RAMBLER OF THE WEEK
As far as we know, there is only one person left in this world who was born in the 19th century. On Tuesday, Emma Morano celebrated her 117th birthday. I think that’s worthy of our Rambler of the Week honor, don’t you?
Ms. Morano, the oldest of eight siblings, was born on the 29th of November, 1899 in the Piedmont region of Italy. According to a report at the BBC, she survived an abusive marriage which started with blackmail, the loss of her only son, and a diet which most would describe as anything but balanced.
It was a regime Morano took up as a young woman, after the doctor diagnosed her with anaemia shortly after World War One. For over 90 years, she ate 3 eggs each day, two of them raw, while consuming very few fruits and vegetables. These days, we are told, she has cut down to just two eggs a day along with a few biscuits.
Ms. Morano’s courage in standing up to her abusive husband and the character quality of determination she showed then and throughout her life inspired a musical show that tells the story of her life in prose and dance. The show is being performed in the northern Italian town of Verbania, where she lived for most of her long life.
This amazing woman has not left her two-room flat for 20 years now but she was surrounded by well-wishers on Tuesday who took part in her birthday celebrations. The New York Times reports that at one point during the festivities, she said, “Hey, isn’t there anything to eat here?” Afterwards, she took a nap.
We join them today and say “Buon Compleanno!” to Emma Morano, our Rambler of the Week.
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On the other hand, one of the world’s most notorious revolutionaries and dictators died this past week. The world bid “Adios” to Fidel Castro, who died this week at age 90. Leftist world leaders joined Raul Castro in a massive ceremony commemorating the late leader.
Millions cheered Fidel Castro on the day he entered Havana. Millions more fled the communist dictator’s repressive police state, leaving behind their possessions, their families, the island they loved and often their very lives. It’s part of the paradox of Castro that many people belonged to both groups.
Few national leaders have inspired such intense loyalty — or such a wrenching feeling of betrayal. Few fired the hearts of the world’s restless youth as Castro did when he was young, and few seemed so irrelevant as Castro when he was old — the last Communist, railing on the empty, decrepit street corner that Cuba became under his rule.
He held a unique place among the world’s leaders of the past century. Others had greater impact or won more respect. But none combined his dynamic personality, his decades in power, his profound effect on his own country and his provocative role in international affairs.
In addition to the comprehensive Miami Herald article linked above, here are a few other places you can go to access information about Fidel Castro.
- Here is a BBC overview of Castro’s life and career.
- Here is an opinion piece in the Washington Post outlining his “terrible legacy.”
- Here is a BBC article showing his life in pictures.
- These photos show reactions in Cuba to his death, and these show reactions in Miami.
- This article questions whether Castro’s death and other changes will increase the number of people trying to cross from Cuba to the U.S.
- Here’s a great article about the thousands of posters that were commissioned by the government to communicate Castro’s vision of a socialist society. Some came to be regarded as works of art.
- Castro loved baseball, once attended an open tryout for the Washington Senators, and may have worked out for the New York Giants.
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CHRISTMAS GOAT AFLAME!
Each year, people in the in the Swedish town of Gavle erect giant Christmas goat effigy. Each year, said goat becomes a favorite target of arsonists. Last year, the goat, made out of wood and straw, made it to December 27 before getting torched.
This year, it failed to last 24 hours.
It was put up on Sunday, the first day of Advent, but was burnt down soon after despite extra security measures, reportedly by a man who slipped through security while a guard went to take a bathroom break. The torching of the goat has now happened 35 times in the last 50 years. The goat’s construction and attendant festivities cost about $250,000.
What with the Capra-cursed Cubs winning the World Series this year and all, it’s been a bad second half of the year for goats.
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NATIONWIDE “SECRET SANTA”
I love this story. In New Zealand this year, thousands of people are participating in a “Secret Santa” gift exchange sponsored by country’s postal service.
How do they organize it?
When a person signs up, they submit a Twitter handle along with their information. The Post Office then shares that (and no other personal information) with a person assigned to give them a present. The giver then can read their gift partner’s tweets and try to figure out what he or she might like for a gift.
