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April 17th, 2019

I prefer to think not just  what was happening to his own stone home, but several stories significant for different reasons and of different weight or emotional temperature occupied the mind of our gargoyle this week:

Trump vetoed an attempt to stop the slaughter and slow destruction of the Yemenese people and what's left of their society (in order for his donors to sell more guns and in order to encourage and support the horrifying Saudi regime); more people sickening and some who will end up maimed permanently in some way or die of measles because the authorities will not insist that parents vaccinate their children lest the interfere with parental rights (so one story said was part of the motive for not insisting on vaccination before a child is let into public school)

The arrest of Julian Assange (who has committed no crime, who is an Australian citizen) and possible extradiction to the US, hard upon the re-arrest of Chelsea Manning, again put into solitary confinement, so an all-out attack direct on freedom of the press begun since the time of the Arab spring continues - this includes outright massacre, imprisonment, torture;

and poignantly, the chance burning down of the central part of Notre-Dame de Paris.





On The imprisoning and extradiction of Julian Assange. An active threat by all sort of gov't groups to stop freedom of the press, headed by the power of a US group.

Noam Chomsky:

https://www.democracynow.org/2019/4/12/chomsky_arrest_of_assange_is_scandalous

Daniel Ellsberg:

https://www.truthdig.com/articles/daniel-ellsberg-assanges-arrest-is-the-beginning-of-the-end/

Bruce Shapiro from the Nation:

https://www.thenation.com/article/julian-assange-arrest-free-press/

On the measles epidemic I have Roald Dahl:

Roald Dahl on Measles: "Olivia, my eldest daughter, caught measles when she was seven years old. As the illness took its usual course I can remember reading to her often in bed and not feeling particularly alarmed about it. Then one morning, when she was well on the road to recovery, I was sitting on her bed showing her how to fashion little animals out of coloured pipe-cleaners, and when it came to her turn to make one herself, I noticed that her fingers and her mind were not working together and she couldn’t do anything.
'Are you feeling all right?' I asked her.
'I feel all sleepy,' she said.
In an hour, she was unconscious. In twelve hours she was dead.
The measles had turned into a terrible thing called measles encephalitis and there was nothing the doctors could do to save her. That was...in 1962, but even now, if a child with measles happens to develop the same deadly reaction from measles as Olivia did, there would still be nothing the doctors could do to help her. On the other hand, there is today something that parents can do to make sure that this sort of tragedy does not happen to a child of theirs. They can insist that their child is immunised against measles.
...I dedicated two of my books to Olivia, the first was ‘James and the Giant Peach’. That was when she was still alive. The second was ‘The BFG’, dedicated to her memory after she had died from measles. You will see her name at the beginning of each of these books. And I know how happy she would be if only she could know that her death had helped to save a good deal of illness and death among other children."
Roald Dahl, 1986

And on the burning down of the central nave of Notre Dame, the collapse of the spire:

The New York Times general newstory and historical background:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/15/world/europe/notre-dame-fire.html


Intelligent thoughtful informed article by Philip Kennicott, an art and architectural critic and historian:

https://tinyurl.com/yyknbpmb

On Notre Dame de Paris: I was there -- in 1969, one freezing cold January by myself. I spent two hours in the church and came as close as I ever have (not very or not for long) to having some kind of religious experience. I remember it as cold and quiet. There were not many tourists there that freezing cold day. Jim and I with Izzy visited twice more in later years (2002, winter & again summer) but it was not the same. I heard the news quickly: it is part of a world village mentalite: I was in a class around 3 o'clock and one man held up his cell phone to tell us Notre-Dame was burning down. At first it was not quite credited. Each time I looked on line or watch a TV segment i the news, the experience brought tears to my eyes


Still, what's interesting about Notre Dame insofar is only in the last hundred years has it been seen as a lieu de memoire for the people of Paris, or wider France or any other wide group. It was a church, a Catholic church and identified (rightly at the time) as a supporter of the ancien regime. Thus it was attacked; statues of Biblical kings were destroyed. This is not to say its long history, central place, and significant religious art was not recognized for the revolutionary councils tried to coopt it and hold ceremonies for the supreme being and a cult of reason.  I believe (not sure) that it was part of the restoration of the Bourbons. Maybe Louis-Philippe too?  It has been a place this kind of numinous ceremony is held.  In 1870 it was regarded as a symbol of repression and attacked but after WW2 when De Gaulle returned to Paris, he spoke at Notre Dame.


Over on a groups.io list I run (TrollopeandHisContemporaries) we had planned (before this poignant event) to read Hugo's Notre Dame de Paris this fall. A group of us are watching Andrew Davies' superb serial adaptation on PBS, and have decided to go on to Notre Dame this fall and maybe summer 2020 read Les Miserables. I've hunch we might find in the material about the book, that it was this book that helped make this building the central cultural symbol it became. I read the book in an abridged edition in an English translation when I was 15; I read it in the original French in my twenties. I have seen the remarkabl movie with Charles Laughton and Maureen O'Hara, but never read the book since or seen any other movie. So now fall will have a special meaning for me and I hope others on the list.

Ellen

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