Thursday, September 30, 2010

Always Something New

Sometimes I think my head is bursting with information. Other times I think I know very little ... certainly about some important parts of the world. I have read what I could about the horseshoe crabs that wash up on "my" [because it's where I walk although it's a conservation area] beach but I only know a little. I have been gathering the poor dead creatures together in bunches, it seems fitting for such a venerable species that they not lie randomly scattered on the beach. Probably that's an act of a fey old lady but it gives me satisfaction.

When I went out this morning for my walk I paused and decided not to take my camera -- of course when that's the decision I always wish I had it. Yesterday and today there were spines that I think must be from eels, they are a kind of rope of disks and lie gracefully curved on the sand. I have not seen them until yesterday and there were a couple more today. I should have taken a photo, maybe next time. Snakes scare me and these are serpentine and eels are too snaky for me to feel comfortable. But these bones have great grace and beauty, I would kind of like to bring one home but would need to wrap it in a kerchief, which I also didn't have. My ignorance is actually boundless.

Last evening after what is a forming habit, at least for the fall months, of Wednesday night dinners when Rachel and I take turns cooking for one another, we walked Molly-dog in the woods around Hathaways Pond and noticed mushrooms sprouting up all along the path. Most were gray/white but these red ones look absolutely lethal -- although I do not know how to tell except that I trust the ones in the packages in the supermarkets, some of which I will have at dinner this evening. Did I say boundless ignorance? There were LBBs at her feeder, I have to call all little brown/black birds LBBs because I don't know their names. It's humility pie for me today.

Monday, September 27, 2010

China Syndrome?

I am in the midst of personal histories of Chinese artists [dancer, singer] born in the '60s who have made good. Last night I saw the new movie about Li Cinciou [I may be spelling that wrong] who was randomly selected out of a poor village school to go to Beijing to learn to be a ballet dancer. He became good enough to be chosen by visiting artistic director of the Houston Ballet Company to study with them for six months. The cultural shock was great but at the end he decided to marry a girl he'd fallen in love with and to defect. There is a fine dramatic scene in the Chinese embassy when he is held against his will and the Houstonians refuse to leave, the lawyer pulls strings and gets the press involved and the Chinese are forced to free him. Of course things change in China and although he isn't allowed to go back, finally his parents are brought to see him dance [it's The Rite of Spring -- talk about culture shock!]. Dancing is beautiful, especially a Don Quixote. The story was as expected-- for me the movie is about the dancing.

A few days ago I picked up a book that's been on my to-read shelf for a couple years, Leaving Mother Lake, the story of an illiterate girl of the Moso tribe in the Eastern Himalayan region in Yunnan who became a popular singer in China. The small tribe is matriarchal and very poor but live a peaceful and ordered existence although some of the other tribes in the region are more traditional and warlike. Of course the revolution comes but mostly they are so poor there are no "class enemies" for the soldiers to arrest or humiliate.

Christine Matthieu obviously did the writing and tells the story dramatically in Erche's voice with considerable skill. I was first drawn to this book because I visited that area and visited a Miaou tribal village and the home of Joseph Root, the American botanist and ethnographer employed by National Geographic who lived in the area about 30 years and is talked on in this book. Very often when I read I am either very glad I have visited that part of the world, or wish all the time I'm reading I could go there.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Saturday Summary #19

Children between the ages of 9 and 12 who get regular aerobic exercise have larger basal ganglia than sedentary children. The basal ganglia is responsible for "executive function", controlling emotions. These children also have bigger hippocampi which are involved in complex memory. The two areas interact making the child more "reasonable." In terms of physically active, this is not talking about hyperactive children.

But what about adult brains? The anterior cingulate cortex is an area that reacts to physical pain. It has been found that it also reacts to emotional pain like acute embarrassment. Lately it's been found that acetaminophen which we know can blunt physical pain [we're talking Tylenol and generics here] has now been shown to also blunt emotional pain. So the next time you call your spouse by your boy/girl friend's name, take a Tylenol -- or maybe give your spouse the Tylenol.

But in terms of things you want to preserve forever, like childhood photos [home videos?] important papers, there is a Swiss bank that, for only $399, will store your memorabilia in a vault that is guaranteed to withstand nuclear attack.