The gifts get sent to a “Santa Storehouse” run by the New Zealand Post, rather than give out any addresses, and then distributed accordingly. And if people don’t send a gift for the exchange, the gift meant for them will instead be donated to charity.
What a great idea!
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PROUD PAPA BELL
Longtime friend and contributor to iMonk, Michael Bell, sent us this video of his daughter Kaitlyn in a performance of “Inside Out,” from A from Gentlemen’s Guide To Love and Murder.
Excellent job, Kaitlyn! So expressive, and what a beautiful voice.
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COLOSSAL AFRICAN SOLAR FARM
Sandrine Ceurstemont writes about a visit to a vast power plant at the door to the Moroccan desert that may help to define the energy future of the world.
Hundreds of curved mirrors, each as big as a bus, are ranked in rows covering 1,400,000 sq m (15m sq ft) of desert, an area the size of 200 football fields. The massive complex sits on a sun-blasted site at the foot of the High Atlas mountains, 10km (6 miles) from Ouarzazate – a city nicknamed the door to the desert. With around 330 days of sunshine a year, it’s an ideal location.
As well as meeting domestic needs, Morocco hopes one day to export solar energy to Europe. This is a plant that could help define Africa’s – and the world’s – energy future.
…After many years of false starts, solar power is coming of age as countries in the sun finally embrace their most abundant source of clean energy. The Moroccan site is one of several across Africa and similar plants are being built in the Middle East – in Jordan, Dubai and Saudi Arabia. The falling cost of solar power has made it a viable alternative to oil even in the most oil-rich parts of the world.
…The country plans to generate 14% of its energy from solar by 2020 and by adding other renewable sources like wind and water into the mix, it is aiming to produce 52% of its own energy by 2030.
…The success of these plants in Morocco – and those in South Africa – may encourage other African countries to turn to solar power. South Africa is already one of the world’s top 10 producers of solar power and Rwanda is home to east Africa’s first solar plant, which opened in 2014. Large plants are being planned for Ghana and Uganda.
I read a book once which posited that the truly epochal changes in world history occur when humans move from one dominant form of energy to another. Perhaps we are seeing the early stages of one of those changes, one that will be experienced by our grandchildren and great grandchildren and the generations that follow them.
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QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK
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WORD OF THE YEAR 2016
The Oxford Dictionary announced a couple weeks ago that “post-truth” is its 2016 word of the year.
Post-truth is described as “an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’.
Though the word has been around for awhile, it gained increased usage this year through the “Brexit” controversy in the UK and the US presidential elections. “Post-truth politics” is the phrase in which it is heard most often.
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TO TREE OR NOT TO TREE?
We got our (real) Christmas tree put up last weekend and are in the process of decorating it. On Wednesday night we had a “hanging of the greens” service at the church where I’m preaching to put up and trim the tree in the sanctuary.
Edwin and Jennifer Woodruff Tait at Christian History have an article answering the question, “Why Do We have Christmas Trees?”
Not all Christian leaders have looked so kindly at the practice. Take Tertullian, for example:
Let them over whom the fires of hell are imminent, affix to their posts, laurels doomed presently to burn: to them the testimonies of darkness and the omens of their penalties are suitable. You are a light of the world, and a tree ever green. If you have renounced temples, make not your own gate a temple.
Nevertheless, the tree has prevailed. The Taits give a good overview of the history of the Christmas tree, how presents came to be associated with it, and how our family celebrations around the tree today owe a lot to Victorian English traditions.
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DECEMBER MUSIC SPECIAL
In December on Sat. Ramblings, I want to feature some of my favorite “winter” or “December” songs. Last year I did a post on my December playlist (which I update every year), and I look forward to this season so I can listen to it most every day.
Each week I’ll post one of my favorite songs off that list. Today, one of the most sublime songs Alison Krauss has ever sung — and that’s saying something. Along with Natalie MacMaster on fiddle (and make sure you listen to the end for her magnificent solo), this is “Get Me Through December.”