Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Day to Remember

The lovely French countryside, 1917.
 Armistice Day.

The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

The signing of the Treaty of Versailles.

Slaughter and carnage as never before. The last survivors of the Great War--the War to End All Wars--died only in the last year or two, but they are all gone now, and most of their children, and we diminish their suffering and turn from it to make this day "Veterans Day". Even Google's image for today is of a Civil War-era bugler boy; we can't tell by color whether North or South. A third of a generation of young men destroyed in England, in France, in Germany, unparalleled loss through all Europe and the Commonwealth. This is not a thing to be forgotten or whitewashed or diffused.

At the end of August, 1914, Germany printed in German newspapers the claim that French dirigibles had flown over German cities and bombed them; eleven years after Kitty Hawk, the 1914 version of "weapons of mass destruction". Not only had the French NOT done that, they didn't even have dirigibles, let alone a fleet of them. (Who DID have dirigibles capable of bombing raids? Germany.) The next day, hundreds of thousands of righteously indignant young men in a paroxysm of febrile nationalism enlisted in the German Army. Germany used this false claim of WMD as the excuse to begin their murderous, destructive campaign through Belgium and on to their invasion of France. Alliances stirred into action, and the horror began. This practice of lying, of inventing invasion and threat to justify war for the basest of reasons, was unspeakably contemptible. My Nana's brothers died horrible trench and No-Man's-Land deaths for no better reason than that....Yes, what the Germans did, to lie of invasion and WMD was vile, and the liars who did that earned the execrations of untold millions, and so it should be. But the ray of hope that kept many going was that this horror was so extreme that "we"--humanity--would learn from it, and never repeat the lies and carnage. Many children born in August 1914 lived through the Tomkin Gulf incident, and if they lived to 88 they lived through Dubya's WMD--a play learned from the German High Command.
The War to End All Wars, the Great War, the war we now call the First World War, the first war to involve multiple continents--six--has lost its power to counter the call to division, destruction, control, and war because we now forget. We forget the mass suffering, the terrible destruction, the annihilation of talent and beauty and hope that it brought about. We should not forget; but to not forget, we have to remember.
Today is a day to remember. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

More Irish-American Literature, Theatre, Art, and Music!

There will be a series of free readings of poems put on by the Fallen Angel Theatre Company. These are staged readings: Actors will be on the stage, but reading from scripts, rather than performing from memory and they will not be in costume or moving about the stage.

This will be a wonderful opportunity to hear first-class Irish actors and actresses performing in English for free, and I highly recommend that any of you with an interest in literature take advantage of this wonderful series to attend and enjoy.

The readings will be at the Irish Repertory Theatre, 132 West 22nd Street between 6th Avenue and 7th Avenue on the south (downtown) side of the street.

The next event will be on Monday, April 30, 2012: The play is called Airswimming, and information about it can be seen at Fallen Angel Theatre Company's Web page.

New Classes After the Old Center Dies!

I am going to continue my classes by holding Meetups. Please take a look at  the  Meetup page to keep informed!

Meetup is free to join. But there will be a cost per each class: When we meet at cafes, diners, or whatever, it is only fair to purchase something--coffee, tea, dinner, whatever you can afford. But we must be fair in using their space.

And I might ask people to buy the book(s), since we will no longer have access to a copy machine.

Irish-American Literature, Art, Theater, and Music!

There is a "salon" for Irish-American writers and artists here in New York City. On Tuesday, April 17, 2012, there will be a performance that will include, among others, the incomparable Aedin Moloney reading the final part of the last chapter of Irish writer James Joyce's masterpiece, the novel Ulysses. Aedin is the best reader of poetry I have ever heard, and her performances are transcendent. I hope that some of you will be able to attend.

I won't be able to be there until late, because that evening is also the last time I will ever meet my class at the International Center, where I have been volunteering since 1985. (I would also invite all of you to my last class!)

But after my class, I will attend, and I hope that I will bring my students with me.

The performance will be at The Cell, a theater at 338 West 23rd Street. The event will begin at 7:00 and continue to about 9:30.

A "Salon" on 23rd Street

Tomorrow, April 17, 2012, there will be an Irish writer's event near to the International Center. I intend to go after class. This is a good thing to know about:

Irish-American Writers and Artists Salon

The wonderful Aedin Moloney will be among the readers; but I suspect we will be too late to hear her.

The event is free.

Video on the International Center

Please take a look--and share the link with others.

The International Center in New York.

The International Center is a wonderful place that has helped many thousands of people over its 51 years.

