Thursday, June 28
Wednesday, June 27
Tuesday, June 19
It's been said that one daily edition of the New York Times contains more information than a citizen of the world x hundred years ago would ever learn. (Sorry, I can't remember the number, but you get the idea.) Most of us barely have time to skim the surface of the day's news, whether online, on the radio, on TV, or in a newspaper. But since it's school summer vacation I have way too much time to read the paper.
It's sometimes depressing and sometimes very, very worrying. I understand why we need the sports news and the funnies (one reason for getting your local paper) to enable us to lighten up enough to get through the day. Between reading about the threat of extremist terrorism and pedophile rings, I need Sherman's Lagoon. And of course arts and science news.
But here's something practical for all of us that have anything to do with children. We can vote for legislators and presidential candidates who will supply funds for universal health insurance for U.S. children, and we can watch out what we put into their hands to play with.
See those little guys up there on the piano? Most of them were made in China. It says so right on their little backsides. Today's NYT has a huge story about a recall of Thomas the Tank Engine toys, sold by a company called RC2, which started in trading cards but turned to toys for greater profits. The company's way smaller than Mattel and Hasbro, but it sells toys tied in with very popular brand names -- Thomas, Dora the Explorer, John Deere, and Disney, among others. My little granddaughter loves Dora ("Doh-wa"), and I've sprung for aDora toy once or twice. If those brand names sound safe, all-American, and harmless (outside of the branding implications and, of course, choking hazards), think again. The Thomas toys were found to be coated with lead-based paint. A NYT reporter who went to the factory in China to investigate was detained for several hours by a factory manager who didn't want him asking questions.
The Times mentions the Imperfect Parent online magazine and blog for those who want to keep informed on children's safety, nutrition, and other good stuff, and suggests as well that you sign up for immediate notification of recalls at the website of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the staff of which was cut by more than 10% over the past two years. And I will also recommend that in this time of low governmental priorities for children, we should pay attention to the Children's Defense Fund, which is actively campaigning for health insurance for all of our children.
Monday, June 18
The beach? The lighthouse? Later
Sunday, June 10
I'd like to know
What this whole show
Is all about
Before it's out.
Piet Hein, Grooks
The New York Times this week ran a lifestyles feature about a housing development in Arizona where people who love star-watching can buy a first or second home in an area with very little light pollution so that they can stargaze.
NPR this same week aired a report about family homes in Nepal where people develop severe lung disease because they cook indoors on wood fires with inadequate ventilation. They love the wood fires and love to gather around them.
I love to look at the stars and at wood fires. And it's not news that the world is full of inequality, but I still gape at the contrasts and wonder what I'm doing with MY life.
Thursday, June 7
Wednesday, June 6
I'm not much of a flag waver (though I know the words to lots of patriotic songs from the US and other nations), and in this time of a disastrous and immoral war it's all too easy to slip into a cynical attitude towards all things military. But much as I'd like to say that all wars are wrong, I have to accept that sometimes they are necessary. Hitler had to be stopped, for example. Today is the anniversary of D-Day and the landing of Allied troops on the beaches at Normandy, a brave and brilliant day that changed the course of World War II in Europe and the course of history. Now that the generation that accomplished the Allied victory is dying by the hundreds every day, it's important that young people and all of us appreciate what they did.
This spring a World War II veteran of Normandy addressed the school in chapel. As he told us how the operation proceeded, from the careful and stealthy preparations to its outcome, we were vicariously, though safely, there. No one who listened will forget his account. His presence among us was a living treasure, a voice from a generation that's almost gone. Once all the veterans of that war are gone, will the war become a dusty subject in a textbook? Even the Vietnam war, so vivid to many of my generation, is almost a ho-hum subject for today's teenagers, just a part of "History."
My father, whose dogtags are shown here, was a Conscientious Objector in the war, because he was a Quaker. He served in the Army Air Force as a radio operator flying supplies over "the Hump" in Burma to allies in China. My mother says that it bothered him that because of his CO status he couldn't become an officer, but neither could he ignore his upbringing. He left for India before I was born and came back in June, 1945. I have his tags, and I have several notebooks of his letters to my mother, written in fountain pen on onion skin paper. I've tried reading them but always get stalled, both because they are so emotional and because they are also somewhat repetitive because he wasn't allowed to give any details of what was going on. Most of the letters I've read so far talk of his memories of good times he and she had during their courtship, questions about his baby daughter, and fantasies about where he would like to be with his bride and the wonderful times they will have when he returns.
This summer I will approach the letters again and also will try to learn more about his Burma experiences. Unfortunately, I grew up in a family that seldom talked about anything -- Lake Wobegon is a lot like Yankee Rhode Island -- and so I now feel the need to learn what I can.
People need to tell their stories and pass along to the younger generations what came before. One thing that gives me hope that the stories won't be lost is the work of novelists, like Britain's Mal Peet, whose novel Tamar tells a particular story of World War II and relates it to a present-day teenage girl whose father was in the war. We need to listen to the remaining veterans of that war, as long as some of them are alive, and those who have heard their stories have to pass them on however they can.