Berlin

Tags

, , , , ,

On this warm Sunday night here are some images of Berlin my second favourite city after Rome. I hope to return to visit again in 2019 when the former City Palace reconstruction is completed, it is now known as the Humboldt Forum after the two german brothers Wilhelm and his younger brother Alexander.

 

Cities that I like in the world 1. Rome, 2. Berlin, 3. Vienna, 4. Salzburg, 5. Dresden, 6. Munich, 7. Venice, 8. Pesaro, 9. Palermo,10. Athens.

There are more cities I lived in, visited and liked, the list would be too long. We like cities for various reasons, for me it would be for the arts, culture, museum collections, fine restaurants, parks, history and elegance of urban design.

Advertisements

Santuari Murali

Tags

, , , , , ,

Madonella or Santuari Muralli are found almost everywhere in Italy, attached to buildings and on street corners. Most are centuries old, maintained by the people of the neighbourhood or of a parish church. Many created by great artists as a commission by a religious congregation.

18580243_1246242015473152_5519753232785604608_n.jpg

People pass by them, some will stop to say a short prayer, others just nod to them as if a neighbour. On some streets people leave plants or flowers, votive candles.

There is an unwritten rule and everyone knows that the flowers and votive candles are never to be disturbed. This is a sacred place even if just on a busy street. It is as if there is an invisible precinct. The idea of these Madonella (little Madonnas) or Wall Shrine is as old as Rome, in antiquity on street corners you would have the local divinity protecting the neighbourhood usually near the local tavern which served also as a Club for the area, serving food and drink. The divinities were there to protect and they were different in each neighbourhood, they also had a local story attached to them and were said to perform miracles against an attack by unfriendly foreigners. Rome is a superstitious place and Romans have always been known to be a superstitious people.

With the gradual transformation of the City in the fourth century A.D. with the imposition by Emperor Constantine of the Christian religion, slowly these old pagan shrines are changed to Christian ones. The most popular new figure is the Virgin Mary, often associated with Venus or Aphrodite. Since Venus usually appears with a cupid, the Virgin Mary appears with a new born baby Jesus, voilà transformation and a gullible public is none the wiser.

When we lived on Via Asmara there was such a Madonella, at the bottom of the street was a big high school and many students walked back and forth passing in front of it. There was always flowers and many votive candles and I remember thinking that the kids might be tempted to steal or break what was left in a moment of piety. No never they simply walked pass it without ever touching anything. They obviously knew better than to desecrate such a site.

luxe-associates-travel.jpg

A lovely tradition to see such sanctuaries attached to the walls of apartment buildings or commercial ones. Just a tradition, it what was once a very Catholic country, like all places Italy has changed a lot but this millennia old tradition persists.

38763031_10156791778102139_6687100926949326848_n.jpg

 

 

Books I am reading

Tags

, , ,

Yes it is that time again to talk about books I am reading. I have always enjoyed reading since a very young age. My Mom started me on it and apparently I take after my paternal grandfather whose name I have, he too was a reader but mostly crime novels, he was a Police detective.

I am waiting for the arrival by mail of the latest book I ordered,  it is entitled, Rome: A history in seven sackings by Matthew Kneale.

I am still reading Josephus: The essential works by Josephus Flavius, which is the most precise description of Rome under the Flavian Dynasty as observed by the Jewish Courtier and ex-rebel Josephus. It is also considered a companion book to the Bible and the four gospels since Josephus lived in the era of the destruction of the Temple by Titus and the revolt against Roman rule in Palestine. Reading Josephus who writes about the Tribes of Israël and their conquest of the area known today as Israël and Palestine, I was reminded of another book by the great Portuguese Nobel Prize winner José Saramago, The gospel according to Jesus Christ, a very funny book where God is portrayed as a wealthy Jewish Merchant with a sadistic streak. The God of the Old Testament was one who ordered anyone not worshipping him to be killed. Josephus is clear in his description that Yahveh, God tells the Jews it is quite ok and good to kill all their enemies because they do not belong to the chosen people. And Yahveh is always willing to forgive the people of Israël if they forget him momentarily because he has only one chosen people. Strange on again off again relationship. Josephus also describes what it is like to live at the Court of the Emperor of Rome on the Palatine Hill and observe the goings on.

The other book I am struggling to finish reading is by the late Dean of the French Academy Jean D’Ormesson, the book in French is entitled Je dirai malgré tout que cette vie fut belle. D’Ormesson died last December in Paris at the age of 92 and was given a National funeral, with full honours at Les Invalides in the presence of the French President and past presidents.