The Center will close forever on Friday, April 20, 2012.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Bloomsday 2012

Colum McCann reading Ulysses on Bloomsday, 2010, at Ulysses Folk House on Stone Street.

The great Irish writer, James Joyce, memorialized a particular day: Thursday, June 16, 1904. His masterpiece, the novel Ulysses, takes place on that day.

James Joyce (1882 - 1941)

The "hero" of Ulysses is Mr. Leopold Bloom, so that date has come to be known as "Bloomsday".

On this year's Bloomsday, there will be readings from Ulysses all over New York City and the world. My favorite events (and the ones I intend to attend) are at Ulysses Folk House, an Irish pub downtown near Stone Street. This event will be hosted this year by the great Irish writer, Colum McCann, the author of Let the Great World Spin and Dancer.

The major event every Bloomsday is at Symphony Space, a theater on Broadway at 95th Street. This event is called Bloomsday on Broadway, and is hosted by Isaiah Sheffer, the host for the excellent radio program on NPR entitled Selected Shorts. (Selected Shorts consists of short stories read by actors or writers. It is a wonderful way to practice your English listening. It is good practice, and a literary pleasure.)

I recommend both these events as wonderful. If you can, attend both!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The End of an Era...the Beginning of a New!

The International Center in New York is going to be closed on April 20, 2012, after more than 50 years of serving the immigrants of the great community of New York City and enriching the lives of many thousands of volunteers.

For me, as for so many others, the International Center has been my home away from home.

I came to New York City in the summer of 1985, for the same reason that many of you have--to have an adventure, to acquire professional experience, and to enter one of the focal points of human culture to experience new things and to learn. Soon after, I befriended a Taiwanese family in my neighborhood in Astoria, and found myself trying to help them to learn English. I had a room-mate from Brazil, and one day I was moved to explicate a poem for him, "Fern Hill" by the Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas. He was moved by its beauty, and I felt a new sense of fulfilment. Before the end of the year I was a volunteer at the International Center, and I taught using poetry as the text rather than a classic language book or the newspaper. The first poem I taught was "Fern Hill". My first students liked my class, and I discovered I loved teaching. Soon I was teaching poetry one night, Alice in Wonderland another night, pronunciation another night. It was a heady time, making friends, meeting the world while in New York City, sharing the literature and language and culture that I loved.

At the the International Center's location in 1985, we had to have classes in offices. We didn't have three beautiful classrooms and a stage as we have now. But we had wonderful staff, volunteers, and members. Eileen Julian had a desk in the room where we read Alice in Wonderland, and I still remember looking up and seeing her smile as I discussed the book. One of the members in my Alice class back in 1986 was someone many of you know: Anna Petelka.

In the years since then, I have changed (my hair had no grey when I started!), members have come and gone, and my life has been intertwined with the International Center in ways I could never have predicted in 1985.

But over the last decade and more, the International Center has degraded. Costs were too high, the leadership less creative, and the board less and less connected to the vision that created the Center in the first place. The Center began to offer fewer and fewer services, began to charge for more services and restrict services, and became increasingly expensive. What had once been a haven for struggling refugees and new immigrants became increasingly expensive. Wonderful, dedicated staff were fired. Space was rented out. Opportunities to act to generate positive change were ignored. When we should have moved, the lease was renewed, instead. Now the Board has decided to close the Center. It is classic! Mismanage and run. (For some, that is the American Way. But not for us!)

We will continue to meet. On April 21, we will meet at the Prêt á Manger on 23rd Street, just down from the International Center at 24 West 23rd Street. I have set up a Meetup group to arrange classes. Please take a look and join!

There is also a new Facebook page named "Friends of the New International Center".

With your help we can be reborn, and better. Wiser. New.

Please join us to begin a new era and help generations to come.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Closure of the International Center

The International Center, which has been a vital fixture in my life since 1985, is going to be closed by the "board of directors" at the end of April.

It seems to me that this is more the result of incompetence and disinterest than anything else. I have seen the good the Center does, and I know that it does me, too, a world of good. I do not wish to close my class.

If the Center can not be saved, I will try to continue to meet with people after, and I hope that we can all find a way to continue to share and grow and learn together, through this dark time.

