Sunday, July 1, 2018

Cats Cradle by Jonathan Napolitano (2018)

A Cat Haven

“Compassion for animals is intimately connected with goodness of character, and it may be confidently asserted that he, who is cruel to living creatures, cannot be a good man. Moreover, this compassion manifestly flows from the same source whence arise the virtues of justice and loving-kindness towards men. ”
Arthur Schopenhauer [1788–1860], 
The Basis of Morality (1840), p. 233

Cat Lovers: Some people are really fond of cats, real cat lovers (ailurophiles). Such is exemplified in a short piece on a cat-dedicated couple that Emily Buder posted for The Atlantic (June 19th 2018): “Cats are like potato chips, reads a sign in Bruce and Terry Jenkins’s home. You can’t just have one! In fact, the Jenkinses have 30. They have devoted their retirement to caring for this plethora of elderly cats, transforming their home over the years into a makeshift feline senior center. ‘It’s kind of a big family,’ says Terry Jenkins in Jonathan Napolitano’s short documentary, Cats Cradle. ‘It gives me the opportunity to be with more cats than I possibly could ever have imagined.’” This is not a “cat lady” who has been ascribed societal attributes of eccentricity or of craziness in her devotion to elderly cats; no, this is a cat couple who share the same love of animals. There is nothing wrong with that, and a whole lot that is right. Beautiful to watch these furry felines and the humans who tend to them. There is much good and truth in what Schopenhaeur says.
Courtesy: The Atlantic; Youtube

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Happy Canada Day (Fête du Canada) to my fellow Canadians; I am taking some time off and will return in August.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary (2016)


Chasing Trane: If you have the opportunity, view this 2016 video documentary on John Coltrane, the jazz legend (I viewed it recently on Netflix); and then get your hands on some of his music. I have been posting some of what touches me the last week or so. Coltrane’s music gently yet persuasively moves the human, both heart and mind, in a positive direction. It has the power to heal, the power to uplift the broken and contrite heart, the sore and famished soul, and the power to bring about wholeness to those who are currently poor in spirit, which I believe is a larger number than those in power have awareness of, let alone openly acknowledge.
Courtesy: Youtube

Friday, June 29, 2018

Top Cat: All That Jazz (1961)


Top Cat: “All That Jazz” (Ep. 3; October 11,1961). The alley cats reside in a 1960s ghetto of limited opportunities, hemmed in by pool halls and bowling alleys and banged-up trash cans and broken white picket fences. And run-ins with the law. It’s a puuurfect portrayal of poor cats who want a piece of the action, even if the show’s creators never had this in mind. This might be an animated cartoon, and its characters act their comedic parts, but the unhappy reality it portrays is often no laughing matter, as growing inequalities normalize in America—and the war on the poor becomes normal, too. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Except it is worse today to be poor, since the differences are greater. If the people on the bottom look for a way out of their poverty, out of their circumstances, at times relying on ill-conceived or get-rich-quick schemes to get out of the “inner-city ghetto,” it all makes perfect sense. Such is the power of the American Dream. The urban landscape might change over the years, it might even be prettified and gentrified, but the heart of man remains the same.
Courtesy: Youtube

Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Cat Concerto (1947)

The Cat Concerto (1947), a Tom and Jerry animated short (Episode 29; April 26, 1947), for many the best-known of this cartoon series showing the continuing conflict for domestic dominance between Tom (a house cat) and Jerry (a house mouse). Domestic bliss does not exist. Jerry is Tom’s nemesis, his antagonist, befitting the symbolic battle between a cat and a mouse, and yet the relationship between the two is symbiotic. The music is from Franz Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 in C-sharp minor, S.244/2. The animation is by Kenneth Muse, Ed Barge and Irven Spence; the musical supervision by Scott Bradley; and the story and direction by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera.
Courtesy: Youtube

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

My Balcony Garden: The End of June (2018)

Concrete Gardening

Green Growth: A month into my vegetable gardening initiative, here is the look of my sixth-floor balcony garden. There is real growth. Moreover, since my last posting (May 27th) on this subject, I have added two more plants—a yellow bell pepper (Capsicum annuum) and a spearmint (Mentha spicata)—to the modest urban garden: a total of four plants. Beginnings are often small, humble in origin. I plan to post again in two months, hopefully of plants showing the full fruits of their labour.
Photo Credit: ©2018. Perry J. Greenbaum

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Henri Matisse: Jazz (1947)

Jazz (1947): The Swimmer in the Tank (La Nageuse dans l’aquarium) by Henri Matisse. The colours are striking, matched only by the feeling of serenity it evokes. The book contains 20 colour prints—this is one of them—each about 16 x 20 inches (41 x 66 cm). It was first issued on September 30, 1947, by art publisher Tériade of France.  As one art site puts it: “Henri Matisse’s illustrated book Jazz (1947) is one of the most famous graphic works and arguably one of the best loved artworks of the 20th century. In Matisse’s first major ‘cut-out’ project, realism and abstraction are finally reconciled at the end of a life-long tension. With the cut-out technique, Matisse felt he had finally solved the problems of form and space, outline and colour. ‘It is not a beginning, it is an endpoint’, the artist stated.”
Courtesy: MOMA; NYC

Monday, June 25, 2018

George Benson: All That Jazz’s ‘On Broadway’ (1979)


On Broadway, sung here by George Benson for the 1979 American film, All That Jazz, based on the life of Bob Fosse [1927–1987], an American dancer, choreographer and screenwriter who is the director of this film. What is being viewed here is the film’s opening sequence, showing a multitude of dancers in rehearsal. The song was written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, with suggested changes made by the famous songwriting duo of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. A number of artists and bands recorded this song in the 1960s, including The Cookies, The Crystals and The Drifters. Benson’s version is found on his 1978 album Weekend in L.A.
Courtesy: Youtube

Sunday, June 24, 2018

John Coltrane: A Love Supreme (1965)

“During the year 1957, I experienced, by the grace of God, a spiritual awakening which was to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life. At that time, in gratitude, I humbly asked to be given the means and privilege to make others happy through music. I feel this has been granted through His grace. ALL PRAISE TO GOD.”
John Coltrane, liner notes, A Love Supreme


John Coltrane [1926–1967]: A Love Supreme, released by Impulse! Records in January 1965.
CourtesyYoutube

The complete album was recorded in one session at Van Gelder Studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, on December 9, 1964. The album is a suite of music that contains four parts: “Acknowledgement,” “Resolution,” “Pursuance,” and “Psalm.” The music is unashamedly devotional, with deep religious and spiritual roots, an aching search and a resolute and gracious acknowledgement of a Supreme Being and His Love.

