Monday, May 16, 2016

A Land's End - Race Point Lighthouse

Race Point Lighthouse is at the very end of Cape Cod, arguably the easternmost point of land in the US (I'm told down Mainer's have their own land's end candidate). It is a prototypical lighthouse as can be see.  I'm told it was becoming seriously derelict about 20 years ago when concerned and historically minded locals formed a voluteer organization to restore the lighthouse, its keepers' house and the "whistle" house (from which the warning siren is sounded when need be.) All three structures are in what seems to be good condition. The light house has recently been equipped with an automated LED light so no one needs to light lanterns.

A friend who is a member of the organization mentioned an open house so I and a couple of friends went yesterday; it's a half-hour drive. We, and other visitors parked in a Coast Guard lot and were driven the two miles of bumpy, one-lane sand tracks in appropriately equipped vans. I had never been out there before and enjoyed seeing the expanses of rolling dunes, the sea whipped to frothiness by a strong wind and exploring the houses. Rooms in the houses maybe rented by the night (the price is reasonable, accommodations spartan which seems appropriate to the historic site). The same friend suggested it might be a nice spot for an overnight mini-writing retreat (she is in our informal writing group).  Indeed I thought that seems a good idea. I don't know if we will be able to arrange it.
The house actually has four (crowded) bedrooms, a living room, kitchen and bath. Doesn't it look like a Hopper painting?

Friday, May 13, 2016

Beautiful Biography

I just saw, for the third time, I think, the magnificently done film called Thirty Two Short Films about Glen Gould.
Gould was a brilliant  pianist, especially an interperter of Bach. He was a Canadian whose mother wanted him to be a musical genius and got her wish.  He was highly eccentric and gave up public performing in mid-career and recorded and composed thereafter. He died, sadly at age 50 of a stroke (he had been taking far too many drugs, some for high blood pressure but many more than needed. No responsible MD should have allowed a patient to have the collection of medicines he had.

This film is, as the title suggests, in 32 short segments.  Nearly all of them are brilliantly paced, filmed, lighted, edited.  Of course there is a great deal of music, mostly Bach but not exclusively.  He is seen dancing in an ecstatic trance to a Beethovan set of variations.

I was lucky enough to see Gould perform during the final few years of his public performances.  He was famous by then for his eccentricities and I remember a rickety old chair carried on stage for him to use - a leg held together with duct tape, the seat putting him several inches lower than pianists usually chose to perform but that's what he preferred at that time.

As the small group who saw it were talking about the film and Gould, I realized that throughout the film, it was clear he lived in his own world, was entirely narcissistic (had no idea what others were thinking or feeling or needing), but at no time was there a hint of pettiness, meanness, unkindness in him.  (Unless you count the middle-of-the night phone calls when he juat wanted to talk  -- not a conversation but to talk. But the friends and relatives he called all seem accept that quirkiness with a smile and a sense of indulgence.) The world could use more geniuses of his sort.  (A portion of his recording of Bach's music was included in  the cache of items sent to the farthest edge of the galaxy (perhaps it's not there yet)  on Voyager I and II to tell aliens that there is intelligent life on Earth.)

Monday, April 18, 2016

We're Driving Whales Crazy

I've seen two documentaries about whales  lately and I ache for those huge, brilliant, social and kind creatures, especially those in the northern hemisphere. Whales do not have visible ears, but they DO have ears, in fact sound is how they communicate, socialize, hunt and find one another.  Water conducts sound distances that are staggering-- literally thousands of miles. Whales "sing" as has been known for some times, they send clicks and rumbles and a variety of sounds to one another - and sometimes to  people who are researching them. They are now being tortured far worse than the very unfortunate prisoners in Abu Ghrab who were subjected to loud rock music day in and day out.

In the sea all kinds of noise goes on day and night: oil exploration uses underwater blasts, the world's various navies use sonar to locate one another, there are literally thousands of cargo ships at any one time carrying goods mostly from Asia to the US (and other consumers, there are navy ships and ocean liners and all kinds of cruiise ships. REsearches discovered in Madagascar, near where oil exploration was taking place, that many whales swam up fresh water rivers and beached themselves, apparently to get away from the noise. Autopsies showed hemorhages in the aulitory part of their brains.

