Sunday, July 17, 2016

Learning Latin with Pope Francis - July 17, 2016

To visit my archive of Latin Papal Tweets, go to my main page. 

July 17, 2016 

Literal translation of the Latin: Let us be mindful of older people and of sick people who frequently remain alone in the hour of the burning Dog Star [Jul 3 - Aug 11, the Canicular Days which are usually the hottest] and meet with hardships.

Here's how the Latin works:

Grammar Points
of older (people)
gen. pl. masc. comp. adj.
senior; comp. adj. of senex, senis
nom. pl. masc. adj.
memor, memoris
let us be
1st pers. pl. pres. act. subj. verb
sum, esse, fui; hortatory subj.
of sick (people)
gen. pl. masc. adj.
aeger, aegra, aegrum
nom. pl. masc. rel. pronoun
qui, quae, quod
of the burning
gen. sing. fem. adj.
flagrans, flagrantis
(in) the hour
adj. sing. fem. noun
hora, horae
(of) the Dog Star
gen. sing. fem. noun
Canicula, Caniculae
nom. pl. masc. adj.
solitarius, solitaria, solitarium
3rd. pers. pres. act. ind. verb
maneo, manere, mansi, mansus
enclitic conj.
dat. pl. fem. noun
aerumna, aerumnae
meet with
3rd pl. pres. act. ind. verb
occurro, occurrere, occurri, occursus

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Eating Baby Eels in Madrid

That's right. That's what I did. Only I didn't know it at the time.

We once again spent time with my Romanian mother-in-law in Bucharest. But we planned three nights in Madrid on our way home.

Madrid is known for Tapas. The legend is that workers used to spend their paltry wages on a glass of beer or wine at lunch, since they could only afford one thing. Productivity suffered and the king decreed that restaurants had to give a piece of food with every drink. And so, they began to create little snacks that they put on top of the drink (tapa = top) when they served it. 

We arrived in Madrid ready for anything. Our first night, we found a place serving tapas we did not at all understand. We saw something that looked to be a piece of bread with shredded fish atop it, bathed in some sort of white sauce. 

Let's dig in! We ate it. It was good. We ordered another.

We visited Toledo the following day, and we joyfully ate a shredded fish tapa there as well!

The following day we had booked a tour of "Tapas and Flamenco," in which our guide took us to family owned establishments before a wonderful show.

And the first place we visited, they were offering those "Shredded Fish" tapas. And our guide finally described what we had before us.

Those were not pieces of shredded fish. They were baby eels.

I will admit to you all. I loved them. I ate them again even after I learned they were baby eels. 

I do not, however, think I would have been able to bite into that tapa and greedily eat it, had I known it was a piece of bread with a swarm of baby eels atop it.

And so, ignorance, in this case, was bliss...

Artists of Wisconsin: Robin Jebavy

Robin Jebavy
As someone in awe of artistic talent (which I don't possess) and a Wisconsinite, I want to highlight artists in my home state.

Meet Robin Jebavy. Her works are visually stunning and show a mastery of color and symbolic forms. Please visit her website to see more of her art and learn more about her.

I could not describe her artistic intentions better than she does herself on her website. Robin Jebavy's works:

"call to mind elements of cathedral interiors, suggesting their stain glass windows, massive architectural supports, fine ornamentation, and decorative flourishes, as she builds nearly symmetrical, altar-like spaces that are at once intimate, domestic, banal, and monumental, metaphysical, and transcendental."

Here are a few representative examples of her considerable talent.

Sun King
 This is an earlier work, showing her interesting use of color and remarkable symmetry.

Master Seer

 A hint of an anthropomorphic presence in a splash of engaging shapes and colors.


 A glorious and playful use of bright colors against a muted background.

Untitled, Oil on Canvas
Displaying photo-realistic talent, an atypical asymmetrical work. The depth in distance displayed in this painting is astounding.

J.S. Bach's Orgain

 Spectacular. And I'll leave you with several others to contemplate.

Outdoor Wedding

Blue Still Life

Red Still Life

Golden Spectrum

Joy of Life


Monday, July 4, 2016

A July 4th Reflection: God Bless Our Imperfect Union

By the accidents of my life, I celebrated July 4th, 2004 in Mosul, Iraq. And I have celebrated July 4th in Romania ever since, including today, as I sit at my favorite pizzeria in Bucharest, sipping red wine and reflecting on it all.

I love the fact that our Founding Fathers, in the very Preamble of our Constitution, denied us the arrogance of ever being able to assert that our Nation is "perfect":

"We the people, in order to form a more perfect union..." 

It was not perfect then. It is not perfect now. It will never be perfect.

The very fact that they wrote into our Constitution the ability to amend it shows that they knew it should be a dynamic document through which we strive to ever press toward that perfection of unity and justice in which the people deserve to live and thrive.

This willingness to accept that the American Experiment is a work in progress is also stated in the hymn "America the Beautiful":

America, America
God mend mend thine every flaw
Confirm thy soul in self-control
They liberty in law.

As I reflect on all this at a pizzeria in Bucharest, Romania, I am compelled to express the story of how the United States, in my opinion, once failed miserably in both her principles and obligations, but also of how she has rectified them today.

Fascist Romania Switches Sides in the Middle of the War

A Fascist Coup had taken control of Romania. King Michael was a mere puppet as the country fought alongside the Nazis.  

The Americans bombed refineries in Pitești, Romania that I drove past just yesterday, because those facilities were providing the Axis cause with a great deal of its gasoline. 