Not your typical jazz album, no doubt, chiefly because the music is about personal transcendence, an honest declaration of spiritual awakening and of love, of reaching up, reaching out, letting go. It is about the integration of mind and heart, an integration that many of us seek. “Seek and you shall find.” The music touches our innermost being, our soul, bringing us to a place that finds Grace.

Less than three years later, Coltrane was no longer with us in a physical way, having been taken from this earthly scene when he was only 40. Nevertheless, he left us the legacy of his music and his spiritual inspiration, which lives on, as does the words to his declarative poem found [here]. It begins: I will do all I can to be worthy of Thee O Lord./ It all has to do with it./Thank you God. /Peace.

The Quartet
John Coltrane: bandleader, tenor & soprano saxophone
McCoy Tyner: piano
Jimmy Garrison: double bass
Elvin Jones: drums, timpani & gong

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Stan Getz Quartet & Chet Baker in Stockhom (1983)


Stan Getz Quartet & Chet Baker play cool jazz at the Södra Teatern (Southern Theatre) in Stockholm, Sweden, on February 18, 1983. The oldest theatre in Stockhom, it dates to the mid-1850s. For the set list, go [here].
CourtesyYoutube


The Quartet consists of Stan Getz (tenor saxophone) Jim McNeely (piano), George Mraz (double bass) and Victor Lewis (drums); and then there is Chet Baker, self-destructive but brilliant in his understanding and self-awareness. Technique is less important than artistry; robots can master technique.

The music is timeless, floating above all the despair, pain and sadness that has joined together with the hope, inspiration and happiness in an admixture of light and darkness. Such adumbrates our great societal unrest, our unease with the status quo and our real feelings of impending doom.

Such has become the narrative of modern life, all of it man-made, a messy construction of humanity’s best and worst inclinations, abilities and traits. Awareness is only the beginning in this journey. The door is open for a spiritual awakening, a personal transcendence, an acknowledgement of a Supreme Love.

Friday, June 22, 2018

John Coltrane: Alabama (1963)

John Coltrane, with McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison, performing “Alabama,” on Jazz Casual (National Educational Television; December 7, 1963). The track is found on the 1964 album, Live at Birdland.
CourtesyYoutube


This is a response in music to the four girls killed (murdered) at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, on Sunday, September 15, 1963. The four girls are Addie Mae Collins (age 14), Cynthia Wesley (age 14), Carole Robertson (age 14) and Carol Denise McNair (age 11); 14 others are injured, including Sarah Collins, the 12-year-old sister of Addie Mae Collins, who loses an eye in the bomb blast. 

A few days later, on September 18, 1963, Martin Luther, Jr. delivers an eulogy, a response in words to acts of hate and injustice. Words that rise to the occasion. Words that desire to console and give courage to the hearts of all men and women, regardless of the color of their skin. Such words, which likely inspire Coltrane’s soulful music above, are also well worth listening to today. One should never tire of correcting injustice, of working for justice, of turning evil into good.



Martin Luther King Jr.’s Eulogy for the Young Victims, September 18, 1963. Dr King begins as follows: “This afternoon we gather in the quiet of this sanctuary to pay our last tribute of respect to these beautiful children of God.”
Courtesy: Youtube

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Charles Mingus: Mingus Ah Um (1959)


Charles Mingus: Mingus Ah Um (1959), which was recorded at the Columbia 30th Street Studio, NYC, in May 1959 and released in September 1959. This building was originally a church and transformed into a recording studio in 1949. How apropos! On a similar track, the album’s funky cover art is by Sadamitsu “S. Neil” Fujita, in matching the progressive sound of this music

The Musical Artists
Charles Mingus: composer, double bass Shafi Hadi: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone Horace Parlan: piano Dannie Richmond: drums Brooker Ervin: tenor saxophone Jimmy Knepper: trombone
Willie Dennis: trombone The Tracks Better Git It In Your Soul 0:00 Goodbye Pork Pie Hat 7:18 Boogie Stop Shuffle 12:59 Self-Portrait In Three Colors 17:56 Open Letter To Duke 21:02 Bird Calls 26:50 Fables Of Faubus 33:04 Pussy Cat Dues 41:15 Jelly Roll 50:25

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

1959: The Year That Changed Jazz (2009)

1959: The Year That Changed Jazz, a BBC documentary directed by Paul Bernays, first broadcast in 2009. The British broadcaster writes about that year, 1959: “Four major jazz albums were made, each a high watermark for the artists and a powerful reflection of the times. Each opened up dramatic new possibilities for jazz which continue to be felt: Miles Davis, Kind of Blue; Dave Brubeck, Time Out; Charles Mingus, Mingus Ah Um; and Ornette Coleman, The Shape of Jazz to Come.” If art reflects the zeitgeist of a period in time, and music is its accessible language, then this musical documentary will help you understand such times as these, which led to the 1960s and the civil rights era with all of its attendant hopes, dreams, aspirations and opportunities for a better life for all of America’s residents. Such changes were not quietly planned in a dark corner of an oak-paneled private club, but were brought about in the light of day, in the light of justice, in the light of undeniable truth through street protests, through the courts and through the legislatures. Such is the way it is; change never comes easy. It takes a multitude of men and women of conscience acting on their conscience.
Courtesy: Youtube

