago, we now cherish as a special gift. This year's Curro award went to a young scholar and high school leader going on to study the humanities in college. Previous awards have gone to art, language, and liberal arts students. We hope all the recipients of the Curro award will continue to enjoy the arts and humanities throughout their lives, and advocate for them in the public arena. I think this was one of the best lessons we learned from our parents, and at Harley, and it will stay with us forever.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Berlin Painter: Athenian Vase-Painting in Early 5th Century B.C.

The Berlin Painter, his real name and story unknown, painted many beautiful vases for all kinds of uses in early 5th century Greece. That's 2500 years ago! This is a lovely traveling exhibit organized by Princeton University Art Museum and made possible by many private and public funders, including NEA. Thanks to them. Photos: Some of the 84 vases exhibited, beautiful to examine closely; bird on a bear, a favorite (next to center photo of 3 vases); fragments and pieces (far left), showing what conservators had to work with to put them together (and upper right graphic); huge vase of red roses at Grove St. entrance near the Cafe); Teddy at the Berlin Painter-themed Exhibition gift shop, and at TMA entrance (couldn't resist!). 
Hard to read but explains how to
recognize the style of the Berlin Painter.
"The Berlin Painter and His World: Athenian Vase-Painting in the early Fifth Century B.C' is now at the Toledo Museum of Art, and it's a most enjoyable exhibit.  The vases, painted in a technique known as red-figure ceramics, are nicely displayed and have limited but helpful text, which I always appreciate.  The vase-paintings are attributed to one painter, called simply the Berlin Painter, his real name unknown, his gender determined by anthropologists and historians, his style bold and distinctive.

The Berlin Painter. A master artisan. His personal story may be unknown, but the Greek world he inhabited comes alive through his vase-painting. Through his eyes we see the gods and goddesses, the heroes and mortals of the early 5th century BC, at war, at peace, at work, at play.  We see Zeus and Athena, Demeter and Dionysos, Achilles and Hector and Aegina. We see warriors and nymphs and satyrs. We see Herakles (the Greek transliteration of Hercules) at some of his 12 labors, taking me back to reading Latin with Mrs. Bullard at the Harley School. It also inspired me to look for Haley's Classic Myths, a  great book that she gave me as a gift.  I especially loved the paintings of nature, a bird on a bear, a sprig of flowers, floral motifs and ivy wreaths.

I wondered how the vases could be in such perfect shape. Thankfully a well-curated text explained that while some vases were found in burial places and in tact, most were scattered in a thousand pieces and had to be painstakingly put together. If you look very closely at some of the vases, now 2500 years old, you can see the seams where small fragments were glued together. The results are amazing. 

From the Catalogue: "The Berlin Painter and His World is a celebration of ancient Greece and of the ideals of reason, proportion, and human dignity that are its legacy. Focusing on the extraordinary work of a single anonymous master artisan, the exhibition provides a window onto ancient Athenian society at a time of economic growth and cultural flourishing through the art of vase-painting, the largest body of pictorial imagery to have survived from antiquity. Depictions of myths, cult, and daily life on red-figure vases posit questions on love and war, life and death, that still resonate today./  Though the artist’s elegant style has long been appreciated, this is the first exhibition devoted to the Berlin Painter. The exhibition features eighty-four vessels and statuettes of the early fifth century B.C., gathered from museums and private collections around the globe, and examines the elements of this artist’s style that allow the attribution of objects to his hand while affording unique insights into life 2,500 years ago."
These three graceful, colorful hand-blown vases, in the Berlin Painter-themed Exhibition gift shop,
were inspired by Greek ceramic vessels and created in TMA's Glass Pavilion by glass artist Alan Iwamura.  

Monday, June 12, 2017

Can Trump be charged with Sedition?

“We have a President who lies without a second thought. Big bold lies that are easily disproven. That is not normal... We have serious allegations around obstruction of FBI director fired for insisting on pursuing an investigation into the sanctify of our republic. It has never happened before in our history. That is not normal. ...We have Federal judges, our closest foreign allies, and the free press under scurrilous attack from the President and his enablers. At the same time we have despots praised. That is not normal....We have a sordid confluence of the President’s business interests and his political power. That is not normal." Dan Rather interview with Rachel Maddow, MSNBC, June 10, 2017

Trump has succeeded in turning the USA into an arena of conflict, and he thinks he is the top dog. It is trump vs. anti trump. Dog eat dog. Survival of the fittest. This is what America has become in just a few months. McConnell in the Senate and Paul Ryan in the House are in this arena to destroy the federal government as we know it.

Add McConnell's inhumanity, and we have
the US Congress today, the most corrupt ever.
It's like a boxing match, making a sport of war. In this corner are the tRump, Pence, Bannon regime, a sordid cabinet, and the leaders of the US Congress, committed to dismantling the government one agency at a time. Bannon calls it "deconstruction of the Administrative state."  They take glee in obliterating Obama's legacy.  Dark money, aka the Koch brothers, the Mercers et al, are funding the rampage.

