Friday, June 23, 2017

Expo 67: 50 Years Later

Memories of Montreal

“We are witnesses today to the fulfilment of one of the most daring acts of faith in Canadian enterprise and ability ever undertaken. That faith was not misplaced. But Expo is much more than a great Canadian achievement of design and planning and construction. It is also a monument to Man. It tells the exciting and inspiring story of a world that belongs not to any one nation but to every nation.”

Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson
Part of the Remarks at the opening of Expo ’67, 
Montreal, April 27, 1967



Expo 67: I was nine years old when Expo 67 took place (April 27 to October 29) in Montreal, the city where I was born and where I lived most of my life. It was Canada’s centennial and I remember receiving, along with the end of year report card, a silver dollar on the last day of school (Friday, June 23, 1967) from my Grade 3 teacher. My family went to the world’s fair a number of times that summer, where admission was $2.50 for adults and $1.25 for children. What I remember most was riding on the blue-and-white monorail, seeing the cool pavilions (there were 90 in total) from around the world (“Man and His World“ was the theme), and enjoying the many other attractions (including La Ronde, the amusement park), that moved the imagination of a young mind. It was all so wonderful and hopeful, which explains why so many Montrealers still can recall the days of the summer of 67 when 50-million visitors took part in some fashion in Expo 67, “the monument to Man.” For another old-time memory, you can listen to the theme song, “Ca-na-da” [here] in both English and French, which I and my class-mates learned in school that year. This catchy tune was written by Bobby Gimby [1918–1998].
Via: Youtube:

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

George Harrison: Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)


Via: Youtube

George Harrison [1943–2001] and his band perform “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth),” which is found on his 1973 album Living in the Material WorldHarrison’s personal confession of faith and love. You can hear an earlier version of the song [here], and a later version at a November 29, 2002 tribute evening, “Concert for George,” [here] at Royal Albert Hall in London, one year after his death.

Do such words as love and peace carry the same meaning as when this song was written and sung? I say this for a reason, because I would think that they do, but so much I see and read argues against this romantic sentiment of mine. Forty years is now a long time, with so much changing so quickly; during this period, but notably in the last 15 to 20 years, there have been so many changes in language and in meaning of words and in how we tend to view words such as love and peace today.

A whole generation has grown up under a dark cloud; a whole generation has grown up with the normalization of hate, fear and violence. A whole generation has grown up without any belief in hope. Think not? Look at what the culture today values and enjoys in TV, film, music and artistic expression. It is not that the past is necessarily better in all respects, but at least it had some comprehensive and deep abiding ideas on how to live as a human being. People were also both more serious and more humorous and unafraid to be this way.

Now, we have become ignorant and blithely ignore real concerns, including helping the very people who need the most help. Now, the politics of division, which finds clarity offensive, also finds peace and love less desirable than hate and conflict, serving the interests of the few. This is carried on the wave of self-indulgence, self-aggrandizement and self-entitlement. Self. Self. Self. Turning inward. Whose Self is it anyway? Where does it end? Self-fulfillment. Self-entitlement. Self-destruction.

It is easier to manipulate people when fear fills the air as a kind of toxic pollution that makes it hard to breathe. The bad air is heavy with anxiety and will weigh you down in depressive defeat. Down. Down. Down. Yet, for me these universal words of light have the same meaning. The music tells me so. Listen to the music of love, hope and peace, my friends. It will help you breathe; the mind requires oxygen to think clearly, to look beyond selfish interests, which has become another barrier. It will lift you up. Up. Up. Up.


Give Me Love
by George Harrison

Give me love
Give me love
Give me peace on earth
Give me light
Give me life
Keep me free from birth
Give me hope
Help me cope, with this heavy load
Trying to, touch and reach you with,
Heart and soul

Om m m m m m m m m m m m m m
M m m my lord . . .

Please take hold of my hand, that
I might understand you

Won't you please
Oh won't you

Give me love
Give me love
Give me peace on earth
Give me light
Give me life
Keep me free from birth
Give me hope
Help me cope, with this heavy load
Trying to, touch and reach you with,
Heart and soul

Om m m m m m m m m m m m m m

M m m my lord . . .

