Monday, February 28, 2011

Agree or Disagree, Thought-Provoking Nevertheless...

In yesterday's edition of the Times 'Culture' section Dominic Lawson reviews a new book by Niall Ferguson, Civilisation: The West and the Rest. Well I am just going to have to read this book! The following excerpts from the review have really inspired my interest and probably will be controversial, as well.

  • Ferguson offers this moment of revelation on the part of a scholar from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences: "We were asked to look into what accounted for the West all over the world...At first we thought it was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. But in the past 20 years we have realised that the heart of your culture is your religion. Christianity. That is why the West has been so powerful. The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics. We don't have any doubts about this."
  • Ferguson naturally, offers the empirical follow-up to this theorising. The most entrepreneurial city in China, Wenzhou, where the free market is given full rein and where the state's influence is minimal, is also home to almost 1,400 churches -- half a century after Chairman Mao boasted it was "religion-free". One of its most successful business leaders, Hamping Zhang, argues that an absence of trust had been one of the main factors holding China back; but he feels he can trust his fellow Christians because he knows they will be honest in their dealings with him."
I would link to the article itself, however, Rupert Murdoch, in his infinite wisdom, has decided that The Times Online must be paid for!

I am not arguing in any way that these conclusions are truth, but they are fascinating none the less and thought provoking for sure.

*Dominic Lawson, Book Review: Civilisation: The West and the Rest by Niall Ferguson. The Times Cuture, 27 February 2011, page 57.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

I'm Working on It

For some reason the 'comments' link on my blog has disappeared. Thanks Suldog for pointing this out in such a lovely way! I'm in touch with Blogger and their first suggestion has not worked, so I'm looking for a second. I may have to futz around and change the template -- later.

First I'll see y'all in church -- as they say ... And if anyone has ?any suggestions they would be greatly appreciated.

Addendum: So what happens? I post this and what do I see at the bottom? 'Comments'. But only for this post, not for any of the older ones. So, I'm still working on it!?!?

Another Addendum: Google Help worked thanks to The new Katney. You see the little link at the bottom of the blogger 'post box' that says 'Post Options'?  Somehow -- I explain in a minute -- the button 'do not allow' got selected. It happened a year ago, and I didn't even notice until Uncle Skip and Sully complained about not being able to comment. Sooo embarrassing! I happened because I had to change from posting via FTP to using Blogger to host my blog. When I changed blogger put a message on my old URL explaining that I had moved to a new address. Comments were disable at the same time for all posts since that date (6 March 2010). I have now enabled comments on all post, I think!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Oi, Uncle Skip: Ta, Very Much, Luv ...

... as they say in these parts. (Speaking of 'these parts' great relief as Liverpool finally scored to win last night after 85 long minutes! Have our boys in red finally turned a corner?)

Back to my tasks in hand. I've had to copy and print Uncle's post  as the victims recipients may or may not follow all four of them. I wouldn't want to miss any of them. Oh yeah, you may wonder what I'm talking about.

It's about this award with which I've been landed honoured/honored. I've never had an award for blogging before -- it's my very first -- in fact until a short time ago I didn't know there was this part of blogger culture to contend with (no no I'm not going to give in to the grammarians with 'with which to contend' -- but I just want them to know that I know that they know what I know ...).

Getting on with it ... Here is a picture of said award. Somebody awarded it to Suldog and Suldog awarded it to Uncle Skip and Uncle Skip lumbered awarded it to me.

My first task is to curse Suldog. Well, I don't have to because if you've ever seen a picture of his teeth you know he's been cursed already. 

Next on the list is to thank Uncle Skip and link back to him. Have thanked and linked (thanking is optional).

The third task is to tell a little about myself and I can make stuff up!