"Bacha posh" is the Dari [and Afghan language] for a girl who is raised as a boy. This is a long established practice that cuts across social and economic lines. Families with several girls and no boys will dress one girl as a boy, send her to school, let her chaperons her sisters as a boy would, etc. The only twist is that when they find a husband for her, she has to take off the shalwar kemise and put on a skirt like the other girls and revert to all the strictures of being female. We can imagine what a psychological shock that has to be.

Dollar stores are thriving beyond the success of many other kinds of retail outlets, including the big box stores. They especially are selling food items and believe it's the "end of the month" problem of people running out of money before the next paycheck. Stores like Wal-Mart are attempting to compete by having many items packaged for them in smaller sizes so they can sell them at dollar store prices.

A story I liked but can hardly believe: in 1860 a possibly mad scientist had the idea that whalers could attach glass vials of prussic acid to their harpoon and quickly poison their prey. A ship off Iceland was equipped with such loaded harpoons, a whale was discovered, the harpoon shot accurately and it sunk deeply into the whale which immediately sounded [dived deep]. Within some minutes it floated back up to the surface, quite dead. The whalers on that ship were so appalled they chose never to use a poisoned harpoon again. I guess it took all the fun out of the hunt. Perhaps they also needed some Tylenol.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

End of Summer - a Dawn to Remember

"The dawn came up like thunder..." said Kipling. I would say this one came up like a gospel chorus singing "hallelujah!"

These three pictures are all the same dawn reading from right to left. I was not quite so stunned that I couldn't grab my camera and take three pictures to capture the whole sky. My view is broad and curves in a little at the left. As you see the whole sky blazed.
And so the last lovely day of a lovely summer began. And a lovely autumn is entirely possible.

I have read this was the warmest summer on record for the northern hemisphere. I know many people suffered from the heat but I did not. I loved this summer.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Kunitz poem, The Abduction

I am taking a class studying four contemporary poets, the first is Stanley Kunitz whose work I like very much but have not read in depth. It is a large class with a great deal of discussion -- not exactly a lecture -- by the very erudite "coordinator" -- a man who likes Kunitz very much. He clarified the poems we read last week for me. Today again, several poems explicated helpfully. He was about to skip over "The Abduction" but one of the women in the class wanted some discussion. The poem was assigned as part of our reading to show Kunitz in a somewhat mystical mode which the teacher does not especially care for.

Near the beginning of the halucinatory first part are these lines:
... when you stumbled out of the wood,
distracted, with your white blouse torn,
and a blood stain on your skirt.

The teacher did not make much of this image. One woman said she found it horrifying, as it described a rape to her. I had felt exactly the same thing as I read it. There was slight discussion but it was largely passed over. When the class was over the woman sitting beside me said she read it as a rape also. I went to the woman who had made the remarked and said two of us agreed. Immediately two other women nearby also agreed. As the class ended I said to the teacher that several of the women very much agreed with the first one -- we all thought the lines describe a woman who has been raped. He was open minded but said it had never occurred to him before.

I am stunned that a person who reads carefully seeking meaning as this man does, should not even think the image was a woman who has been raped. For heaven sakes -- a woman stumbling out of the woods, is not making a fashion statement with her torn blouse and blood on her skirt! What about the title of the poem?

Occasionally the vast distance between men and woman catches me by surprise. I expect intelligent and sensitive men [surely a retired professor of literature is a sensitive man] to be attuned to such overt signs of a woman's violation. But apparently not. Here we are fifty plus years after The Feminine Mystique and even thoughtful men are still blind.

Beyond this discovery of blind spots, the class is fascinating both for the poems we are reading but because there are about 35 people in it and the average age is something around 75. These are people who have been taking poetry writing classes and who have learned to truly think about poetry and how to read it. They are not settled comfy into watching golf and playing bridge. They have active and acute minds and read real literature. It's wonderful to look around and listen to their interjections about their own readings of lines and poems. This is what continuing education can do for "the best and brightest".