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Everybody Wants to Be a Cat: The Aristocats (1970)


“Everybody Wants to Be a Cat” in a wonderful musical scene from the 1970 Disney animated film, The Aristocats, based on a story by Tom McGowan and Tom Rowe. Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman, this song was written and composed by Floyd Huddleston and Al Rinker. The story, set in Paris in 1910, is an old story about money, greed and inheritance and, of course, there is the music and the artistic beauty of 2D animation, which likely appeals to the same type of persons who enjoy vinyl LPs, 35mm film cameras and genuine wood floors (not plastic laminates, if you please) along with Moleskin notebooks, mechanical pencils, and fountain pens. Hep Cats. Cool Cats. Aristo Cats. House Cats. As for the song’s title, is it not true? Everybody wants to be a cat/Because a cat’s the only cat who knows where it’s at/Tell me, everybody’s pickin’ up on that feline beat/'Cause everything else is obsolete.
Courtesy: Youtube

Monday, June 18, 2018

Miles Davis Quintet: Teatro dell’Arte in Milan (1964)

 with Cool Jazz


Miles Davis Quintet at the Teatro dell’Arte in Milan, Italy on Sunday October 11, 1964, playing some cool jazz, the kind that you can and desire to listen to on a hot rainy day with your favorite cold drink nearby (Mine happens to be sparkling mineral water). The quality of the sound might not be to everyone’s liking, but this is from 50+ years ago; no doubt, it is hard to please everyone, and there is such a thing as musical taste and personal preference. As for me, with a cool drink in my hand, I am going to sit back and listen to some jazz history.
Courtesy: Youtube

The Quintet
Trumpet: Miles Davis
Saxophone: Wayne Shorter Piano: Herbie Hancock Bass: Ron Carter Drums: Tony Williams

The Playlist
Autumn Leaves 0:43 My Funny Valentine 14:34 All Blues 26:22 All of You 40:03 Joshua 50:41

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Visiting Edwards Gardens (2018)

Urban Garden


We visited Edwards Gardens a couple of weeks ago. Year after year, it looks the same, but this is a good consistency, a welcome one, a consistency of natural beauty which I can appreciate. Some of the many photos I have taken are below:




















All Photos: ©2018. Perry J. Greenbaum

Saturday, June 16, 2018

John Coltrane, Stan Getz and Oscar Peterson: Hackensack (1960)


Hackensack, played by the Miles Davis Quintet in Düsseldorf, West Germany, on March 28, 1960.
Courtesy: Youtube

This was a night that Miles Davis himself decided to take a break. The music was originally written by Thelonious Monk and first recorded by the Thelonious Monk Quintet (May 11, 1954), which itself was an adaptation of a song, “Rifftide,” first recorded by the Coleman Hawkins Orchestra (Los Angeles; February 23, 1945). Hackensack is a tribute song to Rudy Van Gelder, whose recording studio was located in this New Jersey city of 43,000, situated 19 km (12 miles) northwest of Midtown Manhattan.

The Miles Davis Quintet:
Tenor Saxophone: John Coltrane;
Tenor Saxophone: Stan Getz;
Piano: Oscar Peterson;
Bass: Paul Chambers; and
Drums: Jimmy Cobb

Friday, June 15, 2018

Oscar Peterson: Hymn To Freedom (1964)


Hymn To Freedom performed by the Oscar Peterson Trio at the Holbaek Jazz Club in Holbaek, Denmark, on May 2, 1964.
CourtesyYoutube

Oscar Peterson composed the music in 1962; it is the last track on the 1963 album, Night Train. The song, based on the Negro Spirituals he heard in the Baptist Church while growing up in Montreal’s Little Burgandy neighbourhood, is as beautifully arranged and played as it is timeless and true. Freedom begins in the mind and in the heart and works its way outward in human action. Freedom is an expression of human dignity. Freedom, while always important, takes on more significance when it is denied.


The Trio
Oscar Peterson on Piano Ray Brown on Bass Ed Thigpen on Drums

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Ken Burns: Jazz (2001)

Music in America


“Put it this way: Jazz is a good barometer of freedom… In its beginnings, the United States of America spawned certain ideals of freedom and independence through which, eventually, jazz was evolved, and the music is so free that many people say it is the only unhampered, unhindered expression of complete freedom yet produced in this country.”
Duke Ellington [1899–1974]



Jazz, a documentary mini-series (10 parts, each two hours long), directed by Ken Burns and narrated by Keith David, was first broadcast on PBS-TV in 2001 (January 8 to January 31, 2001). This is a clip from Part 1. The series chronicles the history of Jazz in the United States, beginning in 1917. While Jazz might have had outside influences, it is considered quintessential American music, since the social and economic conditions that shaped the lives of its major artists gave rise to the music known as American Jazz. At its core is freedom to be. Of the many prejudices that society holds and normalizes, prejudice against the poor is universal, a stigma of disapproval, a condemnation of “human failure,” which in the end becomes a condemnation of the person. Period. Being Poor  (“Born Poor, Staying Poor”) has long been viewed in America (and also, but to a somewhat lesser extent, in Canada) as a Moral Failing. So in comes Jazz, the soothing balm for the common people, for the individuals ignored, set aside, shut out and shut in. Jazz is not elitist, even though it has become so in some circles, which, quite tellingly, is the direct opposite of Jazz’s early and humble beginnings—its roots, so to speak. No doubt, such is something worth remembering.
Courtesy: Youtube

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Sheep Graze at The Montreal Botanical Garden (2018)

