VISIT TO BERN, SWITZERLAND IN PICS: APRIL, 2019

My first cousin, once removed (the son of my first cousin) is on sabbatical in Europe with his family. We hadn't seen each other for 25 years or so, give or take a decade. After a bit of back and forth, we chose Bern as the most convenient place to catch up. We weren't able to spend much time together but it was quality time and I got the skinny on all of the family members that I had lost touch with over the years.

Bern was worth the visit, too. The Old Town is typical European with the appropriate local twists - a pedestrian-friendly space with interesting architecture, plenty of shopping and restaurant choices, and since it's Bern, fountains and bears. Pics with commentary follow:

Beautiful animated clock tower in the middle of Old Town. Draws crowds every hour.
Bells ring and figures move.


I'm not certain what all of these dials represent. Perhaps predicting the next President?

Bell ringer at the top...
My first cousin, twice removed. I caught him in one of his three quiet moments.
Fountains are a thing in Bern...



Fountains and iron work...



Fountains and iron work and architecture...

Fountains and iron work and architecture and statues...



A real Alpine feel...


And the Bern bears. Their environment has been upgraded but they are still animals on display.

Moses in front of the Protestant cathedral.



We find markets where ever we go.
And we find food where ever we go, too.







JUSTICE DEMOCRATS ENDORSE EUGENE V. DEBS FOR 2020

Spokesman Mel N. Yull announced that the progressive Justice Democrats would be endorsing the candidacy of Eugene V. Debs for President of the United States in 2020. The following interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

BLOGGER: That's quite a surprise. Why did you decide to endorse Debs?

MEL N. YULL: Debs was a great orator, an unabashed socialist. He's...

BLOGGER: He's dead. You know that, right?

MEL N. YULL: Of course. And he was an old white guy before he died. But we can overlook that.

BLOGGER: Do you think that the voters can? Do you think that you can elect a dead man, old and white or otherwise?

MEL N. YULL: Of course not. But that's not the point. Purity is the point. And there's nobody who can represent Democratic Socialism better than Debs.

BLOGGER: So winning doesn't matter.

MEL N. YULL: Look, Justice Democrats endorsed 79 candidates in Democratic primaries in 2018. Seven made it to Congress. If winning mattered, we'd have been kicked to the sidelines long ago. Winning doesn't matter. Twitter followers matter.

BLOGGER: Have you picked a running mate for Debs yet?

MEL N. YULL: We're keeping our options open. Some of us wanted to cross party lines and consider John McCain. But two dead white guys was simply too much. Harriet Tubman has a great backstory but wasn't political enough. Shirley Chisholm gets my vote.

BLOGGER: She's dead. You know that, right? What am I saying? Of course you do. Let me ask you this. When do you envision electing a candidate endorsed by Justice Democrats to the Presidency?

MEL N. YULL: What difference does it make? As long as that candidate is pure.

BLOGGER: And breathing?

MEL N. YULL: That would be ideal but not necessary.

TIGER WOODS, NOAM CHOMSKY, AND PROFESSIONAL SPORTS

To demonstrate the convoluted twistings of my mind, as I read that Tiger Woods had won the Masters golf tournament, my thoughts turned to Noam Chomsky. Some background is in order.


 First, Tiger Woods. A child prodigy of whom much was expected, Woods delivered on those expectations in spades. He won tournaments in intimidating fashion. His name was mentioned alongside the greats of the sport and the greats of the sport accepted the proposition that he might equal their accomplishments, might even exceed them. Woods was young, good looking, rich, and still in his prime.
      Then the wheels started to come off. From what can be inferred from aggregating the various sober-to-sensational news stories, a combination of back pain caused by years of swinging a golf club at high speeds and the medication that he took to ease that pain resulted in breakdowns of his health, his personal life, and his golf game. For the past decade, the question was not whether or not  Woods would take his place among the greats of the game. He'd done enough already to earn golf immortality. The question became whether or not Woods would ever be capable of competing at an elite level again. That question was certainly valid. More than one back surgery had failed to provide relief. What in most golfers might have been a slow decline became, in Woods' case, an abrupt plunge into irrelevance.
      Chomsky? Where does that linguist, that academic, that scion of the radical left fit into the picture? We know that Chomsky was a voracious reader and writer from an early age. We know that his interests were in the political rather than the physical. We can infer from the first quote below that he never participated in organized sports, perhaps any form of team or individual physical activity at all.
      Over the years, Chomsky has become a sort of professional commentator. His milieu is the explaining of how social systems work and that means that his portfolio is broad. Included in Chomsky's portfolio is an analysis of the value of sports, amateur and professional. Here are two quotes that I believe are representative of his attitude.