Most whale hunting has ceased bu the Japanese still hunt with huge whale processing factory ships.  It seems the containership builders are realizing that certain adjustments in their  propellers and their engines can make them much quieter and use much less fuel thus being less expensive to operate and pollutting less... they know this but, say the experts, it will take "a generation" for such improvements to happen. That will be a long time. There are quieter ways to explore and drill for oil but that will take a long time to change. Meanwhile we are torturing the whales. This fact alone bothers me terribly. I cherish quiet: I feel invaded when a motorcycle (or a gang fo cyclists) roars through, when a car goes by windows open, radio blasting, when fire, police, ambulances put on their sirens to go through the intersection very near to me.  I see that we have a generation who are now walking about with "buds" in their ears, constant sound -- sound of their choice, I assume. It's a different subject altogether, but what are they doing to their brains? 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Amazing dancing!

During the many years I lived in NYC I had the privilege of seeing a lot of wonderful ballet. The top companies in the US and some from other countries. When I visited Russia many, many years ago I saw the Maryinski do Swan Lake and loved it. I've seem really wonderful ballet and it thrills me enormously; I consider ballet dancers the supreme physical athletes in the world.  What they can do with their bodies, all with enormous grace and as part of a musical presentation is astonishing.

This afternoon I saw a simulcast from the Bolshoi in Moscow. I've seen other simulcasts from there, Nutcracker and Swan Lake and I've thought they were magnificent but , aside from the incredible leaps  of the danseurs which seemed loftier and more prolonged than anything I had seen, I did not think this company was better than, although certainly the equal of, American dance companies.

Today I saw Don Quixote (or Don Quichotte, as they spelled it), a ballet with music very derivative of Tchaikovsky but not as inventive. According to the intermission speaker (a retired ballerina who speaks Russian, French and English, with a disconcerting breathless effort ) they have been doing this ballet almost since their beginings, some 150 years, although the choreography has been changed by various ballet master over the years. This was a lavish, full length -- four hours (with two 25 minute intermissions) -- ballet. The pace was almost frantic, I've never seen so much very fast dancing by both soloists and corps. The music always had a Spanish favor as did the costumes which were lavish, colorful and very, very graceful.  I will mention also that the non-dancing role of the Don was perfectly cast with a very tall, very slender man who arrived on stage twice on a white horse (far more beautiful than Cerantes' Rosinate, a poor old nag. An Sancho Panza arrived on a little black donkey  -- we was not the rotund character from the book --after all he is a ballet dancer -- but both were delightful.

The technical precision -- in fact, perfection ! -- was astonishing.  I do not know how anyone had the energy to do two more acts after the speed of the first act but they did and they were more and more brilliant.  The final solos and pas de deux of the two stars was so amazing I had tears in my eyes from simply being thrilled that such  grace and beauty within rapid movements was possible!  I felt there could not be another ballet company anywhere with the technical perfection  that I saw on stage this afternoon/last night, as it were, since it was a simulcast. 

The wonders of technology are at their very best, I think, when something of this caliber can be seen, literally around the world.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

More Thank Honey, documentary

More than Honey is the name of the documentary I saw yesterday.  I have never seen so many bees (inside their hives -- the wonders of modern photography!) working so hard as  bees do.  The documentary, directed by Marcus Inhoff, who has a nice list of credits, covered a good part of the world but concentrated on the US and one beekeepr,  Fred Jaggi, the dear man in the photo with the  straggling beard, a third generation beekeeper in what appears to be Bavaria or the Austrian Alps. (He speaks German), nothing in the film identified the place more specifically.  Fred, like several other bee keepers who made an appearance in this film loves his bees and is deeply distressed when they become infested with bee mites or with diseases.

The film shows, as did one I saw about two years ago, the demise of the bee due to industrial and other kinds of pesticide spraying.  Twice in the film Einstein was quoted as saying "If the bees disappeared mankind woudl die in four years." The seccond time the quote was"forty years.? Whichever, the point is that at lesat a third of all human food depends upon pollenation by bees. I'm undercertain why I should expect Einstein to be an expert on the matter.

As in the film I saw before, there is a "migratory" bee keeper who has a couple of big semi-trailor trucks. He takes his bees to the thousands of acres of almond grovea in California's Central Valley every spring to pollinate. About 70% of the world's almond crop grows in that concentrated area and they have no native bees thanks to fungicidal spraying that is done regularly. Mr. Migragory comes across as a business man supplying a need for a price. He takes his bees elsewhere, as far as North Dakota. This is not natural for the bees, they are, in effect, little buzzing robots as far as this guy is concerned. He talks money.  period.