Sheep in Residence


Eco Project at the Montreal Botanical Garden (Jardin botanique de Montréal) at 4101 Sherbrooke Street E., corner of Pie-IX, involves the use of sheep (Ovis aries) doing what they love to do: eat grass. Espace pour la vie Montréal writes about this wonderful initiative that combines urban agriculture and animals: “From May 15 to July 2, nine sheep will be “mowing the lawn” at the Jardin botanique, near the Leslie Hancock Garden. […]. This eco-grazing is a joint initiative by the Jardin botanique and an NPO called the Laboratoire d’agriculture urbaine (AU/LAB), as part of the ‘Biquette à Montréal’ project.” There are nine ewes and four lambs. For more, go [here] and [here] and [here] and [here].
Courtesy: Espace Pour la Vie

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I am taking a short break and will return by mid-June.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Butterflies Go Free at Montreal’s Botanical Garden

Photo of the Day

Montreal Botanical Garden (Jardin Botanique de Montréal) has many living beings, including butterflies, as this photo from March 2014 shows. Every year, the Botanical Garden has a “Butterfly Go Free” event, describing it as follows: “From late February to the end of April, the Insectarium’s Butterflies Go Free event draws thousands of visitors of all ages into the Jardin botanique’s main exhibition greenhouse. All around the visitors, more than 1,500 butterflies of about fifty different species flit about, browsing from one flower to the next. The warmth, lush greenery and graceful aerial ballet invite everyone into a world of discovery and relaxation.” The butterfly belongs to the Lepidoptera, an order of insects that include moths, whose members are called lepidopterans. According to Wikipedia, “About 180,000 species of the Lepidoptera are described, in 126 families[1] and 46 superfamilies,[2] 10 per cent of the total described species of living organisms.[2][3] It is one of the most widespread and widely recognizable insect orders in the world. [4]” And the most well-known butterfly is the monarch (Danaus plexippus), which I have not seen yet this year, but I have already seen a couple of other butterflies this year at some of Toronto’s parks; it might be a good summer for butterfly watching after all. For more, go [here] and [here] and [here] and [here] and [here].
Courtesy: Wikipedia Commons; Richard McNeil; March 27, 2014.

Edward Albert: Butterflies Are Free (1972)


Butterflies Are Free (1972), an American comedy-drama film starring Edward Albert, Goldie Hawn and Eileen Heckart; the movie is based on the 1969 play by Leonard Gershe. The title is based  on  Charles Dickens’ Bleak House (1852–53): “I only ask to be free. The butterflies are free. Mankind will surely not deny to Harold Skimpole what it concedes to the butterflies.” Sometimes the freedom an individual desires is to be free from an overbearing, overprotective mother, as is the case in this film. “Freedom.” Is this not always the question before us: how much freedom individuals living in a community, both large and small ought to have? How to exercise such “freedoms”? how many of these freedoms ought to be enshrined as “rights”? The nature of politics within a democracy is for politicians, the people’s representatives, to decide such questions through discussion and debate and then a vote on whether to legalize it. In non-democratic states, of course, such things do not take place, the people’s interests matter not, do not count and are never taken into consideration.
Courtesy: Youtube

Monday, May 28, 2018

Jean Béliveau, ‘Le Gros Bill,’ My Hockey Hero

Photo of the Day


Joseph Jean Arthur Béliveau [born in 1931 in Trois-Rivières, Quebec–died in  2014 in Longueuil, Quebec] is shown in this 1963 photo during the height of his professional hockey playing days (1950–1971), sporting the “C” on his home game sweater, the designation of captain of Les Canadiens, which Béliveau proudly led for 10 years (1961–1971). Béliveau, who played centre, was 6' 3"; 205 lb., then considered tall for a player. He was known for his graceful skating, meticulous stickhandling and a well-aimed wrist shot. Known also as “Le Gros Bill” (named after a Québecois folk song, he was not only a hockey legend, he was my first sports hero. He was for many boys of my generation growing up in Montreal in the 1960s and the first two years of the ’70s, who followed and rooted for the Montreal Canadiens, “the Habs,” “Le Bleu-Blanc-Rouge.” I got to follow Béliveau later in his career (he playing between 1950 and 1971), and remember vividly when he scored his 500th goal (February 11th, 1971), a few of us watching the game at a friend’s house across the road. I met Béliveau as a hockey player a couple of times in my life; the first as a young boy asking for his autograph outside the old Montreal Forum (1924–1996) on Ste-Catherine W and Atwater, and he always was gracious. Always, as so many have said. This is how I remember him: a tall dignified athelete, but always a gentleman. Some might say, hockey is only a sport, and while this is true, and now it is hyped-up entertainment (reflecting, perhaps, the head-office move to New York from Montreal in 1989), it was different back then. Very different. We all need heroes, and I was fortunate to have one as a young boy. And a decent human being, as well, the likes of which are rarely seen in sports today. For more, go [here] and [here] and [here] and [here] and [here] and [here] and [here].
Courtesy: Library and Archives Canada; Louis Jacques for Weekend Magazine, December 28, 1963.

The Montreal Forum’s Last Game (1996)

Montréal Memories


The Montreal Forum, at 2313 Saint-Catherine Street West (corner of Atwater Avenue), sees its last hockey game on March 11, 1996, between Les Canadiens and the Dallas Stars; the Habs won, 4-1. After the game, there was a ceremony to mark the 70+-year history of this building (1924–1996), which included honouring many of the then-living greats of Les Canadiens. Maurice “Rocket” Richard received the longest standing ovation, lasting almost 10 minutes. There is history and legend behind this long ovation, one that any long time Montrealer knows. If you know about the importance of hockey in the City, and what Richard represented to working-class French-Canadians and to working-class English-Canadians, and to persons who were neither, but felt proud to be a Montrealer and a Quebecer (such as this writer), this all makes perfect sense. The Forum was considered a hockey shrine to many in Québec, and its closure marked the end of an era that started almost a century ago. Montreal is a special city; there is no city like it in Canada; there is no city like it in North America. Every person who likes his city says the same thing, and this is the way it ought to be. For more, go [here] and [here] and [here] and [here] and [here] and [here] and [here].
Courtesy: Youtube

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Beaver Lake, A Place of Reflective Beauty & Memory