King Michael, arguably the last head of state to actually wage war as a combatant, was a participant in a Counter-Coup that overthrew the Fascists

They ordered Romania to turn armaments around to now attack the Nazis.

And they had one stated hope. That when it was all over, the Americans would protect them from the Russians.

Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin agreed to something else for the Romanians at the Summit of Yalta.

When the war ended, the Communists had free hand to take over the state. King Michael would abdicate and flee. 

The Time of the Communists

Little known is the fact that serious anti-Communist insurgencies raged within Romania for twenty years. They were finally suppressed brutally by 1962.  

My novel A Place of Brightness tells the story of one such family, as they waged a guerrilla war against Communist forces in Romania and then had to regroup for a modern resurgence of their struggle.

A Founded Hope Expressed Through a Joke

A dear friend of mine here in Romania is a former naval officer. He told me what is perhaps the smartest and most clever joke I have ever heard. It plays off linguistic double entendres and national dreams.

During the time of the Communists, my friend tells me, the following joke was told.

To understand the joke properly, here is key information:

The word "vin" means simultaneously "wine" and "(they) come"

The verb "a se căra" means "to leave" and the noun "secară" means "an alcoholic beverage produced from grains."

The joke goes as follows:

De ce Rușii beau vodka si no se-cadă, dar Americanii beau Uiskii și nu vin?

Here's one translation, focusing on the beverages:

"Why do Russians drink vodka, but not 'alcoholic beverage produced from grains', but the Americans drink whisky but not wine?"

Here's another understanding of the exact same sounds, this time focusing on the potentially understood verbs:

"Why do Russians drink vodka but they don't leave, but Americans drink whisky but they don't come?"

The American Response

Churchill once said that "You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they have tried everything else."

We didn't do the right thing at Yalta (he didn't either). Understandably, we were all tired of war. But we consigned millions of people to Soviet domination. And let's be honest. We had the bomb. They did not. I'm not saying we should have dropped it on them. But we were obviously in a position of strength.  

The Cold War we decided upon instead would eventually result in the deaths of 33,000 US soldiers in Korea and 47,000 US soldiers in Vietnam. We will never know how many people total would have died, or what the world would look like today if we had pressed our advantage and seized Eastern Europe. Would the Far East Wars have even then happened? No one can tell.

And for these Romanians, and the others in Eastern Europe who struggled under Soviet Domination, there would be decades in which the Church was bitterly suppressed, freedom of expression was non-existent, and hope was all but lost.

Eastern Europe Today, July 4th, 2016

I sit in a bustling pizzeria in Bucharest, Romania. These people want what all of us want. They want to enjoy their lives and raise families with opportunities, in prosperity and freedom. 

And these people have made an historical decision. They have joined NATO. They have sent soldiers to fight and die in both Iraq and Afghanistan as a sign of their commitment to us. 

We have sizable US bases now in Romania, the land we once surrendered to Stalin to avoid further conflict after WWII. They have invited us here because they have chosen representative government, freedom of expression, and they are not turning back.

And so, as I sit here, watching them eat their pizza and going about their lives, I have tears in my eyes for all they endured as a result of the failings of our "Imperfect Union." But we are making it right.

And I am proud to share my July 4th with them...

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Meet the Artist - Vladimir Volegov: 2015, Part 2

I continue my exploration of the works of Vladimir Volegov, a master of color, light, and perspective. I will describe the salient points of his works, always providing in the image a direct link to the artist's website for that work, in case you would like to purchase a print or poster.

The Meeting with Autumn

A classic Volegov, the apparent focus of the scene is the leaf, displaying a color not otherwise seen. Indeed, the focus is further highlighted by the fact that the woman is gazing upon it in contemplation. But as we linger in the image, we see a pathway our mind wants to explore, as well as the modest and beautiful woman herself. This is a scene of serenity and peace.

Golden Silk of Leaving Summer

It is a scene immediately provocative as our eyes are drawn to the bare left shoulder, the strap having fallen. But as we further digest the image, we see that she looks off to her right from within shadows falling on her upper body, while her lower body is bathed in bright sunlight. Is she looking at that book? Actually, can she even see it from her perspective? The flow of her hair implies tresses down her back that we cannot see. Volegov contrasts the lavender of her top, flowing into the whiteness of her skirt, set upon the blue of the fabric upon which she sits.

Sunset at Sardinia Coast

I notice that the "focus" of a Volegov is not ordinarily dead center in the picture. She is a splash of color, interested in something on the ground to her left. But there is nothing there to catch our eye.

Amsterdam: Moments

Most of Volegov's works have a woman as the subject in some setting. The occasional landscapes in his repertoire are therefore worthy of study. He tends to be more impressionist when there is not a human in the image. But yet the scene seems to shift between impressionism and photo-realism.

Enjoying Amsterdam

Again, the subject is off center, looking at something of interest we cannot see. The river forms a path into the horizon. Lovely.

Woman in Love

This is a very important piece. The artist himself has this picture as the main banner of his Facebook page, showing his own pride in it.

Even if we did not know the title, we would know the subject matter. Her head is back in abandon, her eyes closed in wonder. The woman's body is stretched upon the bed so as to almost pull her breasts, symbols of her sexual desire, into our view. Her hand rests upon her body, not exactly in self-pleasure, but certainly in contemplation of her longing.

The One Who Creates Dreams

Volegov does not paint many nudes. This is an exquisite and tasteful presentation of the female form. Typical of his style, there is an element of color in the picture that momentarily draws our attention. but his actual subject, set slightly off center, is the real focus. She is serenely beautiful, her bare breasts caressed by the shadows in the scene, her hips hugged by an iridescent fabric.