Poem of the Week

Sunday Brunch at the Old Country Buffet

by Anne Caston

Here is a genial congregation,
well fed and rosy with health and appetite,
robust children in tow. They have come
and all the generations of them, to be fed,
their old ones too who are eligible now
for a small discount, having lived to a ripe age.
Over the heaped and steaming plates, one by one,
heads bow, eyes close; the blessings are said.

Here there is good will; here peace
on earth, among the leafy greens, among the fruits
of the gardens of America’s heartland. Here is abundance,
here is the promised
land of milk and honey, out of which
a flank of the fatted calf, thick still
on its socket and bone, rises like a benediction
over the loaves of bread and the little fishes, belly-up in butter.

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A Gentleman’s Agreement

gentlemen's agreement

I felt in the mood for an old movie so off the top of my head I entered “Gregory Peck” in Netflix’s search box. The first film in the list was A Gentleman’s Agreementwhich is the story of a journalist, Philip Skylar Green (Peck), whose hired to do a story on anti-Semitism for a weekly magazine. A widower, Green’s just come to New York with his young son and mother.

While some may think the film is too talky or preachy, I’d disagree. I liked that a film would take on such a dirty secret. Green doesn’t merely encounter and write about blatant anti-Semitism, he reacts to those who aid and abet, the polite, liberal people who aren’t anti-Semitic, but remain quiet when comments and jokes are made. That’s a big part of the film.

A young divorceé, Kathy suggested the story idea to her uncle, the magazine publisher. She meets Green and they hit it off. Throughout the film, she maintains how she isn’t anti-Semitic and she’s defended a colleague who quit due to its vile consequences. Romance grows between Green and Kathy, but time and again Kathy’s behaves timidly when confronted with anti-Semitism. When Kathy’s sister gives a party for the newly engaged couple, Kathy tries to persuade Green to let the sister and her crowd know that he “really isn’t Jewish.” She tries to make exceptions time and again and this causes great conflict in their relationship. This behavior is exactly what the film aims to address – how well meaning people go along and behave in such a way that prejudice lives on.

Another sophisticated aspect of the film involved Green’s secretary. It turns out that when she first applied to work at the magazine using her real name, she was rejected. Then when she used a false name, one that doesn’t sound Jewish, she got hired. Green makes this problem known to the publisher, who insists that HR print a line in its ads stating that religion is a matter of indifference to getting the job.

When the secretary learns this, her reaction surprises Green. She’s worried that the “wrong kind of Jew” would be hired, perhaps a secretary who fits a stereotype she wants to distance herself from – someone too loud or who wears too much make up. This sort of complexity isn’t seen in movies today. I doubt such a movie would be made today. I know we’ve made great strides in acceptance and diversity, but my hunch is such bias is still with us and is ignored.

A Gentleman’s Agreement is a good film that could launch discussion within a family or classroom. It doesn’t bore and the actors – Gregory Peck, Celeste Holm, Dean Stockwell and others who aren’t well known but still performed well – make this film worthwhile.

Facts:

  • This film was 20th Century Fox‘s top grossing film of 1948.
  • A Gentleman’s Agreement won Best Director, Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars.
  • Producer Darryl F. Zanuck sought legal advice regarding the naming of the three anti-Semitic political figures. When told there was only a small risk of libel, Zanuck, who wasn’t Jewish, replied, “Let them sue us. They won’t dare, and if they do, nothing would make me more happy than to appear personally as a witness or defendant at the trial.” As it turned out, Sen. Bilbo (D – Miss) died before the film’s release, Rep. Rankin (D – Miss) lost in his campaign to succeed Bilbo (but remained in Congress), and Gerald L.K. Smith filed a lawsuit that ultimately failed.
  • When other studio chiefs, who were mostly Jewish, heard about the making of this film, they asked the producer not to make it. They feared its theme of anti-Semitism would simply stir up a hornet’s nest and preferred to deal with the problem quietly. Not only did production continue, but a scene was subsequently included that mirrored that confrontation.<p>Fact source: imdb.com

Weekly Photo Challenge: 2012

New to The Daily Post? Whether you’re a beginner or a professional, you’re invited to get involved in our Weekly Photo Challenge to help you meet your blogging goals and give you another way to take part in Post a Day / Post a Week. Everyone is welcome to participate, even if your blog isn’t about photography.

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Here’s how it works:

1. Each week, we’ll provide a theme for creative inspiration. You take photographs based on your interpretation of the theme, and post them on your blog anytime before the following Friday when the next photo theme will be announced.