Photo of the Day


Beaver Lake (Lac-aux-Castors), sitting prominently and prettily in Montréal’s Parc du Mont-Royal. What memories this photo engenders. One of my past-times while growing up in Montreal was to play at Mont-Royal Park, or as it was often called, “the mountain.” (The highest point at the top is 233 metres (or 764 feet) above sea level. On Sunday afternoons, picnicking near “The Chalet” at Beaver Lake was what my family would often do during the 1960s. One of the highlights was getting an ice cream cone, usually chocolate, at The Chalet’s snack bar. Although I had always thought it was always there, it opened in 1961, and was soon “considered one of the most innovative buildings in Québec,” says les amis de la montagne on its site. This is how I remember it, a picture frozen in my mind. and more so now that I am far away from it in a physical sense. It is true that I miss “it.” Waxing philosophical, some would say such reflects my distance from my youth, and this makes it more attractive—its absence. Perhaps this is true, but so is it true that I miss what I do not know or now have near me—a yearning for something that cannot be. For now, I hold on to the good memories. For more, go [here] and [here] and [here].
Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

My Balcony Garden (2018)

Concrete Gardening


Vegetables are necessary for healthy living and it is always better to grow your own, even if it is a modest garden, so last week my 10-year-old son and I added to our balcony garden two plants: the one on the left a jalapeno pepper (Capsicum annuum) and the one next to it a beefsteak tomato (Solanum lycopersicum). By early to mid August, if all goes according to good expectations, which includes good weather and good nurturing on our part, we will have a small bounty of delicious tomatoes and hot peppers. I will keep you posted with a few photos along the way.
Photo: ©2018. Perry J. Greenbaum

Saturday, May 26, 2018

The Four Lions of Montréal’s Parc du Mont-Royal

Photo of the Day


One of the Four Lions surrounding the Monument of George-Étienne Cartier at Montréal’s Parc du Mont-Royal. I have many fond memories of playing on and around these mighty bronze lions, symbolic of majesty, freedom and beauty, in the 1960s, when we lived in the area, in such close proximity to the park/“mountain.” The monument was made by sculptor George William Hill [1862–1934]; on the top is a winged female figure, La Renommée, and the whole beautiful installation was inaugurated on September 6, 1919 in the heart of Fletcher's Field, on av du Parc, on the west side. For more, go [here] and [here] and [here].
Courtesy: Wikipedia Commons

Bernstein, The Berlin Celebration Concert and Beethoven’s Symphony No 9 (1989)


Leonard Bernstein conducts Beethoven’s Symphony No 9 at the Schauspielhaus, right on Gendarmenmarkt in the centre of Berlin, with Freiheit (Freedom) replacing Freude (Joy), the choir  singing “Ode to Freedom,” to celebrate the Fall of the Berlin Wall during  this Christmas concert of 1989. The New York Times writes: “Leonard Bernstein transformed a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony today into an appeal for brotherhood as West and East Berliners mingled freely for the first Christmas in 28 years. ‘I am experiencing a historical moment, incomparable with others in my long, long life,' the American conductor said during the nationally televised performance on Monday.” In keeping with this sentiment, this concert was performed by an orchestra and chorus coming from many nations: the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus; the Chorus of the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra; members of the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden; the Philharmonischer Kinderchor Dresden; members of the Orchestra of the Kirov Theatre; members of the London Symphony Orchestra; members of the New York Philharmonic; and members of the Orchestre de Paris. The soloists are June Anderson (soprano); Sarah Walker (mezzo-soprano), Klaus König (tenor), and Jan-Hendrik Rootering (bass). Alle Menschen werden Bruder (“All Men Will Be Brothers”)For more, go [here] and [here] and [here].
Courtesy: Youtube

Friday, May 25, 2018

Lilian Wald, Nursing NYC’s Lower East Side

Photo of the Day

Lilian Wald [born in 1867 in Cincinnati, Ohio–died in 1940 in Westport, Connecticut] is shown here posing with great dignity in this undated photo. This woman accomplished so much in her mission to create a more just society, a mission that I heartily endorse. When for example, she opened the Henry Street Settlement, located in New York City’s Lower East Side, in 1893, she created the idea of public health nursing, an idea which is implemented today among nursing professionals and nursing practitioners. Wald accomplished much during the American Progressive era (1890–1920), when America was open to such ideas. What she did and accomplished was beyond anything that can be measured in a quantitative way; for one, she helped restore both a sense of hope and dignity to people who initially did not have much. We would be pleased if we were able to accomplish half as much as Ms. Wald did in her life. Anne M. Filiaci, Ph.D., writes the following on a site dedicated to Wald: “Within a few years the Henry Street Settlement had become a vibrant neighborhood center, offering residents of the Lower East Side not only nursing services, but a playground and a kindergarten, afterschool programs, classes for adults, boys’ and girls’ clubs, mothers’ groups, day trips and vacations to the country, summer camps, a theater, and the myriad other activities that came to be associated with the settlement house movement.”
For more, go [here] and [here] and [here] and [here].
Courtesy: Wikipedia Commons

Henry Street Settlement: 120 Years in 4 Minutes (2013)


Henry Street Settlement, at 263–267 Henry Street, at Manhattan’s Lower East Side,was founded by Lilian Wald [1867–1940] in 1893. The three buildings, federal row houses, were donated by American financier and philanthropist Jacob Schiff. Although this video is from five years ago, age matters not, since it continues to do what it has always done: provide so many wonderful programs to more than 60,000 New Yorkers each year. This is good. So good that what it has done for the past 125 years has not gone unnoticed, and in one remarkable gesture of generosity has been amply rewarded, this organization writes (Extraordinary $6.24 Million Gift to Henry Street”; May 7, 2018) on its site: “Henry Street Settlement received $6.24 million – the largest single estate gift to the Settlement in its history — from the estate of Sylvia Bloom-Margolies. The gift will be used to create The Bloom-Margolies Scholarship Fund in Memory of Sylvia Bloom Margolies, Raymond Margolies and Ruth Bloom to support Henry Street’s Expanded Horizons College Success Program. The Fund was established in memory of Sylvia Bloom-Margolies, her husband Raymond Margolies and her sister Ruth Bloom.” For more, go [here] and [here] and [here] and [here] and [here].
Courtesy: Youtube

