Do unto others

We are all born free and equal. We have a right to be treated fairly, whoever and wherever we are. And under law, the right to be presumed innocent until proven otherwise.

We all have a right to food, shelter, education, representation and protection.  And to live in a world order if we take personal responsibility to guarantee all the above.

Still, today, even as we tap ourselves on the back, an uncomfortable feeling gnaws at us inside.  Perhaps a look further back will help.

The oldest written codes of conduct of our history contain the same Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” say the Bible, the Hindu Vedas, the Torah, and the Analects of Confucius.

The earliest human societies were egalitarian and fair; pre-agriculture, there was no such thing as a gender divide or social hierarchy to roles.

The ancient Greeks gave each free man a vote. The ancient Egyptians gave it to women too. Gender parity was the legal, economic, social norm; Egyptian women could even become pharaohs.

Love was free for all in ancient Greece and Rome. In pre-Constantine Europe and pre-colonial Africa, whom a man or woman chose to love was their business alone.

The Native Americans believed in sustainability, so that their seventh generation grandsons also could.

Ancient civilizations built temples, statues, shrines, to worship different gods. Today those get blown up because some find their existence threatening. They wrote books and built libraries that have been burned, because some are in favor of ideas so long as they duplicate their own. And as fences and walls get erected, some feel a need to catapult others beliefs, voice their judgment, and demonstrate a glaring racial intolerance for others.

Last November, I was at a party in which it was assumed I was of an ethnic origin; the same as the person who asked. With my revelation came, “Oh no, you’re not.” Now I ask why would someone want to negate another? Because they can’t accept neither truth nor differences. And their consciousness is closed.

So, I ask, are we in a movement of evolution or revolution of man against man? And how can we direct ourselves in a progressive manner?

What are you doing to live in a better world?

Flying High


Today I’m sharing a morsel of fashion history that many of you may not be aware of.

These days every celebrity is a fashion designer. But you may not know that one of the forerunners of celebrity fashion designer was not a musician or a movie star. It was Amelia Earhart.

In the 1930s, Amelia Earhart was one of the most famous women in the United States as the first female pilot to soar across the ocean. She was a best-selling author. She was an adventurer. And, a fashion designer.

Growing up in Kansas, Amelia like many contemporaries of her time, was an avid seamstress. As a child, she created elaborate gowns for her dolls. As a teenager, she kept up with the latest fashion trends by sewing her own clothes.

As a pilot, she designed both a jumpsuit she could wear comfortably in the cockpit and a fly-suit allowing maneuverability.

Today, we associate Amelia’s style with the leather bomber jacket, aviator sun glasses, and a scarf. But that was only a part of it.

She wore stylish suits and dresses that always garnered her attention in the pages of Vogue and Cosmo.

Amelia’s Creation

Amelia started her own clothing line in 1934, using her original designs. Her collection included dresses, pantsuits, blouses, and hats. Since her line was coming out in the midst of the Great Depression, Amelia made sure her clothing, featured in Macy department stores, was affordable. She used fabrics that were easily washable and durable. Her designs were also available as inexpensive sewing patterns for women suffering from the recession.

Unfortunately, despite her fame, Amelia’s clothing line did not catch on with the public. Even though her prices were low, women in the United States simply did not have the disposable income to spend on fashion while their husbands were unemployed during the Great Depression.

Although Amelia disappeared in the sky forever in 1937, her influence in fashion still lives on today. Did you have any idea of her entrepreneurial spirit?

On a Dig


Recently conversing with a 95 year-old former school teacher, she shared that Benjamin Franklin was one of the greatest diplomats that ever lived and that he along with George Washington shared their tips on codes of conduct for young men.

It sent my mind on a curiosity spin so on my next visit to the Library, I looked some things up.

The history of etiquette reads like an elaborate scroll with historical figures from Confucius to Louis XIV out to civilize ignorant youths. Although the term officially popped into the English language in the 1700s, etiquette came from an Ancient Egyptian text from the 25th century B.C., “The Instruction of Ptahhotep.”  It was one of the first books ever written.