Monday, September 20, 2010

Simon Boccanegra, Verdi

Today's opera in my ALL class was Simon Boccanegra, an opera Verdi wrote at the very center of his life, age 44 [he lived to 87]. The picture above is Placido Domingo in the title role and I would have preferred to see a DVD of this Royal Opera House performance. Instead they showed a Met 1987 performance with Domingo as the young lover, Adorno - a lesser role. I have heard this opera many times on Met Saturday broadcasts and never paid much attention to it because it lacks the beautiful arias of earlier Verdi and it is very political - which is mainly meaningless simply in Italian on the radio. But on DVD it becomes clear why this was a success [the second time around, actually] -- it has a political message of peace that becme an extremely grand finale.

The Italian peninsula [and Spain also] was for many years so torn with warring families, with the ideas of honor and vengeance, that peace was very hard won. This was a major theme of Verdi's in many of his operas. Oddly, in this opera the tenor has a small role, while Boccanegra and two other important characters are baritones -- it gives a ponderance and foreboding to the entire opera -- there is no lightness, not even in the love duet. No wonder I've never listened to it carefully before. I'm so glad I'm taking this class that shows these DVDs and in a way forces me to watch operas I've ignored. I've now seen Simon Boccanegra and may never see it again but am happy to have it in my memory and to understand it at last.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Saturday Summary #18

The word "bling" hadn't been invented in 1987 when Liberace died of AIDS; but his lifestyle was the very essence of bling; the rhinestone covered piano, the mirrored Rolls Royce and his costumes, on and off stage! He shimmered and glittered and sparkled when he moved. His shiny effects are on display in a museum in Las Vegas where he epitomized the over the top bling of the place. But the light is going out; the museum will be closed. From an attendance of 450,000 a year it's now down to 50,000 a year. His fans are dying off and lately it seems even the idea of bling is getting tarnished. Ho-hum.

Freak wind storms occasionally attack certain areas of New York City. This week hundreds of trees, from young saplings to grand old historic trees in Queens and Brooklyn were uprooted. One woman was killed when a big one feel on her car but otherwise people were all right only the trees were lost. Two years ago an equally freaky wind uprooted about 500 trees in Central Park but most of the rest of the city was okay; a couple of years before I moved from there, a wind storm attacked the trees of Riverside Park -- not a very big park but vulnerable to wind off the Hudson -- felling a couple of hundred trees. In a different environment homes would be ruined, but the solid bulk of the buildings in New York protects the people [their purpose of course] It's sad to see trees disappear in an urban environment where they are such a necessary visual softener in the landscape.

Austria, which is a landlocked country about the size of Maine, is 2/3rd Alpine. The Austrians love their mountains and welcome tourists to share their outdoors. They have approximately 680 high peaks, 13,660 miles of downhill ski trails, over 10,000 miles of cross country ski trails and over 500 high mountain huts. I have been there and can attest that the there are also mountain restaurants one chances upon where a hearty bowl of soup and a cool beer is a great treat for a hiker or skier.

Wikipedia, as we know, can be added to and amended by anyone with information. Recently pranksters amended the biography of one Judge Roger Vinson by including the "fact" that he is great outdoorsman who has shot three grizzly bears and had their stuff ed heads hung in his courtroom to show offenders what a tough guy he is. In fact,he has never hunted,let along killed a bear. Judge Vinson isn't happy with his bio.

Also not happy with Wikipedia are the heirs of Agatha Christy. In the 50+ years The Mousetrap ran in the West End of London, the actor who played the character who "done it" would always step out at curtain call time and ask the audience not to ruin the show for others by revealing the end. For the most part London critics and audience honored this injunction all those years so approximately 10 million people had the thrill of being surprised at the end. But on Wikipedia the plot is summarize and the ending reveled for anyone to read. Boo-hisss!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Our Love of Animals

While I was still contemplating my generalized love of animals I came upon this article from the Boston Globe which told me about Pat Stillman, an anthropologist who says "animals made us human". She means that early homo sapiens studied animals and came to understand much about them and thus understanding much about themselves. Babara King, another anthropologist at the College of William and Mary has a forthcoming book called Being With Animals. These thoughtful women point out that only homo sapiens cares for the infants of other species [think dogs, cats, horses, etc] and continues caring for them into their old age. These are, of course, our pets and our working animals and some of our food. Our relationships are very much a two-way street. We care for them and they care for us.