  • When I was a little girl I was horrid and everybody who knew me 'when' agrees. Now I'm a real sweetie and The Broad.
  • I went to George Washington University in Washington, DC to study political science because I wanted to change the world. I didn't. I probably should have, though...
  • Except for three years living in the States, I have lived in Europe for thirty years plus a little. It's my husband's fault. 
  • I've met Y.A. Tittle, Charlie Connerly, Kyle Rote, Roosevelt Grier and Roosevelt Brown and Frank Gifford all on the same day! I've lost long ago the autographs collected at the time. It was in Burlington Vermont and they were very sweaty. I also shook hands with Gerald Ford a few days before he became President. And I met Walter Mondale several times.
    In addition, I blew kisses to Hubert Humphrey. I was on the back of my boyfriend's Vespa. He was in limousine and he blew kisses back! That was when he was Vice President. In those days there wasn't mucch for a VP to do.
  • The only office I've ever been elected to was President of my high school Latin Club. Latin was my worst subject but the Roman Banquet I organized was terrific ...
  • My most infamous polically incorrect direct ancestor was Jonathan Filer, born in 1702, who was a Connecticut State Champion of something so awful that I can't bring myself to say. It's so dreadful that my youngest sister refuses to believe it. I think it's because her husband would never let her live it down.
    My most famous direct ancestor was Thomas More: a traitor to some and a saint to others. This appeals to my sense of disambiguation.
  • My husband will not have a diswasher and this pisses me off big time! But he likes to set the table for dinner parties and he hoovers and he can fix things like ceilings and walls with damp patches, so I only bring up the diswasher thing when I'm extra-especialy bitchy annoyed.
  • If I'm in the mood I take things in my stride. Otherwise, I usually pout. Sometimes I stamp my feet and shout  raise my voice.
  • Philosphically I am a pacifist, but I have a passion for rather violent mystery/crime novels by Scandinavians like Henning Mankel and Jo Nesbo.
  • Normally, I am quite a good cook, but I hate having to do it routinely. I regularly prepare the evening meal for whoever is around, but others must prepare their own breakfast and lunch. (How was that Uncle Skip?)
The next bit is the hard part. I have to pass the damn thing award on to some unsuspecting soul, who will in turn probably curse me. Question, can I award them without informing them?

Oh, hell, I've just seen that Uncle Skip wrote 'six' to pass it on to but it's really 7 (you were right Pebbles in the Sea, mea culpa, didn't check far enough back). It has been pointed out that there is no time limit on when I have to do this, so I can just post this and forget about it do it later.

Obligatory Picture of Horse Teeth, not of Suldog, though some people may be fooled.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Citizenship Quandries, More Saga

Sam and Galen, all about love ...
So I can't be out of the UK for more than 450 days in the three years prior to the application being received and I must not be out of the country for more than 90 days in the year preceding application. The difficulty is that from 2002 until 2004 I spent most of my time in the USA looking after my elderly parents while they sorted out selling their house and finding a suitable retirement home. upon my return to the UK I failed to concentrate on sorting out the citizeship 'thing'. And then we decided to spend a year in 2008 helping out my son and his family in Olympia, Washington.

So now the earliest I can apply for UK citizenship is 15 December 2011. So I have to plan my 90 days carefully this year. I thought I had figured it out -- two weeks with my mother and 60 days in France instead of the usual 90 and that would still leave a some time left over in case of an emergency -- it's always in the back of my mind that I with my mother in Connecticut, my eldest son and his family in South Korea and another son in Italy. But you know sometimes, plans have to change, be put on hold. Love gets in the way...

His name is Sam and he is 10 years old. Sam is my oldest grandchild and for the past 18 months or so he and his two brothers have lived in Korea. Of the three boys, Sam has had the most difficult time adjusting to his new life and earlier this week we were asked if it would be possible to have him with us over the summer ... And we would be absolutely delighted! In fact there are many times over the past few years when we have wished for just that ... and maybe just maybe Galen, the middle boy, will come too. Sam is the serious one and his brother is full of the devil! I don't know -- maybe just the one this time ... but then again ...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Citizenship Quandries, a Saga

For most of the past 31 years I have lived in the UK, in Southport. For 5 years from 1991 until 1996 my husband, children and I lived in Tutzing just outside of Munich, Germany. Until 1996, after returning to the UK from Germany I thought, erroneously, that if I became a citizen of the UK, I would have to renounce my American citizenship. Yes, indeed, I can have my cake and eat it too! But ho, ho, ho it would have been so much easier if I had known before we went to Germany.

This is because my husband was in the Royal Air Force and we were in Germany because of his job. If we had only known that my application for citizenship would have been expedited because he was been sent abroad -- but we didn't and so I must 'go with the flow', so to speak... I still have one advantage over normal applications in that I am only required to have been here for three years instead of five. Ahhh, you say, easy peasy you've been there for most of 31 years (minus 5 in Germany). But, ho, ho, hold it!

