Spring 2020 Term
Monday, April 6 - Thursday, June 11, 2020

Monday 1:15 - 3:15 p.m.

Slavery is as old as civilization and probably much older.  It has been practiced by practically every human society around the world and is still thriving in some places today.  We will discuss all aspects of this “peculiar institution” including the practical and moral reasoning for and against it, and the variations of its practice in different times and cultures.

Monday 12:00 p.m. - 3:15 p.m.

 LA Boheme and Porgy and Bess

The operas for this class will be La Boheme by Puccini and Porgy and Bess by Gershwin.  This will be the fourth consecutive year that we have had an opera class, and these two operas were selected by last year’s class.  LA Boheme is the most often performed opera, and Porgy and Bess is the American opera about poor black people in a South Carolina fishing village.

Tuesday 9:30 - 11:30 a.m.

Hot Topics

This is an open-ended class. Presentations can utilize any qualified source (newspapers, magazines, radio, television, books, etc.) covering the recent political or social scene and historical events with current relevancy. Issues can be local, national or international. Controversial topics are welcome as they engender discussion. Join us if you enjoy lively, stimulating discussions.

 Native Americans of the Southwest

In light of all the recent focus on immigrants in the United Sates and since all but Native Americans are immigrants, this class will look at the various tribes of the Southwest – what has happened to them and what contributions they have made. Among the Native American peoples that we may want to discuss are the Navajo, Hopi, Pueblo, Apache and many more.

Tuesday 1:15 p.m. - 3:15 p.m.

Modern Robber Barons?

Robber Barons were originally 19th century businessmen who engaged in unethical and monopolistic practices, exerted corrupt political influence, faced almost no business regulation, and amassed enormous wealth.   The 21st century has produced a new kind of business tycoon. People like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and Larry Ellison have used technology to create massive monopolistic corporations.  But such industry leaders are not limited to the Silicon Valley moguls. They include people like the Koch Brothers, the Walton family, Sumner Redstone, Rupert Murdoch and many others. What has been their impact been on modern society?  Are we tolerant of their enormous profits because we have become addicted to technology, or is it because we also embrace elegant design, efficiency, and global interconnectedness?  We invite you to pick a mogul and tell his or her story.  Are these people the Robber Barons of today?

Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut.   Did this 1952 Novel Predict American Society Today?

This class will read Kurt Vonnegut’s first novel, Player Piano, a dystopian view of American society where automation has divided the country into two groups, the elites who run the automated factories and the unemployed or underemployed workers known as the “Reeks and Wrecks.” The class discussions will look at this book, as well as the parallels between Vonnegut’s vision and today’s economic realities.  How does the management class of the novel compare with the increasing number of positions in American society held by college graduates?  Are Vonnegut’s “Reeks and Wrecks” a forecast of the workers in today’s gig economy?  How does this book compare to previous dystopian visions of the future, such as Brave New World, Animal Farm, Nineteen Eighty-Four, We, etc.?  The price of a new paperback copy of the book on Amazon was listed as $13.11 on September 8, 2019.

Wednesday 9:30 a.m.- 11:30 a.m.
Famous Castles in the United States

Castles in the United States? You gotta believe it! To learn about notable castles, you don’t need to go abroad. In this class, participants will have the opportunity to share information they have discovered about a famous castle in the United States. They will learn the fascinating stories about why it was built, the person or persons who brought it into existence, its unique architectural features, opportunities to visit, and other intriguing facts. Examples include Bolt Castle in New York, Hearst Castle in California, and many others.

Making a Statement: How We Present Ourselves to the World

This course will explore the ways men and women show themselves to the world.  From the beginning of recorded time, we humans have presented public visual statements of who and what we are—reflections of our personalities, art, sex, belief systems, social status, wealth, politics and more.  Class presentations will focus on the specific ways (markings, adornments, clothing, possessions, etc.) people have used to show the world how they want to be perceived.  Examples are practically unlimited, ranging from the practical to the bizarre, from the widely recognized to the coded secret—e.g., medieval long pointy shoes, the ever-popular codpiece, tattoos, piercings, types of jewelry and adornment, powdered wigs, the latest hi-tech items, funky socks, “fascinator” hats, exotic sneakers, rusting old cars in rural areas and lawn ornaments in towns, hair styles and facial hair, masonic symbols, bulging muscles, etc., etc. Let’s examine how people make visual statements about themselves and what they mean.

Wednesday 1:15 - 3:15 p.m.

Aldous Huxley Novels

Huxley’s first novel, Chrome Yellow (ISBN 13- 978-1548060244) is a funny, satirical look at British society in 1921.  It takes place at a party and contains a pre-figuring of his (and our) second book, Brave New World (ISBN-13: 978-0061767647).  We will have the opportunity to see a different culture, even though it shares a common language and to see in what ways his predictions were on or off the mark.  Good fun.

Notable Imposters, Frauds and Hoaxes

An imposter is a person who pretends to be somebody else, often to try to gain financial or social advantages, but just as often for purposes of espionage or law enforcement. One man sold the Eiffel Tower twice, others have forged checks, claimed to be part of famous wealthy families, some have passed themselves off as doctors, women have impersonated men, others have roots in countries they were not from, degrees they did not have or held positions they were not qualified for, etc.    Examples of hoaxes include Hitler’s Diaries, Clifford Irving’s Hughes papers, art forgeries, and the Priory of Sion. Choose your favorite and intrigue us all. What made it successful? Are there personalities who perpetuate the hoaxes? What purpose do they serve? How were they exposed? Why do we fall for them?

Thursday 9:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.

The High Middle Ages, 1100-1400

This is a heroic period in European history, the age of Chivalry and of the Crusades, of wandering friars and gothic cathedrals, of the Hundred Years’ War and the Black Death, of women in high places in church and state. The Plantagenet and Capetian dynasties rise, Aristotle is rediscovered, and the influence of Innocent III, history’s most powerful pope, reaches into every kingdom.

American Popular Music from the End of the Big Bands to the Beginning of the Beatles (1945-1964)

Let’s take a look at the music that dominated airplay in the short period of time from the end of the big Band Era to the first Beatles song.  This roughly twenty-year span featured crooners, instrumental music, early rock, folk, comedy and some of the best performers and groups. This period also gave us the early years of some of the all time greatest entertainers.

Thursday 1:15 p.m. - 3:15 p.m.

Bonaparte, the Man, the Mystery, the Truth

Napoleon Bonaparte was a key figure in the formation of 19th Century Europe.  He had profound effect on politics, law and economics. Topics for this class could include his early years, his role as statesman, emperor, and military leader, the Napoleonic Wars, the collapse of his empire, his cultural legacy, the Napoleonic Code and reforms, his exile to Elba and Saint Helena, his marriages & children, etc.

Thursday 12:00 - 3:15 p.m.

Foreign Movies

Let’s do a class on FOREIGN MOVIES.  We will try to include a different country each week to be able to have a more diverse experience.  Examples include Rashomon, Persona, La Dolce Vita, The Battle of Algiers, and many more