Monday, October 25, 2010

La Danse des Branches (The Dance of Branches)

The road to Puylaurens from Soreze.

I wrote this poem a couple of years ago, but it kept coming to mind
as I drove along the country lanes in today's changeable weather.

Les Platanes
with thanks to Emily Dickinson

There’s a certain slant of light
falling through a tunnel of trees
that fills my soul with clear delight
as branches dance in rainy breeze.

The silver swirling beams of light
reach toward me filled with rain
as I drive home on Friday night
glad to be in France again.

Long corridors of les platanes
arms held high in salutation
swaying with the light and rain
bless me, move me to elation.

The music swells, I feel the beat
the car and I swing down the lane
no longer sitting in my seat
I’m light that’s rising in the rain.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Because everyone needs...

...a little Corn Tiger in their life!

Been missing the boy so I had to consolidate some of the pictures the Dear Daughter sent by mail of our Boy's Life in Brooklyn. Just looking through them makes me ache to hold the boy.

Water play with Dad.
(She sent a video of him in the sink singing, but he's nekkid, so that one is for Nana's eyes only.)

Corn Tiger with his tiger...look at those chub rolls =o)

Enjoying the pull of gravity...

Sitting up like a big boy at 6 months.

Nearly standing in his new, cool mini-Vans, ~7 months.

And now, for my last trick...
Love that Funny Redheaded Boy!

Hugs from Here,

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Virtual JFK: Vietnam if Kennedy Had Lived

The CCiiff Film Festival ended last night when the final film, Empire of Silver (Bai Yin Di Guo), VO Chinese with English subtitles, screened in Revel. The festival was truly a bringing together of many cultures, with films coming from China, Africa, Europe, South America, USA, ..., with many points of view and in many languages, subtitled in French or English.

Of the 13 films which I saw in the ten days of the festival, there was one which gave me some new perspective on my own country and where we are today: Virtual JFK: Vietnam if Kennedy Had Lived, which screened last week in Soreze at the Abbaye auditorium.

Virtual JFK focuses on "the way President Kennedy dealt with six important foreign policy crises (Cuba to Vietnam) without going to war. The film puts forth the argument that "critical decisions about the use of restraint and coercive diplomacy often require greater acts of courage than the use of force and that character matters greatly in Presidential leadership." Koji Masutani, Director of Virtual JFK

Masutani was born in Tokyo, Japan, in 1981. He spent most of his childhood in Hong Kong before attending a private boarding school in Massachusetts. He received a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Brown University in 2005.

The six crises with which Kennedy dealt during his presidency that are the focus of this film are: Bay of Pigs (April 1961), Laos Crisis (1961), Berlin Wall Crisis (August-November 1961), Showdown over Vietnam (November 1961), Cuban Missile Crisis (October 1962) and, finally, the Vietnam Withdrawal (October 1963).

The movie uses archival footage to review the ups and downs of Kennedy's presidency and the public and staff/advisor pressures that were put on him at and after each of the crisis decision points.

In dealing with Vietnam shortly before he died, JFK agreed to a plan devised by Defense Secretary Robert McNamara to withdraw most Americans in South Vietnam by late 1965, with the first 1,000 to be withdrawn within three months.

JFK’s plans were reversed by his successor, Lyndon Johnson, who decided to increase the American presence in Vietnam to 500,000 troops. The war stretched across several generations and killed more than three million Vietnamese and 58,000 Americans.

You can read a more thorough synopsis of the film on this Virtual JFK site page under Press Material.

One of the things I liked about this film was that I did not find it polemical, but rather felt that it invited viewers to draw their own conclusions.

When Kennedy was elected in the Fall of 1959, I had just turned 11 years-old and was living with my family in a house out in the countryside in Hertfordshire, England. My father was a Lt Colonel in the US Air Force and was on assignment there. We did not have a television at home for our entire stay in England. Our main source of news and entertainment in the evening was the BBC on the big old radio in the living room. We did not return to the US until the summer of 1962, when we moved to our next posting at Langley AFB in Virginia.

As I remember it, my father felt connected to Kennedy and proud of his election to the presidency. They were both of Boston Irish Catholic stock, my father from Quincy, on south Boston Bay, and Kennedy originally from Brookline, some eight miles inland from Quincy; both had red hair and three brothers; both went to Catholic school and fought in WWII in the Pacific theater.

