From the Editor

Bitter-Sweet
Agridulce

 

Happy New Year, and welcome to 2020! I like the way 2020 looks and sounds.

I would like to think we are off to a good start; though I may have to moderate my use of the word “we”. Both the domestic and international news appears marked by great heartache and turmoil; but there are others paid to report and analyze acts of nature and war, I shall leave those cares in their much more abled hands, at least for today.

Instead, I shall limit my reflections to a smaller stage, my world. A new year, which ushers in a new decade, all but demands that we stop for a moment or two, to take stock of the road we have been traveling on, at least in the last twelve months.

Earlier this year, I received a note asking how I was; the question was prosaic enough that my answer should not have required thought. But on that very day, I had received extraordinarily good news, as well as deeply troubling information, about one dear to my heart. I walked away from my computer to ponder how to answer the question; after a bit, I came back to look up the word bitter-sweet in Spanish. I was agridulce.

In fact, when I look back at the entirety of 2019, it repeatedly leaves me feeling that it was a bitter – sweet year. Fortunately, most of the sweet was in my own life, and sadly the bitter fell on so many that I care for. It has been a while since the ratio played out that way; it would be untruthful of me not to say that I prefer the sweet to the bitter.

Oddly, when I went back in these pages, to see how I was doing in December of 2009, I found these words: As we continued our drive, Miami was particularly beautiful, with her buildings brightly lit, and the red and white car lights looked like streaming Christmas banners. We will be home for Christmas. Home is no small thing; and neither is Christmas. Our house is filled with our history and traditions, and truly there is no greater time of year than Christmas; but I will not be with the rest of my family. We shall eat well this holiday season and there will be presents under our tree; though I know that our blessings will not extend to too many that we know, and countless that we shall never meet. My Mother will be out of that hospital for Christmas; but her bed will undoubtedly be filled by another. This is a time of joy, but there is still much sorrow – topsy-turvy. I wish you all a Merry Christmas, that is all for now.

Topsy-Turvy and Bitter-Sweet are apparently a theme in my life when decades change.

One of the gifts, of these pages, to me is that I capture our history; and what is not printed here, is nevertheless photographed. As I checked my files, for pictures taken during these days in 2009, I found that we had spent the evening with our very dear friends, Marcial and Adriana, at their Cuban Club.

Their club is a conglomeration of the famous Big Five social clubs in Cuba, which recreated themselves in exile; as so many Cubans have.

 

 

It was a very interesting night, and for me an opportunity to step into a world long since gone. We took very few pictures that night, but I could not resist snapping this woman’s fur stole, hanging on the back of her seat – we were in Miami, it was not cold. I so loved that moment.

But as we get ready to start another decade, the moment we rang in 2009 has even more meaning to me, as our friends were recently with us, along with their children. What could be a more important resolution than to sustain the relationships in our life?

I checked my post for January 2010, as well: I do not want to wish you a Happy Birthday or thank you for your kindness out of obligation. I want the pleasure of acknowledging you without the pressures of life, which make such acts feel like an item on a “to do list”, which must be checked off. However, if I must write your name on a “to do list”, in order to do the right thing, then write your name I shall. I shall also continue to expect that you too will do the right thing, and I shall be disappointed when you fail to think that my right thing should be done. But, believing that extending mercy to those we love is also the right thing, I shall continue to forgive you, and to seek your forgiveness when we both fail to do the right thing. That is all for now.

For me it is always about the people I love; yes, yes, yes, God comes first. But I truly believe that one of the ways we show our love to God is by loving His creation; I think I am in good standing, on this point.

I did not finish my book this year, yet again; nor was that one of my resolutions last year. Though when I take it out and work on those pages, I do get excited about the material and words and pictures, until that is, it makes me sad – life is just bitter-sweet.

It has been good to be able to spend so much time with friends and family, both near and far. I have had the opportunity to reconnect with people I had not seen in a while, some a longer time than others; all visits were lovely. There have been many wonderfully unexpected moments; I think none more so than at the hands of my niece, Allison. There has also been stirring in some relationships, which had appeared to have breathed their last breath.

My very Dear Shahnaz sent me a Collins Street Bakery Fruit Cake for Christmas; I cannot imagine that she knew it was the fruitcake, which I used to buy for my Mother, who loved fruitcake. (Though I did make my Mother fruitcake, she preferred Collins Street Bakery’s cake.)

Shahnaz’s fruitcake arrived on the same day, as another box from Collins Street Bakery, and thus the confusion about your gift Shahnaz. You see, this year, I decided I would order a fruitcake for my sisters, the only other people I know who appreciate fruitcake. I knew the gift could be a hit or miss, but nevertheless, I placed the order.

As the holiday season developed, Marcial, Adriana, and their children ended up coming up to Maine, in time to partake of a little Christmas cheer. We arranged to go see a production of The Christmas Carol, and I decided to try to serve food fitting the occasion. Because my dear friends are so absolutely delightful, they did not exclaim that they do not like or want fruitcake, thus we were able to share Shahnaz’s fruitcake together; it was also such a treat to share yet another element of my Mother with them.

