Friday, December 23, 2016

Cuddle Up with a Good Book

Winter evenings are an extra pleasure because the early darkness seems to be permission -- someone with a serious work ethic sometimes needs permission to do something  relaxed and entirely personal -- to settle down not long after dinner and read for several hours.  I loved to draw the curtains, settle on the sofa with a cozy throw over my legs and work my way into and through a good book.

GOOD is the important word here.  I decided within weeks of finishing college to continue my education with reading -- all kinds of reading -- books, magazines -- novels, nonfiction, poetry ... but GOOD ones. I have avoided a certain kind of "good" that many people enjoy very much: mysteries and adventure (TRUE adventure is excluded).  Long ago I came to know myself well, at least in the area of needing to parcel my time. I'm sure I would enjoy good mysteries and there are quite a few good mystery writers. But those books are a kind of time-filler that gives very little back. I studiously avoid the so called "women's literature" and even more so the suddenly very popular "YA" (young adult) books. They also give almost nothing back.

I am hungry as I've always been for insight, depth, for new discoveries, for worlds I do not live in (and I don't mean fantasy worlds, although I've made exceptions, especially for Tolkien). I'm interested in how other people live and what their part of the world is like and what social mores they live within. And I'm interested in just about all science (that's not so deep I'd need more education than I have to even know the vocubulary).  The world is full of GOOD book, the kind I want to read.  And there are novelists whose work always interest me. I am a slow reader but I rarely forget a book I've read.  I read "to kill time" only when I'm stuck in a waiting room without a book of my own.  Why should I "kill time" when I have only so much time in my life?

I have read three excellent novels in the last couple of weeks, Peter Matthiessen's "In Paradise", Roberto Bolano's "The Skating Rink" and Sherman Alexie's "Reservation Blues." They have takenme places I could not go otherwise.  Matthiessen's is set in Auschwitz (which, in fact, I could have gone to when in Poland but chose not to), Bolano took me to a small town near Barcelona and a group of people I would not meet if I visited there, and Alexie took me again (as in earlier books of his) to the Spokane Reservation in Washington among Native people I cannot get to know otherwise.  Then I made a mistake: I picked up Elizabeth Berg's "The Art of Mending" at a thrift store because I have heard other women speaking of discussing her books at their book clubs. Maybe I'm missing something, I thought, so I read the book.  It was like following a delicious three course dinner with a dessert of underbaked formerly frozen apple pie.  I won't say more except that once again I knew why I don't belong to book clubs and don't read "women's lit."

Now and then someone tells me (or hints, sometimes politely) that I'm a book snob. I know how they feel, it's the way I feel when listening to a gourmand describing a wonderful new restaurant. I'm just not that interested in fancy food.  So I shrug -- I enjoy what feels like brain food to me. Others enjoy light reading, maybe need, or maybe simply haven't discovered that books can show you worlds even more exciting and deep than the best TV or movies.  Or so I think.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Magnificent acting

Harold Pinter's play No Man's Land  was simulcast, live, yesterday and shown at the Cape Cinema, to a very sizable crowd. Pinter is not easy to understand and in this case I simply didn't care, I suppose they could have been speaking almost any language. The pleasure of watching two of England's most experienced and brilliant actors was pure delight.  I think they have both been knighted. Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart make every moment they are on stage glow with their immersion in the roles. My son-in-law appreciates good acting and good plays but he thinks of McKellen as Gandolf (from Lord of the Rings) and Stewart as Dr. something (Picard?) from Star Wars. I think of McKellen as Richard III and Stewart as the kind of older man who I REALLY would like to know.  Two other characters in the play were acted by Damien Molony and Owen Teale, Molony introduced as Stewart's son and Molony as a butler. Just who they all are is a question my thoughtful  son-in-law answered on the way home as "all the same person at different ages" and that is very likely right although I am going to read some commentary when I get a bit of time and see if others agree with him. 

I admit to an elitist taste in theatre, and as I've noted before, I do not own a TV and go only to movies that are somehow more than "just entertainment". The almost stunning complexity of the conversations between the two stars doesn't necessarily tell a graspable story, some of it is Pinter's love of language and playfulness with it.  The physical interplay, sometimes subtle, sometimes broad, was at a level that is very rare in New York theatre but a trademark of the English style. The simulcast format actually gives viewers around the world a clearer look at the nuances of their facial expressions that one is like to see from most theatre seats). 

This gives me enough joy to keep me smiling until the next simulcast, Amadeus on February 2nd.  I feel enormously lucky to live an easy drive from the art cinema that brings National Theatre Live and also brings live performances from the Metropolitan Opera and from the Bolshoi Ballet.  All affordable as they would not be in their cities of origin.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Cold -- bodily invasion

I'm a very lucky person.  I haven't had a cold for two or three years.  (I've never had the flu -- therefore don't get flu shots).  I realize how very, very lucky that is. But a cold hit me last week.  Most people don't have to be reminded of the progression of a typical cold. Nor do I.

This one surprised me.  Suddenly I was sneezing, within a short time my nose was dripping, my sinuses were suddenly very obviously there aching and bloating like a personal size tsunami.  Several hours of that and then the cough. I sounded like an ailing camel.  (I've never actually been around an ailing camel but I've been near groaning and complaining camels and can imagine that if those sounds were multiplied into serious discomfort and not just the habitual annoyance that is pat of the beast's DNA, that's what I my coughs sounded like.) In short, I felt lousy.