For many years I saw him on French television, he spoke very well, cultivated the art of conversation and knew almost every well known person in France or Europe.  The book is about his family and his life and all the great people he knew. Written in the style of a trial in a French Court were the Judge asks questions of the accused in this case D’Ormesson details how he lived. I find it tedious to read, the style is mondain and full of reference to his very famous friends, dinner parties, vacations in Italy or Greece and always accompanied by famous friends. He sailed through life without any great difficulty, it is a life on another level far removed from the mundane or the ordinary.

Jean Bruno Wladimir François de Paule Le Fèvre d’Ormesson was a French novelist born in 1925. He was the author of forty books, the director of Le Figaro from 1974 to 1979, and the Dean of the Académie française. He received the Grande Croix de la Légion d’Honneur and his family owned 2 Chateaux, though through financial difficulties managed to loose them but nonetheless always maintained a good address in fashionable Paris.

D’Ormesson was from an old French noble family, Grandfather and father both Ambassadors, went to the great schools, a life of privilege, D’Ormesson became Secretary-General of the International Council for Philosophy and Humanistic Studies at UNESCO. He was a conservative Catholic philosopher, a recipient of the Ordre National du Mérite for his achievements in civilian life.

What I always liked about him was his elegance and how he could speak so well with a wonderful vocabulary, he was a pleasure to hear, even when you disagreed with him, you still liked him. Even in this book there is a great generosity of spirit, the sign of a great mind. No doubt that he had some influence in France in the political and social sphere. With his death an era has closed.

jean_d_ormesson_1.jpg

 

Reactions

Tags

, , , ,

Well I have been presenting to the public the Kent Monkman Exhibit on the 150th of Confederation, titled Shame and Prejudice, a story of Resilience. It is a national traveling Art exhibit and has been to several Canadians Cities, it is all part of the Truth and Reconciliation process between First Nations and non-indigenous people in Canada.

So you can imagine that we do get a lot of reactions depending on who the visitor is and where they are from or what they know. This is the all important word Knowledge , a negative reaction to the exhibit usually comes from lack of knowledge or ignorance which is often crass. Like in many countries Canadians do not know their history and really have no idea what happened in Canada in the last 150 years and little about the French period from 1534-1763, the past is a blank. A lot of what we were told is based on stories told badly or sound bites or myths like the War of 1812.

You will not find many First Nation People who think that the colonial project of turning 4 little colonies into a country in 1867 as a good thing. They certainly lost and to this day have been marginalized, though the situation is changing, some old attitudes die hard.

The whole exhibit is very complex and requires from the viewer time to think and to reflect, the great paintings of Monkman are layered with symbolism, even the clouds mean something. He paints in a style reminiscent of the baroque era (1600-1750) but also in the romantic age (1800-1900). You have to know the history of Canada and of the First Nations. The public in general is not really aware of the many various First Nations in Canada, some ask how many were there in total. Today there are 2 million indigenous people in Canada or about 5% of the total population. Canadian History was not taught in schools. In English Canada, students got British Imperial history and in French Canada we got the history of New France from 1534 to 1763 and then history of the struggles against English oppression, deportation of the Acadians 1755-58, rebellion of 1837, rebellion of the Metis in 1880, and it would then jump to historical moments like conscription of the First World War and Second World War, and finally the Quiet Revolution of the 1960’s. But the First Nations were largely absent from it all, in French Canada you would hear about the Huron, Algonquin, Iroquois, Abenaquis, other First Nations were not mentioned since they did not figure in our history.  The relationship between the French and the First Nations was also very different in many ways. We never studied the history of British Empire.

So you can imagine how complicated it can be to present this exhibit when the public does not understand what they are looking at. I am not mentioning visitors from Asia or South East Asia who find the whole exhibit bewildering, this is not the image of Canada they have and for them First Nations are simply Indians who are cartoon figures. Many are astounded to hear this story. Then we get a few religious types who do not take kindly to the attacks on Christianity in the context of religion being used as a cudgel. The praying hands modelled after the work of Albrecht Dürer made of washable silicone gets them going.

IMG_3918.jpg

The Confederation daddies (detail) Quebec Conference 1864. Miss Chief (mischief) with her/his LouBoutin designer high heels.

