Prometheus and Pandora XXIV

Our featured image shows Prometheus bringing fire to humanity. Was it a good idea?


Jessye Norman September 15, 1945 – September 30, 2019

This great opera singer died last month of septic shock and
multiple organ failure, age 74. She won four Grammy Awards and the
National Medal of Arts. Norman made her operatic debut as Elisabeth
in Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser in 1969 in Berlin and went on to
multiple prominent roles, including the title role in “Aïda” in
productions in Berlin and Milan, the role of Cassandra in Hector
Berlioz’s “Les Troyens,” and at the Metropolitan Opera in Arnold
Schoenberg’s “Erwartung,” among many others.

She performed the work of many composers throughout her career —
including Schubert, Mahler, Wagner, Brahms, Satie and others — and
by the 1980s was widely recognized as one of the leading sopranos
in the world. She sang an unusual range of roles and is reputed to
have said the pigeon holes belong to pigeons.

Among the numerous honors bestowed upon Norman were: Musical
America ‘s musician of the year, 1982; honorary doctorates from
Howard University (1982), Boston Conservatory of Music (1984),
University of the South (1984), and Harvard University (1998). She
was given the honor of being named Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts
et des Lettres from the French government, 1984. She also received
awards for many of her recordings.

A detailed obituary can be found in the NYTimes.

ELIJAH E. CUMMINGS January 18, 1951 – October 17, 2019

House Oversight chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) urged Congress April 2 to support issuing subpoenas over Trump administration security clearances. (The Washington Post)

Elijah E. Cummings, a Democratic congressman from Maryland who
gained national attention for his principled stands on politically
charged issues in the House, his calming effect on anti-police
riots in Baltimore, and his forceful opposition to the presidency
of Donald Trump, died Oct. 17 at a hospice center in Baltimore. He
was 68.

He campaigned tirelessly for stricter gun control laws and help for those addicted to
drugs. But it was as chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and
Reform — the panel charged with maintaining integrity in government
— that Mr. Cummings may have left his most lasting legacy. The
position gave him sweeping power to investigate Mr. Trump and his
administration, and he used it.

He was born to a family of Southern sharecroppers and Baptist
preachers,and grew up in the racially fractured Baltimore of the
1950s and 1960s. At 11, he helped integrate a local swimming pool
while being attacked with bottles and rocks. “Perry Mason,” the
popular TV series about a fictional defense lawyer, inspired him to
enter the legal profession. “Many young men in my neighborhood were
going to reform school,”
he told the East Texas Review. “Though I
didn’t completely know what reform school was, I knew that Perry
Mason won a lot of cases. I also thought that these young men
probably needed lawyers.”

A summary of his life and career may be found in Heavy.

He had an adversarial relationship with Trump. In an interview with
The Times in May, Mr. Cummings was asked what message he would like
to send to the president.

“I want to send a message that we have one life to live, Mr.
he replied. “This is no dress rehearsal. And that the
American people simply want to live their lives without fear of
their leaders. And we, as leaders, have a duty and a responsibility
to keep our promise to them when we ran for office and won — and
that is to make their lives better. While we’re all on this earth,
that’s my message.”

Detailed obituaries can be found in the NYTimes and the Washington


Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators

By Ronan Farrow

Little, Brown and Company, 448 pages, $30

In their last blog Pandora and Prometheus ranted about the lack of male accountability when an unwanted and unexpected pregnancy pops up in the wake of a romantic fling. Now they would like to address the question of accountability when the higher echelons of a major corporation close ranks to protect the sexual predators in their midst. Two years ago Ronan Farrow writing in the New Yorker and his colleagues at the New York Times, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey shared a Pulitzer prize for exposing the deep sexual corruption in the entertainment industry. Now they have all come out with books, Kantor and Twohey with She Said and Farrow with Capture and Kill.

Farrow, like his New York Times peers, has chosen to frame his narrative around his own journalistic project — how he came to publish the blockbuster story of movie producer Harvey Weinstein’s serial sexual predation. But unlike Kantor and Twohey’s triumphal tale of working within a supportive news organization, much of Farrow’s story is about working against the news network, NBC, where he was employed as an on-air investigative journalist and where he did much of his reporting on Weinstein, though that reporting would never air. (He eventually published in The New Yorker.

Farrow’s book is reviewed in detail in the Cut by Rebecca Traister who points out the lethal level of corruption at NBCU. In her view, the detailed individual cases, such as rape of Brooke Nevils by a senior executive, Matt Lauer, are not the main disclosure. As Traister puts it-“Rather, it’s the whole, intricate puzzle Farrow puts together, with astounding reportorial reach and detail: a weave of phone conversations, texts, in-person meetings, the exchange of gifts and information between powerful people in network news, magazines, law firms, and politics — all, Farrow suggests, in service of the protection of powerful men and the suppression of stories about the harm that they’ve done.”

The revelation in Catch and Kill is not that there are corrupt people; it is that corrupt people are in control of our media, politics, and entertainment and that, in fact, many of them remain in control — two years after the mass eruption of stories of harassment and assault that Farrow played a big part in precipitating.


