Archive for July, 2009

This Is a Test of SAGE Class Selection

Posted on July 26, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |



In order to save money on mailing costs and also to conserve paper, SAGE is testing to see whether a new paperless system for choosing classes is possible. Participation is voluntary. Members who choose to remain with the old system will be sent class descriptions through US mail. If you decide to participate, please read the following directions thoroughly before you respond.

1. After you read the class choices below, go to the end of this class selection entry and click on COMMENTS.
2. When you click on COMMENTS, you will be taken to a screen titled Leave a Comment.
3. Type in your name and email address and list your class choices in the rectangular box.
4. Use the following format to list your choices:

First Choice example: 1 Hot Topics
Second Choice example: 2 American Moguls
Third Choice example: 3 Charles Darwin

5. Each class you select should be preceded by a 1,2, or 3 to indicate whether it is your first, second, or third choice.
6. When you finish listing your choices, click on the Submit box.
7. Your choices will automatically appear in the Comments for this SAGE Class Signup page.
8. After the Curriculum Committee organizes classes, you will receive an email telling you whether you are in the classes you have chosen.

Class Descriptions
Fall 2009
(September 14 – November 20, 2009)

Monday afternoon 1:15 – 3:15 p.m.

Great Inventions That Changed Our Lives (Coordinator: Joyce Linden)

Rube Goldberg came up with bizarre contraptions. But what devices are we thankful for? The automobile? The printing press? Electricity? Indoor plumbing? Computers? The telephone? What is your idea of a great invention and why? How has it impacted our lives?

Queen Victoria: Her life, Her Times, Her Empire (Coordinator: Wilma Helms)

Queen Victoria reigned for 63 years and 7 months – Britain’s longest reigning monarch. This was a period of dramatic change in the United Kingdom – both at home – and most particularly, abroad – from the Industrial Revolution to the expansion of empire. During her reign, the British Empire reached its zenith, becoming the foremost global power of the time. At her death, Britain had a worldwide empire on which the sun never set. Let’s study the reign of this complex woman and the Victorian Age she created.

Tuesday morning 9:30 – 11:30 a.m.

Hot Topics and Living History (CoordinatorL Len Reiter)

This class is open-ended. Presentations can be drawn from any qualified source (newspapers, magazines, radio, television and/or books) covering the current political or social scene and even historical events with relevancy in today’s world. Issues can be local, national, or international. Controversial topics are most welcome since they engender discussion. If you enjoy a lively, stimulating exchange of ideas, come and join us.

Historical Presidential Elections (Coordinator: Sandy Wolfson)

The election of 2008 has been hailed as an historical landmark. It would be interesting to study other presidential elections that held significant historical consequences. We will look at some of these elections, their impact on the country, their political implications, etc. Suggested elections might be 1788, 1800, 1812, 1828, 1860, 1876, 1896, 1912, 1932, 1948, 1960, and 2000.

Tuesday afternoon 1:15 – 3:15 p.m.

The Power of One in Addressing Social Problems (Coordinator TBA)

Much of the positive social change and progress in America has come about because one individual became passionate about a particular social issue and initiated efforts to address it. Sometimes these were issues that were socially unpopular or too politically intransigent for the government or any other organization to deal with; others simply needed a farsighted individual to recognize an unmet social need and initiate efforts to meet it. Some examples of these successful private efforts: The settlement house movement; establishment of free public libraries; Planned Parenthood; Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD); the American Red Cross; MEND (in Van Nuys); Children of the Night, etc. Presentations will discuss both the individual who started the organization and the history of the organization.

Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain (Coordinator: Bob Snare)

The book begins with a brief history of the river from its discovery by Hernando de Soto in 1542. It continues with anecdotes of Twain’s training as a steamboat pilot, as the ‘cub’ of an experienced pilot. He describes, with great affection, the science of navigating the ever-changing Mississippi River. In the second half, the book describes Twain’s return, many years later, to travel on a steamboat from St. Louis to New Orleans. He describes the competition from railroads, the new, large cities, and his observations on greed, gullibility, tragedy, and bad architecture. He also tells some stories that are most likely tall tales. The book can be purchased on line for less than $10.

Wednesday morning 9:30 – 11:30 a.m.

Foreign Policy Challenges for the Obama Administratiaon (Coordinator Morris Cutler)

Participants will discuss the various foreign policy challenges facing the Obama administration throughout the world. By this time, we will have some idea of the decisions and actions his administration has taken so the group can voice some opinions, yea or nay, and why they feel as they do. This can include Afghanistan and Iraq, the Middle East, Central Asia, the European Union, Russia and others.

Internet Creations That Changed Our Culture (Coordinator: Reuben Allen)

The internet has had a profound influence on our culture by making it possible for people to connect with each other and the world in ways never before imagined. This study group will focus on particular internet website creations that changed the way people gain information and interact with each other. Possible topics for exploration include: Wikipedia, MySpace, eBay, Amazon, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Napster, iTunes, Youtube, Politico, Linkedin, Twitter, Huffington Post

Wednesday afternoon 1:15 – 3:15 p.m.

Masterpieces of Literature (Coordinator: Coleman Logan)

The literature class will return to the beginning of the great masterpiece cycle with The Iliad using the translation by Fitzgerald. The book is readily available in bookstores or online.

The History, Geography and Psychology of Gambling (Coordinator TBA)

Gambling in all its various forms has impacted society. The compulsion to risk is also known cross-culturally. This is an opportunity to learn more about the forms and variety of expressions of this aspect of behavior. Examples could be the lottery, cards, Indian casinos, betting on races and other sports, and the increasing tendency of state and local governments to attempt to balance their budgets through gambling.

