Monday, April 29, 2019

Libraries for All

Public Spaces

It is evident to all that I love libraries and books, and am a strong believer in public libraries as a force of social good for communities, both big and small. Such is the point that Sue Halpern brings out in an article (“In Praise of Public Libraries;” April 18, 2019) in The New York Review of Books; Halpern writes:
Years ago, I lived in a remote mountain town that had never had a public library. The town was one of the largest in New York State by area but small in population, with a couple thousand residents spread out over about two hundred square miles. By the time my husband and I moved there, the town had lost most of its economic base—in the nineteenth century it had supported a number of tanneries and mills—and our neighbors were mainly employed seasonally, if at all. When the regional library system’s bookmobile was taken out of service, the town had no easy access to books. The town board proposed a small tax increase to fund a library, something on the order of ten dollars per household. It was soundly defeated. The dominant sentiments seemed to be “leave well enough alone” and “who needs books?” Then there was the man who declared that “libraries are communist.”
By then, through the machinations of the town board, which scrounged up $15,000 from its annual budget and deputized me and two retired teachers to—somehow—turn that money into a lending library, we had around three thousand books on loan from the regional library consortium tucked into a room at the back of town hall. We’d been advised by librarians at the consortium that five hundred library cards would take us through the first year. They took us through the first three weeks. Our librarian, whose previous job was running a used bookstore, turned out to be a master of handselling, even to the rough-and-tumble loggers and guys on the road crew who brought their kids in for story time and left with novels he’d pulled for them, and then came back, alone, for more. Books were being checked out by the bagful; there were lines at the circulation desk. Children especially, but sometimes adults, couldn’t believe it was all free.
Truly wonderful. I, too, understand the importance of a library in a small community. When we lived in a rural community of 4,500 in New Hampshire, in Belknap County, 30 minutes northeast of its capital of Concord, we were members of the town’s library. It was well-used and served as an important place to not only take out books, but also to get all kinds of information from librarians.

At a time when almost everything costs money, and when people are increasingly being divided along class lines and when money is considered a great virtue by those who have it and where public spaces are shrinking, it is pleasing to know that libraries are freely open to anyone who has a library card, i.e., for everyone. Libraries are an equitable public space. This is something worth praising.

So, it comes as no surprise that when we moved to Maple, which is a community north of Toronto, we immediately joined the local library. Doing so gives us access to all nine libraries in the City of Vaughan, a fair sized city of about 300,000.

You can read the rest of the article [here].

Saturday, April 27, 2019

My Olympus OM-1 Film Camera


My Camera: An Olympus OM-1 with a 50mm f/1.8 lens.
Photo Credit: ©2019. Perry J. Greenbaum

Photography has long been a hobby of mine. When I purchased a used Olympus OM-1 [with a 50 mm f/1.8 lens]—a 35mm SLR film camera—in the early 1990s, I became more serious about it, even taking courses toward (and almost completing) a diploma in photography at my university. Then I became busy with other obligations, notably increasing work and family responsibilities, in particular the raising of children. Consequently, the camera came out of the closet less and less. Much to my delight, I found my “old faithful friend” last month in my basement storage, hidden away in one of my packing boxes.

When I took it out and held it in my hands, I was immediately impressed by its weight, the sturdiness of its body and the over-all way it felt in my hands. I then instinctively looked behind the camera’s viewfinder and pressed the button to shoot a picture. There was no film loaded, and, moreover, the light-meter needed a new battery. The problem at hand was where to buy both, which is not as easy to do as when I first purchased the camera decades ago or as easy as it was even 15 years ago. (Olympus, a  reputable Japanese manufacturer, introduced the camera in 1972 and stopped making it in 2002.]

Much has changed in the age of the digital and the Internet, making analogue forms obsolete or rare, though there is a return to old-school formats—marketed at people like me, both young and old.

So, after a search on the Internet, I found where I could purchase a replacement battery (a Wein cell 1.35 V) for the original PX625 1.35V mercury battery no longer manufactured, some rolls of Kodak 400 colour film and some Ilford 400 b& w film. It was not and is not cheap to buy, but it is what I must do if I agree that memories have no price. As is having a fully manual camera in your hands, with only a light meter as your aid and the years of experience in photography to guide you.