The bigger observations comes from the imagery, Monkman tells the story through the lens of a white colonial power, violence, dominance, oppression, racism, bigotry, misogyny. Using government documents and official correspondence, quoting Campbell Duncan Scott, CMG, Senior bureaucrat who writes about using residential schools as the final solution of the Indian problem.  He also uses Jane Austen’s images of society and the societal context of the time she writes about. It makes a lot of people very uncomfortable, it bothers them to see such images which cracks the mirror of pleasantness so often associated with the Victorian era and what followed. Canada not so nice after all, no we did not have General Custer and the Cavalry, we had the RCMP as enforcers of the government and Cabinet approved policy of starvation to get rid of the Indian problem.

IMG_3917.jpg

The Iron Horse (detail) with Miss Chief (read Mischief) Eagle Tes-Tickle 

The other aspect that bothers a lot of people is the sexuality, nudity and open strong sexual messaging in the paintings and the fact that Monkman being Two Spirit and gay is not accepted by some visitors. We hear some truly disturbing remarks dismissing the whole exhibit as mere propaganda or labelling it degenerate art. Monkman to some is either psychotic or a pervert. At the same time I do not see those visitors as making any effort to understand or look at what is being presented.

Maybe the days when you visited a museum and examined the art works and looked at the composition and themes to enrich your knowledge or to seek beauty are past. Maybe people just want to be entertained and nothing more, why can’t museums be entertainment centres. Thinking in a critical manner is too difficult for some.

IMG_3919.jpg

The Bears of Confederation (detail) Miss Chief (mischief) somewhat like a Canadian 50 shade of grey. The red handkerchief and the praying hands a strong symbolism for some.  

Little did I realize that despite our advancement in the last 40 years on many topics attitudes do not change much. Some men still grapple with difficulty with the changing mores in society and feel very threatened by any demonstrations of men cross dressing, being gay, penises, etc. For some women nudity, erect penises, BDSM, anything departing for the heterosexual norm can be a difficult topic. Or it can be as simple as finding it difficult that something terribly wrong took place in Canada and you cannot blame someone else. It happened here not in some other country. Hopefully this exhibit will get visitors to think critically about their role in reconciliation in ways that make visible contemporary manifestations of colonization.

 

 

Orwell Corner Village

Tags

, , , , , ,

A few weeks ago we went to a Strawberry social which is the most popular event in the Summer on PEI. Orwell Corner Village is or was a real village until 1963. When I first moved to PEI, I thought that it was named after the author George Orwell, not so. The village dates back to 1890, populated with Scottish Highlanders. It was a name place since 1766 in honour the British Minister of Plantations Sir Francis Orwell, during the reign of King George III.

Following Trans-Canada Highway 1 out of Charlottetown by crossing the Hillsborough Bridge you will arrive within 20 minutes at Old Uigg Road follow the road to Orwell Corner Village. Since the people of this village moved out in the 60’s the buildings have been perfectly preserved and the old cemetery is still in use to this day. People did not move far away some only a mile down the road.

The village boast, the old one room school, the old austere Presbyterian Church, the Clarke’sgeneral store and post office with the Clarke’s grand house attached, a blacksmith shop, a carriage house full of old carriages and a hearse, a machine shed, a shingle mill, a community hall, and several farm buildings with animals. All of it in operation during the Summer Season and lots of volunteers do a wonderful job of showing you around.

It also has the famous guest house built by Sir Andrew MacPhail for his dinner and visiting guests. The house is currently undergoing restoration and it quite beautiful and grand, hard to imagine that this house was built only to house dinner guests or day visitors who could not make it back to Charlottetown. In those days it took a day by horseback to return to the Capital on bad roads or through forests. The guest list of famous people who were friends of Sir Andrew is interesting, Rudyard Kipling, Canadian Author Stephen Leacock, Lucy Maud Montgomery amongst others, stayed at the house.

The Homestead of Sir Andrew was just a half mile away. Sir Andrew was very eccentric like all men used to the grand life, he was a famous medical professor at McGill University in Montreal, an author of many books and erudite in many topics, he only came home to PEI in the Summer. He would entertain lavishly but his guests had to stay/sleep at the guest house not in his house. So he would have a carriage and horse ready to ferry them the short distance. The guest house had servants etc. so it was quite nice.  The guest house is known as the Stewart-Lindsay house, named after his daughter Dorothy Lindsay and her own daughter Meg Stewart and was lived in until about 50 years ago. It has grand formal rooms, salon, dining room, study, a large kitchen, a grand staircase and a servants staircase in the back and bedrooms for guests and in the attic several servants rooms. It also has a large glassed in sun porch. If you visited Sir Andrew you would have your breakfast at the guest house and then be summoned to come and see him for lunch or dinner. Lots of music of course, walks around the beautiful estate and conversation on books and other topics.

