Thursday, October 5, 2017

Activists Challenge the Nation With Their 45-Foot Naked Woman

Oh, my! Have you seen what some people are trying to erect on the National Mall in D.C.? Nothing less than a 45-foot-tall naked woman made very realistically of steel tubing.

The sculpture is called R-Evolution (so clever, eh?!) and is the handiwork of artist Marco Cochrane. It is headed for the Mall thanks to the efforts of a group of activists, artists, and community organizers for an event known as  Catharsis on the Mall.

You might feel a tad embarrassed looking upon this towering, lifelike female who seems to have just stepped out of the shower, wondering where she put her robe. I imagine that the parents and teachers of the countless children who swarm the Mall each month will probably feel the same way.

But Mr. Cochrane, explains the piece this way (it is part of a trilogy of female figures): "They are intended to challenge the viewer to see past the sexual charge that has developed around the female body, which has been used for power and control, to the human being.  They are intended to de-objectify women and inspire men and women to take action to end violence against women, thus allowing both women and men to live fully and thrive."

If I had a nickel for every time I've heard this argument from the fearless folks on the left . . . It's the one that maintains that if we would just throw off the rusted shackles of prudery and embolden women to display their bodies unabashedly, women could then get some respect. They would no longer be "ashamed" of their bodies and would feel the empowerment that has long been due them.

Unfortunately, this plan, as evolved as it sounds, just does not work. Women have been wearing less and less, exposing their bodies more and more, since the beginning of the last century. However, strangely enough, the objectification of women proceeds apace. In fact, from what I see, it has only gained momentum. Note the unprecedented glut of pornography in every conceivable format as well as the worldwide plague of sexual trafficking and forced abortions, not to mention the inhuman 4-inch heels that female talk show hostesses and newscasters are made to wear, the pressure to surgically enhance women's figures, and so on.

The truth is, as some astute writers have pointed out, true empowerment for a woman lies in large part in her modesty, not her bold display of more and more of her body parts. A tasteful covering of provocative features brings the attention of her listener or her companion to her face, to her words, to her actions. The companion is not distracted by her sexuality and can instead focus on what she is saying. What an idea!

We are foolish to think that men, given enough exposure to exposed women, will stop seeing them in a sexual light. Men have been wired this way from creation and this will certainly continue. I do not advocate burkas. I do call for sensible and attractive clothing--on both men and women--to help us see each other as humans first, without the overt distraction of a strip-club sort of presentation.

According to a USA Today article (Sept. 29, 2017) on the controversial naked steel woman, "The sculpture is being brought to Washington, D.C. [from San Francisco] by the organizers of Catharsis on the Mall, an annual three-day event that features 24-hour activities, music and an effigy burn." And it's all about equal rights for women, too, with special emphasis on resurrecting the Equal Rights Amendment. The event concludes with a torching of effigies. Now, if that doesn't sound like an uplifting family activity, I don't know what.

If you'd like to tell the National Parks Service what you think, to permit this display or not, you can contact them here.
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Photo courtesy of http://www.marcocochranesculpture.net/r-evolution/

Monday, October 2, 2017

Miracle of the Rain

Something remarkable happened yesterday. It was Sunday, October 1. Once again, like every year, the pro-life faithful were set to line a short stretch of U.S. 1 at 2:00 and hold up signs to passing drivers, reminding them of the miracle of new life and that it must be protected.  For one hour, as their children and grandchildren played behind them, these people would form a few dozen links in the Life Chain stretching across the country.

But it was raining. It had been raining since the day before. Not on and off, as we usually see, but nonstop, at times a drenching downpour, then lightening to an even shower. It poured through Saturday night and all Sunday morning, and drops continued to spatter the windshield as we drove to the rendezvous point a few minutes til two. We arrived just in time to grab a sign and form a line facing the oncoming traffic. But as we did this, the clouds ran out of water. They still hung darkly overhead, and the wind blew, but we stood with our paper signs, dry and comfortable.

Cars zoomed past us. Some drivers looked, many did not. Some honked their horns and cheered, most passed silently. I waved to one car that was slowing to a stop at the traffic light. In the passenger seat was a boy not more than ten, staring at me. He did not smile. Just before they pulled away from the green light, he raised his little hand and gave me the finger, and I could discern the driver beside him leaning toward me, making the same gesture. I stared back at the boy, my eyes wide as I involuntary cried "No!" in my dismay. He and his grown-up companion were the only ones to offer such a greeting to me that day.

Three o'clock came and we disbursed slowly. As we gave back our signs and chatted with friends, raindrops began to fall on us. Soon the thickening shower drove us into our cars. The rain had stopped for one hour and fifteen minutes--exactly enough time. The drenching rain kept up for several more hours then, without another break.

So I consider this the Miracle of the Rain. Not as spectacular as the Miracle of the Sun we will celebrate later this month, but still a divine touch that reminds us that we are being looked after.

I do pray for another miracle, though: that the boy who offered us a vulgar insult will remain uncomfortable with that memory, so that in the course of time he will examine why all those people saw fit to stand by the road that day when he was ten, below threatening skies, smiling and waving at him and holding signs about babies. Who knows--he might one day stand by the road with just such a sign or try in some other way to change things so that the Chain is no longer even needed.


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Can a Major World Power Really Be This Bad?

Rampant fraud, theft, violent intimidation, deceit, and corruption up to the very highest office--this is Russia today, according to author Bill Browder, who lived through it. Sadly, his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, did not. Arrested on trumped-up charges, tormented in prison to extract a false confession, Magnitsky absorbed the full and lethal wrath of the reigning thugs who would not sit by as their schemes and crimes were exposed to the public.