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Carl Sagan, Making Science Accessible

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Carl Sagan [born in 1934 in New York City–died in 1996 in Seattle, Washington] in 1980 when space exploration was still popular among the public, capturing its imagination with the possibility of discovery and the possibility of other worlds besides ours. Sagan worked and taught at Cornell University for almost 30 years, having gone up to Ithaca after Harvard University denied him tenure in 1968. Sagan, who held a doctorate in astronomy and astrophysics from the University of Chicago, made science popular, interesting and fun. In this regard, I remember Cosmos (1980), the 13-part series originally broadcast on TV (“A Personal Voyage;” PBS). At the heart of Sagan was a curious and questioning mind, inquisitive but also cautious, as I would think a scientist ought to be. In his last book, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (1995), Sagan writes: “Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time—when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.”  As much as this is true, there is even more to say on this subject, found in, for example,  Richard C. Lewontin’s review (“Billions and Billions of Demons;” January 9, 1997) in The New York Review of Books, on how Science (and its scion, Technology) today also over-reaches and makes spurious claims. Money and the desire for fame, which brings more money, often makes “rational” people do funny things. For more, go [here] and [here] and [here] and [here] and [here] and [here]. 
Courtesy: Wired

George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion (1983)


Pygmalion, a 1983 American TV production starring Margot Kidder as Eliza Doolittle and Peter O'Toole as Professor Henry Higgins, one of the many adaptations. Pygmalion, the five-act play bGeorge Bernard Shaw, was first performed on stage at the Hofburg Theatre in Vienna on October 16, 1913, in a German translation by Siegfried Trebitsch. It opened in New York City at at the German-language Irving Place Theatre on March 24, 1914; and in London, In English, at His Majesty’s Theatre on April 11, 1914. Since then, there have been dozens of adaptations of this story, one of “making a lady” out of someone born to the lower classes, one of “making a lady” out of a working-class girl by teaching her diction and manners. The 1956 stage musical, My Fair Lady, is one of the most famous adaptations of this play, as is the 1964 film musical with Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn. It is funny in a sad way, a sort of humane comedy. But, it is also much more, as Fintan O’Toole astutely and sensitively writes (“The lie that poverty is a moral failing was buried a century ago. Now it’s back;” October 18, 2017) in The Guardian: “Pygmalion is not just about Eliza’s transformation from flower girl to apparent duchess. It’s about her father’s transformation from a disreputable character to the epitome of propriety. And in this morality tale is one of Bernard Shaw’s most important arguments: people are not poor because they are immoral; they’re immoral because they are poor. Or, to put it in the terms of today’s assumptions about poverty: the problem with the poor isn’t their ‘culture’ or their want of character. It’s just that they don’t have enough money.” Some people who are not poor might get it, but I suspect that they are in the minority. More’s the pity. For more, go [here] and [here] and [here] and [here].

Courtesy: Youtube

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Charlie Chaplin, The Dignified ‘Little Tramp’

Photo of the Day


“Friends have asked how I came to engender this American antagonism. My prodigious sin was, and still is, being a non-conformist. Although I am not a Communist I refused to fall in line by hating them. Secondly, I was opposed to the Committee on Un-American Activities — a dishonest phrase to begin with, elastic enough to wrap around the throat and strangle the voice of any American citizen whose honest opinion is a minority of one.”
—Charlie Chaplin, My Autobiography (1964)


Charles Spencer Chaplin [born in 1889 in London, England–died in 1977 in Corsier-sur-Vevey, Switzerland] is shown here in this 1921 photo. Chaplin starred in 82 films; his first film appearance was Making A Living (February 2, 1914), which can be seen [here]; The Tramp character was first seen in his next film, Kid Auto Races at Venice (February 7, 1914), and can be seen [here]. Although he played many other roles, Chaplin is most famous for his role as “The Tramp,” a childlike goodhearted individual, who, despite being a vagrant, behaves with the manners and dignity of someone born into a higher social class. The Tramp is endearing, representing us, all downtrodden and resilient humanity. Without a doubt, Chaplin is a most wonderful actor, whose silent films I have enjoyed since I first laid eyes on them as a small child. These quickly come to mind: Easy Street (1916), where life in the slums is not easy, a life of hardship and incredible deprivation; The Kid (1921), which is again close to home, a reminder, a reflection of Chaplin’s life as a kid living in the slums of South London at the end of the 19th century; The Gold Rush (1925)—“the picture I want to be remembered by,” Chaplin said; and City Lights (1931), a tragicomedy that took 800,000 feet of film and over two years to complete. What they bring to the common man and woman is thoughtful and powerful commentaries of being poor, both before and during “The Great Depression” it is their story. Then there is Modern Times (1936), the last silent film, a masterpiece of satire of our modern industrialized age (The Tramp never talks but sings a gibberish song at the end.); The Great Dictator (1940), his first talkie, and so prescient on totalitarianism, notably Fascism; and A King in New York (1957), a satirical look at the paranoia and hysteria dominant in the U.S. during  the era of McCarthyism (roughly 1947 to 1956) Moreover, as an anti-Fascist, he will forever be in my mind a man of good conscience and good taste. He will forever be the dignified “Little Tramp.” For more, go [here] and [here] and [here] and [here] and [here].
Courtesy: Wikipedia Commons; National Portrait Gallery, London

Charlie Chaplin’s Easy Street (1917)