At a meeting this a few days ago a woman who had lived in Texas told a story of a neighbor of hers who came home late at night. Their dog was standing in the driveway, barking at them as they drove up -- which was very unusual for this particular dog. When they stopped the car, they saw that there was a rattle snake in the driveway near the garage door. The dog was warning them of danger. This is not an unusual story. I am thinking of this story because of yesterday's feelings about the horseshoe crabs -- which I think are partly dying of old age. The younger ones, I don't know -- perhaps some are molting, and not dying. I'm ignorant about the matter.

However, I notice that both the anthropologists in the article are women, and their thesis is not accepted by all. During my walk today I wondered if women were really the first hunters but stepped aside when the prey animals were found largely because they were often pregnant or toting a dependent baby, so let the men do the killing. I am not an anthropologist, I'm simply guessing. I also wonder if it was women who domesticated dogs and cats partly because both species are good hunters [who hasn't had a pet cat deliver a bird or chipmunk as a gift?]. I'm getting into an area of conjecture in which I have no expertise. My mind meanders along these thought paths when I take my walks. But a final thought -- why do we assume the artists of the cave art where clearly animals had been observed very acutely, were men?

[By the way the picture of pigs is just because I happen to like them.]

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Ancients are Dying

The giants among the horseshoe crabs are washing ashore -- I found 8 or 10 ten today that were 10 to 13 inches across. Which means they are the ancestors, 50 or 60 years old, their shells are like ancient bronze that turned deep brown, almost black, not green. I lay them among their much younger kin. They are dead and I rescue them as if I were walking a battlefield. I put them on higher ground among the youngsters. It is sad to lose the young ones who have not lived out a full life; but it is sadder still too lose the ancients, the ancestors -- The whole species are ancestors. They were floating in the seas when the dinosaurs were roaming the marshlands.
I was happy to see my dear old odd duck had been joined by ten friends -- well, others of his kind. I thought of my anthropomorphizing habits and remembered that when I read books by scientists who study primates or elephants or lions, they name their subjects -- not with numbers but with descriptive names. Then I thought the books I've read have been written no purely as scientific theses but as popular science and most of them have been written by women. Are we females THAT emotional? Well, yes, I think we are and what's wrong with caring about other creatures? Caring even about dead horseshoe crabs? No apologies here. And ducks -- of course!
No, I do not get emotionally involved in the lost lives of the inhabitants of seashells. There is a limit to my empathy, I must admit. But the beauty of the colors and patterns always delights me. The textural patterns, the slick insides and the crackled shells are a contrast only Nature does so brilliantly.

I met a man and dog on the beach today and remarked, "I think we have a few more weeks for walks." He answered, "I try to walk all year 'round. I bundle up in the winter." Isn't it wonderful how a chance comment by a stranger can be inspiring? Perhaps I will bundle up and continue my walks even in the cold. But I do think I require a little sun.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Saturday Summary #17

Camels were introduced into Australia in the 1840s to carry goods in the desert. Then railroads were built and many camels were let loose in the wild. They thrived and multiplied. 80% of the indigenous plants tasted good to them, they destroied water holes and fences. Now the Government wants to cull half of the wild camels; an entrepreneur or two wants to turn them into steaks. The most likely market would be in Saudi Arabia or other Middle Eastern countries that already have a taste for camel. We American have been introduced to emu burgers, maybe we're next -- the meat is low in cholesterol.

Plumpy'nut is a nutritious paste that comes in foil packets, its base is peanuts to which basic nutrients are added. It was invented by a French doctor named Briend as a way to provide nutrition to malnourished children and is distributed by UNICEF and other food aid NGOs. It is literally a life saver. Dr. Briend has the patent but takes no income from the product which is manufactured largely in Africa. A packet a day has been something of a miracle for many children. It tastes good too.

More about food: The largest percent of the food eaten by American is produced by four giant companies, JBS, Tyson, Cargill and Nat'l Beef Packaging. 89% of the smaller hog farms have disappeared in the last 30 years, 40% of the cattle ranches are gone. One result of factory animal farming is nitrate filled run-off into water ways all over the central part of the country. And considerable stink in some regions as well.

