So this was the view from our window in Umbria when the man was here with me. We were in a suite in a nice hotel here. But now he is gone and trust me, this is no longer my view. I am not complaining. My place is fine, but the view is somewhat different. No greenery. Unless Italians walking to work or school are wearing green.
That phrase, about the "me-firsters, even in grief," refers to Germans. It is a line from the wonderful, mind-blowingly amazing novel In Paradise, about which I have written on this site before. If you haven't read it, run to the bookstore and buy it or download it NOW.
So I find my mind wandering to that quote a great deal these days, because in my Italian class is a German woman who is a total and complete me-firster. She interrupts, she chews out, she condescends, she talks over, she judges, she lectures, she expects you to drop everything and answer her question (however silly it might be)...and so on. Today in class, I said that life in Umbria cost less than life in Toronto. She said -- without being asked or without raising her hand -- that I was wrong and that this was not true. The teacher asked her if she'd ever even visited Toronto, much less lived there.
"No," she said, puzzled by the question and the laughter of the class which followed her answer. I mean, really, why shouldn't she expect us to listen to everything she says and think she's right about everything? Utterly shameless, a few seconds later, she was bossing around a poor Chinese kid, who -- unlike her -- doesn't feel everyone should listen to him ALL THE TIME and didn't know how to respond to her jackboots.
I've made a vow to myself to be peaceful in the classroom, but honestly, if she doesn't knock if off soon, this is going to happen (and yes, I'll be the John Cleese character):
Yes Italy, I'm like a bad rash. I keep coming back.
Now, onto politics and those charming folks at ISIL or ISIS or whatever you want to call 'em. I am glad Canada is helping bomb the bejesus out of them, but I'm somewhat embarrassed by how little we're contributing to the cause. What is it? Six fighter jets, 69 special forces folks, two surveillance crafts, one refueling plane? Plus, we're only going to be operating in countries where we have been given permission to operate. Um, excuse me? This is carrying politeness too far, I think.
Still, we are doing something, which is more than we would be doing if Justin Trudeau had his way. What a twit he is -- he has inherited neither his father's wit nor his intellect.
I am enjoying the new Ken Burns series, The Roosevelts, although it is making me sad because I can't help but think how much my father would have loved it. And as much as I appreciate the series and this praise of it, I do also think these criticisms are valid.
What extraordinary people though. Burns has resisted giving us a hagiography. Teddy, Franklin and Eleanor are presented with their flaws as well as their considerable qualities.
What is truly sad is that we could never have such a series on Canadian TV. Why? Because if it were a Canadian creation, there would have to be a ham-handed political message in the show. It wouldn't be a question of merely giving us a portrait of a moment in history. There would have to be a lecture involved, probably one about how bad the Western world is. Remember that god-awful piece of garbage about the Allied bombing of Germany? And remember that dreadful, humourless "people's" Canadian history nonsense?
Oldest of the Chinatown cats I feed. She is at least 15, and still so feral. After years of being fed regularly, trapped and taken to the vet when needed and so forth, she still thinks humans aren't all that, and I suspect she has a point. I only managed this shot with the help of a great and powerful zoom. Rock on, old girl!
After Richard Attenborough died, I re-watched The Great Escape a couple of times, and it occurs to me that the whole meaning of life is in that movie. There's a scene where Attenborough's character sums up beautifully how to keep your spirit alive in tough times and how to fight the good fight, but so far, I cannot find it on YouTube. I have, however, found this scene, one which for me has become code for defeat. In the early part of the movie, von Luger meets Steve McQueen and the latter tells the former that he is going to survive the war (implying also that the Allies will win the war) because he wants to see Berlin. Von Luger scoffs at his arrogance. But after the escape happens under his watch, von Luger says to McQueen, "It looks, after all, as if you will see Berlin before I do." It's a wonderful moment of elegantly conceding defeat. And I find now, when I bomb out at something, I think to myself that others will see Berlin before I do.
