Airborne Plastics

by Bill Schlesinger Futile attempt to avoid airborne plastics With some 350 million tons of plastic produced each year, it is not surprising that some of it escapes to the…

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A Chorus Line Rings Loud in Rhinebeck

Cast in action By Kevin T. McEneaney One of the longest running musicals of Broadway rumbles around the corner. It remains the only great musical that has no set: just…

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Drama Lab

Ancram Opera House: AOH is pleased to welcome back Frank Boyd, creator and performer of The Holler Sessions seen here in 2017. Live From Lodge #274: Auction Preview rummages through…

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A Diplomat for All Seasons

Virgilio R. Reyes, Jr.

A Memory of Time. Virgilio A. Reyes, Jr. New Day Publishers.

by Kevin T. McEneaney

Collections of miscellaneous essays are not always notable. Here a retired Philippine ambassador, who has traveled the globe as he worked his way up the civil service ladder to become, among other accomplishments, First Secretary to the U.N., Ambassador to South Africa and Italy after serving embassies in Myanmar, Mexico, and Chile, offers a wealth of cultural and psychological perceptions about people, the arts, history, philosophy, religion, linguistics, archeology, architecture, urban planning, cuisine, and even gardens. Fluent in several languages, Virgilio combines an international outlook with acute awareness of his patria, in the manner of his namesake poet, Virgil.

Any accomplished diplomat must be an adroit, living encyclopedia, as well as master raconteur of anecdote—as Virgilio is when meeting Fidel Castro, Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, music Maestro Michael Dadap, and others. Speaking of Martin Luther’s confrontation with pope Leo X and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, the two most powerful men of their era, Virgilio says that the confrontation “would be analogous today to challenging Putin and Trump—and winning.”

Few people remain dexterous enough to thread the universal human story with the local. Did you know the extraordinary story of a Philippine slave in the U.S. which was broken by the journalist Alex Tizon? It’s a gripping story Virgilio develops with deep pathos. Behind the pageant of people and places, whether historical or artistic, the quiet empathy and meditative reason of Virgilio’s observations become an inspiration for the reader.

The book’s organization presents a traditional, Asian five-part paradigm: “Travel,” “People and “Places,” “Events,” “Book and Theater Reviews,” and “Reflections,” the latter being the pivotal Fifth Element that illuminates the other kaleidoscopic essays too numerous to discuss in a review. There is a fine portrait of Virgilio’s father, Rex Reyes, a noted journalist in Manilla. The quotation from Virgil’s Aeneid on the back cover appears to refer to father and son.

Abundantly illustrated by black-and-white photos, this coffee-table sized paperback of 224 pages is available from either the publisher or Amazon for $20; on Kindle it is a free download.

This book should have a wide audience: for the sophisticated curious, for the Philippine community at home and abroad, and for those in the diplomatic civil service around the globe, as well as in the Philippines, because it offers both insight and modeling as what a diplomat can and should be when viewing all of humankind as both a local and universal family with ties of mutual hospitality

By subtle implication, this memoir is a rebuttal of Machiavelli’s tribal tract, The Prince. Virgilio’s inherent and genial optimism supplies a virtuous illustration of his native land, which has become an axial bishop in the game of empirical chess played by the U.S. and China. It is no wonder that an archipelago of islands occupied by humans for at least 709,000 years should produce such a robust voice of wisdom. (more…)

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Humor and Sincerity on the same Page

Reviewed by Kevin T. McEneaney And then I Bumped into This Guy called Charlie by Luis R. González Argüeso. If you have seen the musical Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda, you…

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Acorns

by Bill Keller They all fell from a single tree, covered the lawn in plump, brown beads:  the unstrung necklace of a woodland queen. They were elegant, sleek and round, …

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Grasping at Straws

CO 2 rising by Bill Schlessinger In the face of the inexorable rise in atmospheric CO2, widespread observations of long-term warming trends, and intransigent policy makers in the face of…

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Benjamin Hochman’s Lyric Touch at Stissing Center

Photo by Jennifer Taylor by Kevin T. McEneaney On Saturday afternoon at the new Stissing Center in Pine Plains on live-stream broadcast pianist Benjamin Hochman performed Klavierstück, Op. 119 by…

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Cardinal Nonet

by Kevin T. McEneaney Cardinal Richelieu was tired of seeing blood flow at banquets when diplomats drank their wine, argued over borders. He made them all check their own long…

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Fracking, flowback, and fish

by Bill Schlesinger Hydraulic fracturing (aka fracking) has become a standard practice for the production of oil and gas, not just from the shale-gas areas, such as the Marcellus shale…

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