So I skipped a lecture I had hoped to hear and came home, had some tea and some soup and a hot steamy bath.  I swallowed a horrible supposedly cherry flavored decongestant, took a Tylenol PM and went to bed and slept for eleven hours.  I haven't slept that long in so long I can't even imagine what event could have sent me to bed for such a sleep.  I woke up "cured".  So I thought and felt.  Nose and sinuses entirely clear. Cough mostly gone.  A miracle cure! Obviously I needed that rest.

Not truly a miracle because the cough hid out somewhere in my chest and barked like a large dog outside the door wanting in, but it was not persistent.  Of course, it tended to come at inconvenient times but it didn't last long -- a few sips of water and a cough drop or piece of hard candy fixed it for  several hours.  My nose didn't entirely give up dripping, but, it too, is only occasionally in need of a Kleenex.  And the sneezing has stopped.   I'm not a 100% cured, but it's merely an impolite occasional reminder that, hey -- I'm not all that special. The cold germs can still attack.  Yes, they can, and, yes, I respect them and henceforth will remember that a really good night's sleep is a curative thing. 

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Birthdays

A double birthday party!  My great-grandson, Cole and his dad, Jason,  (no one named Brooke -- that's just the handy illustration). Jason's birthday was this week and Cole's will be next week but the party was this afternoon before some of the family had to go to a church function. Cole is my second great-grandson; so, there's an older brother and a little sister and a littler brother.  This is a family that seems to be in some competition about large families. A generously sized family you might say. These kids have a big compliment of relatives. On the grand side there's me and my ex-husband (who doesn't live close enough for such parties). The whole quartet of grandparents were there. Plus most of the cousin. One of Jason's sisters also has four kids, of similar ages, and another has two. And an absent sister has three.  Jason and Cori live in their first house, not a large one but with a playroom in the basement and sufficient bedrooms for everyone. 

It was crowded and noisy although it was a controlled chaos. Without undue authoritarianism from any of the adults, all the children obey when asked to sit down or go to the play room. The only crying came when one bumped her head and the two babies whimpered as babies do. Cole's gifts were heavily Star Wars related and all were excited but when told to leave them in their boxes until after the party no one fussed. From what I understand of other families I think this is unusual. I'm old enough to be grumpy about rowdy kids. And also old enough to appreciate what I think is good parenting.  And wisely controlled chaos.

All day I have been celebrating another birthday that is not today, but the 16th of December. The classical music station I listen to is doing a Beethoven weekend. I always quietly celebrate the gift of Beethoven's music and appreciate that our all-classical radio station recognize his greatness and plays many, many of his works. The local station is not very adventurous in its programming but this afternoon they played his Choral Fantasy which I have not heard them play in the eight years I've lived here. As I write they are playing the 5th symphony. I want to hear many different classical pieces on the radio as a rule but a day of Beethoven immersion is a pleasure.  I am not a new-agey person who "celebrates" this and "honors" that in some mushy way; but I feel enormous gratitude that Beethoven (a head above other composers) had the genius, the utterly amazing creativity despite a very, very difficult life, to create such life affirming beauty. Many times when I was feeling unhappy about something I have listened to Beethoven's music and felt better knowing how find the human genius can be.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Winter arrives

Winter is here. No, no snow yet, but a wet, cold, gray day; no blue in the sky until late afternoon.  I'm sorry that autumn is over -- it was beautiful this year.

As I began to cook dinner, I closed the curtains, turned on the lights, felt a coziness that only comes in winter.  I wish I had a fireplace. But I can't complain, I've lived in houses with fire places and have enjoyed the blazing, crackling fires. I have no fireplace now and I am not a candle using person. However, the sense of enclosure, the curtains shutting out the darkness, the smell of dinner cooking. Winter pleasure, long evenings.  Often when dinner is done and the kitchen has been put to rights, I treat myself to a hot bubble bath, sinking as deeply into the water as possible. In two of the places I've lived the tubs were old fashioned, claw footed, so deep and long I could comfortably sink down, full length with bubbles up to my chin.  How beautiful that was.  Now  my tub in a modern skimy version, put there for the likes of those who would rather take a shower -- although in summer that's what I find I want.

Still, I  love a relaxing, meditative, sweet smelling bath before I unfold the warm throw and get the book out, turn on the reading lamp, settle in for a couple or three hours of reading.  I consider it a luxury that I DO NOT HAVE A TV.  No voices and advertisements and canned laughter distracts me from a good novel or serious book.  I love it.  I finished a book last night, before I go to pour a bath, I'll go to the "to-read" book shelves and pick out the next one ... all spur of the moment.  I have a serendipity moment. Something will seem to call out, "read me next."  And I will.  I think one must live alone to have such a luxury of a winter evening.  It will be three months, at least, before the light returns at dinner time.  How nice.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Pleasure of Foreign Films

I rarely got to American films, and when I do they are usually not the ones shown in the big cineplexes but the smaller ones shown in an art cinema that is a couple of towns away from me.  I enjoy films that have something to say and I do not enjoy films that depend on special effects. Mostly I enjoy foreign films and I have the pleasure of attending a film series at Cape Cod Community College which is not actually a course but a kind of gift to the community.  Every Tuesday afternoon at 3:30, in their largest lecture hall they show a foreign film. Often they are ones that have won a Best Foreign Film Oscar.  Many are many years old. They are shown throughout the fall and spring semesters, for fourtreen weeks. 