2. To make it easy for others to check out your photos, title your blog post “Weekly Photo Challenge: (theme of the week)” and be sure to use a “postaday2012″ or “postaweek2012″ tag.

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Related Posts

Weekly Photo Challenge: Delicate

Hindu Temple, Bali

Hindu Temple, Bali

New to The Daily Post? Whether you’re a beginner or a professional, you’re invited to get involved in our Weekly Photo Challenge to help you meet your blogging goals and give you another way to take part in Post a Day / Post a Week. Everyone is welcome to participate, even if your blog isn’t about photography.

Here’s how it works:

1. Each week, we’ll provide a theme for creative inspiration. You take photographs based on your interpretation of the theme, and post them on your blog anytime before the following Friday when the next photo theme will be announced.

2. To make it easy for others to check out your photos, title your blog post “Weekly Photo Challenge: (theme of the week)” and be sure to use a “postaday2012″ or “postaweek2012″ tag.

3. Subscribe to The Daily Post so that you don’t miss out on weekly challenge announcements. Sign up via the email subscription link in the sidebar or RSS.

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Longmen Caves

West side

The Longmen Caves drew me to Henan. I’d seen photos of this UNESCO World Heritage Site and found the caves with the tens of thousands of sculptures mesmerizing and mysterious. UNESCO’s site briefly explains their historic and cultural significance stating,:

“The grottoes and niches of Longmen contain the largest and most impressive collection of Chinese art of the late Northern Wei and Tang Dynasties (316-907). These works, entirely devoted to the Buddhist religion, represent the high point of Chinese stone carving.”

Though it’s a bit difficult to get to Luoyang as there are fewer trains then for destinations like Beijing or Qingdao, my friend and I were up for the journey.

Once we got to Luoyang, getting to the caves was simple. Our hostel was on a main street and a bus that went down it took us to the caves. In fact, three public buses go to the caves so you can get there for just 1 rmb, with no hassle.

The tickets are pricey at 120 rmb. Bear in mind that it’s 40 rmb to see the Forbidden City. Towns like Luoyang or Taian charge hefty entrance fees because “we only have this one site.” Well, overseas tourists can afford it, but a lot of Chinese folks can’t. That’s a shame. I wonder if they have free days. They want to limit the crowds but some free days with reservations could work.

See how their heads are missing

Many of the figures have been vandalized either as art theft or during periods when Buddhism fell out of favor. During some eras monks would have to follow Confucian practices. Since they were celibate, the younger monks were considered “sons” to the older “fathers” and that’s how they stayed on good terms with the powerful.

I learned that the West side of the river was used by pilgrims, while the east side, where there are fewer carvings, was for monks’ exclusive rites.

Our guidebook said that some of these missing hands and faces are in major museums. We did see signs that told visitors that the rest of the statue was in Canada, Boston or New York, etc. Some museums have returned the pieces and they’re housed in Luoyang’s terrific museum.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Big

Buddha in the Old Sun Cave

The Buddha shown above is the showstopper at the Longmen Caves in Luoyang, Henan, China.

New to The Daily Post? Whether you’re a beginner or a professional, you’re invited to get involved in our Weekly Photo Challenge to help you meet your blogging goals and give you another way to take part in Post a Day / Post a Week. Everyone is welcome to participate, even if your blog isn’t about photography.

Here’s how it works:

1. Each week, we’ll provide a theme for creative inspiration. You take photographs based on your interpretation of the theme, and post them on your blog anytime before the following Friday when the next photo theme will be announced.

2. To make it easy for others to check out your photos, title your blog post “Weekly Photo Challenge: (theme of the week)” and be sure to use a “postaday2012″ or “postaweek2012″ tag.

3. Subscribe to The Daily Post so that you don’t miss out on weekly challenge announcements. Sign up via the email subscription link in the sidebar or RSS.

Buddhist Temple

I saw this last week.

But I didn’t go to Thailand or any of its neighbors.

Right, this is part of the White Horse Temple in Luoyang, Henan, China. They’re planning to build a Burmese temple and have built one in an Indian style.

Even monks love cowboy hats in Henan

In Kaifeng we started with the Chief Minister’s Temple, which is where all the tours stop so get there early to avoid the crowds.

This temple complex was first built in 555 A.D. and at its peak 10,000 monks lived there. The big draws now are the jade Buddha and a sculpture of Tathagata that has over 1000 little arms with eyes engraved in the hands. It’s said to have taken over 58 years to finish. No photos were allowed there so I can’t show you what it looked like. It was amazing though, trust me.

