Of Letters and Letter Openers/

From my talented sister, Cynthia:

“With the advent of the Internet and email…does anyone write letters anymore?
Prbly 0. 2 bsy txt-mssng in cde lng- abbreviations of words that only the young and precocious understand!

A long time ago, I bought a letter opener in an antique shop in Tokyo, carved in Alabaster, that impressed me for its simplicity and delicate shape. I do not remember where and how I lost the piece, perhaps somewhere between oceans and mountains!… I still remember its tactile warmth! Yes, objects are sometimes the nexus with our past, our memories, our lives… While I agree that one must not be too attached to material possessions, it is sometimes the most insignificant object that may evince in us a recollection, a smile, a tear…

In the 1990’s (last century…) I was “commissioned” to design and produce in Sterling Silver a couple of letter openers to be given as gifts at the international yearly exhibition “CASA DÉCOR.” I also advertised in the catalog/magazine, which is issued to complement the exhibition, and showcases and promotes the latest wares and designs of architects, interior designers and decorators… I recall working for hours and hours on the wax models until I achieved, what I thought then, was “perfection,” or as Archimedes said, “Eureka!”

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On the Left, the cover of the magazine CASA DECOR, 1997. And a collection of letter openers…From L to R, or clockwise, “Torch,” designed for CD in 1997; “Cala Lily,” “Church Window,” “Bird,” designed for CD in 1997, and last but not least, “gun-handle…”

In a publicity note for their Christmas issue in 2001, VOGUE  España showed another set of letter openers… and described it as… “Trabaja la plata como los antiguos orfebres a la que añade su estilo y diseño. A su larga trayectoria como joyera, la norteamericana Cynthia Dillon, afincada ahora en España, añade con esta coleccion de abrecartas, el broche final de sus piezas minimalistas…””

Vogue2001

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Snarky reviewers of proposals…

I have reviewed a few proposals prepared for the U.S. Government. What I have discovered is that reviewers play an intricate and decisive role in preparing a winning proposal. Another thing I have discovered is that, in the zeal of ensuring the proposal is perfect in its presentation, reviewers can be snarky. Being on the receiving end of comments, this time around, I realize that snarky comments do not contribute much unless the snarky comments are backed by examples of what needs to be changed. As a reviewer, if I was obnoxious in my comments, I hope I ameliorated the negative feelings I may have provoked by presenting alternative language to what was being proposed. This is my public apology to the writers of proposals I may have offended along the way. It was never meant to demean. It was always meant to improve a good product. I have the utmost respect for those who have ever written proposals in response to requests from the U.S. Government…

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Perfection: Donald O’Connor and Gene Kelly.

When men danced and had fun and made the world smile.

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Perfection: Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly.

How come we no longer find similar types? This is beauty, elegance and fun:

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Thanksgiving – After all the turkey…

…this always makes me laugh (and brings back memories of a different era!).   Apparently, the skit is based on a real incident!

Via American Digest.

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Thanks to The Harvard Classics!!!

From Aesop:  The Wolves and the Sheep

“WHY SHOULD there always be this fear and slaughter between us?” said the Wolves to the Sheep. “Those evil-disposed Dogs have much to answer for. They always bark whenever we approach you and attack us before we have done any harm. If you would only dismiss them from your heels, there might soon be treaties of peace and reconciliation between us.” The Sheep, poor silly creatures, were easily beguiled and dismissed the Dogs, whereupon the Wolves destroyed the unguarded flock at their own pleasure.

Moral of the story:  Do not give up friends for foes.

PS:  My, oh my!!!  Nothing has changed since Aesop’s time more than 2000 years ago…  Oh dear.

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The Harvard Classics…

… 51 Volumes can be downloaded FREE…  It was not that long ago, when I used to be sent special notices “to buy The Harvard Classics that came, leather-bound, and at a specially discounted price”.  What a treat to have their collection of books FREE!!!  Love the Internet (despite its dangers).

In its expert synergy of moral uplift and marketing, The Harvard Classics (find links to download them as free ebooks below) belong as much to Mark Twain’s bourgeois gilded age as to the pseudo-aristocratic age of Victoria—two sides of the same ocean, one might say. The idea for the collection didn’t initially come from Eliot, but from two editors at the publisher P.F. Collier, who intended “a commercial enterprise from the beginning” after reading a speech Eliot gave to a group of workers in which he “declared that a five-foot shelf of books could provide” a good substitute for a liberal education in youth to anyone who would read them with devotion, even if he could spare but fifteen minutes a day for reading.

Collier asked Eliot to “pick the titles” and they would publish them as a series. The books appealed to the upwardly mobile and those hungry for knowledge and an education denied them, but the cost would still have been prohibitive to many. Over a hundred years, and several cultural-evolutionary steps later, and anyone with an internet connection can read all of the 51-volume set online.

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Maine from Above.

Beautiful Maine.  Via Movoto:

Skyworks had created some gorgeous videos focusing on each state in the U.S. This is their video for Maine and it’s by far my favorite. Beautiful video for a beautiful place. I can’t believe some people get to live there year round.