******************
Summer begins with the summer solstice (in North America) today at 12:24 A.M. EDT.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Reading Now (June 2017): A Jew Grows in Brooklyn

Being American


First Generation American: I picked up this book at a second-hand shop; I paid 50 cents, a wonderful bargain. A Jew Grows in Brooklyn (2010), by Jake Ehrenreich, the son of immigrant parents from Poland, was born sometime during the 1950s in Brooklyn during post-war America. Both his parents survived the Holocaust, and both his parents came to America after spending time in a displaced-persons camp. They did the best that they could, considering the circumstances; perhaps better than most. These salient facts are important, since these facts intruded into the lives of their children, unintentionally of course but they most certainly did. This book gives some insight on how these facts, birthed in trauma and tragedy, shaped the lives of Jake and his two sisters. The stories within the book’s pages are as much as his parents as they are about Jake and his sisters. He tells the stories with a mix of seriousness and humor. Life is serious, but it is also funny with moments of absurdity, that become evident after taking some distance from the subject. I marvel at persons who can laugh at, or make light of, their personal losses and misfortunes. Very uplifting.
Photo Credit & Source: ©2017. Perry J. Greenbaum

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Happy Curmudgeon: Finding ‘The Comforters’

Pain: 1:17
“Happy is the man…”

Photo Credit: ©2017. Eli Greenbaum





















“It is not in our power to understand either the suffering of the righteous 
or the prosperity of the wicked.” 
Pirkei Avot 4:15

This is a serious post. I hate to see people suffer; I hate to see animals suffer. I can never work in healthcare; I can never work with animals. I have had pets and I have seen them die. Heart-breaking. I am too sensitive for it. Sure, I can brace myself, as I have done with seeing both my parents suffer before succumbing to death. I have also been to a good number of funerals. I can’t say that these were happy events, no matter how eulogies often make it a “celebration of life.” Many of these persons suffered before the illness took their lives from them.

This is the way that I view it; life is precious and suffering is a scourge on us, an evil visited on humanity. I do not see any reason for it, although I understand why people throughout history have attempted to find reasons for pain and suffering, including C.S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain (1940) and in a more personal confessional, A Grief Observed (1961), first published under a pseudonym. Both books are well written and argued, but along with others on the subject, they fall short in providing closure to a difficult question. I am not surprised, since there is no satisfactory answer to the question of suffering.

For example, Christianity views suffering as a problem of original sin and, also, of personal sin. Such was the view of Job’s “friends” and “comforters, who despite Job being “blameless and upright” (Job 1:1), concluded that he must have committed some horrible sin to suffer the way that he did. Job maintains his innocence in the face of tragedy and the accusations of wrong-doing from his comforters. They could not have known of the cosmic wager between God and Satan (1:8–12), the true and only reason for Job’s change of fortune and suffering.

Later on, we read that God spoke out of the whirlwind in anger (Job 38:1–42:6), but made no apologies for his capricious actions. He also offered no explanation. We are left with the idea, however uncomfortable, that God’s ways are mysterious—and thus are not completely known to man. Such is the general view of Judaism today, yet Maimonides [1138–1204] (also called Rambam), the great Jewish medieval thinker takes the position in his Guide for the Perplexed (1190) that suffering can be attributed to human failings, in line with contemporaneous Christian thinking.

There is no sense in this medieval argument that Job, who was a pious man, might have learned more about God without causing him to suffer unjustly, especially since God’s speeches do little or nothing to explain himself, his intentions or his cosmic wager with with Satan, the adversary. Rationally, it would follow that there was no need for the suffering, except for God to win the bet. This does nothing to place God in a majestic position.

Such thinking, however, is still prevalent today among both evangelical Christians and orthodox Jews, usually among the more fundamentalist sects who view the bible (or Torah) as a literal unchanging document that is timeless. Such people, who tend to cling to past traditions, including those of dress and mannerisms. have no problem making judgments on the failings of others, but not their own. Such is a weakness of mind, a failure of the heart.