A few days later, as I was anticipating giving my sisters their fruitcake, Kate pointed out that the cakes contained foods my sisters did not eat. Kate was correct, but I had not thought about it until she spoke up. For a moment, I processed the fruitcake in my bitter-sweet world; grateful Shahnaz had sent me a cake and that I had been able to share it with my friends. I offered the cakes to my sisters, with ample disclaimers, and made it clear they did not have to take the cakes home.
Much to my happiness, they both said yes to my offering; the bitter was mitigated – who knew, maybe we can all have a little more sweet and less bitter in 2020!

I really do wish you a Happy New Year! That Is All For Now.

Nature

Birthday Orchid

Kate purchased this Phalaenopsis, at Home Depot, about a week before my birthday, in September. It soon made its way up to Maine, where it has mostly lived in my bedroom since it arrived. I did bring it to the dining room table around Thanksgiving for a visit.

Originally, there were two spikes, filled with blossoms, on the plant. They lasted a good long while, but eventually began to drop, until as I sit to write these words, there is one bloom left.

I believe Kate paid around twenty dollars for the plant; I am not unaware that that is a lot of money to spend on something as frivolous as flowers. But in the case of orchids, I think there is room for an exception.

First, I do so love orchids, as my Mother did before me, and so many of my orchids are gifts, many from people no longer with us. Secondly, long after it blooms, I will re-pot and feed the plant, and usually within a year, a new flower spike will appear. If all goes well, in a couple more years, the orchid will produce a pup or maybe two; continuing to give joy and even allow itself to be divided and shared. How can that not be viewed as a good investment of twenty dollars?

Connected

The Weight of Mobility

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I have a love/hate relationship with the mobile phone. I appreciate and am fascinated by how a smart phone works, but hate the invasion into our personal life.

Have you seen what is happening in China? In order to initiate new mobile phone service, the customer must submit to a facial recognition scan. The Chinese government wants to assure that they know exactly who is making a call, accessing data, or texting. The claim they want to “protect the legitimate rights and interest of citizens in cyberspace.”

Like all invasions of privacy, this policy is being put forward as a way to help protect the citizen consumer. Unfortunately, it is not hard to imagine that this will be the requirement for us very soon.

The idea for the mobile phone was first introduced by Martin Cooper in 1973, while he worked for Motorola’s communications systems division. Cooper believed that a phone number should be assigned to a person, not to a desk or a home; and that everyone would be able to use a wireless phone instead of being connected to a wired phone. Cooper had thought not being connected to a traditional wired phone would be freeing to the individual. It was not unusual, and I certainly remember the time, when I would have to wait for a phone call, at my house; Cooper sought to free me of this weight and the wait. https://tinyurl.com/h3euvzc

Shortly after Martin Cooper would introduce the idea of a mobile phone he would have a prototype. The first mobile phone would be called the DynaTac and would weigh over 2.5 pounds. The phone had only twenty minutes of talk time. By the fourth revision, the weight of the mobile phone was cut in half. Cooper and his team scheduled a press conference at the New York Hilton Midtown Manhattan, to demonstrate the mobile phone. Cooper would make the first call to his chief competitor at AT&T.

I will add a bit of personal history here and note that Jill and I have seen the historical marker and have stayed at the New York Hilton in Midtown Manhattan where that first phone call was made by Cooper.

The first cellular network was called Advanced Mobile Phone System AMPS, and it was an analog mobile phone system, also known as 1G, with the ability to make mobile phone calls. In 1991, 2G would launch and would be digital instead of analog, which allowed it to send texts; it was comprised of mobile phone calls and short message service SMS. In 1998, 3G launched, which would allow mobile phones to send and receive data over the Internet so that the phone could do mobile phone browsing. By 2009 4G would launch and would deliver more speed and larger data sets, such as videos.

Today 5G has arrived, but not everywhere; it is the technology that will bridge the gap between mobile devices and humans. What do I mean by this? This latest technology, 5G, has the ability to move more data at greater speeds while allowing more devices to connect and be more responsive. An example would be medical devices, which can connect and retrieve data in real time. It is quite appropriate that as we start a new decade that will be seeing a rise in a whole new set of technologies, all birthed from an idea of not being connected to a place.

It all sounds wonderful, and in fact so much of it is; but something has gone terribly wrong. How did we go from Cooper’s vision of granting us freedom from wires to now being bound to this wireless millstone?

Bondage does seem like a strong word, but today it is a reality that our mobile devices represent so much of our identities; so much so that governments want to make sure that the actual user of a mobile device is the person in their records.

Our life is being mapped by data points; it may well be that there is no turning back. However, we still have some control over those wireless devices and how much information we allow them to use.

As we ring in the New Year, and the new decade, let us be diligent in staying safely Connected. Be sure to always review the apps on your phone and what permissions they have by default. Many of the permissions can be changed and remove apps that you do not use anymore.

Film’s Recommended by Marcial


 
 
This is a trading world and men, women and children, who cannot live on gravity alone, need something to satisfy their gayer, lighter moods and hours, and he who ministers to this want is in a business established by the Author of our nature.  If he worthily fulfills his mission and amuses without corrupting, he need not feel that he has lived in vain.
 