The rules are that I must have been present in the UK exactly three years prior to the date that my application is received. So I could not have applied until 3 years from the date of my return to the UK in 1996, which would have been July 1, 1999. In 1998 my husband and I bought a summer place in France. In the ensuing years we have spent anywhere from six weeks to 4 months there. And herein is some of the problem. Because you see to qualify for UK citizenship I must not have been out of the country for more than 450 days in the 3 years and in the 12 months prior to applying no more than 90 days. Ho, ho, ho!

There is more .... but wait for it ... I need to lie down!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Yesterday's News Today

Egypt and Tunisia are pretty much off the front pages of the newspapers and the television news programs. Replaced by Berlosconi, unemployment statistics and whatever else. Buried among the headlines of last evening's bulletins was a 'minor' story about 2,000 Tunisian immigrants that have fled their country for the coastal towns of Italy. Nothing much about why these people have fled. In fact, it is very rarely that we hear the personal stories of what has happened to individual people that has compelled them to seek safe havens. We don't yet know if the situation in Tunisia will compel many more thousands the flee nor do we know if there will be a similar influx of Egyptian nationals.

Every year thousands and thousands of people try to come to Europe for refuge. Many of them will be sent back, or end up in camps as they wait often long periods of time to find out their fate. They will face many cultural battles and often humiliating conditions, mostly unimagined and almost always undeserved. Always in the back of my mind I remember that I am a descendant of immigrants -- emigrants from Europe -- looking for a new life and finding it on the east coast of America. How wonderful it must have been to have had a place to go.

Today in order to be allowed to settle in most countries in the west, you must prove that you are not an 'economic' refugee, but rather that your life would be endangered if you were to return to your native country. I smile ruefully at the term 'economic refuge' what it really means is , if you are poor and looking for a better life forget it. How easy it is for some to forget the immortal words on the State of Liberty:

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teamming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

We have preached the virtues of democracy intensely for many years and we have encouraged other countries to embrace its virtues. But we haven't thought much about the consequences -- for the people who want this for their country and for the rest of the world. As we applaud other cultures and countries for demanding and obtaining their right to be heard we must consider also that we will not escape the global impact of these demands.

These demands will not be easy to meet, but there will be no choice. The smaller the world becomes the more important it is to remember that we are our brothers' keepers and they in turn may become ours ... 

Monday, February 14, 2011

What Difference Does It Make, Anyway ... ?

Yup the pegs match!
  The older I am the more anal personality tendencies I dance with. I have never been known for being neat and tidy -- not quite a slob, but often tempted in that direction! Of course I may be confusing a 'anal personality' with one that is 'obsessive'. But obsessive in small matters -- and really quite laughable.

For example, in the summer when I'm pegging out the washing, I have to match the clothes pegs by color/colour and if I can match them to the color/colour of the clothes/sheets/towels -- whatever--.  Until last summer I thought this was something, no one would probably notice -- until I was being helped by M. who 'confessed' that I wouldn't believe it but she use to have to match the pegs. Now I am still not sure if she'd noticed, but I had to admit to having the same compulsion, because there I was rumaging through the basket looking for a match. So why don't I just by wooden pegs that are all the same? Because I enjoy this silliness. Maybe I need to get a life ...

And I have to have an English muffin for breakfast. I feel very grumpy if I don't -- and tea, too. It is just possible that I can be bought off with fresh croissant while summering in France -- but I can also be bordering on the personality disorder when it comes to making sure I know where the best croissants are to be had. Nevertheless, in all fairness to me, good croissant is to die for ... and for sure the French are worse than I am. I'm that way about the French bread too. Fortunately, the local bakery has a selection to die for -- unfortunately the croissant is not quite as good as elsewhere -- but good enough when there is no English muffin to be had. It has to be a disorder when I'd rather have my English muffin to fresh croissant, don't you think?