Andrew Lack, Matt Lauer, and Noah Oppenheim. Photo: George Pimentel/WireImage/Getty Images

A major step forward was announced recently by Rachel Maddow, an MSNBC host, who produced a statement from NBCU management releasing all women who signed non-disclosure agreements from their commitment. Maddow produced the document minutes before interviewing Ronan Farrow on her program. She quoted her bosses whom she was busy busting “We very much wanted to break this story, which is why we assigned it and supported it editorially and financially for seven months. We are profoundly disappointed that we weren’t able to do so,” recited Maddow. “This story,” of course, was the story of the sexual harassment and abuse by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein — an investigation that Farrow had tried to complete under the roof of NBC News, but the network either blinked (Farrow’s version) or couldn’t broadcast the weak tea that was presented to it (NBC News’ version).

In his interview with Maddow, Farrow said he knew of women who felt “constrained” and “agonized” over their nondisclosure and nondisparagement agreements with NBC News, adding that he expected the company’s new statement “would go a long way” toward encouraging other women to come forward with claims of misconduct.

Prometheus and Pandora think that what is most troubling is that while a few lambs were sent to the slaughter, the media giants are still continuing their corporate culture.


Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights icon, has been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, according to a press release from his office. We all wish him success in his struggle with the deadly illness. Many prominent people are praying for him, but we seriously doubt the efficacy of prayer and tend to agree with Ambrose Bierce about prayer. We certainly agree with Mike Lukovich in hoping for the best.

For the record Edmund Pettus was a leader of the Klan and a committed racist. The bridge in Selma was the starting point of the march led by Martin Luther King.


Prometheus and Pandora along with their amanuenses wish to congratulate Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo who share the Booker prize for 2019. The judges of this year’s Booker prize have “explicitly flouted” the rules of the august literary award to choose the first joint winners in almost 30 years. The chair of judges, Peter Florence, emerged after more than five hours with the jury to reveal that the group of five had been unable to pick a single winner from their shortlist of six. Instead, despite being told repeatedly by the prize’s literary director, Gaby Wood, that they were not allowed to split the £50,000 award, they chose two novels: Atwood’s The Testaments, a follow-up to her dystopian The Handmaid’s Tale, and Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other, which is told in the voices of 12 different characters, mostly black women.

While Margaret Atwood is a known and established writer, Bernardine Evaristo’s winning marks a milestone. She is the first black woman to win the Booker since it began in 1969. Pandora and Prometheus say cheers for the jury that broke the rules and best wishes to both ladies.


Thwaites Glacier (75°30′S 106°45′W) is an unusually broad and fast Antarctic glacier flowing into Pine Island Bay, part of the Amundsen Sea, east of Mount Murphy, on the Walgreen Coast of Marie Byrd Land. Its surface speeds exceed 2 km/yr near its grounding line. Its fastest flowing grounded ice is centered between 50 and 100 km east of Mount Murphy. It was named by ACAN after Fredrik T.
Thwaites (1883 – 1961), a glacial geologist, geomorphologist and professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Reuben Gold Thwaites was his father.

Public Radio International (PRI) has published a detailed study of the glacier and its dangers in their program The World.

A view of the glacier

Melting of Antarctica’s massive Thwaites Glacier could add one to two feet of global sea level rise in the next 50 to 100 years, and unlock far more in the years beyond.

A voyage by icebreaker to the remote glacier’s face laid the groundwork for a 5-year international research effort to try to answer urgent questions about Thwaites’ future. The World’s Carolyn Beeler is our guide to the journey, with real-time dispatches from the ship and deep dives into the science and the stakes for our future.

We call this program to your attention and recommend that you click and open the articles. It is unsettling but essential to our awareness of reality. The scientist Bill Mckibben

Right Livelihood Award 2014 Stockholm 12/ 2014 Photo: Wolfgang Schmidt

has been one of the protagonists of the climate change issue for decades. This week he lays out the parameters and the dangers of inaction on the part of leaders. OTOH, people are beginning to react en masse and there still is hope for the future.


The Irishman (titled onscreen as I Heard You Paint Houses) is a 2019 American epic crime film directed and produced by Martin Scorsese and written by Steven Zaillian, based on the 2004 book I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt. It stars Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci, with Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale, Anna Paquin, Stephen Graham, Stephanie Kurtzuba, Jesse Plemons, and Harvey Keitel in supporting roles. The film follows Frank Sheeran (De Niro), a truck driver who becomes a hitman and gets involved with mobster Russell Bufalino (Pesci) and his crime family,
including his time working for the powerful Teamster Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino) The film has won widespread critical acclaim.


The Voyager 2 spacecraft has left the heliosphere — the huge bubble of charged particles that the sun blows around itself — and is now in interstellar space. The exit took place in November 2018 and analysis of the data acquired has now been published

This artist’s concept shows the locations of NASA’s Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft relative to the heliosphere, or the protective bubble of particles and magnetic fields created by our Sun. Both Voyagers are now outside the heliosphere, in a region known as interstellar space, or the space between stars. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

We have a special interest in the Voyager spacecraft since one of us (A) was a member of the plasma detector team during the planetary phase of the mission.

When the planetary phase ended with the Neptune flyby in 1989, our project scientist Prof. Stone of CalTech quoted from T.S.Eliot,

…Fare forward.
O voyagers, O seamen,
You who came to port, and you whose bodies Will suffer the trial
and judgement of the sea, Or whatever event, this is your real
destination.’ So Krishna, as when he admonished Arjuna On the field
of battle.
Not fare well,
But fare forward, voyagers.”

Indeed our Voyagers are faring forward into regions of space never before observed in situ by man made instruments. We hope to learn much from this foray into interstellar space.


Welcome to the new decade with Randall and Cynthia

We old codgers need to keep up with the times…

Happy new year indeed,

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