The Gardens of the Chateau de Versailles

My latest blog for Montgomery County Public Libraries is about my visit to Versailles this summer. I recommend books about the palace and Louis XIV, the Sun King, as well as music of the period.

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The Trigger-Warning Election


Trigger Warning – this Presidential Election contains material that may be disturbing and traumatic for women who have been the victims of sexual abuse or rape, for immigrants who feel unwelcome in our country, for African-Americans who face racial discrimination, for Hispanics who face the assumption that they are not real Americans, for Muslims who fear that they are perceived as terrorists, for children who are victims of bullying… oh heck, this list is getting cumbersomely long, lets just say this election may be disturbing and traumatic for anyone who possesses a shred of humanity. Continue reading

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Braggart in Chief


It has come to this. Among the cacophony of opinion pouring forth from editorials, blogs, columns, and endless TV chatter this Presidential Election season, the one that really seems to get to the heart of the matter comes from a primatologist. Yes, Jane Goodall, famed for her studies of chimp behavior, is now the foremost political analyst in the land.

In the October issue of Atlantic James Fallows writes that Goodall told him “Trump reminds me of male chimpanzees and their dominance rituals.” What, I wonder, made Fallows seek Continue reading

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On My Bookshelf – Make Do and Mend


This little book is a new addition to my bookshelf, acquired on this year’s summer trip to London. After a walk around St. James’s Park we visited the Churchill War Rooms, the secret underground headquarters where Winston Churchill and his staff planned the war effort, safe from enemy bombs. The place is a claustrophobic rabbit warren of tiny rooms where Churchill and scores of staff often slept overnight during the Continue reading

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Please, Not in the Cathedral!




by Galia Amsel











It looked like an enormous vacuum cleaner part – a black plastic tube emerging from the stone archway of an upper gallery, coiled into a knot in midair, and dangling just above our heads. A cluster of clear claw-like objects protruded from the open end of the tube. I stood in the transept of Salisbury Cathedral puzzling over the purpose of this contraption. They must be involved in some kind of cleaning or restoration project, I thought. Perhaps the tube was a chute for removing debris from the upper gallery. Or perhaps when it was uncoiled the tube reached to the ground and the claws became a tool for cleaning the stone floors. Neither idea was very convincing. At this point I turned to see my husband chatting to a cathedral docent,  Continue reading

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Paris in the Terror


French soldiers mingle with the crowds outside the Louvre

We saw a real guillotine on this year’s summer travels, with the original blade and bag to catch the head still attached. It was a gruesome reminder of Terror past as we visited three countries living in the shadow of Terror present.

Some friends and acquaintances questioned our decision to make this trip Continue reading

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Body Language in Black and White

Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 2.51.52 PM

President Obama was speaking, his image almost filling the television screen, but my eyes were drawn to two people in the group behind him. They sat in the front row, one on either side of the President at his shoulder level. Two white police officers, a man and a woman. Together the image of the podium, President Obama, and the two officers formed a kind of triptych of mourning. It was Dallas on Tuesday July 12th 2016, the memorial service for the Continue reading

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