There is a pleasure of shooting pictures the old-school way, which means taking time to learn the mechanics and art of the photographic process, which includes (re)learning how to see the world, more often than not at a much slower pace. This slowing down, perhaps, also makes one appreciate what is in front of you.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Sam Cooke: A Change Is Gonna Come (1964)

Music of the Soul

Sam Cooke: A Change Is Gonna Come (1964) is what all good righteous persons desire, expect and hope for, the change of all changes that will once and for  all time end all manner of human conflict, human inequality and human injustice and bring forth the final and complete tearing of the veil of separation. It’s a hope of course, but as hopes go it’s a good and necessary one; and may I add, one that all seekers of truth and justice pray will manifest in their lives.
Via: Youtube

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Janis Joplin: Me and Bobby McGee (1970)


Me and Bobby McGee, sung by Janis Joplin [1943–1970] in her unmistakable and undeniable way. The song was written by Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster in 1969; it is the second track on side two of the album, Pearl (1971). Without question, this simple song means something to me, having first heard it as an adolescent when it came on the airwaves in 1971. How does one live? Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose. To be truly free is to be out of bondage, without chains of any kind. It is in the ideal, to be beholden to no man, at least not for any material goods. Silly youthful idealism? Perhaps. Or not at all. Many have lost their way. It is true that I was a young “old soul.” Now I am an old “old soul” living with the same unanswered questions, still searching for the essence of justice and peace, a strong unmet desire for the “living water.” Soul is about the spirit, the opposite of materialism, which finds a way to invade and suffuse every living space, often invited in under the most friendly terms, including, sadly, many houses of worship. It is not a surprise that this song brings to mind the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:3). 
Via: Youtube

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Keith Green: Create in Me a Clean Heart (1984)

Godly Relationships

“For David had done what was right in the eyes of the LORD and had not failed to keep any of the LORD’s commands all the days of his life—except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.”
1 Kings 15:5

Keith Green: Create in Me a Clean Heart is the last track of the posthumously released albom, Jesus Commands Us to Go!, released in 1984.

Keith Green [1953–1982] was a Jewish believer in Jesus. or in other words a Jewish Christian, an idea that today still baffles people on both sides of the divide, but not so nearly 2,000 years ago. The song’s birthright are the psalms of King David, in particular Psalm 51, a penitential psalm seeking from God mercy and grace for his sin in the matter of Uriah. (The song’s title comes from Psalm 51:10.) Sin, in biblical language, is a human act that separates us from God; sin is supposed to remind us of our need for God. that we can’t be righteous without Him. Hence this prayer song of repentance. Ever since I could remember, I have had a belief in God, living and walking through periods of strong faith and also of diminished faith and doubt, notably in the last decade, which generally has been a long dark night of the soul, full of trials and tribulations. Truly, I can say that it has not been an easy faith or an easy road, and, yet, I continue on it while not fully understanding it all. I am persuaded now that there has to be a better way.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

The Festival of Freedom (2019)

Festival of Freedom & Hope: Our seder table last night before our family sat down to celebrate Passover. Like Jews worldwide, we retold the Exodus story and had a large festive meal, discussing three things: the passover offering (Paschal lamb), matzah (unleavened bread) and maror (bitter herbs). The central idea of this holiday is to rid ourselves of anything that enslaves us, of anything that keeps us from being who we are meant to be; freedom is the end game. With this in mind, we give thanks to God.
Credit: ©2019. Perry J. Greenbaum

Happy Passover to my Jewish friends & neighbours; and Happy Easter to my Christian friends & neighbours. Both holidays are central to the narrative and history of western Judeo-Christian civilization; both holidays show God working in the lives of the faithful, speaking of liberation, hope and love. It is no surprise then that Jesus of Nazareth, born a Jew, celebrated a Passover meal (“the last supper”) in Jerusalem (likely on Wednesday 1 April 33 CE), for the last time, two days before his death, by crucifixion (likely on 14 Nisan or Friday 3 April 33 CE). Despite the scholarly debates on the exact date of Jesus’ death, one can agree that the two holidays are linked by history and by this historical figure.

It is noteworthy that early Christians, who were chiefly if not all Jews, considered Jesus as not only the promised Messiah but also as the Passover offering (the Korban Pesakha concept dating to the Jewish Exodus; see the book of Exodus, Chapter 12), who by his willing act freed mankind from the bondages of sin, judgment, condemnation and death. Such is, when one considers it and believes it, the greatest freedom one could ever desire. A good many Jews of the late Second Temple period still had an understanding of this redemptive aspect of Judaism.

Then came a changing and defining moment in Judaism—the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. Nothing would remain the same; and only later, through a progression of events (occurring over a period of decades after the Temple’s destruction), would Second Temple Judaism separate into the two religions that we know today as Judaism and Christianity. That being said, the Jewish roots of Christianity are important, essential I would add, to have a fuller understanding of the core message of redemption and liberation. The story of Passover is important if one wants to understand the story of Easter.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Martin Luther King Jr: Nobel Peace Prize Speech (1964)


Martin Luther King Jr [1929–1968]: Nobel Peace Prize Speech in Oslo, Norway, on December 10, 1964. 