During the last three weeks I've seen the wonderful series Blue, White and Red which were filmed in 1994. They are a sort of trilogy but the stories are each different and each in a different country.  The director has the difficult to spell and pronounce name, Krzysztof Kieslowski -- obviously Polish. These are three of the most satisfying films I've ever seen because the stories are complex, the people are good although troubled.  Blue was the first about a woman whose composer husband has died and left an important commission unfinished. She is devastated by her loss but others know she has the ability to finish the composition. This movie takes place in Paris, the actress is the beautiful Juliette Binoche. The story has layers of complication I have not gone into.

The second, White, takes place mainly in Poland as a man whose wife has left him returns from Paris where they lived to the hair dressing business he and his brother shared.  He has found a Polish friend who helps him becomes rich (through some shady dealings) and he eventually devises a way to entice his bride back to him. This film has the most humor of the three. I think the Polish people tend to make fun of themselves the way others seem to do.

The third film which I saw yesterday and consider the best of the three takes place in Switzerland  as a model hits a dog that is in the street, delivers the dog to it's owner, a retired and dour judge who is deeply depressed.  The model befriends him while trying to live her not very successful life. The story is more complex than that sounds because each is a fascinating character.

If these sound like stories that lack the usual excitement and fast paced drama of American movies that is exactly their appeal to me. I believe the three can be purchased from Amazon and possibly can be seen on Netflix. The older I become the more I feel that I cannot waste my time simply being entertained by movies or books.  (I have chosen not to have a TV since 1989 -- yes! -- and I miss it very little.) For me stories -- in literature and movies and drama are wonderful and exciting, but only the ones that actually have something to say.  That are well done.  I am very choosy about how I spend my time.  I think that is an important part of staying interested and alive as one ages. 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Our hearts

Here's a picture of what your heart doesn't really look like - it's a (probably) plasltic model but it gives you an idea.  Your actual heart could be held in your hand. It's  larger than a big apple and smaller than mango -- and messy, soft, wet and attached to arteries.  I hope never to see my actual heart.  I think most people feel the same.

When she was younger than I now am, my mother had a very major heart attack. The doctors and nurses sent us home from the hospital saying she would not wake up and they'd let us know when she was gone. They didn't.  She revived, had triple by-pass surgery and lived another seven years. Her recovery was difficult and lengthy. Of course, I think about that often and am thankful (this IS Thanksgiving) that I not only had a different lifestyle -- because our circumstances changed -- and have good cardiac care both from doctors and self-administered in the sense of exercise and diet.

This is on my mind today because yesterday a friend, Anna, about my age, emailed me about her heart valve replacement that occurred earlier this week. Now, heart valve replacement is somewhat less drastic than the need for transplant, I only sort of understand all this. What I do understand is that my friend wrote of having her valve replaced without surgery. I somewhat understand the procedure she experienced. About 10 years ago I had a 60% blocked artery, a stent was placed in the artery to keep it open. This replacement was done while I was awake, mildly sedated, as a catheter was threaded from a vein in my groin up into my heart. This still sounds incredible to me but it did not take very long, they were able to watch on a video-ed sort of x-ray and knew exactly what they were doing. I wished I could see the video (I had seen the live video of a root canal operation and found it fascinating) but of course the monitor was where the doctors could see it and not I. The procedure took only a short time. I was rolled out and up to a room in the hospital and instructed to lie absolutely flat on my back and not move for about six hours. 

I write about all this because what Anna described as her valve replacement seemed to be almost the same thing but with a valve instead of a stent. In the intervening ten years a variety of improvements have probably been devised. I can kind of picture a tiny piece of metal being placed in an artery. I cannot picture how a valve could be affixed -- actually I cannot really picture heart valves --  But so it was. Anna, too, wished she could see what was happening. However, after a recovery period -- she didn't say how long  -- she was allowed to leave the hospital with her niece and they were able to go to dinner in the evening and even celebrate with a glass of wine. 

I am astonished by the seeming simplicity of this procedure. I am very happy for Anna. I supposed that being at one of Boston's several very excellent hospitals makes this kind of treatment  probably unavailable to many people who live in other parts of the country.  As a person with  diagnosis of heart disease, I am thankful such advances continue to be made. I am thankful that times  have changed, that so much more is known about how the body works and what we can do to maintain our own health. 

I wish that this kind of care were available for everyone. I know that for the vast majority of people in the world such things are beyond all possibility. On Thanksgiving I can be grateful I am where I am but I cannot forget, as I read the paper, which I did a short time ago, that in many places in the world people are in danger and have almost none of the comforts I have. We really must enjoy the feasts we will have today and the family and friends but never forget we are in a very big world with very many people who are not as lucky as we are.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Why I Don't Like THINGS

That is a picture of an antique iron, I think hot coals were placed in the bottom section.  I've never used an iron like this. I was given an iron, new circa 1956,  to take to college. It was a simple iron, no steam, a bit heavy. I used it until sometime when I already had two children and was living in the second house purchased as a family. Then the cord became so frayed it was a danger and I thought it time to invest in a steam iron. I like irons. They are simple tools with a simple purpose.  They have no real moving parts, they last and give me no trouble.

I do not like many other tools, gadgets and addtions to my household as much as I like irons.  Today I am almost  beside myself trying to put a new toner cartridge in my printer.  I had difficulty getting the used one out although in the past it has been easy to slip these cartidges in and out.  I suspect I've broken something.  I am contemplating taking the thing to a "genius" at Staples to have the cartridge inserted. This should not be happening.  It should not be difficult.  I REALLY, yes, REALLY need to print some things thing morning. As it happens the printer is large and unweildy (yes, there are smaller ones but this office model was given to me and it's a great printer.... most of the time.