And cheese -- I forgot about the cheese ...
But really, I'm not fussed. I am grumpy, patient about things that used to drive me up the wall, and impatient about things that never bothered me before. I can still fly into a temper, but rarely can I be bothered with the futility of it. Two things make me grumpy, television news and my  husband! Oh and English weather, too. Musn't forget plane travel ... and people who don't clean up after their pets ... and planning meals, not having a diswasher, most Republicans, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, fashion, my husband, computer crashes, lousy Internet connections, pharmaceutical advertising, Fox news, my husband, any money owed to the bank, Christmas hoopla before Thanksgiving, Chocolate Easter eggs before New Year and my poor dear grumpy old Valentine!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Not Necessarily Romance by the Sea

Southport beach in mid-February with the tide out looking across the pier towards Blackpool

The most memorable thing about Southport beach is that you can almost never see the Sea! It looks benign to visitors who often have to be rescued because they venture too far out and get caught in quicksand and/or the tide comes in and around them and they get cut off. This part of the beach has been the setting for the Southport Air Show for the past few years. It is a perfect  for a very enjoyable day on the beach for thousands of people. What I like best about the seaside here is the sand dunes -- they remind me of Cape Cod and Cape Cod is one of my favorite place in the whole world.

Two days ago my husband paid a visit to the area that borders the town centre. We actually live in the town centre and almost never go down there more often than the occasional drive along the coastal road on our way out of town. It's not as if there is nothing to see. It is not spectacular to be sure -- there are no amazing cliffs to scale, no dramatic rock faces -- just lots of sand and sea grass -- and each year thousands and thousands of birds (and bird watchers -- known as 'twitchers'!) But almost always the sea is out -- so I've looked up the tides and plan to go tomorrow at 12.15 when the tide is supposed to be in and maybe just maybe the sun will be out.

Away from the sea, Southport town centre was heaving today -- as it is any half-decent weekend. Valentines Day shoppers -- and I'll admit to being one of them -- were everywhere. There was a bagpiper on Lord Street collecting money for war graves -- in full dress of course. The pipes sounded rather lovely and Lord Street is so wide and vast that it wasn't overwhelming -- even up close. For those that don't know about Southport, rumor has it that the layout of the town -- and Lord Street in particular, was the inspiration for the design of Paris. For those of us who live here that seems a bit far-fetched, but at the same time an intriguing thought. And anyway, what a pretty place it is in the sun with the Victorian arcades -- even in winter without the hanging baskets of flowers and roundabouts in bloom!

So why do I succumb year after year to Valentines Day. I always have a card and a little present and I always plan a romantic dinner. And sometimes he gets me a card or a bunch of flowers -- though never both. No he's not a Valentines Day Man. It's not that he's not romantic, it's just that his idea of romance is more along the lines of steam trains and classic cars and sailing ships -- you know Mars and Venus and all that ... He's getting a book about Great British Railway Journeys -- so I'll get a romantic smile -- it just won't be for me!!

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Nostalgia with Pictures

Today I'm very nostalgic -- it all started because I was trying to clean up my computer picture files. Somehow I managed to double and triple whole huge files of photographs to the point where it was taking me ages to find stuff. While doing that I was listening to Classic FM and up came Bach's Cello Suite number one. That set me off remembering someone very special in my youth who played the cello and who introduced me to the Bach Cello Suites. And as I was wallowing in memories of my young adulthood at the same time going through old photos -- pictures of weddings and my childrens' early childhood, Christmases past -- on and on ...

In the meantime, life happens! There are books to be read, movies to see, places to go and people to meet,endless dinners to prepare! I look back in wonder at the past and it's as if it's still there ready to be touched -- it's inescapable but it's 'other', like a spirit or a ghost, perhaps a stalker. As I get older I find it would be easy to become a person on the sidelines, an observer to other people's lives instead of a liver of my own. At the same time still believe that it is all still before me, still waiting to happen. And I wander in and out of purpose. I have a sense of expectation, but perhaps the expectation is empty and it needs to be filled. I live in hope, but the hope needs to be named... Doesn't it?

This is what happens when the days are short and the weather is gloomy.

This photo was taken early in the morning in 2003 from the breakfast table at my parents house in Kent, Connecticut. Cardinals are notoriously skittish and I was amazed to see this pair 'pose' for me. When I went for the camera both had their profiles to the window and as I put the camera up to my eye they had turned to face me!

Heejung on her first visit being put to work -- this is in 2000!

This picture was taken in 1954, my brother and a French girl, whose family was on a year's visit to St. Johnsbury Academy. They are dancing at the Winter Carnival Ball. He was almost 5 years old!

This is a put up job -- for my mother to have both her daughters with their grandsons looking as though they were standing in her garden! In reality I was in Olympia, Washington, and my sister in Minneapollis!