Charlie Chaplin and Easy Street (1917): The site, Charlie Chaplin, writes of this film: “The look and feel of Easy Street evoke the South London of his childhood (the name “Easy Street” suggests “East Street,” the street of Chaplin’s birthplace). Poverty, starvation, drug addiction, and urban violence—subjects that foreshadow the social concerns in his later films—are interwoven in ‘an exquisite short comedy’ wrote critic Walter Kerr, ‘humor encapsulated in the regular rhythms of light verse’ (23).” It is hard to imagine that people lived like this; and yet a good many still do in western civilization. Look at how civilized we have become! Chaplin was right; only satire can work in this case.
Courtesy: Youtube

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Arturo Toscanini, An Ardently Anti-Fascist Conductor

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Arturo Toscanini [born in 1867 in Parma, Italy–died in 1957 in New York City, New York], in shown here in this 1947 photo, seven years before he stepped down from what he did best. Starting out as cellist from Parma, Italy, he became one of the 20th century’s great conductors, doing so for almost seven decades (1886–1954), leading such notable institutions as La Scala, the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic and the NBC Symphony Orchestra, which was created for him and which he led from 1937 to 1954. He was ardently anti-fascist, which places him in my good books as a hero. In  an article (“The Toscanini Wars”: July 10, 2017) for The New Yorker, David Denby writes what is already well-known but bears repeating: “After 1931, Toscanini refused to conduct in Italy, resisting Mussolini, who dangled honors and official posts; he was thereafter reviled in the Fascist press. Hitler pleaded with him to honor holy German art and preside over the Wagner rites at the Bayreuth Festival. When Toscanini turned him down, his recordings and broadcasts were banned in Nazi Germany. Instead of going to Bayreuth, he worked in 1936 and 1937 with the newly formed Palestine Orchestra (later the Israel Philharmonic), an ensemble largely composed of Jewish refugees. Toscanini did not make speeches; he stuck to business. But his sentiments were widely known, and he became a lodestar for anti-Fascists. After the war, Isaiah Berlin pronounced him ‘the most morally dignified and inspiring hero of our time—more than Einstein (to me), more than even the superhuman Winston.’ ” For more go [here] and [here] and [here] and [here] and [here]
Courtesy: The New York Times

Toscanini, The NBC Symphony Orchestra and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 (1948)


Arturo Toscanini conducts The NBC Symphony Orchestra in Ludwig van Beethoven’s [1770–1827] Symphony No.9 in D minor, opus 125, at NBC Studio 8-H, New York City, in a concert that was broadcast on April 3, 1948. In this concert are Anne McKnight (soprano); Jane Hobson (contralto); Erwin Dillon (tenor); Norman Scott (bass); as well as Members of the Collegiate Chorale.The Ninth Symphony premiered on May 7, 1824 in the Theater am Kärntnertor in Vienna. The soprano and alto parts were sung by Henriette Sontag and Caroline Unger. The fourth movement contains the famous “Ode to Joy,” taken from Friedrich Schiller’s poem of 1785. Two hundred years later (around 1979–80), Leonard Bernstein provides an informative and humane discussion on this wonderful symphony, touching on the meaning of love, joy and peace, and on King David’s Psalm 133: Hine ma tov u’ma-nayim. Deep thoughts, to be sure, but ones that are easily accessible by all humans. And for all humans. This symphony binds us together.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Martin Luther King, Jr., and His American Dream

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“The assistant director of the Office of Economic Opportunity, Hyman Bookbinder, in a frank statement on December 29, 1966, declared that the long-range costs of adequately implementing programs to fight poverty, ignorance and slums will reach one trillion dollars. He was not awed or dismayed by this prospect but instead pointed out that the growth of the gross national product during the same period makes this expenditure comfortably possible. It is, he said, as simple as this: ‘The poor can stop being poor if the rich are willing to become even richer at a slower rate.’ Furthermore, he predicted that unless a “substantial sacrifice is made by the American people,” the nation can expect further deterioration of the cities, increased antagonisms between races and continued disorders in the streets. He asserted that people are not informed enough to give adequate support to antipoverty programs, and he leveled a share of the blame at the government because it ‘must do more to get people to understand the size of the problem.’ ”
Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.,
Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? (1967)


Martin Luther King, Jr [born in 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia– died in 1968 in Memphis,Tennessee], was a Baptist minister and a social activist, a vocal leader of the civil right movement. In this photo, on March 25, 1968, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. addresses a crowd of civil rights marchers, about 25,000 individuals in Montgomery, Alabama. This is the culmination of the famous 54-mile Selma-Montgomery March, where marchers left Selma on March 21 and arrived in Montgomery on March 25. (One of the individuals taking part was Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.) The King Institute at Stanford University writes: “During the final rally, held on the steps of the state capitol in Montgomery, King proclaimed: ‘The end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience. And that will be a day not of the white man, not of the black man. That will be the day of man as man’ (King, “Address,” 130). ” That day has yet to arrive in America, which is hardly at peace with itself. It is a nation beset with violence and hatred and many kinds of social inequalities. As a stark reminder, on another day—April 4, 1968—Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr was murdered, assassinated actually, at The Lorraine Motel in front of Room 306. He was only 39. This is one of those days I will remember, a sad day for a 10-year-old Jewish boy, when hope took a downturn. If this man is to remembered for anything, it is as a man of conviction and hope, who wanted to turn chaos into community. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, one of the few who actually deserved the honour. For more, go [here] and [here] and [here] and [here] and [here].
Courtesy: TIME; Stephen F. Somerstein; Getty Images

Albert Einstein: Why Socialism? (1949)

The Capitalistic Society & Alienated Man


Albert Einstein and Charlie Chaplin at at the Los Angeles premiere of the film City Lights, on January 30, 1931. “Chaplin was the one man in Hollywood Einstein wanted to meet,” the article (“Einstein in Hollywood; April 1931; p. 36) in Photoplay said. Chaplin’s political and social views on modern society are well known. That being the case, I would have liked to have met both men.


