Pages

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Selfie Compliment

I don't know what else to call it. It ought to rank up there with the latest addition to the dictionaries along with 'humblebrag' and 'backhanded compliment', among others.
It goes like this.

Proud parent "My child just got accepted into an exclusive program at X university for pre-med!"

Listener " Oh, wow, congratulations! You must be so proud of her. That's a great school. I know because my aunt's second cousin's niece graduated from there as a neurosurgeon with a 4.0 GPA at the tender age of 20!"

Proud parent looks deflated, Listener is blissful at having been able to suck out all the air from the former's sense of pride in her offspring.

For the want of a better description, I propose 'selfie compliment' as a name for this mode. The object is not to shower compliments on the 'complimentee'; rather, its purpose is to drag them down from their lofty pedestal while reflecting the utmost credit on the family pride of the 'complimenter'.

Highly common in competitive societies (ex. Indian, Jewish, Chinese ), this would sit well in academic descriptions like the one I found in Google books about The Primitive Mind and Man by John Alan Cohan about the giving out of compliments and the reactions to them.

Why can't a compliment be a simple appreciation of something that someone has done, rather than a mode to lessen their happiness by triggering envy?

Friday, May 29, 2015

One in a crowd

Graduation day arrived early for S. He finished up his B.F.A at New York University in 3 years instead of 4, after carefully hoarding credits for his high school courses and overloading a couple of semesters.Now on into the big (not yet bad) world for a gap year of sorts, after graduation rather than before.

He stays on in Manhattan, not too far from where we dropped him off as a freshman, pursuing internships and jobs in film. Opportunities galore, but who knows what will click for him.

At the Yankee stadium, cheers rose and fell in various sections, as the president of NYU conferred degrees on the one representative student from each of the many schools that constitute the university. S was a tiny black and purple dot in a sea of purple. 8000 graduates, and 27000 near and dear.

 You are special, graduate, but you are not. Remember that you are a unique individual, who has attained another pinnacle in your life. Go forth and do great things. But remember that you are also one of a great mass of humanity. There will be struggles, contests to survive, in a tough job market where thousands of others like you are vying for the same jobs. But there will always be opportunities, if you can seize them.

A couple of days later, we left NY with the pithy salty words of advice from Robert De Niro ringing in our ears.
Robert De Niro stated the truth at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts graduation on Friday: "You made it — and, you're f—ed."
At the Madison Square Garden-set ceremony, he bluntly noted that graduates with degrees in nursing, dentistry, business, law and education all have a future of stability ahead of them — a choice those other students made using reason and logic, but one that the crop of performers could not ever make.
"You discovered a talent, developed an ambition and recognized your passion. When you feel that, you can't fight it — you just go with it," he explained. "When it comes to the arts, passion should always trump common sense. You aren't just following dreams, you're reaching for your destiny. ... You're an artist — yeah, you're f—d. The good news is that's not a bad place to start."
Our consolation was the words he ended his advice with:
The actor suggested a mantra for the new grads: "Next!" a phrase to be shouted when "you didn't get that part" or "you didn't get that waiter's job at the White Oak Tavern. ...  There will be times when your best isn't good enough. There can be many reasons for this, but as long as you give your best, it's okay. Did you get straight A's in school? If you did, good for you, congratulations. But in the real world, you'll never get straight A's again."
So, S, and all other hopefuls on the world's stage out there, break a leg!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Mockingbird Uncaged?

"Nelle Harper Lee" by Unknown - ebay posting. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nelle_Harper_Lee.jpg#/media/File:Nelle_Harper_Lee.jpg
This is mostly my speculation,  based on the recent reports regarding the investigation into possible elder abuse of Harper Lee, of which one part has now been completed and closed.

 I am starting to see the publishing of 'Go Set a Watchman' as not a caging of the mockingbird, but rather, its release. A couple of reader comments on the NY Times story set off this train of thought.

In the comments, Rebekah from Birmingham wrote:
"In 1972 while discussing casting calls that had been or were to be held at town and gown theater by James Hatcher(he did the casting for the mockingbird )was told by stage crew who worked there and also at at Birmimgham Children's Theater that Harper Lee had written another book .However she was waiting to publish until after her older sister died.Supposedly this was because the book was extremely critical of Monroeville and certain recognizable people there at that time but also had negative things to say about Atticus.The later reason was the one her sister invested on a delayed publication as she felt it would embarrass the family.Hearsay from many years ago but it seems to fit." 

and Michael Currier:
"A lot of people hold back publishing letters until after family members die and are beyond being hurt. I always wondered about if Harper Lee's sister dominated her but was hurt by To Kill A Mockingbird (the sister and the mother are left out of the book!). Was Harper Lee unable to publish it until after her sister's death?
On one hand she never published it, but she also never threw it away and kept it in a secure bank box.

Was it Harper Lee that dis-liked the public attention, or was it the sister who disliked it?"