In fact, "dead zones" exist in US coastal and Great Lakes waters -- these are areas with so little oxygen fish and plants cannot live there. The largest is in the Gulf of Mexico. In the '80s it was 2500 sq. miles. in '09 [before BP oil spill] it had grown to 12,719 sq. miles. Large dead zones are developing off Oregon and Washington as well. These are largely due to the waste and fertilizer run off.

On a lighter note, it's about time for the world's largest annual fair: Octoberfest in Munich, Germany. 5 to 6 million people attend the 16 day blow out. I think the amount of beer consumed is so staggering figures weren't published, likewise for wursts eaten.

Women in the Army [approx. 15.5% of soldiers] are going to look spiffier. Until now they have had to make do with uniforms designed for men; finally the Army plans to have woman sized and shaped uniforms designed and made -- they will recognize that women have breasts not just chests, and usually hips broader than their waists.

Apparently the media mongering madman who wanted to burn Korans today has been muzzled -- after doing all the damage he could to America's shaky credibility as a tolerant country. However, the US Dept. of Defense is going to do it's own book burning -- well quieter destruction, having bought all 10,000 copies of the first edition of "Operation Dark Heart", a memoir by a former intelligence officer who spills some dark bits the Defense people think the American people in general don't need to know about. What we don't know is the scary part.

On the subject of unknown facts: Japan, known for reverence toward ancestors, seems to have lost 234,000 of their over-100s, many of whom are receiving pensions. Careful scrutiny of records shows that at least 77,000 of the missing people are over 120, and 888 over 150. Someone decided that couldn't be right and started looking carefully. Among the things they found was a mummified man thought to be 111, the oldest person in the prefecture of Saga. According to his daughter and granddaughter he went to bed after a family fight in the late 1970s and never came out of his room. Nobody seems to have checked on him but the did cash the pension checks. Such stories are multiplying, No one over 120 has spoke up and made his presence known.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Piano Concert by 102 year old

Last night I heard a piano concert Gertrude Matthews, 102 -- her years add up to more than her weight, I think. She was a tiny lady, bent a bit as one would expect but her hand were long fingered and obviously both strong and supple. She played loudly and bouncily -- piano bar type music, i.e., mostly show tunes. I believe she does a frequent gig at her winter town, Palm Beach, Florida, actually playing piano in a lounge. She is on Cape Cod for the summer months.

The main room was set up as a caberet and food was served, also wine. Proceeds of the concert went to the local National Guard to provide needed food to service men's families while the men are deployed in Iran or Afghanistan. So Gertrude also played the anthems of all the armed services and everyone sang along. It as a bit hard to stop her so there could be an intermission. And then at encore time she seemed unlikely to every stop. Well, why not? At 102 how many more times are you going to have a room full of singing, clapping audience more than willing to tell you that you are remarkable? Who wouldn't milk the occasion for all it's worth.

I found the man who did most the introductions condescending speaking of our "young lady" -- why do people think they need to do that? She knows how old she is and is probably proud of it. Couldn't he say "our grand lady"? Why deny age? She denies it through her energy, we can all envy her and hope for some of that pep if we make the century mark.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Summer's Over

It's September on the beach.

Where have all the people gone?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Definitely a new season

At 6:15 the sun is still behind the trees. The air is cooler all night and still in the morning. School is open. Many summer visitors are gone -- quite a few fled at the warnings of Hurricane Earl just before the Labor Day weekend and won't be back. I walked on the beach about noon yesterday; the wind was blowing so hard I cut across the dune grass to the sheltered side of my walk. The waves had been loud and a little mean, the gulls were hunkered down on the sand, their feathers ruffled -- and that dear old duck I wrote about last week was among them stoic, waiting out yet one more bad day of a probably desperate life.

Little did I imagine when I came to Cape Cod about 16 months ago that I would look forward to fall and a return to "school." Indeed I do! I had a call from the man teaching a course called Four Contemporary Poets yesterday to tell me the first class reading list of Kunitz poems. He said I could get the Collected Poems from Amazon for $2. [Postage will be twice that] I may yet do it but I had magazines to return to the library so had a quick look and, Viola!, there it was in hardback on the shelf. I'll read my homework over the weekend. I am an impatient reader of difficult poetry -- mostly Kunitz is not difficult -- but we will also study Charles Wright who I've had trouble reading. I forget the others at the moment. I hope to learn some new appreciation tools.

