Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Romney Makeover

Dear George,
This election year we Ohio residents live in the most intensely contested battleground state in the country.  You can’t turn on TV without suffering through nonstop political advertisements.  Many are funded by SuperPacs, and negative attack ads far outweigh positive appeals for a given candidate.  Sometimes they seem to border on slander.  I’m disappointed that the Obama campaign is just as nasty as the Republicans.  Overall, it leaves a bitter taste in one’s mouth.  

We watched the Republican primaries with interest because of the bizarre cast of characters.  At the time I thought that Mitt Romney stood out as at least semi-rational in comparison to the mostly kooky right-wing ideologues with whom he shared the stage.  It boiled down to a choice between the extreme right and the not quite as extreme right.  I was rooting for Michelle Bachmann or Rick Santorum because I thought they would prove to be fodder for Obama’s campaign.  Romney seemed like he might be more formidable, and he’s slowly proven to be.

Like much of the electorate, I’m startled by Romney’s abrupt change of face during the course of the campaign.  I can’t remember any presidential candidate shifting his or her positions this much.  In the Republican primaries Romney seemed eager to establish his conservative credentials to a wary Tea Party base.  Thus, he was hawkish with respect to the use of military force in the Middle East, adopted a hard-line pro-life position, opposed gay rights, was dismissive of women’s health care issues, felt the poor were doing fine because the safety net takes care of them, advocated harsh immigration policies, and assigned top priority to keeping the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.  Off-stage to a private audience of rich potential donors, he dismissed 47% of Americans as viewing themselves as victims and not taking personal responsibility for their lives.

A whole new version of Romney emerged during the presidential debates.  By the third and final debate Obama looked more like the challenger, attacking his opponent’s positions, while Romney largely stayed above the fray and acted more presidentially.  Tailoring his remarks to the general electorate as a whole rather than exclusively Republican primary voters, Romney suddenly became pro-peace, softer on pro-life issues, supposedly deeply concerned about women’s economic well-being, certain he could lift the poor out of poverty, advocating strong bipartisanship, and expressing his heartfelt commitment to 100% of American citizens.  On a lot of topics he sounded more like Obama.  The bipartisan theme irked me most, since the Republicans in Congress have had the exact opposite effect.  Overall, the new Romney seemed to have minimal connection to the old Romney (a phenomenon that Obama labels “Romnesia”).

Of course, it’s not unusual for political candidates to alter their stances on issues depending on their current audience and the stage of the campaign.  During the primaries Romney’s own team admitted in advance that the nation would probably see a more temperate candidate in the general election.  He’s sort of like a Rorschach inkblot – you can project onto him whatever you want.  Right-wing voters can conclude Romney is currently pretending to be more moderate since he needs to appeal to a broader range of independent voters in order to win the election.  Conversely, moderate conservative voters can say that Romney’s earlier arguments in the Republican primaries were designed to appease a party that had moved sharply to the right, and his authentic, more centrist self is only now emerging.  The strategy may be effective.  With the Republican base firmly in hand, Romney can concentrate on wooing independents, women, and disenchanted Democrats.  The danger for the Romney campaign, of course, is that voters may be turned off since it’s difficult to know with any certainty where he stands on just about anything.  It’s interesting that the Salt Lake City newspaper (in the heart of Mormon county) just endorsed Obama because of Romney’s many shifts in opinion.  Here in Ohio the Romney makeover seems to be having impact.  Obama was 5 to 10 points ahead in Ohio just a few weeks ago, but now the race couldn’t be much closer (47% vs. 47% in yesterday’s poll).  Probably the Romney supporters are getting antsy.  I know the Obama supporters are.

G-mail Comments
-Donna D (10-31): david, this is really good!  donna
-Linda K-C (10-31): Great letter, you must be sick of these ads. I have  taken to going to bed with my iPad at night and watching old British tv shows from Netflix . I can't stand one more tv ad.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Mystical Number Three