Other bee keepers in the film cares deeply about their bees and are disturbed by the  colony collapse and other problems, not only for financial reasons but for these incredible creatures. Most notable to me in the film were two things: in China there are large areas that grow fruit trees where there are no bees due to heavy use of chemicals for agricultures. So they gather pollen and actually hire human beings to take delicate paint brushes and dab pollen on the fruit tree blooms.  One can imagine how labor intensive that is.

Secondly one bee keeper noted that the so called "killer bees" that come from Africa and are "threatening" the US after having been transported to Brazil and after relentlessly migrating north, crossing hte border (without visa)  are causing all kinds of panic among Americans in the Southwetsern states. They are called "Killers" they are "black", they are "a menace", etc.  This bee keeper points out that in fact, they are not more dangerous than local American bees, their "work ethic" is just as commendable and the color of their bodies has nothing to do with their efficiency in pollination.  They are as communal and no more dangerous (apt to sting people to death) than any other bees.  Sounds like a certain kind of bigotry that has been all too rampant down around the border of late.

It was an interesting doumentary, well worth seeing.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Spring - the cruelest season

Last week we "sprang forward with Day Light Saving time, and this week the robins are back, as well as the geese and all kinds of birds that twitter loudly at the crack of dawn.  Although Eliot wrote that "April is the cruelest month, around here, in New England it's not just April, it's the whole season.  We cannot expect the occasional warm days to return tomorrow. It's sun and rain and bits of snow and chilly and green grass and spring flowers that often get battered by sudden cold winds. Spring comes little by little. The lawn I look out at is green; there are wonderfully tiny little purple flowers and I'm sure soon dandelions will pop out. The forsythia bush has had fattening buds for some time but it seems foresighted enough to wait to burst into golden little flowers for a few more warm days yet. But every spring a week arrives when i discover that nearly every lawn on Pitchers Way, and on most other roads I travel has an abundance of forsythia which suddenly all turned golden.  Meanwhile the wonderful variety of homes along my favorite road, old 6A, two lane, twisting and turning and  two lanes only, each suddenly display their plantings of daffodils, crocuses, tulips, rhododendrons and soon, also the azeleas. Meanwhile from day to day it's impossible to know how to dress and whether or not to carry an umbrella.  This has been going on all of March and will continue, truly right though the first of June. It's not until July that summer really comes, dependably, although by then the hydrangia will have been glorious in all its variations from pink to blue to mauve, to purple and the roses will be pink and red and white.  It's beautiful, we take it as it comes.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Oscar winning documentarian does it again

Oscar winning documentarian, Alex Gibney, has taken on Scientology, fully knowing he would be harassed and slandered -- and he has been. He can't stand tyrants and he clearly sees (shows graphically) the similarity between David Miscavage, head of the Church of Scientology, and Hilter -- at least for those of us who have been taking a documetary class for a few years and saw Leni Reifenthal's Triumph of the Will.

Going Clear: the Prison of Belief shows the steps of mind control that lead to physical control used by the organization which acquired its definition as a "church" in order not to pay taxes by getting members to institution hundreds of suits against the IRS -- so many that the IRS decided it couldn't afford to fight the suits and gave in.  This boggles my mind! So does much else in the movie although I read an expose that says many of the things Gibney says, seeing the mass rallies (looking and sounding SO much like the rallies in Nuremburg!) and listening to people who look intellilgent and "ordinary" talking about how they were drawn into the organization, and not so ordinary people like Tom Cruise and John Travolta, is very, very effective ... and scary.

I had read only a few pages of Dianetics, L.Ron Hubbard's tome that drew in the first batch of believers -- and found it unreadable.  I read only a little of one of  his 1000 science fiction pot boilers to say, "this is crazier than even the Theosophists' view of the many layers of reality beyond earth". There were many scenes of Hubbard, it was clear he was neither charismatic nor holy but narcissistic and crazy.  I just read a short but insightful interview with Gibney from the Guardian (British paper) in which he speaks of understanding the amount of mind and physical control the organization holds over members.  (search Gibney and Guardian to find it)

Like so many political tyrants in the world, we see that the organization puts it's members to work, physical work and clerical, control work, for a top salary of $40 a week, meanwhile the worth has grown to over a billion dollars, largely because of real estate investments around the world - this, of course, is entirely contrary to the laws that govern holding the tax status of a church. Yet, having been cowed once, the IRS seems to ignore the whole thing.  The movie was made last year, I was unaware of its existence, I don't know if it's been shown many places in the US but Lili, the coordinator of the documentary series, was able to get it from the Cape Cod library system. It is probably available on Netflix, it may have been shown on HBO.