I am not very happy with telephones or computers. I suspect they are way beyond my ability to comprehend what is going on in their teeny-tiny little innards. I have, at times, been deeply disgruntled with their glitches. The same goes for my sewing machine. Recently I "fixed" a problem or two on the sewing machine by taking off it's armor and, mostly just dusting out the lint that had accumulated around the bobbin case -- I  have been sewing as long as I have been ironing and I have never had to do that before. I'm not sewing more. The lint is accumulating more. Could it be the fabric?  I don't think so, I use good quality quilting fabric for the most part. Could it be the thread? I suspect so. Thread has many qualities and I pay far more attention to color than to thread material, weight and so on. 

Other things fail to work right that ought to be simple.  I know why the bathroom sink drain gets stopped up -- it's my hair. My hair is long and, in fact, it's a lot of places, like the  brush, the floor, and also the drain of the shower/tub.  At the moment I like it long but it causes these problems and I take responsibility for that.  But the faucet on my kitchen sink has to be turned just so or it will drip.  I have complained to the apartment management and a plumber as made minor adjustments but admitted that I need a whole new faucet and that must be requested with some tone of outrage.  (We won't go into the complications of living in an apartment complex owned by a family who are, as landlords tend to be, irksomely frugal -- we also won't go into my complaints about the exterior painter who left gobs of paint on my windows).  THINGS, as I said -- the word THINGS covers a large area. 

Mostly I'm an easy going person, I cope with the faucet, and the sinks as best I can. I think I'll get that irksome printer cartridge inserted this morning ... maybe after I get dressed and come back to it in a quieter frame of mind.  Or I'll have to go see the "geniuses" who will take pity on the white haired lady and be cheerful when they tell me I ought to get a new printer and save myself some money on the price of toner cartridges (while helping them earn a commission, I suspect).

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Tai Chi, et cetera

First was hatha yoga -- I discovered it at age 29, when fewer than half a dozen yoga teachers existed in the USA. I learned from books and taught it (completely uncredentialed) for a dozen years. Little did I know that in 40 years there would be "yoga studios" in every strip mall in the USA and so many variations on the original even the multi-armed Hindu gods couldn't have done all the positions.

I did yoga very seriously many years and less seriously about the same number of years and then I went to China and, in Shangri-la, (that was its recently acquired name --for touristic purposes) I broke my hip. When it was replaced I recovered quickly, being in good physical shape, but had acquired a fear of straining the new connections in my hip and stopped doing yoga. A mistake!

 A couple of years ago I took six weeks of tai chi at a senior center. Short form, long form -- it just didn't work for me although the teacher was a nice young woman. My feet wouldn't coordinate with arm and hand movements. Then I found Tai Chi Easy, a trade marked system being taught at the community college by a psychologist. It is perfectly named: EASY. Feet are planted firmly, upper body moves, weight shifts, breathing is coordinated. It's mediative and can be done in ten minutes or stretched out longer.  It feels good and is both relaxing and invigorating. I found, in the summer, when there are no classes, that I can find a quiet place on a somewhat secluded beach and practice this routine enjoying the sun and breeze and sparkle on the water and breathing the fresh ocean-scented air 

Last Saturday I went to a tai chi "demonstration" by a 70+ year old man who has begun teaching tai chi chih. (It seems tai chi, like yoga, is morphing into a variety of systems. I seems Americans can't ever take up something Asian without putting their stamp on it.) He will be teaching at the gym I belong to and also doing free hours at the local senior center. It's somewhat different from the "Easy" version but without the complex foot movements of the other one I tried. After the beginning of next month I'm going to go to his classes and learn his form.

I joined that gym, to which my daughter has belonged for years, to take yoga. I find myself weekly in a class that is labeled yoga but which has more Feldenkraist movements than yoga, plus a routine created by the teacher, a woman over 80 - she includes lots of free movement, dancing, some ki gong and a long relaxation period. She's a character, small, wiry, kind and has done just about every kind of exercise invented, I think. She is an example of "use it so you won't lose it."  And I couldn't agree more. Feldenkraist was a Jewish/Austrian man who developed a set of gentle movements that are to be repeated "to break down old holding patterns" and open joints.  Most of them are comfortable and subtle.  The spine and shoulders are special targets.  My shoulders are tight although my spine has always been strong.  My back rarely aches.

I've never enjoyed sports or any of the "equipment" exercises. I walked miles most days the thirty years I lived in NYC and love hiking (and trekking) and now am delighted to have a beautiful beach on which to walk and other paths nearby. I don't like the yoga that is being offered so many places -- I'll admit that's partly because in several years of not doing it, I've lost flexibility and strength. So I turn to the gentler Chinese/Asian systems.  They're ideal for an older body.  I'll be learning more in the next several months.  Happily, I need no equipment and they can be done in the living room when it's cold and snowy outside.

Monday, November 14, 2016

A Word for Everything

I just received a word that is so wonderful I have to share it before I write about the super moon:

kakistocracy

PRONUNCIATION:
(kak-i-STOK-ruh-see, kah-ki-)
MEANING:
noun: Government by the least qualified or worst persons.

ETYMOLOGY:
From Greek kakistos (worst), superlative of kakos (bad) + -cracy (rule). Ultimately from the Indo-European root kakka-/kaka- (to defecate), which also gave us poppycock, cacophony. Earliest documented use: 1829. 
 