Cannot let this day go by without posting. Read this article about a woman who is also an American hero. It tells you a lot about that day, but also a lot about why some civilizations are better than others. It tells you what is great about the West, and why it should be defended. Whether it will be or not, I don't know. Goodness, I hope so.
I had my annual appointment with the eye doctor late last month, and we talked about the death of my mother. The doctor said that as he has gotten older, life has changed from four weddings and a funeral to four funerals and a wedding. So true. And also true with the number of celebrities we lose. The ones who are meaningful to me all seem to be leaving us.
Regarding Richard Attenborough, there really are no words for what he gave the world. His brother David as well. What a remarkable family. I was not surprised to read that their parents adopted two girls from the Kindertransport when he was a lad and that he always considered them sisters. He lost one of his daughters and one of his granddaughters in the tsunami of Boxing Day, 2004 and apparently never recovered from that.
And Joan Rivers. I remember my dad and I laughing so hard together at her monologues when she guest-hosted for Johnny Carson in the mid-'80s. I continued to lover her. I think this Camille Paglia piece, written before her death but after she was put into a coma ten days ago, is an excellent appreciation.
Today is the 75th anniversary of the start of World War II. Appropriately, have been transcribing the letters home, written during the war, of my uncle. Here is the last paragraph of his second last letter, written about two weeks before his death.
Gosh, you never know till you get close to it what a hell war is. It's horrible just to think of what this part of the country [France] has already gone through. Houses in ruins, military graveyards, deep holes in the earth, and so on, all show what has happened here. Still, war is war, and we can't expect it to be a pleasure. With a faith that we're in the right, and a trust in God, we can't go far wrong.
Interestingly, this is only one of his many letters that he forgot to date, but the 'passed by censor' stamp reads July 28, 1944.
Tomorrow is the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Paris. (My uncle would have been a part of it if he hadn't been killed at Falaise gap.) This link will take you to some amazing photos from that day, super-imposed over the same locations in Paris today.
I always say you can tell what a person is truly like by their relationship with animals. I remember in 2008 reading that John McCain and his family have a menagerie of pets, including a couple of rescues. This did not surprise me any more than knowing that Barack Obama only has purebred dogs. That tells me a lot about both men.
Robin Williams' suicide is heartbreaking news, though I was one of many who found his comedy too manic to enjoy. I liked him in "Awakenings", though, and after his death I watched this clip of him with Koko the gorilla. He treats her with enormous respect and you can tell she knows he is good people. Since his death, one word that keeps coming up from people who knew him is "sweet". You can see that at work here. And it is such an utter shame that sensitivity and empathy got the better of him.
This is a wonderful clip of a TV show from 1967. Many things are discussed, but what was most interesting to me were the comments about Israel. Remember, this was the year of the Six Day War, so it was a hot topic. What was fascinating was that both Allen and Buckley were supporters of Israel in their comments, though politically they were extremely far apart. Which begs the question -- what in the hell has happened to the left that they are now the political persuasion responsible for so much of the anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic nonsense being repeated out there?
Back when Israel didn't stand a chance, leftists loved it. But once it made a success of itself militarily and in terms of having a free market, once it used hard work, armies and capitalism to make a glowing, thriving, pluralistic democracy out of a tiny smidgen of the Middle East, it became the focal point of an awful lot of hate from a political stripe that would normally -- given their alleged ideals -- be on its side. So is it all latent Jew-hating, or is there a factor of sort of a sophomoric anti-Western mindset involved? I suspect so, though I don't think the role of anti-Semitism can be dismissed. In fact, I suspect it is likely the larger factor of the two.
We see leftists apologizing for Hamas or Hezbollah, for Islamism in general, Islamism which is basically feudal, misogynist, homophobic, racist and theocratic. Further, much of the Middle East outside Israel has benefitted from huge oil wealth and yet is responsible for wealth disparities that would normally enrage a socialist. But Israel's detractors on the left are not screaming about that.