• Upcoming trips

    13-23 January, 2018 Cruise out of New York around the Caribbean on the Norwegian Gem. Note : this trip has been cancelled altogether because of the damage caused by the hurricanes to the Caribbean islands.

    October 31st - 11 November. Caribbean cruise to break up the winter. Note: The itinerary has not yet been determined owing to the havoc wreaked by the hurricanes.
  • theatre and Concerrts

    October 8 Went to BAM, for the first time since Ethel died, to hear a wonderful modern opera composed and written by Matthew Aucoin called “Crossing”. It is based on Walt Whitman’s experience and the libretto is largely taken from his poetry.

    The story is multi-themed, as modern plays tend to be; the first is a harrowing anti war depiction of the suffering wounded seen through Whitman’s eyes when he volunteered as a nurse during the American civil war; the second is Slavery and its effect upon a run-away slave who fights on the Union side; the third is treachery portrayed by a guilt-laden deserter who spies for the South. And forth, inevitably these days, is the (entirely fictional) homosexual one.

    The powerful music fits the story perfectly and the voices of the lead singers and the chorus is magnificent; Rod Gilfry, bass-baritone, sings the part of Walt Whitman, Alexander Lewis plays John Wormley, the deserter, and Davone Tines, whose baritone reminded me, distinctly, of the sound of the legendary Paul Robeson.  Both Christine and I were extremely moved by the work. We newly discovered Walt Whitman’s poetry, too.

    October 20. Thanks to the invitation of our friend Francia, who is a member, we went to the Diller-Quaile School of Music to listen to a chamber concert given by the Diller-Quaile String Quartet. The program was comprised of Haydn and Debussy quartets; played magnificently by very experienced and talented musicians in an intimate. and perfectly designed, music space. Chatting with the musicians after the concert added to a first class evening.

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Professor Freeman Dyson at Hunter College

We went to hear Professor Freeman Dyson give a 45 minute talk at Hunter College  (April 13). His subject was: “The Four Revolutions” –Nuclear, Space, Bio-genome and Computer.  He was so rightly billed as a Great Thinker of our time and, although only marginally understanding science and its concepts, I have been fascinated by the  great minds of science since, as a sixteen-year-old, I first heard the story of Pavlov’s dog.  I really do believe that it will be science, and no other human endeavour, which will lead us to the ultimate understanding of our origins before the Universe comes to an end. It was a delight for me to recognise the names of the famous thinkers of my time with whom the professor is so closely associated.

I was surprised, though, to find that he and I are much the same age and are both subject to the vagaries of aging remembrance. For example, the professor believes that the only way to end the threat of nuclear war is for the United States to disarm unilaterally.  And in defence of this belief, he asserted that the atomic bombs dropped on Japan did not end WWII. Instead, he said, it was Emperor Hirohito’s doubt that his people would not obey his order to surrender if he did not use the bombs as an excuse.

This is just a piece of historical revisionism to bolster a vulnerable position. I was in Japan at the time of the nuclear bombing and I can assure the professor that there is absolutely no doubt but that the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima stopped the resolve of the Japanese dead in its tracks. We prisoners, who had very little hope of surviving beforehand, saw the horror in the shocked civilian and military faces. It was not the Emperor’s concern for his people, but rather the reverse which clinched the capitulation. The brave young men of the Japanese military would have died for their Emperor anyway–at that time the Emperor was revered as a God embodying the Japanese spirit and culture and the Japanese people as a whole could not even contemplate his distruction which would have certainly taken place if the next bomb fell on Tokyo, as we all, Japanese and prisoners alike, expected. Without those bombs and the threat of more to come I, most surely, would not have been here to listen to the professor’s lecture!

The professors’s ease of manner and wisdom, came through at question time. He  answered all with the experience of a lifetime’s study behind him. And he looked quite happy to continue but the Director of the Writing Center, Lewis Burke Frumkes, was solicitous of his guest-speaker’s years and led him away before I could pose my frivolous enquiry–I was dying to ask if he remembered what Aldous Huxley replied when asked what it meant to him when he, like professor Dyson, became a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS). The response was: Fees raised since!


2 Responses

  1. Ben,
    In 1979 Freeman Dyson wrote Disturbing the Universe which was a sensation in our Reading Group. He also wrote Infinite In All Directions published in 1985. I didn’t know he was still alive and it made me feel good that he still is.

    Ann and I were in Santa Fe New Mexico last month and visited the Museum in Los Alamos. There were pictures of him along with Opinheimer et al.They worked an average of fourteen hours a day while you were in that camp. They had a copy of the letter Einstein wrote to FDR in June of 1939 suggesting that such a bomb could be built and that Germany was buying up Yellow cake.

    I agree with you that it was the horror of the two bombs that caused the surrender.

    My memory is failing too. I couldn’t remember the a=name of the book.


  2. John. Although we lived three thousand miles or so apart in our youth, we were influenced by a remarkably similar upbringing, weren’t we? Ben

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