~ Phineas T. Barnum ~
 
Source Code, US, 2011, 93 minutes, Science fiction thriller
 
It’s a Wonderful Life, US, 1946, 132 minutes, classic drama
 
Casablanca, US, 1942, 102 minutes, drama/romance
 
How to Steal a Million, US, 1966, 127 minutes, classic comedy
 
Beginners, US, 2010, 105 minutes, comedy/drama
 
The Debt, US, 2010, 114 minutes, espionage thriller
 
Larry Crowne, US, 2011, 99 minutes, romantic comedy
 
Ed Wood, US, 1994, 127 minutes, comedy
 
Keeping Mum, UK, 2005, 136 minutes, black comedy

The Mouse That Roared, UK, 1959, 83 minutes, comedy

The Party, UK, 1968, 99 minutes, classic comedy

Fair Game, US, 2010, 108 minutes, political thriller

The Right Stuff, US, 192 minutes, Drama

The Black Balloon US, 97 minutes, Drama

The Tree of Life, US, 2011, 139 minutes, Drama

Shopgirl, US, 2005, 106 minutes, Romantic Comedy

12 Strong, US, 2018, 130 minutes, Military Drama

In Therapy, Brazil, 2009, 93 minutes, Comedy

Soul Kitchen, Germany, 2009, 99 minutes, Comedy

Breakfast at Tiffany’s, US, 1961, 114 minutes, Comedy

Queen to Play, France, 2009, 101 minutes, Drama

Castaway on the Moon, Korea, 2009, 116 minutes, Comedy

Eat Drink Man Woman, Taipei, 1994, 124 minutes, Comedy

Bride Flight, Netherlands, 2011, 130 minutes, Drama

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Sweden, 2009, 152 minutes, Thriller

Bonjour Monsieur Shlomi, Israel, 2003, 94 minutes, Comedy

Ladies in Lavender, UK, 2004, 103 minutes, Drama

Paper Moon, US, 1973, 102 minutes, Classic

Outsourced, US, 2006, 103 minutes, Comedy

Stranger than Fiction, US, 2006, 113 minutes, Comedy

Run Lola Run, Germany, 1998, 80 minutes, Thriller

Frida, US, 2002, 122 minutes, Drama

The Hours, US, 2002, 114 minutes, Drama

Garden State, US, 2004, 103 minutes, Comedy

American Beauty, US, 1999, 122 minutes, Drama

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, US, 2004, 108 minutes, Comedy

The Green Mile, US, 1999, 189 minutes, Drama

Rain Man, US, 1988, 103 minutes, Drama

Chicago, US, 2002, 113 minutes, Musical

The Upside of Anger, US, 2005, 118 minutes, Comedy

Scarface, US, 1983, 170 minutes, Thriller

The Notebook, US, 2004, 123 minutes, Drama

Million Dollar Baby, US, 2004, 133 minutes, Sports drama

Good Bye, Lenin!, Germany, 2003, 121 minutes, Comedy

Finding Neverland, UK, 2004, 101 minutes, Drama

Spanglish, US, 2004, 131 minutes, Comedy

The Aviator, US, 2004, 170 minutes, Drama

The Bridge on the River Kwai, US, 1957, 167 minutes, Action

Pulp Fiction, US, 1994, 154 minutes, Thriller

The Magnificent Seven, US, 1960, 128 minutes, Western

Zorba the Greek, Greek, 1964, 142 minutes, Classic

O Brother, Where Art Thou?, US, 2000, 106 minutes, Comedy

La Strada, Italy, 1954, 108, Drama

In Bruges, UK, 2008, 107 minutes, Thriller-Comedy

Whatever Works, US, 2009, 92 minutes, Comedy

Good Morning Vietnam, US, 1987, 119 minutes, Comedy

Awakenings, US, 1990, 120 minutes, Drama

Patch Adams, US, 1998, 116 minutes, Comedy

Captain Abu Raed, Jordan, 2008, 102 minutes, Drama

Bandits, US, 2001, 123 minutes, Comedy

Lucky Number Slevin, US, 2006, 110 minutes, Thriller

The Chorus, France, 2004, 97 minutes, Drama

Butterfly, Spain, 1999, 97 minutes, Drama

K-Pax, US, 2001, 121 minutes, Science Fiction

Winter in Wartime, Netherlands, 2008, 103, Drama, Suspenseful

Elling, Norway, 2001, 90 minutes, Comedy

Il Postino, Italy, 1995, 108 minutes, Drama

 


Public Square

Public Square

African American History Monument     The South Carolina State House grounds are most definitely worth a stop; they have an impressive display of monuments honoring various individuals and commemorating events which matter, like African-American History. A good place to remember Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.     From South Carolina Just Right Website:...

Nature

Nature

Birthday Orchid Kate purchased this Phalaenopsis, at Home Depot, about a week before my...

~ Aristophanes~

High thoughts must have high language.

My Mother’s Favorite Verse

“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”~ Jeremiah 33: 3 ~

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