Dear George,
My brother Peter was always more receptive than I to esoteric philosophies and ideas.  I was more of a nerdy science type (social science anyway), while Peter was more drawn to  philosophy and cosmology.  He had abiding interests in matters like Zoroastrianism, reincarnation, Buddhism, etc., and regularly strived to make sense out of the mysteries and puzzles of life.  Now that I’m approaching maturity, I appreciate that Peter was on the right track -- life gets more intriguing we’re open to new possibilities.  A good example is the number three.  When I was younger, I never gave hardly any thought to the meaning of three.  However, now that I’ve been looking into it, it turns out that three has been a mystical number in human cultures since the beginning of time.  One theory that goes all the way back to the ancient Babylonians and Celts is that three is at the very essence because the miracle of birth turns a couple (two) into three.  Thus, three represents the deepest aspects of human experience -- birth, life, continuation of the species.  And there are many other implications.  God is said to have three attributes: omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence.  Time is divided into past, present, and future. There are three primary colors in the spectrum (red, blue, and green), and the physical world has three dimensions (length, width, height).  There are three kingdoms of matter: animal, vegetable, and mineral. Plato divided his Utopian city into Laborers, Guardians (warriors), and Philosophers (rulers).  The Greeks used three even more: the three Fates, three Graces, three Furies, three Gorgons.  Cerberus was a three-headed dog; Apollo’s Pythia sat on a three-legged chair. Psychoanalyst Carl Jung proposed that three symbolizes the merging of the will with the heart and soul.

Threes occupy a central place in most world religions.  In Christianity three represents the Holy Trinity (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit).   There were three gifts of the Magi; three members of the Holy Family; three crosses at Calvary; three Marys; three theological virtues (Faith, Hope, and Charity); and three realms of the afterlife (Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory).  Even the word “sex” appears in the Bible three times.  In Judaism there are three Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob); three sections of the Tanakh (Torah, Mev'im, and Ketuvim); and three main divisions of Jews (Kohen, Levi, and Israel).  Three precious gifts were given to Israel (the Law, the Land, and the World to Come), and three men handed down ancient wisdom and Divine secrets (Adam, Enoch, and Seth).  According to Muhammad, there are three holy cities of Islam to which pilgrimage should be made: Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem.   In Hinduism, God appears in three manifestations: Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the preserver), and Shiva (the destroyer).  The Three Jewels of Buddhism are the Buddha, the Dharma (the Buddha's teachings), and the Sangha (the community of enlightened beings).  In Norse mythology (the closest to my Scandinavian heart), the three Goddesses of Destiny are Urd (Fate), Verdani (Present), and Skuld (Future). 

Both good and bad happenings are believed to occur in threes.  On the bad side, British soldiers in the Crimean War (and soldiers in every war thereafter) believed that if three cigarettes were lit from a single match, one of the soldiers would be killed.  That’s because a sniper would see the first light, take aim with the second, and shoot with the third.  If a famous person dies, people expect two more deaths soon after.  Drowning persons are believed to surface three times before going down for the last time.  In Vietnam it's bad luck to take a photo of three people because the person in the middle is more likely to die.   

Three is also a "lucky number".  People believe that something will succeed even though two previous attempts have ended in failure ("third time lucky"). We give three cheers to successful people and groups.  Wiccans perform white magic more often than black magic because they believe that everything they send out will come back threefold.  Superstitions hold that you will receive great wealth if you wash your hair on the third day of the month; three-legged dogs bring good luck; and spitting three times wards off the devil.  

The number three is important in sports.  Three strikes in a row in bowling are called a turkey; 3 strikes and the batter is out in baseball; a shot behind the 3-point arc in basketball is worth three points; a field goal in football, 3 points; scoring 3 wickets in a row in cricket is a hat trick; a triathlon consists of 3 swimming, bicycling, and running.  Famous literary threesomes include: the Three Musketeers, the Three Bears, the Three Little Pigs, the Three Blind Mice, Three Sisters (Chekhov), the three witches in Macbeth, the three parts of Dante's Divine Comedy, and the three Rings of Power in the Lord of the Rings.

For myself, I feel a special connection to the number three because, as a firstborn child, my family constellation initially consisted of my parents (one and two) and myself (number three).  Once I reflected on my growing up, it was amazing to realize how much my world has been organized around threes.  Here are just a few examples: 

-In childhood I had:
            -Three siblings: Steven, Peter, Vicki
            -Three familial uncles/aunts: Kent, Karl, Martha
            -Three living grandparents: V.A., Olga, Guy
            -Three best friends: Frank S., Skipper B., Jimmy J.
            -Three residences in Menominee: Ogden Ave., Sheridan Rd., Quimby Ave.
            -Three schools I went to: Boswell, Washington, Menominee High
-Our twin cities of Menominee and Marinette had:
            -Three bridges: Interstate, Menekaunee, Hattie St.
            -Three high schools: Menominee HS, Marinette HS, Lourdes
            -Three banks: First National, Commercial, Stephenson
            -Three parks with swimming beaches: Henes Park, Marina Park, Red Arrow Park
            -Three golf courses: Riverside, Little River, North Shore
-When we moved to our family home on the Menominee River in 1946 we:
            -Had a family of three brothers (David, Steven, Peter)
            -Lived in a three-bedroom house
            -Were three miles from downtown Menominee and downtown Marinette.
            -Were three miles from the river’s mouth at Green Bay.
            -Had three neighbors: Orths, Meads, Shaver
-In college I:
            -Had three majors: engineering, literature, psychology           
            -Lived in three dorms           
            -Had three freshman roommates: Les S., Bob P, Ted R
            -Played three intramural sports: basketball, football, tennis
            -Had three lit profs: Drs. Miller, Judson, Maurer
            -Had three psychology profs: Drs. Leuba, Eng, John
            -Had three off-campus coop jobs: Madison, NYC, Connecticut
-Katja and I:
            -Dated for three years before marrying
            -Have lived in three cities together: Yellow Springs, Ann Arbor, Cincinnati
            -Lived in 3 residences in Cincinnati: Williamsburg, Clifton Ave., Ludlow Ave.
            -Had a three-person family: Katja, our son J, and myself
            -Had three annual vacation destinations: Menominee, Philadelphia, NYC