The Instruction of Ptahhotep was intended to pass on the wisdom of Ptahhotep’s ancestors to his son. In fact, educating young men is the primary focus of most of the referenced texts about etiquette.

So you ask what about the ladies. I assume that being the “fairer sex,” etiquette guidelines for women were not drawn. Instead, they were handed down orally from matriarchal figures directly.

When we think of American etiquette today we think of our most recent and celebrated etiquette bandleaders, Emily Post and Amy Vanderbilt.

Emily Post began documenting etiquette in 1922 with the publication of Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics, and at Home. By that time she was 50, and an established writer with expansive newspaper and magazine articles, humorous travel essays and five novels under her belt.

Even after her death, the Emily Post advisement legacy continues on, with her long line of grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren that impart what she spent the latter part of her life teaching.

In 1952, after five years of research, Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Book of Etiquette was published, introducing us to a new modern voice of etiquette. Born in New York City, educated in Switzerland, and an active writer from the age of 16, Vanderbilt was the perfect combination of culture, class, and sass for mid-century America.

She brought modern adaptations and interpretations of her book, beginning with: The Ceremonies of Life. Or better known in modern times as The Events You Can’t Wear White To.  I guess I’ll have to dig into it to find if she made a reference to no white after Labor Day.

A Gentleman revives chivalry

I recently found a website that inspired me through music to write this.

Don Quixote, A gentleman revives chivalry

Six hundred and eleven years ago, Miguel de Cervantes wrote a story about a middle-aged man who dreams up a romantic, ideal world, and believes, against all reason, that it exists. He leaves his village in La Mancha on a quest to revive chivalry, undo wrongs, and bring justice to the world, under the name Don Quixote. But the giant battles he faces are windmills, the damsel he covets is a peasant girl, and he dies disillusioned, in a real world where nothing has changed.

Cervantes was no stranger to that real world. He had been a soldier, and had fought bravely and been wounded in the Battle of Lepanto. Captured by the Turks and imprisoned for five years, he then served as a commissary for the Spanish Armada, where the corruption of others landed him in prison again. Still, this was a man who wrote: “To change the world, my friend Sancho, is not madness nor utopia. It’s justice.”

Cervantes died on the 22nd of April, 1616, not knowing that he had created the best literary work ever written, the world’s first best seller. Yet during his lifetime he was not able to support himself through his writing. Don Quixote would later be translated into almost every language, be retold in plays, operas, ballets, and movies, and inspire such greats as Gustave Flaubert, Alexander Dumas, Henry Fielding, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Felix Mendelssohn, George Balanchine, Salvador Dalí, and Pablo Picasso.

Quixotism is the impractical pursuit of ideals. It is tilting at windmills, chasing the romantically absurd.

The journey from injustice remains, and is far from over. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Sometimes it does feel like we are just tilting at windmills. But we still read Don Quixote, the story of a man who chased his ideals across the Spanish countryside. We read it hoping that this time around he actually finds them. Hoping he vanquishes those windmills. Hoping he does not give up. And that we too must never stop.