I also ask those who love the Center, as volunteers and as members, and even ex-members and ex-volunteers, to be willing to join the task to rebuild the International Center again. Many and many are those whose lives have been not only enriched, but sometimes saved, by the services and the community that the International Center has always provided. We want to try, but it can not be done by one person or a few. But with the dedication of many, we can revive it--and make it better. The International Center has slowly been diminished over the years, as board members with no feeling for the history of the International Center or for its place in the lives of so many, have failed to act wisely or responsibly in its stewardship and now consider it a burden in their own oh-so-busy lives. We know what the Center is and has been and can be. It will be a fight. But it is worth it.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Astronomy Picture of the Day Lecture

New York City has many free public events related to the sciences as well as for the arts. One of my personal favorites is the free lecture series on astronomy on the first Friday of the month.

Lecture at the American Museum of Natural History

“Best Short Astronomy Videos” - Robert Nemiroff

Friday, January 6, 2012

Robert Nemiroff, professor of physics at Michigan Technological University, Houghton, Michigan, will address the Amateur Astronomers Association on “Best Short Astronomy Videos,” Friday, January 6. The free public lecture will begin at 6:15 p.m. in the Kaufmann Theater of the American Museum of Natural History.

Nemiroff and Jerry T. Bonnell—a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center—cofounded and together run the popular Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) website. One or the other has given a presentation to the club each year on the best astronomy pictures of the previous year. But this year, it’s videos. “I decided to try something different, and there have been some really cool short videos on APOD,” Nemiroff says.

Last year, APOD, which was founded in 1995, reached one million hits per day.

The APOD archive is one of the largest collections of annotated astronomical images on the Internet. It is disseminated in 16 languages.

Nemiroff’s research areas include gamma-ray bursts, gravitational lensing, cosmology, and sky monitoring. He’s placed video lectures from his classes “Introductory Astronomy” and “Extraordinary Concepts in Physics” on iTunes and elsewhere on the Internet for free.


Here are my informal directions to the Kaufmann Theater:

The American Museum of Natural History is at Central Park West and 79th Street. It covers several blocks, from 77th Street to 81st Street, between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue. To get to the Kaufmann Theater, enter the building from the south side, on 77th Street. You will see a grand arching stone stairway in the middle of the block. The south entrance is actually under that stairway. There are guards present who will ask to check your bags. From there, enter the large hallway with a giant dugout canoe in it. Turn left. You will see the "Anne and Bernard Spitzer Hall of Human Origins" ahead of you. Walk toward the three skeletons, one of a "modern" human, one of a Neanderthal, and one of a chimpanzee. Just before you enter the Hall of Human Origins, you will see a hallway with display cases with beautiful shells. Turn right and proceed up that hallway, past the displayed shells. You will see another hallway to the left that
goes to the Kaufmann Theater. That's it!

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* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Here are videos that Nemiroff showed:

From APOD of February 2, 2011, "Powers of Ten". Please watch this superb video from 1968. It is wonderful.

From APOD of February 22, 2011, "Star Size Comparisons".

From APOD of March 20, 2011, "Time Lapse Auroras Over Norway". Beautiful.

From APOD of May 4, 2011, "Celestial Trails Over Greece". Lovely time-lapse sequences of the stars taken in Greece with famous landmarks in the background.

From APOD of June 1, 2011, "Earth Rotating Under Very Large Telescopes", a time-lapse video taken at the Paranal observatory in Chile, one of the most famous observatories in the world. At one point, a laser is seen; these remarkable giant telescopes utilize interferometry to achieve stable, precise images, and the laser is used in that process. Very, very cool; and very, very beautiful.

From APOD of June 13, 2011, "Views from Cassini at Saturn" is a sequence of still photographs taken by the Cassini space probe of Saturn, including Saturn's rings, and some of Saturn's moons.

From APOD of July 11, 2011: "Total Lunar Eclipse Over Tajikistan".

From APOD of August 27, 2011, "Hurricane Irene Forms".

From September 20, 2011, "Kepler-16b: A Planet with Two Suns". (This is a computer animation of what such a star system might appear, not real photography.)

From September 27, 2011, "Flying Over Planet Earth".

From October 3, 2011, "Dark Matter Movie from the Bolshoi Simulation". This is a computer simulation of what the universe might look like if we could see dark matter but normal matter were invisible.

From APOD of November 6, 2011, "Orange Sun Oozing" a time-lapse sequence showing changes in granules in the sun over a period of 54.75 minutes.

The last video was not from 2011, and is only indirectly about astronomy: "Happy People Dancing on Planet Earth"!

Please "bookmark" APOD (the Astronomy Picture of the Day). It is one of the best things on the Web, and if you look at the site regularly and read the blurbs and follow the links, you will learn a lot.