Commentary Series

Weekdays 8:50 a.m. and 5:50 p.m. Sundays at 10.55 a.m.

More than 50 commentators provide perspective and opinion about current events, topics of interest, and often showcase the work of writers and storytellers.  The VPR Commentary Series is produced by Betty Smith-Mastaler.

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The upsurge of Middle East violence in recent days - particularly the latest battlefield successes of the extremist group Islamic State - has tended to overshadow the fact that time is running short, to finalize a comprehensive Iranian nuclear deal. June 30th is the date that Iran - and six world powers including the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany - set for the completion of that agreement. Its purpose is to keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon - in exchange for the lifting of the range of economic sanctions imposed by the world community on Iran because of its nuclear activities.

The blossoms are now abuzz with pollinating bees – and without them, we wouldn’t have much food. That’s a scary thought since honeybees are battling a Colony Collapse Disorder that threatens their population.

In the fall of 1955 I was quarrying stone in the Adirondacks, and feeling pretty tough. One evening, a buddy and I stopped at the Redfield Inn for a couple of beers. I was talking colorfully about how quarry work built muscle, when I noticed two important things: It was a loggers’ bar, and I had collected an audience – a hostile one, too.

Until 1967 Memorial Day was called “Decoration Day.” The tradition of placing flowers on the graves of lost soldiers is an ancient one dating back to long before the American Civil War. It was, however, during that war that the practice became widely observed.

The ice is only just out in the 30,000 islands of Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay, the world’s largest fresh-water archipelago. The channel markers aren’t up yet, so the boat trip that ends two days’ travel to the family island takes longer than usual. Here we join a dozen or so of my wife’s far-flung relatives for three days of opening camp.

A kindergarten teacher told me that in her thirty-seven years of teaching she had never had an open house like the one she had last year. As the children proudly encouraged parents to look at their various accomplishments, the parents were preoccupied by their hand held devices. She said the children’s disappointment was clearly evident. Since then, whenever there’s an event for parents, the teacher posts a sign saying, “Please, no cell phones”.

I attended college during an era of feminist activism, when non-sexist language meant not using the word man when we meant human. The Handbook of Non-Sexist Language sat on the shelf right next to our copies of The Elements of Style, and we insisted on the honorific Ms. allowing women to be in the world without reference to their marital status. I didn’t see what business my marital status was back then, and I still don’t now. Even though I’m long married, I use the name I was born with, and smoke comes out my ears when people who know better call me by my husband’s last name.

In May of 1914, just three months before the beginning of World War I, the poem “Channel Firing,” by the English poet and novelist Thomas Hardy, was first published. Hardy later called it prophetic of the upcoming global catastrophe.

Adrian: Closed Doors

May 19, 2015

Poet William Blake once wrote, “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern.”

Craven: Train Travel

May 19, 2015

I like trains - and always enjoy my trips to New York on board the Vermonter. It’s not the fastest or smoothest ride but it’s relaxing to sit back, get some work done,  and look out as the rest of the world goes by.

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