Numerologists note that every person has a personality number which reveals his or her traits and styles of interacting with others.  One’s personality number can be determined from their birth date.  To find out what it is, you first add up the numbers for your birth month, day, and year.  For myself, this is: 7 + 21 + 1937 = 1965.  Then you reduce that sum as follows: 1 + 9 + 6 + 5 = 21.  Then you reduce that total again to get your personality number: 2 + 1 = 3.  Omigosh, I’m a 3!  I should have known that. Various numerology websites give interpretations of number personalities.  According to www.numerology369.com, numerological 3 people, during positive periods, become optimistic, creative, good-natured, and helpful (though they also may have tendencies to be naive and give promises easily).  During negative periods, on the other hand, they tend to become nervous, downhearted, insecure, lonely, jealous, and overly critical.  I’m not sure if that’s conmpletely accurate, but when I asked Katja she said it sounded very familiar.

Now that I know I’m a number three person, my next step is to reorganize my life appropriately.  In the next few months I plan to add a third sheepdog to our pack, have a third grandchild, take three trips to exotic places (e.g., Santa Cruz), devote three hours a day to working out, and increase my 5 p.m. red wine intake from two glasses to three.  Right now I feel pretty optimistic and good-natured about this (though next week I will likely be nervous and downhearted).  In any case, once my numerology quest is firmly in place, I’m planning to move on to Scientology.

Sources: www.astrostar.com; www.crystalinks.com; www.greatdreams.com; www.mysticalnumbers.com; www.numerology.com; www.numerology369.com; www.shreevedic.com; www.vic.australis.com.au; www.virtuescience.com; www.whats-your-sign.com; www.wikipedia.org (“3 [number]”)

G-mail Comments
-Donna D (10-28): I’m a number 6.  What does that mean?
-Linda K-C (10-25):  All I know is 7 is not lucky for me, wonder why, but it remains  a mystery. 
Oh, I am excited about you having a third grandchild, but wouldn't that give me a third one too, I don't feel that comfortable you making that decision on my behalf. I think they have their hands full and if you mention this to j and k they will start searching for a very needy child.
Up your uptake of wine from 3 to 6 and leave the grandkids alone. 
Another dog, do as you wish , but the effect on three grandkids could have a negative effect on 3 plus 3 plus 3 people. For instance ,on Leo,  vida, k, that's three , Katja, Ted , me that's three, jayme, Ben , theo, now maybe you and Justin are one on this three plan, but I think you are carrying this too far.
For instance none of these affect you dramatically, extra dog maybe, but not much else, I don't see you imposing three wives on your self, or marrying someone with two children so you have three kids,  the uptake of wine is best idea, I support that. 
You must go see movie " the master " with Oscar award performance by one of the phoenix siblings, you may have been brainwashed by recent readings 
Meanwhile, take 3 bennies, take a walk for 3 hours, help Katja for three hours, and go and collect post cards for three hours
Really David, take three hours and get a grip.  (I would really like to know what Vicki and Katya think of my statements.)
I would however love to join you on the exotic trip to Santa Cruz so our families could get together, that seems like a good idea for L and V, especially since L is looking at my family pictures and asking who is family, who are friends.
I actually really like you and your  family , and I see no reason you wouldn't like mine, so if we took that oh so exotic adventure to Santa Cruz , V and L would see what strong support they had in family.
Not that I think V needs any particular attention in that area of emotional stability, but I do feel sensitive to sweetheart Leo's early abandonment , and I think we can't deny the effect on him.
So we've talked about this before, 3 times I am sure,  so get back with me in three days please.  Grandparent in law. Linda 

-Gayle C-L (10-26): David,  Awesome.   What a great piece!!!!  I ll have to work the math for my special number :)  Keep up the good work );).  Love. G

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Work Musings/Retirement Dithers

At the University

Dear George
It’s nearly four years since I retired.  Whew – that whizzed by!  It’s a little scary.  Long before I made that big step, I’d ask retired acquaintances how they liked it.  Without fail, they’d say it’s wonderful, better than they could imagine, absolutely perfect, etc.  I never say things like that.  I’m more likely to say it’s okay, or it’s so-so, or it’s all right but I really liked working better.  I wasn’t completely insane about my job, but it did offer more in the way of social contacts, opportunities for achievement and recognition, and a sense of contributing to a common mission. 