In the other corner are the outnumbered Democratic members of Congress, Constitutional lawyers and ethicists, and the majority of the American people, some 64% according to the latest poll. Whoever has the most money and power are the winners and those with the least money and power are the losers. They get to join the "Losers Club," and the winners take all. Some of the "losers," those still in the Bully's corner, that 36% base, aren't aware of their status in this game yet.

The Comey vs Trump fight reveals the grotesque nature and parameters of the arena. We are talking about our democratic government after all. Trump has called Comey, the top cop in America as head of the FBI, a liar and a coward. It's a credibility pissing match, a game Trump himself created. Most Americans (over 90%) believe Comey. But Trump won't stop talking and tweeting himself into his corner of the arena, encouraging Americans to distrust Comey, the FBI and our intel agencies. At the same time, he rails against a free press. He tells Americans not to trust the mainstream media and has made a sport out of what he and his minions call "fake news." Trump continues to undermine the three branches of government and Rule of Law. He has alienated the judiciary and encouraged Americans to do the same. He has alienated our allies around the world, destabilizing our international relations.

Could this be called "sedition?" asked resister Linda Furman in an Anti-Trump site post. I googled it.
this and the  image at top, yahoo public images
Sedition is overt conduct, such as speech and organization, that tends toward insurrection against the established order. Sedition often includes subversion of a constitution and incitement of discontent (or resistance) to lawful authority. Sedition may include any commotion, though not aimed at direct and open violence against the laws. Seditious words in writing are seditious libel. A seditionist is one who engages in or promotes the interests of sedition." (Wikipedia).
Sure sounds like the Trump regime.

But sedition as a legal concept has a complex history, dating back to John Quincy Adams and the Alien and Sedition Act. Those opposed to the American Revolution against Great Britain got hit with this act. Its use over time has been situational (dormant or revived during wartime) and often problematic. It cuts both ways when it comes to our First Amendment freedoms.  It can be dangerous. But I wonder if the concept can be resurrected in some form to address Russia's intervention in our election, the extreme conflicts of interest of almost all members of the tRump/Pence/Bannon cabinet, chosen because they oppose their agencies, and their extremist goal of dismantling the federal government. "Subversion of the Constitution" and undermining Rule of Law.  Can it become part of the treason charge in a case for impeachment? "Treason (including a form of sedition), bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors"?

America has descended into a battleground, an arena of conflict. It sounds like a computer game. And in fact, I discovered in doing some research, it IS a video game!  This is Our Times, good vs. evil, real v. fake, and it is surreal.

More from Dan Rather:
“We have an Administration fanning the flames of division over race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, and gender. That is not normal....We have an overhaul of our entire health care system being written in secret on a rapid time frame. That is not normal. The list could go on and on. And feel free to add your own to the comments section./What concerns me even more than any of these items is the fact that they are largely being met by a shrug or excuses from most Republican elected officials. Even many Democrats seem overwhelmed and are inclined to let some of this just ride. That may be how politics works. But this is bigger. It’s about our nation.
We are shifting the goalposts for our democracy. We are failing to be outraged by the outrageous because there is something even more outrageous that always seems to hit the news cycle. And that is dangerous.
What gives me hope is we have had waves of abnormality in our country’s history. And we’ve had times when what we would consider now to be not normal, like segregation, was considered normal. What has centered and saved our country time and again is civic engagement. I believe that most people in this nation don’t think any of this is normal."

Some sources:

Sunday, May 28, 2017

On Tyranny: History Instructs

Hillary Clinton, at Wellesley, NYT, 27 May 2017,
by Jess Bidgood & Katharine Q. Seelye. Photo: Brian Snyder/Reuters.
"As the history majors among you here today know all too well, when people in power invent their own facts and attack those who question them, it can mark the beginning of the end of a free society./That is not hyperbole. It is what authoritarian regimes throughout history have done. They attempt to control reality. Not just our laws and our rights and our budgets, but our thoughts and beliefs." Hillary Clinton commencement address, Wellesley College, May 2017
Timothy Snyder, Yale historian and author of The Bloodlands, was in Toledo at the public library to talk about his latest little book called "On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century."  He said he sat at his computer the day after the shock of Trump's election and wrote the book right then and there. He made use of his extraordinary knowledge of the tyrannies of Hitler and Stalin and the murderous havoc they caused during and after World War II. He's an expert on authoritarian regimes.

He saw red flags everywhere during the presidential campaign. Trump's overblown rhetoric and Hillary-hatred; his attacks on Mexicans, Muslims, anyone he didn't like; the whipping up of a false nationalist fervor; the way he framed and repeated his rants ("Build a Wall," "Lock her Up"); his ignorance of history; his ego-driven obsession with numbers and winning; the focus on himself and not the issues, which he knew little about; a facile disregard for Rule of Law; and perhaps most disturbing of all, his attacks on the media, the charges of "fake news" against any news he didn't like, the embrace of such outlets as Breitbart, his denigration of facts and truth.