Part of the restoration project is to clear the brush on the slope that goes down to the Orwell river to give the house the view it had once. This project will take years to complete it is all done on donations from the public but the volunteer association is hopeful for a government grant.

Personally I think that this is a site that is worth its weight in gold given who came to visit and the village and scenery. Orwell Corner Village also sits at the intersections of the old country roads that once took you to Charlottetown and other settlements and towns. The roads now disused are still clearly marked.

IMG_3868.jpg

The guest house/Lindsay-Stewart House in need of restoration. It has brand new concrete foundations and new roof. The interior needs a good cleaning up otherwise all is good.

 

IMG_3870.jpg

The Old Presbyterian Church where services were conducted in Gaelic and English.

IMG_3878.jpg

The old one room school house

IMG_3880.jpg

The old road intersection indicating where the nearest town was. Belfast is an anglicized name from the French, Belle Face.

IMG_3898.jpg

IMG_3899.jpg

The back of the Clarke’s home with the general store at the front.

IMG_3900.jpg

IMG_3903.jpg

The original Island Road to Charlottetown

IMG_3904.jpg

The old original Island road to Belfast (Belle Face)

IMG_3907.jpg

Jason who has been working with the PEI Museum for many a years and gives an excellent description of the life of the general store and its clients.

IMG_3911.jpg

IMG_3905.jpg

The Clarke’s general store in Orwell Corner Village.

If given a choice between visiting Cavendish and Anne of Green Gables or Orwell Corner Village, I would prefer the later simply because it is real and real people actually lived here until recently and their descendants are all around, including the Family of Sir Andrew MacPhail, many of whom are scholars.

 

terrible mistake

Tags

, , , , , ,

The Summit in Helsinki, Finland was a great victory for President Putin of Russia. Donald Trump made several mistakes which destroyed American Foreign Policy, weakened your credibility in the world and increase the influence of Russia.

It all went to hell at the NATO summit where Trump insulted his allies and then made demands because he views himself as the ruler of the world. The contribution of the USA to NATO is 67% but all other countries also contribute annually not only in money but in equipment and personnel, often far more than the USA.  Each contribution is not a due to the USA but to the organization as a whole. No one will increase its annual contribution to 4% as demanded by Trump, not even the USA will do that, total bluster with no substance. As for the contribution of 2% it is a goal for 2021 not today.

The trip to the UK was a total disaster, PM May must have wondered why she invited Trump who insulted her publicly, called her incompetent, suggested she sue the EU to get her way, that cannot be done, simple which tribunal would have jurisdiction to hear such a lawsuit. The EU like the UN is a club and each member must live by the agreement of membership. There is no one to be sued. Trump called for PM May to be replaced by the awful populist and incompetent Boris Johnson former Foreign Secretary who by supporting Brexit with lies has done Britain a grave disservice. Trump then went so far as to threaten PM May by saying that the USA would not sign Trade deals with Britain if they did not leave the EU. You do that to an old ally? Well Trump did it to Canada.

Then the incident with HM Queen Elizabeth II, Trump was 12 minutes late, an inexcusable delay when you are a guest and you make your host wait for no apparent reason. This was a provocation engineered by Trump to show that he was the great one. Having worked on such visits myself, I know that it is impossible to be late unless it was decided to be late. Then by standing in front of HM the Queen while she was escorting him at a review of the guard, Trump knew the Protocol, it had been explained to him, but he thought he could disregard it as he had in the past by pushing and shoving other Heads of State at international meeting because he believes he is more important. This lack of common decency and courtesy is what the World sees, this is what America looks like, this goes well beyond one man, he is the President of the USA and his behaviour is beyond reprehensible.

Helsinki was a terrible mistake, by agreeing to a one on one meeting with President Putin, Trump failed to realize that the Russians recorded the meeting and will use what ever he said at that meeting in the future against him as a bargaining chip. This is the oldest trick in the book of diplomacy, you never meet one on one, you always have others with you to take notes, its diplomacy 101. Trump cannot remember what he says and blabs uncontrollably, in all likelyhood he told Putin things he heard at the NATO summit or in conversation with other allies, not understanding that Putin the old spy master made a note of it all.