Meanwhile I'm going through what I want to say to my writing class -- basically what I said last year. I'm looking for writing samples, eager to look around the room at new faces -- some from last spring have said they will be there again and that's both flattering and happifying. Among things I positively never wanted to do, teaching was near the top of the list. Yet when I have something I love and can share with people who choose to learn I love it. Thus it was with teaching the class last spring. Thus it was eons ago when I was the only person in a small town who practiced yoga so I taught it for several years. So, it's back to watching the sun rise as I have breakfast and back to school too.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Where this Proud Elder Blogger Blogs

For many months I have been lurking on Ronni Barrett's Times Goes By blog [see side bar] which is well worth the lurk! But she also links to a long list of what she calls Proud Elder Bloggers and even has a feature called "Where Elders Blog" with pictures of their blogging grounds/corner/space/office. So I finally sent in a picture of my workspace which is above.

I hesitated for these several months, although I've checked out most of those whose spaces are on view, about sending in the picture partly because I was not sure I wanted to call myself a "proud elder blogger". Yes, I named this blog Big 7-0... to force myself to tell the truth about my age but, as I said a few posts ago, I'm not sure what to call myself when I call myself. I bit the bullet. I'm an elder, a blogger. How proud? I don't quite know. Opinionated, yes, and even judgmental, possibly too often. I kind of like the word "seasoned" but it leads me to think about garlic and rosemary and thyme ... ah, yes, thyme with it's pun. Then there's sage -- I like that spicy pun too.

Enough wordplay. I like red, as you can guess. I used to say blue was my favorite color and I do like blue and especially turquoise, also periwinkle but I think I like red even more. I like my MacBook because I can literally put it on my lap as I work or browse or read emails and blogs. The view out my window is not visible in the photo but it's mostly green and blue and sometimes goose and crow and various neighbors going to their cars in the parking lot. Sometimes the blue turns gray and wet and of course black. But in the morning it is sunrise of many sorts and colors.

So that's where this proud elder blogger blogs. I recommend both Ronni blog and the list of elder bloggers -- opinions and styles, geography and gender vary.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Saturday Summary #16

186 elderly and middle-aged chimpanzees have been living on Alamagordo AF Base in New Mexico in geodesic domes in a tropic-like habitate for about 10 years. They were retired there after years as lab subjects. Now scientist want to put them back to work in new tests for a vaccine against hepatitis C. One observer said, "These chimps have given up their freedom, their bodies, their health and their children to research." It's not unlike recalling, again and again, national guardsmen for deployment to the Middle East.

Not only in the Middle East, with it's oil fields, but all over the world the total extent of oil pipe lines is over 136,000 miles -- long enough to circle the globe 14 times. Breaks and oil spills are so common they rarely make the news.

More or less in that part of the world, in Amritsar, India a Sikh temple runs a free food kitchen that serves up to 80,000 people A DAY and often twice as many each weekend day. All the labor is volunteer. They have a roti [flat bread] maker/baker device that is 20 feet long which begins by grinding the grain and eventually spits out fresh bread; it runs almost continuously. People are served a vegetarian plate with dal [lentils] and rice

Meanwhile back in the US: On average people get 1.5 hours less sleep a night than people did a century ago. 1 in 5 people claim to have insomnia. The NIH spends $260 million a year on sleep research, while Ambien and Lucasta each spend that much on TV advertising in one season. FFI [fatal familial insomnia] is one of the rarest diseases known; it affects only 46 families in the world -- usually in their 50s the affected people begin to be unable to sleep at all. They die within a year. Lab rats which are totally sleep deprived also die very quickly. Said Dr. Wm. Dement, a retired sleep researcher, "As far as I know, the only reason we sleep that is really, really solid is that we get sleepy." As a poet said, "the world is too much with us," -- when we're awake.

Sarcopenia is a disease in which strength of muscle declines, it is comparable to osteoporosis, loss of bone mass. Both are natural processes of aging. Thus a 60 year old man has 30% less muscle strength than he had at age 30. Women's strength declines even faster, at 60 they have 50% less strength than at 30. Both osteoporosis and sarcopenia can de delayed, although not entirely avoided, through diet and exercise.