Snyder notes in his book that Trump fact-checkers at one time "found that 78% of his factual claims were false."  That's a pretty high rate of lying. "Demeaning the world as it is begins the creation of a fictional counterworld," Snyder emphasized. Yep, his attentive audience nodded, and we are living with that "counterworld" today.

"On Tyranny" is a series of lessons on how to resist the totalitarianism Snyder sees in the rise of Trump. Lots of us saw it; experience is confirming it. The truth and timeliness of Snyder's message was not lost on this informed and appreciative audience. Marcy Kaptur, our representative in Congress, introduced Snyder.  It was Marcy who introduced me to The Bloodlands when I returned from Ukraine. It's her favorite recent history book, and it's become mine as well. Snyder wrote about eastern Europe caught between Hitler and Stalin.  He revisioned the history of WWII and the murderous legacy of the times, the consequences of which are still felt today. I felt them in Ukraine.

And they have only became worse with time. The rise of Putin's fervent Russian nationalism, his ramped up propaganda machine, his invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine, his interference in our world as we know it and his goal to destabilize Europe and the US, confirm that totalitarianism is alive and well, and as devastating to human kind as it ever was.

Now, Snyder fears, it is alive and well in America too, and it will destroy our democracy, as the Founding Fathers feared it would, unless we deliberately confront it head on. Snyder repeats some of the obvious truisms about resistance--be an informed citizen, defend democratic institutions, remember professional ethics, beware the one-party state, stand out, investigate, be a critical thinker. But what for me resonated the most is the very issue Hillary Clinton addressed in her Wellesley commencement address. "Believe in truth."  Snyder puts it as succinctly and firmly as Hillary did: "To abandon facts is to abandon freedom.  If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do is.  If nothing is true, then all is spectacle.  The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights." 

Hillary warned us. 
I believe this. The whole phenomenon of questioning what is fact and what is "alternative facts," what are lies, what is real, has swept us onto the terrain of tyranny. People who believe they have facts when they have false information and false news on which they base their votes and their allegiance leaves the rest of us who know it's false news hanging out to dry in a kind of no-man's land. Hillary warned us time and again during the campaign. But a fictional counterworld had already arisen, it doesn't take long, and it spelled tragedy for the United States. When facts don't matter, when truth doesn't matter and becomes awash in "alternative facts" made up by tyrants, we are in dangerous territory. It's where we are today.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

McCain and The Trump Titanic on Impeachment Ground

The Trump Titanic: Created by the Senate Republicans
Now comes Senator John McCain, and slowly but surely the rest of his Republican colleagues, starring the Comey memos and the accumulation of outright lies, conflicts and treason  in the face.   He fears we are on impeachment ground the size and scope of Watergate. 

Well sure we are.  You put us there.  

You approved Sessions, Tillerson, Wilbur Ross and the rest of the rotten Transition Team's nominees knowing about their conflicts, having the intel you needed to vote 'no' on every one of them. All the Republicans did.  Did you do the right thing when it mattered most? No, you did not. 

Now you are saying things that you should have said in the confirmation hearings, McCain.  You surely knew about Kisylak, that old KGB spy, and Putin, the invader of Ukraine and friend of Assad, when you approved these guys.  You approved people who worked with the guy you knew was a "murderer and thug."  

America has had to face the consequences of your votes, and all your Republican colleagues' votes, ever since.  Millions of us knew it was only a matter of time before the truth was revealed and the shit hit the fan.

The resistance movement mounted. The women marched. The scientists and the environmentalist marched. The American people took to the streets. We followed the advice in the Indivisible handbook written by former Congressional staffers about contacting our elected officials.  We  started to make our voices heard, the majority of us common folk, outraged at what was happening in Congress.

How many calls did you and your fellow Senators get, flooding you with facts and warnings?  How many letters urging you to hear us out, knowing you were voting for DeVos, Tillerson, Ross, Pruitt, Price? How many emails and twitter and facebook posts, pleading with you, begging you, to do the right thing for America? How many petitions, dozens of them, signed by thousands?  

No matter.  You went ahead and voted for the worst nominees imaginable. You ignored our voices.  You went along and you did nothing.  

Do you know how helpless we felt in the face of your indifference.  Do you know how infuriating it is now to hear you say the things you are saying?  

Your mea culpas are needed, yes.  We knew we needed some Rs with a conscience to step up.  You didn't do it when you brought us the Trump regime.  We tried, to no avail.   Now you have to step up or go down with the Trump Titanic you created. You have to save your ass.  Now it's more a matter of self-interest than patriotism. 

We see it all. We will not forget that you created this monster.  We will not forget.


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