A.C. Snow

Snow: On the NC General Assembly and Marie Antoinette

A recent birthday card featured lovely lady atop a handsome birthday cake. The message read, “Let them eat cake, as long as you get the biggest piece.”

The familiar expression, “Let them eat cake,” is attributed to France’s Queen Marie Antoinette.

Legend has it that, during one of France’s famines, a court official came to the queen and said, “Your majesty, the people have no bread.” Indeed, the country’s peasants were starving.

“Let them eat cake!” she replied. Such unfeeling flippancy and her extravagant spending supposedly led to her eventual ride to the guillotine.

There is a lesson here for our conservative General Assembly, which has been criticized for harsh legislation against North Carolina’s poor and under-privileged.

If legislators aren’t careful, some may find themselves riding to the guillotine of voter discontent on Election Day.

Incidentally, legend is not always reality. “Let them eat cake” was coined long before Marie Antoinette was born.

The ‘best’ book

The movie, “Citizen Kane,” was featured on Turner Classic Movies not long ago.

Although it’s about newspapering and the great journalist William Randolph Hearst, I did not watch it this time around.

Various polls of movie critics and Hollywood producers ranked “Citizen Kane” the greatest movie ever made, until Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” came along.

Time and time again, I’ve wondered how some books have made the “best” lists, while others I thought superb never received even “honorable mention.”

My late friend, Superior Court Judge Evelyn Hill, once defined a good book’s responsibilities.

“What is ‘best,’ after all?” she asked. “ ‘Goodnight Moon’ ranks high with my daughter, and I am partial to ‘84 Charing Cross Road.’

“I think that ‘best’ has to be a personal thing,” she continued. “It should be a book that changed your life, a book that made you laugh when you only felt like crying, a book that made you agree with the young student’s father in ‘Shadowlands’: ‘We read to know that we are not alone.’”

“Frankly,” she said, “ if my only choice were to read ‘Ulysses’ or be alone, I’d pick being alone.”

So would I.

A world of tattoos

I’ve received enough reader responses regarding tattoos to fill a book.

Lynn Snow of Wake Forest wrote that when a good friend’s teen-age daughter had a dolphin tattooed on her backside, just above her bikini line, her disappointed dad said, “Honey, what were you thinking? In a few years, that dolphin will be a WHALE!”

And Reg Parker of Four Oaks writes that he heard someone say that “a tattoo is a permanent reminder of a temporary whim.”

An apt observation, right?

Being part of history

Wanting to be a part of greatness, however we define “greatness,” is a human characteristic. That’s why people collect autographs, pose with celebrities, or buy souvenirs of significant places they visit.

After I’d written about the Enola Gay, the plane from which the first atomic bomb was dropped on Japan, ending World War II, reader John Elliot described how hisfather touched the hem of history.

A flight engineer on the Enola Gay, his dad often described the circumstances surrounding the momentous event.

“Although my father was not scheduled in the rotation to fly that fateful morning, his claim to fame was that he changed all the spark plugs on the plane the afternoon before next day’s mission, “ John wrote.

To me, that’s a brush with history worth remembering and passing on to the next generation.


James Green writes to say that at his recent 50th high school reunion, conversation got around to how much things cost these days, compared to the past.

One of Green’s friends pointed out that one thing that hasn’t changed is the price of kittens.