Yet, modern man views pain and suffering as cruel, chiefly because it is; it is for this reason that modern man, in his decency and dignity, tries to find ways to alleviate suffering. I am, of course, applying human standards and I make no apologies for it. I expect better of God, notably since it says in the Bible, “God created man in His own image”(Genesis 1:27). I also make no apologies for condemning as cruel and barbaric the suffering that humans too often inflict on each other and for the suffering that humans often inflict on animals. One such act is too much, but we know that such acts are multiplied by numbers far higher than this. Very large numbers that numb the senses.

This is tragic; and the real tragedy is that those of us who are sensitive are incapable of preventing suffering and pain. We can’t understand the purpose of suffering, but we can act as true comforters, which is what I view as the chief theme of a movie I recently viewed on Netflix. You’re Not You (2014). It is about a young woman, a classical pianist dying from ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which ravages her body and takes away who she was/is. In the end, she receives human comfort from another. Predictably, it received mostly negative reviews for being overly sentimental.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

George Harrison: What Is Life (2016)


What is Life by George Harrison
©2002. G.H. Estate Ltd.
Via: Youtube


In this music video, Emma Rubinowitz, a member of the San Francisco Ballet, dances simply beautifully to an equally beautiful simple love song by George Harrison [1943–2001], “What is Life,” recorded for his triple album, All Things Must Pass, which Apple Records released in November 1970. George Harrison, “a spiritual man” died from cancer on November 29, 2001; he was 58. It is more than appropriate that a good part of this video, artistic in nature, is shot outdoors showing the beauty of human love against the permanence of nature in the free and unrestricted expression of movement and dance. Nature endures; it is undeterred by what man does, by what man throws at it. It was around then and will be around later. Humans, however, are different; humans need things, humans need emotion and feelings. If you have lived a life in the presence of love, both in the giving and in the receiving, then you have succeeded in living a life well-lived. This is a rare achievement no doubt, making it all the more precious. Before I forget to mention it, and I must get back to the dancing, the male dancer is Esteban Hernandez, who is also marvelous. Well done, all around.

What is Life
by George Harrison

What I feel, I can’t say
But my love is there for you, any time of day
But if it’s not love that you need
Then I’ll try my best to make everything succeed

Tell me, what is my life without your love
Tell me, who am I without you, by my side?

What I know, I can do
If I give my love now to everyone like you
But if it’s not love that you need
Then I’ll try my best to make everything succeed

Tell me, what is my life without your love
Tell me, who am I without you, by my side
Tell me, what is my life without your love
Tell me, who am I without you, by my side?

What I feel, I can’t say
But my love is there for you any time of day
But if it’s not love that you need
Then I’ll try my best to make everything succeed

Tell me, what is my life without your love
Tell me, who am I without you, by my side
Oh tell me, what is my life without your love
Tell me, who am I without you, by my side?

What is my life without your love
Tell me, who am I without you, by my side?

Oh tell me, what is my life without your love
Tell me who am I without you by my side?

Monday, June 12, 2017

Baseball as Art

America’s National Pastime

This is a continuation of a blog series on baseball, first starting with Ken Burns’ Baseball (1994), posted in April, Baseball by the Numbers posted in early May and Baseball is Beautiful to Watch posted in late May. In this last post on baseball, I combine two of my interests: baseball and art.



“Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. 
And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona.”

 —George F. Will, Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball (1990)

Babe Ruth Farewell at Yankee Stadium on June 13,  1948, might be the most famous baseball photo ever taken, artistically valuable. Ruth died of cancer on August 16, 1948; he was only 53. Not at all surprising, this photo won the Pulitzer Prize in 1949. Michael Palmer does a wonderful job—the best I have read thus far—in describing the power and poignancy of this photo; he does so by applying the theory of Aesthetic Realism, a way of seeing: “Nat Fein, a staff photographer for New York Herald Tribune, was looking for a picture that would convey the meaning of that day. He left the other photographers and went to the back of where Ruth was standing, where he saw the elements of the story in one composition—Ruth in relation to his former teammates, to the Stadium, to the fans. He saw Babe Ruth in a moment of great triumph and in a tremendously sad moment as well.”
Photo Credit: © Nat Fein

When you are a longtime fan of anything, you know all the iconic images. Baseball is no exception. There is one of Babe Ruth Farewell (1948) shown above, and another of Lou Gehrig Day (July 4, 1939). Then there is one of Mickey Mantle and The Helmet Toss (June 1965) and yet another of Joe DiMaggio and His Swing (June 29, 1941). Yes, it is true that all played for the New York Yankees, the greatest franchise in major league baseball, which dominated the sport (along with the Brooklyn Dodgers) in the 1940s and ’50s.