Thursday morning 9:30 – 11:30 a.m.

Shakespeare – King Lear and All’s Well that Ends Well (Coordinator: Ed Gilbert)

King Lear is one of the plays that attests to Shakespeare’s creative genius. An aging father foolishly restricts his legacy to those who most strongly (but not necessarily sincerely) avow love for him. In contrast, in the late comedy, All’s We’ll that Ends Well, a new wife is forced to resort to chicanery to get her foolish, high-born husband to give her the respect she deserves.

American Moguls (Coordinator: Ron Schaffer)

The careers, accomplishments and reputations of extraordinarily wealthy and powerful American capitalists such as Andrew Carnegie, Doris Duke, John D. Rockefeller, Henry Ford, Cornelius or William K. Vanderbilt, Bill Gates, Henry Huntington, Leland Stanford, William A. Clark, Bernard Madoff, J. P. Morgan, Henry Clay Frick, and Louis B. Mayer, including the monuments they left behind, how they promoted their images; their contributions to the arts and to science and technology, to techniques of management; their family lives, their political activities, their adversaries, their ideologies, and their impact on the USA.

Thursday afternoon 1:15 – 3:15 p.m.

Charles Darwin and How He Changed the World (Coordinator TBA)

This year is the bicentennial of Darwin’s birth. In this class we will study his life, his voyage on the Beagle, his method of research, how he went about developing his theory of evolutionary biology and the writing of Origin of the Species. We will explore the history of life on earth before Darwin and look at the impact of Darwinism on various religious traditions, public education, the interaction of race and human diversity and modern biology. Also, we shall consider contemporary ideas such as E. O. Wilson’s “sociobiology” (the integration of the social and biological sciences treating many aspects of human psychology and culture as products of naturally selected genes).

Really Great Essays (Coordinator: Norma Sacks)

This fall, the book that will be used is Booknotes: On American Character: People, Politics, and Conflict in American History. Editor: Brian Lamb. ISBN 139781586483425. Available online for about $15.

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GOING GREEN: It’s Like Joining a Religious Sect

Posted on July 10, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

I read once that an avid environmentalist behaves very much as someone who is extremely religious. Both are dedicated to certain tenets. Those of us who are this way, see Planet Earth with as much awe, devotion, love, and worry as one would have about any of the concepts of God found among people’s religions. Yes, among those of us who crank and care may be some that are like the early Christians who hid in caves to worship. You dear reader, may be one of these.

Others of us are annoying by trying to convert. You can usually discern a fellow Gaia devotee when they are hot on recycling, don’t order dead animals to eat in a restaurant, stop the waiter from filling a water glass if they know they won’t need anymore, and generally stick to commandments like these:

    1. Understand that nothing ever leaves Earth. That means when walking in the morning, it is really hard not to pick up a dirty piece of plastic bag in the gutter and hope to find a bin to leave it in. It’s like saying a prayer—something I did as a child. Picking up straws and bottle caps on the beach instead of shells, I offer another prayer, full of hope and with little certainty. Under this commandment: Compost. If you do laundry using any bleach or Tide soap, feel guilty. Buying expensive biodegradable soap is like making a contribution to a church.

    2. Don’t waste. Shop from your closet, a thrift shop, or some store that claims to have organic fabrics. If you are lucky enough to have a sunny backyard, hang laundry to dry. Non-believers really think you are crazy about this one. Telling them how good the sun-dried sheets smell is useless.

    3. Eat plants. Some friends never really want to go out to dinner with you, and do a lot of fussing about what you will be able to eat, especially if you have been rude enough to say the “dead animal” thing.

    4. Homeowners and businesses. Plant trees and drought-resistant plants. Some Planet Earth people worship privately and believe that rocks are Earth’s oldest children and trees are her strongest angels. Non-believers will not give up the beauty of green carpets of lawns draining insecticides into the water table. No, this will not change until there are laws that new homes and buildings are required to replace them with attractive, drought-resistant, native landscaping. We members use our money for tree trimming, not watering lawns. We pray for new kinds of landscaping companies and nurseries. We love the Department of Water and Power for supporting us.

    5. We have hard rules about animals. Sometimes we must hide our beliefs that coyotes and mountain lions have first rights on property, and that domestic animals are an indulgence by comparison. No one can pet a bobcat, and mountain bikers may be in trouble if they stop to fix a blown tire when a nearby cougar is roaming for a deer. But like the hated house spider, wild animals are Gaia’s true children. Cats, bless them, need to stay in houses, not hunt for songbirds, or get a hungry coyote in trouble with the neighborhood by getting eaten.

Maybe people are not Planet Earth’s favorite living thing. Maybe converting the whole world to care about biodiversity—seeing all living creatures as having equal rights—could bring about a different a kind of Armageddon: The end of Earth as it is now, replaced with an unpoisoned Earth, a thriving ocean life, and supportable populations.

I believe my sect should apply for recognition as a religion and get the tax breaks that other religions get. Of course, if we could get this status, we would also draw the usual derision that religious groups often get. And could I be called a hypocrite because I’ve collected a lot of really great logs, and I still want to have a fire in the fireplace when it rains? Maybe the rain would wash the particulates into the Hyperion sewage plant? Okay. I won’t burn those logs. They can be ground up by the Department of Sanitation along with the yard clippings for biomass. Because I do want some converts.

–Bette Simons

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