Kaifeng’s Mosque

When to pray

Later we walked around the neighborhood with the mosque and Catholic church. Lots of local color there in the lively market. Why is it so invigorating to see butchers selling their slabs of meat hanging from a hook or little bakeries with ovens that may well predate the PRC? I’m not sure but it is. I doubt I’ll ever get so jaded that watching the retirees joke and play cards doesn’t warm my heart.

Catholic Church

Both the mosque and the much more modern church were worthwhile, if for no other reason than they weren’t the least bit crowded. Neither was the second temple we pretty much stumbled on.

The one site that’s missing is the Kaifeng synagogue, that’s no more. Kaifeng was the center of Chinese Judaism during the time of the Silk Road, but now the Chinese Jews are believed to have all been assimilated. Kaifeng’s universities do offer Jewish Studies programs though.

Rev

On hulu.com, I found an exclusive British series called  Rev. Starring Tom Hollander as a vicar newly transferred from the countryside to a struggling parish in East London, The Rev’s got a lot going for it. It’s smart and charming with a cast of beautiful losers like the stick in the mud associate, Nigel, the smart, loyal wife, Alex, the prim headmistress and the quirky down and out Collin. The Rev offers a humorous, real depiction of faith and hits the nail on the head with it’s jibes at the young, cool Christians who sip smoothies in church as their pastor extolls God’s awesomeness or the annoyance of a know-it-all, critical archdeacon.

While I don’t laugh out loud, the way I do when watching Outnumbered, I do like these characters and this church with its broken window, faded paint and small, odd-ball congregation. The cast reminds me a bit of The Bob Newhart Show.

I’m impressed that the writers consult real vicars and get so much of the theology and issues right.

Easter in China

Yesterday Kristyn and I went to the Crowne Plaza to see if they were offering an Easter brunch. Our hopes were raised when we saw a poster with beautiful Easter eggs advertising a “Classic Easter Brunch.” Okay, I’m not new to China so I figured we should ask about the menu before gathering the teachers to splurge. I told the hostess what we wanted and she went back to the kitchen to ask the chef about the Easter offerings.

It took awhile, but when she returned with another hostess, she told us there would be kids’ food: popcorn and French fries. Kristyn and I just smiled. I asked what country was the chef from? (A couple years ago we went there for Thanksgiving dinner and we got turkey and the works.) The teacher in me informed the hostess that Easter isn’t mainly a children’s hospital and that there was special holiday food involved. She asked me what we wanted and promised they’d have it. Well, we thanked her and said no.  They can’t get baked ham or leg of lamb that easily. On as Saturday? They’d probably get some awful substitutes.

Then we went on to the cathedral to find out what time mass would be.  I’d asked our support person to call two churches I’d seen on the internet. One seemed Protestant and I asked T. to ask about the denomination. I also told her to call the Catholic cathedral. T told me that the first church isn’t Protestant and they weren’t doing anything special for Easter. Huh? Are they Jehovah’s Witness? In China? What denomination doesn’t commemorate Easter with zeal? She couldn’t find out about Catholic mass. Later she told me it was at 9 am, which was hard to believe as in the past it was much earlier and in the evening.

So we ventured over to the cathedral where we saw lots of boards and heard the buzz of construction.  A woman who spoke English told us mass was at 6am (out), 8:30 am and 5:30pm.

Four of us wound up going to the 8:30 mass. I’d hoped that the construction was in its late stages and that there’d be mass in the cathedral, but we weren’t that lucky.  Instead it was held in a small side chapel, which was packed. Intrepid or pushy, we made our way inside. Bev, who’s got a broken arm, and Helene got seats as did Kristyn. I wasn’t too bad off as I was in the way back and could lean on the wall or perch myself on a nearby table.  Though the proceedings were all in Chinese, if you know the ritual, you know what’s happening when pretty much.

They had a lovely choir and during the long homily, which might have been great, if I knew Chinese, a woman passed out. She was near the back and it seemed like she actually had a stroke rather than fainted.

After communion, I went outside where hordes of people were listening and praying. When mass let out, in went back in to get some photos and a wizened man exclaimed “Happy Easter!” in his best English. People were very hospitable and Bev and Helene met two young Chinese women who’re studying French. So we spoke with them (I could understand most of what they said.)

They live at Jenny's

Not thrilled with the expensive pop corn and French fries, we went to Jenny’s Cafe for breakfast. Good French toast and coffee drinks in a cozy atmosphere.

 

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