The word would not exist if it had not been needed in the past. It is welcome to day! That is not much consolation. Since 1829 we, specifically, and the world, not only in general but in gigantic proportion, has suffered seriously due to terrible leaders (many of them with diagnosable mental diseases) although, I'm glad to say, with a share of good ones.  'nuff said.
 
I saw this great moon last night, as it was heading towards its greatest splendor which, I'm told came about in the wee hours this morning when it was at its perigee, (closest to the earth--30,000 miles closer than it is at its apogree). At something like 4:00 a.m. it was at its closest and seeming brightest. Actually I awoke (a fairly frequent occurrence, especially since the ritual clock adjustment). I got up to go to the bathroom (more reflex than necessity).  I didn't think of looking at the moon. Since all my windows look east, I would have had to go out into the parking lot to look up to see the western sky.  I wish I'd thought to do it but I was groggy enough to slip back into bed and sleep another hour and a half.  

Via the Old Farmers' Almanac I've learned it was called the "Beaver" moon by the Natives of this part of the country. Supposedly they hunted beavers before the critters got settled in their dams for the winter.  I have come to distrust a good bit of what I read about Indian life and habits.  I just read an academic book called The Ecological Indian by Shepherd Krech who emphasizes how the fur traders who wandered Northeastern US and Eastern Canada , inspired greed in the Indians who slaughtered the beavers nearly to extinction in the 1800s as beaver fur became prized in Europe. I have seen only one beaver in the wild (in Yellowstone) although they were once plentiful in New England. Mr. Krech also takes on deer and, of course, bison. It was a depressing book but enlightening. Yes, I find enlightenment can be a good thing but it also is very, very often depressing.
 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Spreading the seeds

Two photos of exploded milkweed pods.  The seeds which were attached to similar feathery bits of the pds in the top picture, have been blown away by the wind -- which is exactly what always happens. 

These photos are actually of the same plant -- two different stalks of it. The lower photo shows seeds still clinging -- those pods are lower down, have suffered less battering by the wind.

Like a few other formerly rural people, I remember at age 5 or 6, walking thorough weedy patches with a paper bag or maybe a pillow case, collecting the silky part of dry milkweed plants. It seems the fibers were used during WWII instead of silk for making parachutes.  At least that's what we were told. I supposed it kept us kids occupied for a couple of hours. I remember it was more fun to blow on the fluffy white bits and watch them waft away, than it was to put them in a container where they immediately seemed utterly inconsequential.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Annual change underway



When November approaches my days have a new rhythm.  I am up in time to watch the sun rise.  It may be pink or orange or some shades of both. I can drink my coffee and eat my breakfast as I watch the sky change.  The above sky was three days ago. It will never be the same but, except for totally gray mornings as today was, it will always be fascinating colors.

Yesterday was nicely warm after several cool day.  As I walked to the beach for what may be one of the last warm walks of the year, I stopped to smell the roses at a house that has a nice border. The fresh new one had wonderful, true rose scent; the one behind it was withering and will disappear with the next wind and rain.  I am always surprised how hearty some roses are here on the Cape.  Before long the frost and then snow will tell these beauties to sleep until the Prince in the form of spring sun comes to wake them again.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Pumpkin time

Every year a traditional New England style white church on Rte. 28 in Yarmouth, here on Cape Cod fills it's expansive lawn with pallets of pumpkins, from large to small -- a sea of orange with green paths between. It's a gorgeous, autumn sight. For years I've muttered that I must take a photo. Today I took a few, this is one that show the size and expansiveness of the display. 

Pumpkins are not a favorite food of mine and I'm not enticed by the various "pumpkin spice" flavoring being offered everywhere from Starbucks to Dunkin' Donuts. Nor am I a holiday fan of pumpkin pie.  I do love their brilliant color and enjoy driving past that church  all of October. 

There are now white pumpkins for sale in the grocery stores.  They seem like freaks of nature, possibly grown so people can paint extravagant faces on them. Or maybe just "because it can be done."  We never stop tinkering with nature. I can't help remembering the first line of a James Whitcomb Riley poem: "When the frost in on the pumpkin and the fodder's in the shock..."  Once America's most quoted poet, (early 20th century) now forgotten.  A Hoosier, so we read him in school back home in Indiana.  I find it satisfying to think about how quickly hacks are forgotten.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Autumn is here

The new header is rose hips -- the red from red roses (natch) and the yellow from white roses.  They are full of vitamin C and they make good jam. I've been told how to do it but I haven't and probably won't. I use very little jam. I understand they also can be the basis of good teas but that I probably won't do either as I mostly prefer a black tea or a peppermint one.  But they're pretty! I understand you can't dry them (they shrivel up) and use them for Christmas tree decorations which sounds lovely .... but, alas, impossible.

 I often chat a bit a man who goes to the beach I prefer to walk on for a long day of sunning on weekends.  He works during the week.  We are "regulars" as is a woman I often chat with too.  (She feeds the gulls.) This man wanders along the beach, sometimes collecting can and other junk to put in the garbage barrel as he leaves.  One day I saw he had a gallon-size plastic zip baggie of rose hips.  I asked if he or his wife planned to make jam.  He said, "No, they're for the rabbits."  He explained two little brown rabbits live at the far edge of his lawn and one day he had brought home some rose hips which is wife didn't want.  So he put them out for the rabbits to eat if they wanted.  They very much wanted!  They loved them. Now they come into the yard looking to the house waiting for rose hips which he keeps in the refrigerator and doles out sparingly.  He says they have even sometimes come up to the patio slider and looked in. 