Even so, there are so many more iconic photos, such as the fierce Ty Cobb Stealing Third (July 23, 1910), the Bobby Thompson Home Run (“shot heard round the world;” October 3, 1951), Wille Mays and “The Catch” (September 29, 1954 in the 1954 World Series); Jackie Robinson and his Third Base Dance (Game 3 of the 1955 World Series) and Sandy Koufax and his Perfect Game (September 10, 1965). Such are only a small select sample of photos that tell the story of baseball in an artistic way, depicting the players who made the game what it is, depicting in its simplicity both its victories and its defeats.

One of the aims of “the artistic” impression is to show the humanity in the human, and these photos do so in a way that captures the imagination, the spirit that ruled the age. The times change, and even if we were around during these times, our memories aren’t as reliable as we would like or think. Memories fade like the photos themselves. Yet, we return to these photos to provide a physical record of not only the history, but also to sense (and recapture) the feelings that then permeated the air.

**********************
To see how the two intersect—fine art and baseball— go to [FineArtAmerica] and [Christie’s].

Friday, June 9, 2017

The Happy Curmudgeon: Second-Guessing Experts

Certainty: 1:16

“Happy is the man…”


Photo Credit: ©2017. Eli G. Greenbaum





















Don’t trust all experts; don’t trust everyone who calls himself an expert; experts, notably TV pundits, are often wrong, particularly when it comes to predicting financial and economic news (e.g., the stock market, the housing market, etc.). Such is the chief take-away from a documentary that I recently viewed on CBC’s show, “Hot Docs” with Anne-Marie MacDonald, The Trouble With Experts, written and directed by Montrealer Josh Freed, which was first broadcast on March 26, 2015.

Research following the predictions of so-called experts showed that many fared no better than a person guessing randomly or a chimpanzee throwing darts. In another case, non-experts were better than experts in predicting certain economic outcomes. One way of deciding whether to trust an expert is the level of certainty that he outwardly shows. The greater his certainty the greater the possibility of him being wrong; so much of his blunder is replete with bluster.


















The Trouble With Experts (2015),
a CBC documentary produced by Josh Freed.
Via: Youtube

Such is considered confidence, equated with certainty. But it is hardly so, which is instructive. As much as weather forecasters or meteorologists are often publicly maligned, they do give forecasts with a level of certainty, such as 30% chance of showers. It might be good for those who make financial and economic predictions to follow suit and do the same, but somehow I have my doubts that they could do this, since so much of their predictions are no more than hot air coming from an over-sized ego.

As for political pundits, most of us know that this is (bad) entertainment, not to be taken seriously—no more than one would take seriously the words of a king’s jester. There are serious experts, no doubt, found in all fields of human endeavor, but something happens to their ability to think clearly and rationally when they decide to go on TV or on other forms of visual social media. They perform, not unlike actors, because this is what is “expected of them.”

They, that is, the TV experts, might not be aware of this process, or they likely might. This requires a level of self-awareness and a high degree of doubt, which is not easy to obtain. This generally takes work and deep introspection and access to understanding and knowledge that is often only found in books, some of them old and dusty. Ideas of goodness, truth and beauty. Might it not be time to blow off the dust?

Perhaps this “belief in experts” is an outcome of the persuasive power of mass media, and also in our inability to easily understand/perceive the world for ourselves. By trusting experts, particularly those in the mass media, we hand over to others an ability to think, notably on what is good and beautiful and true; this is a fool’s game. Marshall McLuhan [1911–1980], a Canadian philosopher and communication theorist, says as much in Understanding Media (1964):“All media exists to invest our lives with artificial perception and arbitrary values” (199).

If such is indeed the case, then it is up to us to find the (moral and ethical) values that we wish to live by. By no means is this an easy task, but it is a necessary one.