I can't get Browder's story, Red Notice, out of my head. His edge-of-your-seat account of the inescapable brutality of the Kremlin, and a favored handful of Russian oligarchs who control that economy, stunned me. I've been used to Russia playing the bad guy in U.S.-Russian relations, but surely they aren't so awful these days? After all, communism crumbled there decades ago, right? 

Browder tells of his heady days in Moscow in the early 1990s, where he went to take advantage of the new privatization of companies. His company, Hermitage Capital, bought up large chunks of shares, whose value proceeded to go sky high. He made a lot of money, and a lot of money for his happy clients. But in the process he ran into things that did not add up. He hit obstacles that did not make sense. And he wound up exposing fraud and theft on a scale that I could hardly comprehend. 

This is an important book because it is not about the past. It is not about the horrors of Soviet Russia, where white could be declared black and the innocent could easily be executed as guilty. This is about Russia today, a country still in the grip of corruption and deceit, from the local policemen to the man at the very top. A land where the law is no guarantee of protection or anything resembling due process. 

It is also the story of Browder's quest for justice, especially for the horrifying murder of his friend and attorney Sergei. Feeling responsible for Sergei's arrest, an arrest spawned simply by the man's association with Browder, the author dedicates himself to exposing what happened and getting the perpetrators punished.

Near the end of the book, Browder writes this from his London home:
I have to assume that there is a very real chance that Putin or members of his regime will have me killed someday. Like anyone else, I have no death wish and I have no intention of letting them kill me. I can't mention most of the countermeasures I take, but I will mention one: this book. If I'm killed, you will know who did it. When my enemies read this book, they will know that you know. So if you sympathize with this search for justice, or with Sergei's tragic fate, please share this story with as many people as you can. That simple act will keep the spirit of Sergei Magnitsky alive and go further than any army of bodyguards in keeping me safe.

How could I not write about this book? I hope you will read it.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Saw the House in Half, of Course

The next time you find yourself wondering if that last home improvement was really worth the money and all the trouble, think of George Eastman. I visited his mansion in Rochester, New York, recently. This camera and film tycoon (think Kodak film and Brownie cameras) stopped at nothing to achieve his ambitious goals, at home as in business.

After his magnificent house was completed in 1905, Mr. Eastman found that the conservatory, which occupies the center of the house, seemed somehow a little too small, a bit too square. Not by much, but still . . . .  I imagine that every time he descended the stairs and took his seat at the little breakfast table in that room, he squirmed with the vague discomfort of knowing that the space was not quite right. 

So Mr. Eastman put his architect and builders back to work. The assignment: Cut the house in half and push. Then insert nine more feet into the conservatory and do your best to match the existing marble in the floor. And that's what they did. I can only imagine the mess.

The result was superb, and you would never know that the room had been altered unless someone pointed out the slight variation in the floor. Now Mr. Eastman could eat his breakfast in peace, enjoying the music being played for him by his organist just across the room. (Eventually the great man realized that one organ was just not sufficient and had a second one installed to accompany it.)

Suddenly your plan for that addition does not look over-reaching after all, does it?
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Pictured: The conservatory at the George Eastman Mansion and Museum, Rochester, NY. Photo by Ann Doyle.
 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Other Horror of the Manchester Concert

The explosion at the Ariana Grande concert last night in Manchester, England, has certainly been widely covered in the news. And we can agree that it was a hideous, evil act that has devastated the families of all those who died there.

Many in the audience were teenagers, some with their parents. Reports mention children as young as 12 and even 8. So who is Ariane Grande that she attracts such a young crowd, with the approval of their parents?

I had to look her up on YouTube. The two videos I ran opened my eyes to who she is, but confused me deeply about why young girls were at the concert. First of all, Ariana is 23 years old, beautiful (of course), and a former Nickelodeon star. Once again, on the road to fame and wealth, a child star leaves behind her perky innocence and replaces it with a hyper sexual persona (remember Brittany Spears, Miley Cyrus, etc.).

In Ariana's "Side to Side" video, the first one I happened upon, she has been desperately waiting all day to be with her boyfriend, even though her friends warn her that he's no good. She admits, smiling, that she has "made deals with the devil" for the excitement that awaits her come evening. For some reason, she leads a pack of other overheated females in a workout on exercise bikes to demonstrate her feelings, and we are favored with camera shots from behind, where we discover that they are all wearing thongs. Lovely.

"Everyday" goes one better in its directness. Ariana dances in front of the camera, wearing an oversized men's down jacket, and tells us how her boyfriend gives her the "good sh-t" so she "never wants to quit" every day, every day. Huh? Did I misunderstand? That possibility is eliminated by the lyrics being boldly displayed across the screen as she sings this catchy number.

And parents are taking their 12-year-old daughters to this woman's concert?

That's the other horror of the Manchester incident, one that I don't read anything about in the news. And to me, it's harder to explain than a crazed ISIS operative setting off yet another explosive in a public place crowded with supposed infidels. Parents: Are Ariana's contortions and salacious lyrics the model you really want to put in front of your daughter--or son?

After writing about Shakira's irresponsible video just last week, I guess it could look like I am the crazy one. But I maintain that these female "artists" and their handlers are conducting a re-education effort on the world's young women. They are teaching them to ignore their instincts for romance and stability and family in favor of daily (wild) sex, freedom from any personal restraint, and a complete shedding of stuffy old values like finding a good man who can help care for and support them.

"It's just that sex sells," some will say. "That's why they do it." It's bigger than that, but it may well be about the money. People leading a regular life, raising children, surely don't spend their money as freely as those out there living for the moment.

But the question remains, to parents everywhere who condone the consumption of such entertainment by their children: What in the world are you thinking?