Sunday, August 4, 2019

KELP, forget kale

At a large gathering of a current events discussion group called WHAT on Friday one of the men talked about work being done by WHOI (Woods Hole Oceanic Institute) -- one of the world's leaders in oceanic studies. He quoted a scientist who believes kelp (sea weed to most of us) can be farmed in almost all ocean areas. It can feed millions (even if, like me, they have to get accustomed to the taste) (and I admit I'm not yet a fan of kale but maybe I can forget about it).
However, kelp is not merely a food -- for humans, fishes and probably animals -- but it is an emitter of oxygen to replace that which is being lost in the atmosphere. I Googled it just now and find that is is being farmed several places and processed for consumption. I know it has been part of the diets of Japanese people for a long time.

What good news that is, if it catches on around the world! The Sunday paper is full of bad news so some good news is much appreciated. I had previously read that climate change could be reversed if we would plant 2 billion trees. Well, good luck with that! However an encouraging note in yesterday's paper said that either Eritrea or Ethiopia (neighbors, once a single country) planted 2 Million (a long way from Trillion) trees in the past month.

Meanwhile young white men are taking up guns and going to public places and shooting randomly at innocent people, including children. I cannot imagine what is going in their minds. I can understand anger at someone or some institution but I cannot imagine taking a lethal weapon and pointing it at strangers in a public place and shooting.  But who doesn't remember being a child, making a  pistol of your hand (thumb up, index pointing) and saying "bang, bang, you're dead'? in play ... and sometimes in anger and sometime in jokey way. But ... So I read many things and grasp at little threads of hope, like kelp and trees,getting rid of mini plastic bottles of shampoo.  I would also hope they'd add the "nips" --  mini bottles of alcoholic beverages. Those little bottles are the most prevalent litter in local parking lots and roadsides.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Where is this?

Do you know what city this is? I came upon this photo of a city with amazing architecture and had no idea where it was. I think I'm well traveled, I've been to many of the world's great cities but this is stunning!  It is Doha, Qatar which on the Arabian Peninsula. A part of the world I haven't visited. The closest I've been is Cairo. In fact, I admit, shamefacedly, that I only recently discovered there's an African country called Djibouti. We Americans think we are sophisticated about the world. I mean to say, I am proud of all the places I've been.

Well of course I know many Americans know very little about geography -- my daughters both admit to having very little knowledge ... apparently they didn't even learn USA geography in school although I remember homework over a Christmas break in the fourth grade when I was to use my school book, a pencil and box of crayons and draw a map of the United States on a large sheet of paper, put in all the states and their capitals. From the exercise (I was a very conscientious student) I can still close my eyes and see a map of the US. (I admit to having forgotten a few state capitals).

I belong to a weekly current events discussion group made up of contemporaries many of whom have far better educations than I. I'm relatively sure none of them would recognize this picture of Doha and I suspect many don't know where it is ... and maybe have also not heard of Djibouti. We are well read, most listen to a great many TV news programs, we discuss American current affairs with relatively little reference to other countries. We have all chosen to know about what piques  our interest at any particular time. We bemoan the ideas and politics of that vast Middle America that some of us grew up in or lived in for a period of time.  The truth is we all know so little about our own country and a minuscule amount about the rest of the world.

Of course, we have private lives to live and finally that is what brings us happiness or unhappiness ... our hubris -- my own first of all -- is a concern to me. I am very aware of my ignorance.


Sunday, July 14, 2019

Summer Time

No, this is not me today although I'm sure the beaches are crowded. It's the middle of the afternoon and 85 degrees out there and, although it IS Sunday and I have been working on the Times Crossword puzzle, I am too fond of my skin to subject it to the hottest part of the day.  Often I walk on the beach early -- 7:30 or so when very few others are out. Today I think I will wait until about 7:30 in the evening and take a walk on the beach.

We wait a long time for summer to really get here and only the past two weeks have really been summer. Yoga on the beach Wednesday night -- timed to end just as the sun is setting -- is a treat, albeit one that my body protests against. I have to admit that having pass the "Big 8-0" I cannot do the things I could do twenty years -- or even ten years -- ago. 

I am very happy to live near a wonderful beach (actually near several but there are only two I frequent). And even at 85 degrees and somewhat too humid, I still love summer best -- the freedom of going barefoot, the pleasure of sleeping with windows open and waking about 5:00 to listen to the birds beginning their days -- especially the imperious crows that announce their locations with a triple "caw". Then I drift back to sleep until the clock radio plays some classical (usually baroque) music with which to start the day. Who knew? I often think that -- who knew, who could have guessed that, at this age, I would find so much simple pleasure on a summer Sunday ...   except the puzzles get harder and harder because they have so many clues about TV series and various stars that I know nothing about. I've let that part of the world spin on it's crazed way without paying attention to it. And that's  just totally okay!

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Pavarotti, the Docmenary by Ron Howard

The Ron Howard documentary about Luciano  Pavarotti is playing a the Cape Cinema in Dennis. I went yesterday afternoon and was surprised that there was a sizable crowd on a decent (but changeable) Sunday afternoon.  Of course the crowd was mostly senior citizens -- the younger ones were the likely beach crowd. 