Would this account for the gleeful and thrilled demeanour of Harper Lee, as described by her lawyer and publishing agent? A final chance to see in print what a possibly over-domineering elder sister had prevented from being published?
Maybe the new novel will push Atticus off his pedestal ,and possibly reflect uncharitably on A.C.Lee, Harper Lee's father, who was considered to have been the inspiration for Atticus in some ways, and Alice Lee herself, who had been inspiration for Jem.

The new book becomes a must-read, not only for the eyes to be opened about old literary heroes, but the new light cast on Harper Lee, in all her glee at having finally outwitted her elder sister by the simple act of outliving her, and getting out the book that Alice insisted was never to be printed.

Update: And the saga continues...  Was the book discovered earlier and quietly pushed aside? Why bring it into the limelight so many years after the first 'discovery'?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Treasure Trove

The question is, to whom does it belong? To the descendants of the Jewish dealers who were forced to sell it at a reduced price to the Nazi government, or the German state, that contends that fair compensation was paid to the dealers?

In today's news about the Guelph treasure or 'der Welfenschatz' :
"Two claimants to a collection of medieval ecclesiastical treasure valued at $276 million and known as the Guelph Treasure, filed a lawsuit against the German government at a US District Court in Washington on Monday, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The claimants, Alan Philipp and Gerald Stiebel, allege that their Jewish ancestors sold the collection under duress for much less than what it was worth to Hermann Göring, the second-most powerful man in Nazi Germany. Göring later presented the treasure to Adolf Hitler as a gift. Today the treasure is on display in the Bode Museum in Berlin.
However, officials at the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, which manages Berlin's state museums, maintain that the transaction was consensual and that the collection was acquired at a fair market price at the time."
Much more detail about the Guelph treasure is here in a carefully chronicled document of the various pieces that constitute it, along with the provenance and historical background, and the various locations it resided in till c. 1930.

In 1929, Prince Ernest Augustus, created Duke of Brunswick, of the house of Hanover, had a sudden need for hard cold cash. He sold the Guelph treasure, of which the house of Brunswick had been 'guardians' for several centuries, collected from various sources starting in about the 11th century AD, for 7.5 million marks to a consortium of Jewish art dealers.

The art dealers successfully sold assorted pieces from the collection in the years prior to the rise of the Nazis, for around 2.5 million marks. At some point, they were apparently 'forced to sell' the remaining part of the treasure to the Nazi government for an amount of 4.25 million marks c. 1935, estimated by a major auction house to be only about 35% of their value at that time.

It wasn't till 2008 that descendants of the art-dealers came to know about the Guelph treasure pieces, which are now exhibited in the Bode museum in Germany, from statements of their relatives about having had those pieces in their home before they left Germany. And so they investigated it and believe now that they are the rightful owners of the Guelph treasure, and are suing to get it back.

Both sides have marshaled their arguments and seem to have persuasive evidence to back their assertions, as seen in this article. The courts will decide, and the final destination of these artifacts will be determined, in due course.

I'm curious though about whether any descendants of Ernest Augustus of Brunswick could stake a claim to the reliquaries. Or maybe even the Vatican. After all, the chain of custody had to start somewhere with someone being cheated of a fair price for their treasure.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Cabin Fever

I don't suppose that I have it.

I'm bored of all the pictures of gleaming piles of snow on the denizens of the deck. 8 inch snow-cake on the table, check. 8 inch snow liner on the deck railings, check. 8 inch snow pile on the chairs, check... You get the idea. It's pretty, and it's cold enough (-6 Fahrenheit just a couple of nights ago).

Instead, I have whipped out the knitting needles and am getting tremendous amounts of knitting done. I sit and knit while surfing the internet .Don't ask me how it's done... it involves watching speed knitting contests and 'technique improvement' videos that I really didn't need to watch while click-clacking away busily through another 6 rows on my latest project. It's a hoodie with a pretty variegated yarn that is pretty rough on the fingers. A soft yummy yarn it's not.

Before that, it was a grey beanie for my husband, with a soft shiny yarn that felt very nice as I worked with it. Except when the stitches slipped off the needle halfway into the knitting (Double pointed needles, I hate you!) and I struggled for a few days to recover, stitch by painstaking dropped stitch. Luckily, the pattern was a very forgiving textured one, so the 'recovery' is almost unnoticeable, now in the finished beanie.

Before the grey beanie, I made my first cabled project, a pale purple girl's 'sweetheart hat' that M promised to wear at least a couple of times. " I'm not a beanie kind of person," she said. But she did keep her promise, and wore it a couple of times, maybe even a few more times in the future.

In January, it was a race against time to finish a dark blue vest that I had started making last year. I was determined to get it ready by S's birthday, and finished it off just on the morning of his birthday. (Thank goodness that he is a late-riser on holidays).

Enough with the words, and now for the pictures.