Putin got an incredible gift at this meeting, after 18 years of hard work, he got the President of the USA to declare that the world would be governed by the two great powers Russia and USA. Even in 1945 the world was divided between UK, France, USA, USSR. China is surely a greater economic power than Russia whose GDP is smaller than Canada. Trump said that there could be a good dialogue and understanding like in the days of the Cold War (1946-1989). I do not remember any such cooperation during those years, it was in fact a deadly game and enormous rivalry with the USSR (Russia). In 1962 a year Trump is old enough to remember, the world stood on the brink of complete nuclear war with the Cuban missile crisis provoked by the USSR.

Trump also said that he believed Putin instead of his own Intelligence agency, this declaration is an act of treason, Trump sided with the real existential threat to the USA and the Western World, Russia. Russia is not our friend and never was, the principle of the Rule of Law, Democracy and Free Elections are foreign concept for the Russians. The unlawful occupation of Crimea, and the aggression in the Donbass and Georgia, the full military support for the Assad Regime in Syria, and meddling in other parts of the World should tell us that Trump is wrong in supporting tyrants like Putin.

Trump now has sent a clear message to the allies of the USA that America cannot be trusted. It is impossible to know if America would come to the help of fellow NATO members in case of Russian aggression in the Baltic States or elsewhere in Europe. This is very dangerous for the peace of the world.

What we see now is that the famous talked about check and balances of the American system simply do not work, you have a rogue President who is not respecting the US Constitution he swore to uphold. The USA today is on a downward slide not only in prestige but in influence around the world. China and Russia are ascending and States like North Korea are profiting from this confusing lack of direction at the White House.

Will the November Elections change anything in the USA, its a gamble but like all gamble the results may be less than satisfactory, no one should bet on how the American public will vote.

37230147_10155563116672541_7914599981690912768_o.jpg

From the New York Daily News 17 July 2018.

A sad anniversary in Russia

Tags

, , , ,

July 2018 marks the centenary of the death of the last Russian emperor of the Romanov dynasty- Nicholas II and his family: the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, their five children, as well as their entourage. They were shot on the night of July 16 to July 17, 1918 in Yekaterinburg in the basement of the house of mining engineer Nikolai Ipatiev.

Today on the site of the house stands a church built recently and pilgrims gather to pray for the Imperial Family. Each year well over 100,000 people gather for this commemoration and pilgrimage to the mining pits site of their original burial by the communists.

The remains of Nicholas II, the Empress and their 5 children, as well as persons from the entourage of the Imperial Family, all shot in the house of Ipatiev, were found in July 1991 near Yekaterinburg. On July 17, 1998, the Tsar and his family were given a State Funeral and buried in the Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg with the exception of Alexei and Maria whose remains are still kept in the State Archives awaiting burial with their parents.

crypt.png

Burial chapel of the last Tsar and his family in the Peter and Paul Cathedral in St-Petersburg, site of the burial of all Tsars and other Royals.

In 1981, the Russian Orthodox Church abroad listed them as holy “martyrs”. In 2000, the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate of the murdered members of the royal family ranked the “passion-bearers” as holy.

In October 2008, the Presidium of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation decided to rehabilitate the Russian Emperor Nicholas II and his family.

1024px-Family_Nicholas_II_of_Russia_ca._1914.jpg

 

Recent photos

Tags

, , , ,

Lately I have had my picture taken quite a bit at varied locations, some I am using in my municipal campaign and others I am keeping as a memory of this year 2018 and life in PEI.

IMG_9039.jpg

Speaking with a group of young people, students who I learned today are part of Generation Z born before 1997. They replace the Millennials who are now over 30 or over the hill so to speak. Pollsters and social scientists say that GenZ is very different from the millennials in their outlook on life, they are the first generation who do not know a time before electronics or dial up internet.

Laurent campaign.jpg

At a public meeting recently speaking with a participant about a big infrastructure project in our town.

laurent 3 campaign.jpg

At another public meeting, I seem to be doing this a lot in the last 5 months.

IMG_9272 2.jpg

Very happy with this picture, here with Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor of PEI, Antoinette Perry in the great hall of Fanningbank, her Official Residence.

37110384_10155392062290957_4389454076841033728_o.jpg

A group of friends on Rochford Street this past weekend. Will is looking very good in this photo.