The great majority of physical and mental research on which we base our perception of what is normal [and/or possible] for human beings is done by scientists in developed countries, essentially North American and Europe, their subjects are in those same countries -- thus most of what we presume to know about the mental and physical characteristics is based on only about 30% of the people in the world. This is somewhat analogous to the now much deplored [but not entirely reversed] practice of reaching scientific and medical conclusions based only on tests involving men and not women. It follows that how we define "normal" is skewed and, in fact, arrogantly First World-centric.
And a bit about a still remembered 97 pound weakling, once named Angelo Siciliano, who made himself into Charles Atlas. At the height of his celebrity he was invited to all sorts of events, including to a birthday party for FDA at the Waldorf Astoria hotel, and a party in Paris given by Elsa Schiaparelli [at which he stripped off his shirt to show his chest]. He was on radio with Fred Allen and Eddie Cantor, on TV with Bob Hope. Among people who purchased [and presumably used] is dynamic-tension body building program were Joe Dimaggio, Rocky Marciano, King George VI of England and Mohandas Gandhi! More recently the system has been endorsed by Arnold Schwartzenegger. The system which originally, in the '40s, sold for $29.95 has avoided inflationary pricing and today costs all of $49.95. Also, apparently, he was a really nice guy, a family man who lived a straight-arrow life, if he suffered sacropenia, it wasn't evident. Sometimes I like to end on a positive note.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Waiting fo Earl

It's coming! It's a big one! Better watch out! Prepare. Take care. Be alert!

The news mongers are at their happiest, shouting about possible disaster, telling us they know more about the evil forces of Nature than we do. Telling us to stock pile water and food and to hold our breath and wait for the approach of the dragon -- a hurricane advancing through the sky, following the coast of our continent, spewing his nasty rains and whipping up the winds aiming to ruin our property, definitely ruining the last summer holiday weekend for everyone who listens to the firey breath of the weathermen.

I've heard it all before, more often in my experience, about blizzards. Some, indeed, came with crippling force. I know about those demons of Nature, I was a child of the Midwest where every spring brought tornadoes somewhere nearby. Then we drove the fifteen or sometimes fifty miles to gaze at uprooted trees and roofless barns and houses with limbs lying in the attic. I've dug my way out of four feet of snow in the driveway. I haven't experienced a truly big hurricane and I don't expect to in the next few hours. I don't like being told to go into panic mode. But the news is hanging in the air with all the humidity, it's a clammy irritant. And this complaint comes from a home without a TV, where I have turned the radio on only to the classical music station which gives very rare newscasts.

Sometimes I sense a pulsing of nervous tension in our whole society. Nothing is accepted as "just how things are". Everything must be dealt with. Does anyone ever accept, relax and go on about living?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Odd Duck?

Is this an odd duck, or am I simply inadequately acquainted with ducks? I've seen this guy, a loner, wandering on the beach the last couple of days. He is very dark and from a distance I thought he was a cormorant but his neck is too short for one thing. On shore he waddles like an old man with a rheumatic hip -- which I supposed could be an accurate diagnosis. He also seems lost. He is not bothered by me when I stalk him with a camera but he also is not very cooperative. I was happy when he went into the water and plunged his head down, came up chewing and swallowing something. At least he can forage successfully. He repeated this several times so I think he had a good breakfast today.

I have also been watching the sanderlings and am delighted to noticed that the tiny ones, which could fit in my hand easily are just as proficient at racing the tide at it's very line on the sand, where they rapidly plunge their long beaks into the sand, apparently getting small bites of something, as their larger cousins who probably hatched a week or two earlier and all are as proficient as the full grown ones -- they fly easily up and away when a human shadow falls nearby and all churn their little legs so fast they become a blur as they dash ahead of the incoming water. This is a performance I stop to watch often.

My bird watching has also included the inevitable gulls. I've lately been sad about a one legged fellow. [Of course I'm using the masculine gender throughout this post as I learned to do in the days before "politically correct" shifts from he to she. I DO know we females uphold half, at least, of the species]. Birds and animals seem not to know self-pity, they just go about living as best they can when a leg is destroyed and, probably happily, they are not aware as we would be, that this makes them more vulnerable to other disasters.