The documentary seemed long, it covered all of his life from boyhood in a small Italian town just post-war with a father who was a tenor in the local church choir, to his enormous success which blossomed most when he was led, by managers, mostly away from the opera stage to the public stage -- the tremendously successful "Three Tenors" period and then huge rock-star-type appearances, and collaboration with Bono, attendance at the events in England by Princess Diana. He was charismatic, he was a major "diva" if the word can be applied to a tenor (and it seems appropriate). He was good-hearted and seemed to always be at ease although he said he was terrifie before every performance.

In fact, I saw him in some Met simulcasts and felt he really couldn't act his way out of a paper bag but he had the 9 high Cs for Daughter of the Regiment and they seemed effortless. I never liked his voice as much as I did Placido Domingo's but that's a matter of personal taste. He was not as handsome as the other tenors either which really didn't matter. The exciting scene in the movie, for me, was the closing aria of the first Three Tenors concert when one felt an enormous sense of delight among the three great men (Jose Carraras not as well known as the others but with a wonderful voice having survived a cancer that took him away from the stage for a few years). When the three blended their powerful voices on the "vincera" syllables at the end of the  "nesum dorma" aria from Turandot it was goosebumps time and elation. They were so clearly enjoying their performance and one another and the vast audience.  A wonderful way to have spent an afternoon. I went to Roger Ebert's review and he was much more fulsome than I have been. Bravo Luciano, bravo Ron Howard.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Biography of Edna St. Vincent Millay

Here I am in Camden, Maine, birthplace of Edna St. Vincent Millay with her statue.  I'm 5-7, she was only 5-1, so you see she's bigger than life --which she often wished to be in real life. Her biography Savage Beauty, by Nancy Milford has been on my bedside table for over a month. She was beautiful, everyone said so and her pictures are lovely up to her 40s. The book is 400 pages long and  dense and I usually read only 10 or 29 pages just before going to bed. Her poetry is not read much now, it's a style that is no longer popular.

I knew almost nothing about her when I started the book. It is very detailed and quotes many of her poems. (She especially wrote sonnets - or 14 line poems that do not necessary fit into usual sonnet definition). She had a very, very difficult childhood. The oldest of three sisters, she was often, from age 10 or so, left in charge of the little ones in a big cold house, with very little money for food or anything. Her mother was nurse who took live-in jobs that might last a couple of weeks. Her father  deserted after the youngest was born and rarely sent any money.  

She was undoubtedly a genius with words and created a reputation very early and was for many years the most popular poet in America (more so than Frost). Her life was largely chaos.  After various lesbian affairs at Vassar she discovered men and could have been called a nymphomaniac. After a long time she married a Dutchman who totally adored her. His family had a fortune from import/export business but he devoted himself to Edna (or Vincent as she was very often called). Her poetry had the kind of sales best selling novelists enjoy today. Her stage presence (and radio readings) were apparently magnificent.

The further I got into the book the more I realized that she was a monster of selfishness and whimsicality. She smoked constantly and drank hugely and by the last ten years of her life had become a serious alcoholic, morphine addict (as well as many other drugs). She pulled herself out of drug stupors late in life to write propagandistic poetry about why America should NOT be isolationist but should fight Hitler. I am not a strong historian but I was shocked how extremely isolationist America was even after Hitler invaded Holland and Paris.

The book was always an interesting read but also distressing to follow her self-destruction, her utter lack of self-control or understanding about people or finances, her manipulation of people and final irresponsibility.  (And her family was not much better although her husband was almost a saint.)

I've been given the even larger biography of Leonardo di Vinci to read next.  I won't be writing about that book for a long time yet.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Summer is around the corner

This magnificent lily was part of a lovely bouquet granddaughter Cori gave me for my birthday earlier this month. Oh, my, how time flies. I should rename this blog Big 8-0  And Moving On.  In all my younger years I never really contemplated anything over 70 so it's all an amazing surprise. And I just realized I've been living on Cape Cod for about 12 years. How is that possible??? Well it was one day at a time like all of life.  And it's all good.

Summer here on usually doesn't really happen until after the solstice, and that's a week from Friday. I have my first of the season walk on the beach this morning, about 65 degrees and humid. One sunbather out, and others casually clad -- but barefoot.

When I see the dawn I always think of Kipling's
"Road to Mandalay" ...
the dawn comes up like thunder...
this photo seems to say exactly that.
This time of year I'm not always awake to see the dawn as I have breakfast (as is true about 2/3rds of the year. Now sunlight  seems to soak through the bedroom curtains and wake me about 5:00 before the sun is actually up. So I close my eyes until the clock radio gives me about three minutes of music and one or two short minutes of local news including the weather forecast. Soon I'll be having a quick breakfast and taking myself to Long Beach for an early walk -- some mornings I'm alone and feel I own the place.

Stash smashing

I've decided to see how many scrap quilts I can get done this summer. This is the first stash-smasher -- strip pieced on drier sheets. Top is finished, quilting next.  I havent't decided on a back yet but it will also be a stash-smasher using at least 6 fabrics. 

I've begun a selvage quilt -- I have quite a fat bag of selvages to use -- I'm making a dent, but really only a dent. More on that later.