UDDATE about the manatee:  She swam around for nearly a month and then was  caught and taken to a marine animal center in Mystic, Connecticutt where she was given a pool of water about 60 degrees, and examined. They found she was pregnant.  The last I heard the plan was to take her back to Florida. I hope she survives.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Hyannisport Manatee

A couple of days ago when I went for a walk on my favorite lesser known beach, I met a man  coming from the other end of the beach who told me there was a manatee -- it was up where "that last group of people" were.  I started walking much faster than usual but it was not to be seen by me --
however a small group of  boats were gathered in an area some distance out. I even saw a kayaker paddling in that direction so I believed the man had told me the truth but the manatee was happier far enough from shore not to be visible expect by boat and I was not sure the boaters saw him either ... although I don't know.  This was the second wayward manatee, so far as I know (I don't read the local paper athough I do hear local news on the radio) this summer.  And I heard that a year or two ago another manatee was in our waters, was captured by the appropriate rescue organization and was put into a tanker truck and sent back to Florida. Except that unfortunate beast died somewhere on the way.

I looked up pictures and some information about them -- I've never actually seen one -- and I wrote a somewhat silly little poem but I dis try to make a point about the changing climate and that it is messing up the lives of a great many kinds of animals -- also birds and, of course, quite a lot of humans as well.  Here is the poem.

The Hyannisport Manatee

He-she-it is the second this summer,
lost, paddling through oddly warm waters,
— how long can a manatee swim free
out in the depths of the sea?
Poor manatee hasn’t a cute wrinkle
on his baking-potato-like body
and yet you can’t help feeling sorry
for the critter from Okefenokee.

A year or two ago kind locals rescued another
—for all we know it could have been this one’s brother.
They put him-her-it in a big tanker truck
and headed down to Florida. But bad luck!
He-she-it gave up the fight, north of Georgia.
one sloshing nasty bumpy night.
Will this one face a similar plight?

What to do when the climate is so muddled
animal instincts become befuddled?
Take pity on them and try to rescue?  Yes!
Shouldn’t we announce loud and clear
climate change happens everywhere, even here?
What about TV news?  Well, unfortunately
nothing is photogenic about a manatee.
not a make-over candidate is it/he/she.
Anti-ugliness discrimination needs a  mascot.
All of those in favor of a manatee, please shout
“lost and loveless manatee, you are me.”

(postscript) Stanley Kunitz wrote a very, very fine poem called "The Wellfleet Whale" quite a few years ago. I've heard it called one of the ten greatest American poems.  I wouldn't presume to put any of my writing in the same category as Kunitz, but the sound of my title echoes his.



Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Sullly, the film


Sully is Clint Eastwood's latest bio-pic -- the story of Captain, Chesley Sullenberger, "Sully" who landed an Aeirbus  plane with 156 people aboard in the Hudson River one frigid winter day when they ran into a flock of geese that knocked out both engines on the plane.  This is a story close to my heart because I lived only a few blocks from where the plane went down although I knew nothing about it until evening news.

As some fictional news reporter says at one point in the film, "It is wonderful to have a New York story about airplanes where no one is hurt.  It is a hero story, Sully most of all, the co-pilot also, and, as Sully says at the end of the movie, all the rescue personnel who came to the aid of those passengers who jumped out of the plane, onto rafts, or into the water that day in January which was -- and I remember this -- frigid. The air temperature was not much above freezing and the water was cold enough to cause hypothermia in a very short time. Yet, within 24 minutes everyone was rescued.

Much of the movie's tension was about the hearings held by the Airbus insurance company trying to prove that the plane could have been landed in either of the three nearby airports without damage to the plane.  I have a deep, deep hatred for insurance companies and the personnel were beautifully played and written.

Meanwhile Tom Hanks was a very fine Sully -- I have a picture of the actual man in my mind, slenderer, less bulky but in the hands of a very good and competent actor like Hanks I willingly  suspended disbelief.  It is a "feel good" movie and all the better because in essence (despite however the scriptwriter punched up the struggle for truth, it leave the viewer with a lump in the throat and a warm and fuzzy feeling around the heart.  Thank you. Mr. Eastwood!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Haunting news photo


This photo of an injured child from a bombing in a Middle Eastern city has been haunting me.  It is not quite as painful as the famous Viet Nam war photo of the naked little girl who had been burned with napalm -- but is there any comparison when children are badly hurt by war?  Surely it must make readers of the NYTimes stop and think about the victims of this horror about which we read nearly every day.  Here is a small child -- looking utterly numb, time has stopped for him, he may not know how he got to sit on the orange chair. We cannot imagine either.  He was doing something normal, probably with a trusted adult when there was a noise ... a noise that stopped time and then.... we don't know.  We hope he will forget ... probably he will forget but his life has been changed forever.  Possibly his mind has been changed forever.

We sitting in our comfortable chairs reading the newspaper or looking at the computer cannot imagine what has happened to him... we don't want to. He is half the world away ... but we see children his size, his age around us and we cannot begin to imagine what it would be like if a bomb went off just then ... This happens too, too often in too, too many places in the world, every day.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Happy Birthday American National Parks

A peaceful moment inYellowstone National Park, Leslie and I--we were about to leave Yellowstone and all the magnificent bison and elk and discover the sublime Grant Tetons.