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My Witnessing the Giants of History…

Two nights ago I had a “Gestalt”:  I realized that I had lived, studied, and worked in countries that had major leaders who helped change the course of history in the latter part of the 20th century:

USSR: Mikhail Gorbachev

South Africa:  Nelson Mandela

Czech Republic:  Vaclav Havel

Poland:  Lech Walesa

Italy (the Vatican):  Pope John Paul II

One day I hope to gather my letters, written while we served in these countries, that map my thoughts -through vignettes- on what was going on.  I want to do this, for the benefit of my children and grandchildren.  I did not realize at the time, that I was witnessing history in the making.  Now, with the benefit of history and hindsight, I realize I lived through some special times in fascinating countries led by influential leaders who were main actors in the theater of world history.  Serendipity?

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The Power of One: U.S. Congress Honors Vaclav Havel at Bust Dedication Ceremony

UPDATE:  I recommend watching the presentation of the “Colors”, as well as the rendering of the 2 National Anthems… Ours is absolutely special, but the Czech Anthem is exquisite.

I am humbled and honored to have been a witness and participant of the U.S. Congress honoring President Vaclav Havel, thanks to the kindness of friends who included me in these events.   Today, the Czech dissident, President, and giant of history, had his sculpture – a beautiful bust-  inducted into the U.S. Capitol, one of four foreigners ever to be inducted into a unique category of honorees.  Vaclav Havel embodies what the power of one individual -with moral authority- can accomplish.  In this new century, we need more individuals like this man, who was not perfect, but strove to push himself and others to a higher calling.   I was honored to have met him and talked to him a few times.

BDH & Havel

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Climate warming? November 14 and a third snowfall in Maine.

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Gaining confidence…

A young colleague at work acknowledged to me that during a special training session she (and her colleagues) recognized that one of her weaknesses was her lack of confidence. This got me thinking, because I realized that I had been in her shoes many moons ago. Did I have any constructive thoughts? I don’t know… But, what I have learnt through experience and hard knocks is that knowledge boosts confidence; more importantly, paying attention to details (sometimes minutiae that is looked down upon by those who think they are better than the rest of us) gives us the better advantage. In my case, I learnt this in the last 10 years. I wish I had known this when I was in my 20’s or 30’s. But then, I wonder whether when we are young we understand the meaning of patience and patiently carrying out that which may seem menial. Probably not. There is a reason why –in the old days- those “long in the tooth” were heeded a bit more than today…

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Justice Robert Utter – RIP. I will miss you!

Justice Robert Utter was a giant of a man, who taught me a lot in his modest and gentle manner. I am very sorry to learn that he died. 

What great and warm memories I have. My meeting him was a highlight of my life (especially my “attorney” life). I am so, so pleased that my family got to meet him thanks to my association with The CEELI Institute. I am sad that this world has lost a moral man. If we could all emulate his principles, we would be better people.

I remember how, when I was involved in a training program for Iraqi judges in 2004, Justice Utter helped me quell a rebellion the first day of the program. One day I will relate the story.  Suffice it to say, he and I saw eye-to-eye. The two of us walked into the rebellion and between Justice Utter’s esteemed stature and my “diplomatic skills”, we succeeded in calming 50 judges! What fond memories. What a loss now that Judge Utter is not with us.  I am not surprised that he was a staunch anti-death penalty guru.  He was a true gentleman.  I know he has a special seat reserved up there.  He loved his wife.  I wish he could have lived forever.  This world needs men (not people… men!) like him.

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Remembering the Victims of Communism.

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Lost in translation.

UPDATE:  Leave it to my son to remark on the lemmings…

All this talk of lemmings made me think of those heroic souls who go out of their way to try to save mindless rodentia from their inevitable fate.

I’ve heard there is an old Nordic legend about the “Call of the Lemmings”, a hypnotic tune that sounds like a Nike commercial on repeat: “Just do it! Just do it! Just do it!”.  Then again, it’s just a legend.

Regarding speeches given by Pope Francis and their wrong translations, I sent an email to my son, who does a lot of translation:

..it is so very true that so many things are “lost in translation”, whether on purpose or not.  That is why we must be so vigilant.   Because the average person is duped so easily.

As long as you guys [my children] keep alert about these things, and always go to the “original source”, I will die happy in the knowledge that you paid attention to your Mother!!!

It wasn’t until I went to Law School that I discovered how important this element of “truth” truly is.  In fact, it is probably the most important thing I ever learnt in Law School.  Yes, I paid attention to philosophical discourses of “truth”, “essence”, “the right thing”, etc.  But it was in Law School that I learnt how the mere placement of a comma or semi-colon could affect the reading of a contract.  From there, we moved to the peeling of the onion layers to find the truth (the heart of the matter).  Relying on treatises was not enough.  You had to go back to the original source.  Mmmmm… maybe that is why I love Smetana’s Vltava (Moldau) masterpiece.  The musical composition begins with the instruments playing what is to be the “original source” of the river.

There will always be lemmings who accept what they read, because they believe the source.  They are dumb enough not to dig deeper to the “original” source.  You just don’t want to be one of them!!!

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