But after watching this movie, I suspect my father must have felt conflicted as the Kennedy presidency progressed, for Lt Col Wm J Norton, my father, was a committed, career Air Force man who, I discovered through recent research, was part of the support team (a weather group commander) for spy missions over central Europe and Russia. As Virtual JFK documents, Kennedy decided time and again, against the advice of his military advisers and to much scorn from hawkish Republicans, not to use military force.

A lot of the old film footage from the Kennedy years showed him fielding questions from an auditorium filled with reporters. He gave smart, powerful, informed answers often balanced with humor. In comparison, the presidential press conferences I have seen through much of my adulthood seem overly managed, the president often ill-informed or less than candid. Admittedly, I generally avoid broadcast television and have done for much of the past thirty years. But you cannot avoid seeing clips and I have watched my fair share.

I was a sheltered and naive 14 year-old and just starting the ninth grade when Kennedy was murdered. I remember being stunned and knowing in my gut that this was a very bad thing for the US. I had similar feelings, astonishment and dismay, after watching Virtual JFK.

That is what a strong, intelligent president who is willing to stand up for peace looks like, I thought. I wasn't old enough to realize that at fourteen.
What a loss.

"The United States, as the world knows, will never start a war. We do not want a war. We do not now expect a war...We shall be prepared if others wish it. We shall be alert to try to stop it. But we shall also do our part to build a world of peace where the weak are safe and the strong are just."
Excerpt from John F Kennedy
commencement address at American University in Washington, D.C.,
June 10, 1963

Hugs from Afar,

Monday, October 4, 2010

C&C Intercultural Film Festival

The Culture & Cultures Intercultural Film Festival has been making good use of the two theaters at the Abbaye Ecole in Soreze this week. Anne and I have been running around the corner and up the street to help out, selling and punching tickets.

Images from The Mountain Thief, the opening movie for the C&CIFF in Soreze.

The Mountain Thief is the first feature film by young director Gerry Balasta. In 2004, Gerry went back to the Philippines, where he was born and raised, and started an acting workshop open to the residents of the Philippine’s largest garbage-collecting town of Promised Land and Urban, Payatas. He used residents of the town who graduated from his workshop as the actors in The Mountain Thief when he shot it on location at the garbage-collecting town with a small crew.

In 2009, Gerry started THE MOUNT HOPE PROJECT, to assist the scavenger-actors who acted in his film. In late 2009, with money raised through the supporters and fans of the film, two of the children involved in the film received medical care, including surgery for one child with a club foot deformity.

Gerry Balasta was present at the screening to answer questions from the audience about the film and his ongoing work with the Mount Hope Project. It was a moving and inspiring start to this remarkable film festival, which, for the second year, is screening some of its films in our little village of Soreze.

More soon.
Love for now.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Cet Homme

Leonard Cohen jumped me in an internet back alley today
and took me "a thousand kisses deep", over and over again.
You'll see what I mean at 5:55 in this video when
he delivers a version of his poem of that name.
"I'm Your Man" is a good song, but it was the poem
that sealed the deal for me.

A Thousand Kisses Deep
by Leonard Cohen

Don’t matter if the road is long
Don’t matter if it’s steep
Don’t matter if the moon is gone
And the darkness is complete
Don’t matter if we lose our way
It’s written that we’ll meet
At least, that’s what I heard you say
A thousand kisses deep

I loved you when you opened
Like a lily to the heat
You see, I’m just another snowman
Standing in the rain and sleet
Who loved you with his frozen love
His second hand physique
With all he is and all he was
A thousand kisses deep

I know you had to lie to me
I know you had to cheat
You learned it on your father’s knee
And at your mother’s feet
But did you have to fight your way
Across the burning street
When all our vital interests lay
A thousand kisses deep

I’m turning tricks
I’m getting fixed
I’m back on boogie street
I’d like to quit the business
But I’m in it, so to speak
The thought of you is peaceful
And the file on you complete
Except what I forgot to do
A thousand kisses deep

Don’t matter if you’re rich and strong
Don’t matter if you’re weak
Don’t matter if you write a song
The nightingales repeat
Don’t matter if it’s nine to five
Or timeless and unique
You ditch your life to stay alive
A thousand kisses deep

The ponies run
The girls are young
The odds are there to beat
You win a while, and then it’s done
Your little winning streak
And summon now to deal with your invincible defeat
You live your life as if it’s real
A thousand kisses deep

I hear their voices in the wine
That sometimes did me seek
The band is playing Auld Lang Syne
But the heart will not retreat
There’s no forsaking what you love
No existential leap
As witnessed here in time and blood
A thousand kisses deep

Go deep!

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