Today is the 100th aniversary of the establishment of the National Park system.  I have not seen enough national parks yet, they are wonderful places.  Yellowstone was all I expected but with fewer bears than I'd been led to beleive. The Tetons were the most perfect mountains I've ever seen and I've seen mountains on five continents, many "grander" but the Tetons reflected in the lake as we drove south from Yellowstone were stunningly beautiful.  I've seen Yosemite and Bandolier, Acadia  and a tiny bit of the Smoky Mountans - not  nearly enough. Grand Canyon is conspicuously missing so far and Glacier  and then there's Denali, a park to dream about.

Nicholas Kristof in an editorial essay in Sunday's NYTimes writes of the treatsure of the parks. He mentions that, like so many of the things people of America value, (education, arts, music..) the Parks' budget is constantly cut -- a foolish cut. When trails and roads need repair there is not enough money so they are allowed to disintegrate until repairing them may require entirely new trails which will cost far more. 

Out little writing group had chosen national parks as the theme for today's writing. Everyone had experiences with one or many parks, warm memories, and in the case of Everglades, unhappy memories.  I have found times in parks preciously refreshing whether sitting on a rail fence beside a beautiful lake, or scrambling up a trail on Acadia mountain, gazing at the truly blue haze in the Smokies. Thank you, Teddy Roosevelt, John Muir and the others who gave us these treasures.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Go see Florence Foster Jenkins !

This photo from the film Florence Foster Jenkins, is Meryl Streep murdering the Queen of the Night aria from Mozart's The Magic Flute when she sang at Ca rnegie Half.

The eponyous movie is essentially a bio-pic  about a rich New Yorker, her loving husband  (who nevertheless and for good reason, has a separate life) and a pianist who is hired to perform with her. She has a god-awful voice, is  terminally ill and is protected by her devoted husband.  So much about the movie is hilarious, so much is actually true, so much it is warm and human and touching, you can't help having a wonderful time while watching three perfectly cast actors (Streep, Hugh Grant as her husband and a pianist, unknown actor, Simon Helberb) as well as director Stephen Frear move this story which is both hilarious and touching from beginning to end.  It's a movie to  see with friends and to talk about over wine and nibbles later on. Streep's final line, "they said I couldn't sing, but they can't said I didn't sing," puts all the uptight audience, who laughed and laughed (as I did) in their place. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Andy Warhol Inspiration

I made this Andy Warhol inspired quilt a few weeks ago.  I wanted to experiment with using ModPodge Transfer medium so I could "print" (really copy) a photo onto fabrics of various colors. I found it workable although I was not happy with everything about how the pictures turned out.

This is the simplest of quilts. Each square was printed individually, I sewed them together, added a layer of fleee as "batting" and a piece of fabric for the back. I sewed it together "pillowcase" fashion and did a narrow row of sewing around the edges.  I have yet to add a  three inch sleeve for hanging to the back.  I think if Andy Warhol were alive today he would find Hillary just as worthy of his multi-picture treatment as ever were Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor and far more inspiring than Chairman Mao.

I showed it to a group this morning and one woman who will be volunteering at the local Democratic Party office suggested I make another one or two that could be displayed at the office.  She suggested the simple little quilt could be sold with the proceeds largely going to  presidential campaign. Fine with me, I will make another couple in the next week and let her take them there.  I am happy to donate that much of my time and my quilting ability to what I hope will be the election of the first woman President of the USA. 

I am of the generation of  (formerly) young women who were enlightened and inspired by The Feminine Mystique, by the wave of feminists that immediately followed.  I think it's way past time for us to have a woman in the White House and it's clear to me that Hillary has the background, the smarts, the prestige in the international community to be the best President we could possibly elect at this time in our very needy history. 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Cartoon I'd love to show



I'm afraid it would be infringing on a copyright of cartoonist Patrick Chippatte to show his cartoon here:  I believe he drew it for either the NY Times of for the New Yorker.  It struck me as especially timely  -- and scary. It shows Trump sitting under the Presidential seal with a mallet in his hand and on the desk two pegs he can hit with the mallet,  One says "Twitter" the other says "Nuke."

I read the article  in the current (July 25)  New Yorker magazine which is an interview with Tony Schwartz by Jane Mayer. Schwartz was the ghost writer of "The Art of the Deal" the hugely successful book about Trump  that lead to his TV show, The Apprentice, and which, Schwartz feels, with much guilt and grief, is adding credence to Trump's bid  for the presidency.  In the interview Schwartz specifically refers to his fear of nuclear disaster if Trump ever has access to the "code" (or whatever it is that's needed -- the red telephone?) to launch a nuclear bomb.

As it happened Schwartz was pretty good deal maker too and got a very good agreement on his pay for ghost writing (Trump wrote not a word, he says). He also bargained down brilliantly when Trump wanted him to pay have the cost of a lavish book launch. He is now giving all proceeds from his book (it put him on Easy Street back then), to charities Trump opposes (mostly having to do with immigration).  Schwartz' personal read on Trump, and his story of the way he had to essentially invent a likeable person is enlightening. His remorse is well earned and sounds honest.

The Armageddon idea is very alive and well among younger people. I think most older people think a great deal less about nuclear disaster. I know it has not been on my mind. Much as I disliked the Bush adiministration I never feared GWB would, in a spontaneous moment of irk, anger, bully-impulse, spite or desire to display the extent of his power, launch a nuclear weapon. The more I find out about Trump's infantile reactions (see and hear them) the more frightening this vision becomes.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

In time for the RNC convention

"Tater", my friend Patti's best friend thought about walking in the Barnstable, MASS 4th of July parade  impersonating you-know-who.  In fact Patti felt that was not the best idea (we don't need to go into reasons). 