In 1949, the noted physicist and humanitarian wrote an article for Monthly Review (May 1949), a socialist publication, entitled Why Socialism? It was republished 60 years later, on May 1, 2009, for good reasons;  I cite the following the salient points from it that Dr. Einstein made:
I have now reached the point where I may indicate briefly what to me constitutes the essence of the crisis of our time. It concerns the relationship of the individual to society. The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate. All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this process of deterioration. Unknowingly prisoners of their own egotism, they feel insecure, lonely, and deprived of the naive, simple, and unsophisticated enjoyment of life. Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.
The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil. We see before us a huge community of producers the members of which are unceasingly striving to deprive each other of the fruits of their collective labor—not by force, but on the whole in faithful compliance with legally established rules. In this respect, it is important to realize that the means of production—that is to say, the entire productive capacity that is needed for producing consumer goods as well as additional capital goods—may legally be, and for the most part are, the private property of individuals.
For the sake of simplicity, in the discussion that follows I shall call “workers” all those who do not share in the ownership of the means of production—although this does not quite correspond to the customary use of the term. The owner of the means of production is in a position to purchase the labor power of the worker. By using the means of production, the worker produces new goods which become the property of the capitalist. The essential point about this process is the relation between what the worker produces and what he is paid, both measured in terms of real value. Insofar as the labor contract is “free,” what the worker receives is determined not by the real value of the goods he produces, but by his minimum needs and by the capitalists’ requirements for labor power in relation to the number of workers competing for jobs. It is important to understand that even in theory the payment of the worker is not determined by the value of his product.
Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.
How true is this last point, as is the complete article. The conman man and woman will find comfort in these words, knowing that what he felt all along was not mere imaginings, but yearnings validated decades ago by such an eminent thinker. Albert Einstein was not only a genius in physics; he well understood society and how it worked, and much better than many current “experts” on the source of our lingering societal malaise: “The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil.”

Well, it has not gotten better in the last 70 years, has it? It has actually gotten worse. Capitalism has now extended its tentacles into all areas of human endeavors: birth, education, work, marriage, retirement and even death. (Funerals are expensive.) Capitalism has become more avaricious; and Man more alienated. The supporters of Capitalism are still many, even found among those it hinders and harms, but they tend to be older.

Capitalism is pertinacious, but it is also pernicious and non-inclusive. This fact alone might lead to the beginning of the end of Capitalism’s rule, notably for those who are born between 1981 and 1996 (“The Millennials”). As many recent articles and studies show, support for Capitalism in America is diminishing over-all. The younger generation of  Millennials hate Capitalism, preferring instead socialism. For more, go [here] and [here] and [here].

When a system creates so many poor people, who, despite higher education, remain poor, what else can you expect but a rejection of the system that, in many cases, has shut them out. I could go on and on, but a much better mind than mine has stated it with much clarity and humaneness. You should and can read the whole article that Prof. Einstein wrote almost 70 years ago [here]. I would highly recommend it.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Abraham Joshua Heschel, Prophetic Voice of Kindness

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 “There is immense silent agony in the world, and the task of man is to be a voice for the plundered poor, to prevent the desecration of the soul and the violation of our dream of honesty. The more deeply immersed I became in the thinking of the prophets, the more powerfully it became clear to me what the lives of the Prophets sought to convey: that morally speaking, there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings, that indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, that in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
“The Reasons for My Involvement in the Peace Movement” (1972)

Abraham Joshua Heschel [born in 1907 in Warsaw, Poland–died in 1972 in New York City, New York] is known for his stand against the Vietnam War, for his support of Black Civil Rights—including taking part in the Selma–Montgomery March in 1965—for his scholarship, and for finding the middle ground between the legalism of Orthodox and the leniency of Reform Judaism. Rabbi Heschel was, by all accounts, a most humane thinker and individual, who left a legacy of goodness, thoughtfullness and kindness, illuminated in his teachings, actions and writings, notably in such influential works as Man is Not Alone (1951), The Sabbath (1951), God in Search of Man (1955), and The Prophets (1962). Robert D. McFadden writes for The New York Times (in 1972) about the many parts that made up Rabbi Heschel: “Standing before a class, he was by turns a scholar who could elucidate fine points of the Talmud, a philosopher who could compare the metaphysics of Hegel and Kant and a Hasid, who could evoke the mystery of God's concern for man in tales and parables.” In Who is Man, Rabbi Heschel writes about the search for meaning, never easy but always necessary for thinking man: “The sense of meaning is not born in ease and sloth. It comes after bitter trials, disappointments in the glitters, foundering, strandings. It is the marrow from the bone. There is no manna in our wilderness.” True enough.
For more go [here] and [here] and [here] and [here] and [here] and [here] and [here].
Courtesy: Commonweal

The Eternal Light: Abraham Joshua Heschel (1972)

Kindness

This is Post No. 2,500.


Abraham Joshua Heschel interviewed by Carl Stern (on December 10, 1972) for “The Eternal Light” (1944–1989) show on NBC-TV.  The interview took place a couple of weeks before Rabbi Heschel’s death (from a heart attack on December 23, 1972); he was 65. The interview was shown on February 4, 1973.
     In a wide-ranging discussion, Rabbi Heschel talks about free will, wonder, discipline, meaning, prayer, the prophets, messianic redemption, God, loneliness, and the “celebration of life.” All serious talk. “Without holiness, we will sink into absurdity. …God is not limited to one nation, one people,” Rabbi Heschel says in this interview. “God is the Father of all men.” It might seem like a paradox, but Rabbi Heschel was both very Jewish and very universal, an understanding that came about by the study of the Prophets and by the life he led. When I watch this interview, I am led to the conviction that Rabbi Heschel is a sincere intelligent humane man. Here is what he said near the end of the interview, which validates this statement: “When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.”
    The Eternal Light, conceived by the Jewish Theological Seminary, began on radio in 1944, with radio dramas and continued on TV with interviews such as this one in 1952. It was broadcast by NBC as part of its Sunday morning religious programming until 1989. For more on The Eternal Light, go [here] and [here] and [here].
Via: Youtube