My parents with me and two of their grandchildren and a brand new daughter-in-law!
The year was 2000 and on December 27th my parents became Great Grandparents...

Monday, February 07, 2011

Advertising,Foyle's War, the Superbowl and the Mute Button

My husbands hates commercials with a passion. Especially those that get repeated over and over again during the evening. He/we also hate the fact that as a program progresses the period of time between the ads becomes shorter and shorter. So as soon as the break comes he pulls out his revolver -- I mean 'remote' and fires the 'mute' button ... "It's getting more and more like American television" he shouts/exclaims more often than not!

So then it is extremely grumpy of me to find this so annoying -- especially since I agree with him. Except that I would rather listen to the advertising drivel than stare at the silent, but active screen and as often as not have to listen to him sound off about all sorts of nonsense. I could drift off to my study and watch the television there, but I don't want to hurt his feelings and in particular I don't want to leave my place by the cozy fire. Last night as we were nearing the last quarter of a repeated "Foyle's War" that we didn't remember very well, I grumbled that I found this constant muting was annoying and he grumbled back that the commercials were annoying him and I huffed back that then one of us was bound to have to be annoyed (loudly though silently implying that somebody was always me!)

"Foyle's War" concluded and the husband pushed the remote over to me with the words, "now you can watch commercials to your hearts  content, I'm going to bed!" But I was ready with my own smart-ass reposte:

" I won't have to I'm watching the Superbowl on BBC1" -- Quite funny really since that particular event is especially famous for the advertising produced ... so off he went and I left the upcoming repeat of "Miss Marple" to relish some true Americana...

Watching the Superbowl in England for an American is rather strange. Whatever channel is hosting it uses a live feed from the American broadcaster for the game itself, but then goes to a studio back in England during all the breaks -- so we don't get any of the American commentary, and in particular we don't get any of the American advertising! Last night the commentary consisted of one British sportscaster -- gallantly proving that he did indeed know something about the game and the players -- and two Americans probably both former players.

As a consequence, I found myself flashing between the old re-run of "Miss Marple" and the advertising breaks with no advertising on the Beeb -- sometimes invariably running into the real ads during "Miss Marple". "Miss Marple" ended at 1:00 am just in time for half time -- the Packers were ahead 21 -10 and we were back in England, so I went to bed with a big yawn...

Anybody know what got voted the best ad?

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Generational Gaps the Curiosity Store

Last week I watched The Review Show on BBC 2. I watched because they were going to review Morning Glory which I was planning to see with a girlfriend -- neither of our husbands wanted to go... I had already checked out several reviews and most of them thought it was funny and worth seeing. The panel on The Review Show is made up of four people -- two 'getting on' in years, John Sergeant and a slightly younger Julia Peyton Jones;  a youngster in his early 30's, Alex Preston and in her mid-40's, American Kristin Hersh.

Of the four only John Sergeant liked the film enough to say he enjoyed it. Julia Peyton Jones was luke warm. Both Alex Preston and Kristin Hersh hated it! I think there is evidence here of a generation gap. Most of the films my children love, want to see are outside of my ability to appreciate. And as far as music goes we are on different planets. I am ignorant about pop groups. X-factor and Pop Idol are anathema to me. And this is not to my credit -- I do not want to know or to lend myself to the possibility of a smidgin of appreciation. But before I put into writing an opinion about someones film or musical efforts, I do attempt to "give 'whatever' or 'whoever' a chance".

So my friend and I went to see Morning Glory. We enjoyed it for the kind of film it is -- It's a 'Grumpy old-men/women' kind of film -- makes us 'oldies' nod our heads in agreement and have a good chuckle throughout. But you know those of you who are not 'grumpy oldies' do not relate to our sensibilities at all and we probably don't want you to, either!

At the end of the program, Kristin Hersh entertained us with a song from her latest album, Crooked. I am not positive, but I think she sang Mississippi Kite. I did not like her singing or her performance at all. But I became curious about her and have since listened to some of her demo tapes and have decided that she is definitely much better than I'd thought and definitely worth listening to again. She is a very talented guitarist and her voice has a quality that I did not appreciate at all when I heard her on television. Kind of reminded me of how I initially reacted to Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen many years ago. And if I'm honestly honest it's probably true that her singing is better singing than Morning Glory is a film!