"Professional sports are a way of building up jingoist fanaticism.. you're supposed to cheer for your own team.. I remember when I was a high school student.. having a sudden revelation.. I asked myself 'Why am I cheering for my high school football team?' I don't know anybody on it.. if I met anybody on it we'd probably hate each other.. why do I care whether they win or some guy couple of blocks away wins.. This idea of cheering for your home team is a way of building into people irrational submissiveness to power."

“One of the functions that things like professional sports play, in our society and others, is to offer an area to deflect people's attention from things that matter, so that the people in power can do what matters without public interference.”
      Perhaps you can see why I thought of Chomsky as I read of Woods' victory in Georgia. What possible significance could Woods' victory have in a world in which Trump was the US President, in which England was preparing to leave the European Union, and in which the major religions of the world were generating an ever expanding chaos both internally and internationally? Why should we care about a man who has garnered obscene wealth for hitting a ball with a stick while walking along four miles or so of greenery in competition with other rich guys and in the presence of a privileged audience?
      I do care, although I've never hit a golf ball in anger. In fact, miniature golf is as close to real golf as I've ever come and I haven't played miniature golf in decades. No, I don't care because I'm a golfer. So why do I care? Chomsky has forced me to think about that. And here's my answer.
      I care because I have played sports, sports that require a combination of skill and strength, from Little League baseball to pickup basketball at the Y.
      I care because, even though I never played varsity sports in high school, and even though I was at the head of my class and was recruited by over 300 colleges, I knew my classmates on my high school sports teams, they knew me, and we didn't hate each other.
      I care because I understand pain and how pain can change a person, how chronic pain can change everything about a person.
      I care because courage and persistence can take many forms and, regardless of what forms they take, examples of courage and persistence are important to hold up as desirable to emulate.
      Arnold Palmer is still my favorite golfer. Palmer's ability to rise to the occasion was inspirational. But in winning the Masters this week, Woods proved to be someone equally special, someone who did not give in to pain, who apparently could not allow himself to give in to pain.
      That's worth celebrating.



      

PERSONAL SPACE, RACISM, AND JOE BIDEN

I live in the south of France. When the local rugby team walks into our sports bar, there's a lot of kissing. Big, sweaty, bearded guys greet other big, sweaty, bearded guys with kisses on the cheeks. Then they hang out with their arms draped over each other's shoulders.

Nature or nurture?

I was curious. I googled: Do children have personal space? The answer? Apparently not. Page upon page of results lead to that conclusion. Why? Perform the exercise yourself and you will see.

Children must apparently be carefully taught about personal space. There are exercises, worksheets, activities, and publications promoting the teaching of personal space. When it comes to explaining the necessity for personal space, though, things get a bit fuzzy. Again, google: Personal space is vital to being oneself. Being able to engage in outside interests is a good way to develop a stronger sense of self, which leads to the discovery of one's desires and dreams. This is important because it fosters trust and communication between partners.

I parse those sentences and I scratch my head. Children who ignore the concept of personal space certainly have a sense of self and often demonstrate individuality at a high level. Children who ignore the concept of personal space are certainly adept at expressing their desires. And children who ignore personal space are certainly trusting and communicative. It occurs to me that problems in these areas exist after children have been taught the concept of personal space, not because they lack that concept.

Is there such a thing as unwanted touching? Absolutely. And we teach that No Means No. In fact, the young, smart, highly educated, professional women that have singled out Joe Biden as having made them uncomfortable have probably been taught that No Means No since childhood. But they didn't say No to Joe. They chose instead to speak to a microphone. Years later. I do believe that the women may have felt uncomfortable. I also believe that Biden did nothing wrong. 

Personal space is an artificial construct. And fluid. Studies show that it is effected by gender, age, climate, social norms, and other factors. Yes. You have to be carefully taught.




A TASTE OF LOCAL CULTURAL EVENTS: COST OF LIVING IN FRANCE #4

In the USofA, we lived in the Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton metropolitan area. The State Theater in Easton brought in class acts like Preservat...