From his speech, consider this portion:
I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. I believe that even amid today’s mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men. I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive good will proclaim the rule of the land. “And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid.” I still believe that We Shall overcome!
Is there anything in this speech that is offensive? Au contraire mes amies. Would anyone decent deny dignity, equality and freedom to anyone? This seems like a reasonable request to a nation that speaks often of liberty. In keeping with this ethos, I find this speech to be commendable and spoken in the spirit of truth and justice, noting with approval the prophetic words quoted from the biblical books of Micah and Isaiah, pointing to a future messianic age.  The full text of the speech can be found [here].

Happy Passover to everyone celebrating this festival of freedom.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Zombies: Time of the Season (1968)

Time of the Season by the Zombies [1962–1967], a British rock band, was  recorded for their 1968 album Odessey and Oracle (it is the last of 12 tracks). It is sung by Colin Blunstone. Written by keyboard player Rod Argent, it was recorded at Abbey Road Studios, in London, in August 1967.

This was the season of peace and love, of hippies, of the sexual revolution, of changing mores and of changing morals; at least such was the case for many young persons in their late teens and early twenties, post high school. I was only 10, so I was not so much a part of it as an observer. I did, however, enjoy the music from a safe distance, thus avoiding the pitfalls of the sexual revolution and much of the dark overtones of despair and alienation, which planted the seeds of the Me Generation—it and its many mutations are in full bloom today. I post this as an example of the musical influences of my generation, the Baby Boomers [people born between 1946 and 1964], although I was by all accounts at the tail end of it all. In school, I was never considered cool or part of any popular group, although I always had friends. I am a spiritual person,a seeker of truth, and have always seemed to walk my own way in pursuit of such important and fundamental existential truths.  Seek with a sincere heart; seek the truth; seek and you shall find.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Emerson, Lake & Palmer: C’est La Vie (1977)

Emerson, Lake & Palmer: C’est La Vie performed in Montreal at the Olympic Stadium on August 26, 1977.
The song, written by Greg Lake and Peter Sinfield, is the second track on side of the double album, Works Volume 1, the band's fifth studio album, which was released on March 17, 1977. The album was recorded at EMI Studios in Paris. This was more than 40 years ago. What remains is the French feel of nostalgie that this song evokes, about wandering, loss, and resignation that many feel after a certain age. Some would assert that this is a betrayal of confidence in the “let’s get ahead club.” This, the abandonment of a bad idea, is not necessarily a worrisome thing, although there are always nagging doubts being whispered in your ear. Yet, such detours are freeing, leading to the loss of the fear of judgment and of failure, an enemy of humanity, yet a constant companion and a tiresome and a heavy burden that over the decades becomes harder to bear. There is something better, something more eternal to gain, in walking a far different path. It’s not a matter in being first but in finishing the race.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

My Backyard: Waiting for Spring (2019)


It has been a long winter, yet all winters in Canada are long, and some seem/are longer than others. How does one measure or take account of such things? There is always photographs to support an assertion or two, so in support of this effort at finding truth, here is a photographic record of my backyard for the third month of this year, and the changes it has undergone as winter turned into spring. Spring officially arrived at 5:58 p.m. on March 20th. It is said that Spring is about Hope and hope springs eternal, as Alexander Pope writes in his poem, An Essay on Man (1733–1734). Spring is also when many birds return, and when you hear their calls of life. So wonderful.

March 14, 2019: The yard is still snow covered and the steps have visible ice. Temperatures have not sufficiently risen to do a good job of melting the snow, let alone warming the ground so it softens.
Courtesy: ©2019. Perry J. Greenbaum

March 20, 2019: In the morning, before the official arrival of Spring at 5:58 p.m. The steps are almost clear of snow and ice. The far end of the yard is showing patches of grass, sprung free by the  warming and thawing rays of sunlight.
Courtesy: ©2019. Perry J. Greenbaum

March 26, 2019: The grass is all but free of snow and ice, and all that remains evident of winter is the patch of ice on our small patio.
Courtesy: ©2019. Perry J. Greenbaum

April 3, 2019: Only a small patch of snow remains, yet the ground is still hard and will likely remain so for a few more weeks, until the temperature remains well above freezing—at least 15°C (60°F) for a week or so.
Courtesy: ©2019. Perry J. Greenbaum

Between now and the end of April, my experience tells me that it will slowly become more spring-like, But now we see that it is only the end of winter here in Canada, and is an in-between period before the evidence of spring finally manifests. My backyard has seen snow and ice pellets the last week, not unexpected or uncommon events for Canada. Still, impatience takes hold as it battles hope.

Waiting is hard when one expects something good to happen, but such is still more bearable than having no expectation of the occurrence of such an event. Ever. Never. Forever. Humans are forever fickle and forgetful; was it not the same last year and the year before that, and so on? And on. One of Spring’s welcome signs is the increase in the sightings of birds and the hearings of their songs. Music to my ears. And my backyard welcomes it too.