Say Da to Luxury

Ordinarily I don't talk about food, except for when my stomach is growling. And despite my almost vegetarian diet, I still consume fish every now and then.
Today on a research hunt I found something interesting that I want to share. I love when I'm on a hunt, it's like opening up a treasure chest, it may take a while to find what I'm looking for but it opens up more possibilities than expected.
The most expensive food in the world, is caviar, the rarest and costliest is from beluga sturgeon, extracted from the Caspian Sea. One kilogram of these diamond eggs, harvested from fish almost one hundred years old, is worth $34,500. The beads must be rolled delicately between the index finger and the thumb, placed onto the tongue, and popped to release its buttery smooth burst of flavor.
However, this food of kings first belonged to the poor. Long before the age of blinis and champagne, peasants in medieval Russia spread caviar over black bread and downed it with vodka. Then the imperial aristocracy, the English, and the French, discovered its large grains, sumptuously soft texture, and its subtle but distinctive flavors. And that's how Caviar became synonymous with luxury.
At the time of the Russian Revolution, storefronts were desolate and shelves were bare and the country exported the precious black pearls and could no longer afford to eat them. Survival became the order of the day.
“Luxury is the opposite of the naturally necessary,” Karl Marx said. So long as needs were met, the people would not need caviar. At least, in theory.
But to survive, paradoxically, is not enough to live. Even in the midst of crisis, especially in the midst of crisis, humans seek out luxury. Art, pleasure, and beauty, like caviar, have a short shelf life. Too short to wait out ideology. Too short to wait for peace.
For seventy-four years, the Soviet regime monopolized all Beluga exports to the wealthy capitalist world. Meanwhile, in the streets of Leningrad, pushcarts sold the proletariat cheap caviar on thick slabs of bread.
Evelyn Waugh tells the story of a young Russian aristocrat who fled the revolution and found himself in Paris, alone and stateless, with barely enough money to starve through two more weeks … until he realized he was in Paris, and decided to have a luncheon.
American writer Dorothy Parker said, take care of luxuries and the necessities will take care of themselves.
Oscar Wilde stated that extravagance is the luxury of the poor; penury is the luxury of the rich.
As I eat a more raw diet, my days of consuming caviar may come to an end, but in the meantime, I have a soft blanket, a good book, a bubble bath and a scented lavender candle… and I’m polishing off the last of a Napoleon, filled with cream.

If I saw you in Heaven

My mind lately has been intersecting ideas about life, death and art.

Over the holidays my sister-in-law laughed when I told her that not only am I a Downton Abbey fan but I go to bed thinking about the story-line and the characters. She asked, “you go to bed thinking about castles,” to which I replied, “their lines are so enriching, they’ve become like family. And yes, I would love to wake up in a castle.”

Last nights episode with Lord Grantham spitting blood like a geyser, made me think of how even in the best of circumstances you can create tension within a character.

I also loved the lines Tom delivered when he crooned, “Long live our own Queen Mary,” sounding like a fairy Godmother, but it was when he said, “There’s no such thing as safe love. Real love means giving someone the power to hurt you.” nudging her toward romance that made me stop and think about the truth in vulnerability.

But it was the Dowager’s lines confronting Denker that ruled the night.

When both Robert and Cora were sharing their travels with their grandchildren I thought about how the same table was laid out for the Dowager and her trip to Russia.

Long ago I was given a book on one of the oldest and largest museums of art and culture in the world: the State Hermitage Museum in Russia. It was founded by Catherine the Great, who in 1764 purchased the first two hundred and fifty-five paintings from an art dealer in Berlin.

Immanuel Kant called us specks of sand in an infinity of time. Kings, presidents, and tyrants; art makers and collectors; brick layers, bread bakers, and flower pickers. One day we’ll all be gone.

Actually, it was Hippocrates who said it first: ‘Life is short, art is long.’ If we cannot live forever, at least let our names—in memory, carvings, newspapers, and books, in paintings, statues, palaces, and gulags.

Like Empress Catherine who created the Hermitage, and German Field Marshal Ritter von Lieb who flooded it. Albert Einstein, who developed the theory of relativity. Harry Truman, who put it in a bomb. Pol Pot’s killing fields, John Lennon’s strawberry ones. Yuri Gagarin who went to space, David Bowie who sang about it.

The verdict is still pending on the rest of us. Presidents will make speeches, dictators will rename cities, architects will build towers, artists sculptures, explorers will discover islands, scientists cures. Men will write books and sing songs and climb mountains and walk on Mars. Even fleeting men can leave footprints, and history remembers those who do.

And we… will we carve our initials on the bark of a tree and leave them there hoping that perhaps, just perhaps, we leave something behind worth remembering.

What will document as proof of your time here in this lifetime?