I still go in to my office multiple times a week, so I haven’t completely severed my ties.  The other day I passed by the lecture hall where I’d taught my large social psychology class for many years.  Looking through the doorway, it still seemed completely familiar. I’d spent hundreds of hours facing those same rows of seats, the projection screen hanging from the ceiling, the clock on the back wall.  I had a lot of mixed feelings.  Part of me missed the opportunity to address batches of students on topics I was highly interested in.  On the other hand, I always felt a lot of unpleasant pressure in classroom teaching – mostly fears of being boring or found to be incompetent.  I wasn’t sure whether to be sad or relieved.    

I recently got a chance to return to one aspect of my ex-work life when the department head asked me to be on a committee to organize a celebration for retiring colleagues. I was excited about the prospect and volunteered without a second thought.  However, much to my surprise, working on a department committee was nowhere as enjoyable as I’d remembered.  Though I arrived full of enthusiasm and commitment to the task, my fellow committee members were all suffering from work overload.  We even had difficulty finding a common meeting time.  No one wanted to chair the committee, so we operated in a pretty disorganized fashion.  Members had mild disagreements on just about everything -- location, numbers of speakers, whether to have gifts, what kind of music to have (if any), food choices, etc.  At one point I wondered if the celebration was going to come off at all.  It brought me back to when I was a brand new junior faculty member and a more senior mentor told me that that committee work in the university was inevitably chaotic and aggravating.  I think I’d just gotten habituated to it over the years.  Now, with the benefits of some distance, I realized that it was pleasant to be free from frustrating tasks.   I wondered if I’d fabricated too rosy a picture of what my work life used to really be like.

A week or two later I got a phone call from a former colleague at the University.  He was incensed about a personnel decision being made about one of our long-term associates and felt that the person’s department had made a terrible mistake.  He implored me to write a letter to the university president to protest the action.  I had no information about the reasons for the uproar and felt caught in the middle -- uncomfortable and unsure what to do.  It reminded me of the occasionally nasty side of university politics from which I’ve been removed for several years.  I wound up writing a letter to the president but was not happy to be back in the thick of such conflict.  

I had an interesting dream the other night, a variation on an academic anxiety dream that I’ve had my entire career (though with a brand new twist).  It was the end of exam week, and, even though I’d been on the faculty for decades, I’d never finished my Ph.D. while in graduate school.  Nobody knew that, but it put me in a perilous situation.  I was enrolled in a graduate seminar to finally complete requirements for my degree and make up for my long-time failing.  However, I’d missed the instructor’s deadline for a take-home final exam, and I realized that I’d never be able to get it done.  Even worse, I was completely unprepared for my doctoral prelim exams which were coming up in a few days.  I realized that I would never finish my Ph.D.  At first I was in a state of total despair.  Then it suddenly dawned on me that I was now retired.  It no longer mattered whether I had my Ph.D. or not.  Such a great revelation.  I felt like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders.  In reflecting afterwards, it dawned on me that I’m now free from the many sources of strain in my former bureaucratic work environment and that my level of stress is lower as a consequence.  Maybe, I thought to myself, being retired isn’t so bad after all.

G-mail Comments
-Linda K-C (10-22): Great story, and dream.   I too have had a dream that haunted me forever, it was a dream with in a dream,  I would dream that I had never taken a necessary class to finish law school. It would take me hours going through buildings to find where to sign up for the class. Then I would attend the first class, ( the other students in class  changed from each time I had the dream, grade school friends to law school professors) during the class  i would decide i would skip the classes and just take the test since I knew all the material. But of course I would forget to take the test.  Then during the dream I would say to myself, this is a dream I think, I think I practice law, then revert to , oh no I have to take that test.  On waking,  for a second I thought it was true. Retired 7 years ago, stopped having dream about three years ago.  What we do to ourselves worrying about our careers.  I still miss work.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Burnet Autumn

Dear George,
Whatever season it is, it always seems the best when it arrives.  Winter, with its white landscapes, is arguably the most visually stunning.  Then come the muted pastel greens of spring, dotted with yellow and blue wildflowers.  Summer, of course, is always the lushest.  Now in mid-October everything is busy changing into bright colors, the year’s last hurrah.  Because I’m there most frequently, I’m particularly aware of the changes in seasons in Burnet Woods whose 90 acres are just up the street from us.  Here’s how the park is looking this week.

G-mail Comments
-Linda K-C (10-21): Thanks for these photos, do you walk often in the park? I can easily walk to msu campus, which is so beautiful and huge, it feels like a big lovely park.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Great Cincinnati Artists: Frank Duveneck

Frank Duveneck, Portrait of Maggie Wilson (1898)

Dear George,
With lots of leisure time available, I’ve been going to our Cincinnati Art Museum more frequently.  It’s the oldest art museum west of the Alleghenies and has lots to see.  I’ve been particularly interested recently in the recently established Cincinnati Wing.  Cincinnati was home to numerous consequential artists of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, e.g., Robert Duncanson, Henry Farny, John Twachtman, Elizabeth Nourse, Edward Potthast.  The most famous of all was realist painter Frank Duveneck who taught at the Cincinnati Art Academy for many years and who shaped the course of art in Cincinnati in the early 1900’s.  Here’s some of Duveneck’s story.  

Frank Duveneck was born as Frank Decker on Oct. 9, 1848, in Covington, Kentucky, across the river from Cincinnati.  He was the eldest son of working-class German-Catholic immigrants Bernard and Katherine Decker.  Bernard Decker died a year later, and his widow married Joseph Duveneck whose name Frank later adopted.  Frank began studying art as a teenager and was apprenticed to a German firm of church decorators.  Because of his German background and Catholic beliefs, he was an outsider to the Cincinnati art community.  He was encouraged by his ethnic community to go to Germany at age 21 to study at the Royal Academy of Munich where he was influenced by the works of Frans Hals, Rembrandt, and Peter Paul Rubens.  Duveneck excelled at the Royal Academy in Munich, producing expressive portraits for which he is famous (e.g., Whistling Boy; The Cobbler’s Apprentice).  

Whistling Boy (1872) 

Duveneck returned to the U.S. in 1873, settling in Cincinnati, and held a major solo exhibition in Boston two years later.  His work, reminiscent of the European masters with its dark, earthy colors and broad, slashing brushwork style, was immediately successful.  Despite his growing fame in America, Duveneck returned to Munich, and many pupils came to study with him in Germany and Italy.  Duveneck was an enthusiastic, exuberant teacher, and he guided his students (known as the “Duveneck Boys”) to the art treasures of Venice, Florence, and other European capitals.    Henry James called him “the unsuspected genius.”  

Portrait of Elizabeth Boott (1886)

In 1878 Duveneck opened schools in Munich and a Bavarian village.  In 1886 he married Elizabeth Boott, one of his students and an accomplished artist in her own right.  She gave birth to their son, Frank Boott Duveneck, in December of that year. She, however, died of pneumonia in Paris less than a year later, and Duveneck was devastated.  Returning to American, he sculpted a beautiful monument to his wife.  His productivity dropped sharply after his wife’s death. 

Horizon at Gloucester (ca. 1905)

Duveneck lived in Covington and taught at the Art Academy of Cincinnati where he became dean in 1905.  Some of his best-known students were John Henry Twachtman, John Christen Johansen, M. Jean McLane, Edward Charles Volkert, and Russel Wright.  Duveneck often summered in Gloucester, Mass.  His works are represented in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Taft Museum in Cincinnati, the Brooklyn Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and numerous other institutions.  Duveneck died at age 71 on Jan. 3, 1919, and is buried at the Mother of God Cemetery in Covington.  If you visit the Cincinnati Wing, you’re bound to be impressed by Frank Duveneck’s genius.  Here are some more of his works.    

Madonna and Child (1867)

The Florentine Girl (1887)

Water Carriers, Venice (1884) 

 Head of an Italian Woman (1887)

Little Girl in Red Dress (1890)

The Bridges – Florence (ca. 1880)

The Turkish Page (1876)

Italian Girl with Rake (1886)

F. B. Duveneck as a Child (1890)

Dock Sheds at Low Tide (1900)

That Summer Afternoon in My Garden (ca. 1900)

Dock Workers, Gloucester (1910) 

G-mail Comments
-Vicki L (10-15):  Thanks David.....Gorgeous paintings. I've forwarded this to Abra. V
-Linda K-C (10-13): Wow , you have whistling boy? Love it .