Tater's is not in full cariature mode because he's keeping his mouth shut -- that's because his own persona is sweet, clever, honest and loving. He really doesn't have it in his heart to carry the  personification beyond the superficial.

Meanwhile I am smugly happy that I am a TV-less person and do not have the craziness of the convention blaring at me several hours a day.

I must say that comb-over is a restrained blond -- no carrot color in it. 

Friday, July 1, 2016

Picturesque Indiana

This covered bridge has always been one of my favorite landmarks near Versailles, Indiana. Some years my school bus route took me through the bridge both going and coming. I'm happy it has been well maintained.  It is at the entrance to the local state park and I'm sure is often photographed.

The court house is not limestone as I stated previously, it's brick.  But it stands with some dignity on the town square. Our only brush with the civil war, besides sending some soldiers into it, was a pass-through by Morgan's Raiders who cross the Ohio River making a brief foray into Indiana -- gathering some provisions, I believe, and rode back to the border river having done no serious damage.  At a "wide space in the road" town a few farmers gathered to confront the raiders but thought the better of it. The place has since been called Farmer's Retreat. 

I was a bit lazy with my camera and thought that I would not be able to get a meaningful photo of the way the county side has widened -- opened up-- because many small farms have become parts of larger ones and old houses and barns have been torn down.  I could often see, off in the distance, a clutch of new aluminum silos beside the usual barn and house sitting under their big shade trees. Change has come, a couple of farmers from my class now own hundreds of acres (and one leases even more).  Of course they also own (or are in debt for) hundreds of thousands of dollars of farm machinery too.

However, when I sat on my brother's deck reading, I heard more kinds of bird calls than I thear where I live.  I'm afraid all those birds were unable to eat up all the mosquitoes. The nasty  little biters will be bigger and fatter for having had a sip of my blood.  I hope they make a tasty dish for the birds.



















Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Looking Back -- A LONG way back

This is the school house in which I  spent 12 years learning my ABCs.  The photo shows about 2/3s of the original building and off to the right is the attached gynmasium that was added when I was in the 6th grade. The place is  Versailles, Indiana, a very small town with four buildings of note.  One is on the square in the middle of town -- a limestone courthouse. Versailles is the county seat of Ripley County-- one of those dignified towns that build a courthouse to impress (although by any other standards it would be a small courthouse) set it on a grassy, well tree-ed square in the middle of town with the majority of the businesses around the square.

The other three buildings of note are at the west side on the same street with the school at the end of the street. The others are a very modest library and a Methodist church. All three are faced with white ceramic brick. All three exist because of a donation by the town's one self-made millionaire whose last name was Tyson. He was a founding partner of the Wallgren Drug Store chain.  He's been gone a long time.  (Personally, I'm very happen he had nothing to do with chickens.)

As a matter of fact, I've been gone a long time too.  But I am on my way back tomorrow for a 6oth high school class reunion.  There is a new school on the south side of town, and this building is now an assisted living facility.  My class was the largest ever to graduate from this school, all 56 of us -- and that was a great jump in numbers from previous years because a one-room school in the wide-space-in-the-road town, Elrod, was closed and the students sent to Versailles.  In the 5th grade our class swelled by a ten (if I remember correctly). Five-yaer reunions have been held for, I think, the past three decades. I've attended some of them. I was last here for the 50th  reunion. 

Of course there are not many of us left, if I count correctly, 16.  I think ten will be at the reunion. We are aware this is a fragile time and fewer, probably, will be around in five years. So we will go to the  general reunion dinner on Saturday night with other classes celebrating 5-year annivesaries, but we will gather for dinner Friday night and for  brunch Sunday morning - to accommodate those who can do only two days. I think most of the survivors are relatively nearby but one woman lives near Houston and one man, the last I heard, lives most of the year in Arizona, another in Pennsyvania and here I am on Cape Cod.

I was talking with my poetry class yesterday and mentioned the trip.  I do not talk about my age much although everyone knows we are all retirees.  I flatter myself thinking people don't know how much over 70 I am, so when asked "which year?" I had a vanity-moment --but not a long one.  I admitted it is the 60th and did not have to look hard to see that the math was obvious.  Well, I started this blog with it's name to make myself accept the aging process. This weekend is certainly going to be an experience about all the years gone by.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Always Changing


The "shell tree" at the end of the spit of land that is Long Beach where I walk has changed with the years. When I moved to Cape Cod eight years ago, this tree was alive. It had green leaves, it stood up about three feet on a dune back from the edge of the water. There were other trees.  Over these years the sand has been pulled back into the sea, probably distributed elsewhere. The tree died and people began to put broken welk shells  on the branches (myself among them). 

Many limbs have disappeared -- I did not realize how very many when I visited the tree this morning --the first time since last summer I've walked the mile out to the very end of Long Beach to visit the tree.  The upper photo is one I took this morning, it looks very sparse. I'm sure more shells will be added to it as summer progresses, many fall off in winter's storms. But the limbs are fewer, less twiggy.

The lower photo was last summer. the shells are dense and the sand wears a necklace of horseshoe crab shells (molted ones).  I'm glad the tree is still there. Actually two years ago the sand was much lower exposing roots. But it's being piled up more, now, around the trunk.  The roots are not gathering water and nutrition but they are holding the tree in place against the storms.

This last picture is from six or seven years ago, near the shell tree while there were still several shrubby trees at the end of Long Beach.  The tree with the scraps of cloth on it had died during the winter, but one behind it had sprouted new leaves. Neither are there any more. The scraps of cloth are scraps of a set of Tibetan prayer flags from a set of a few dozen I bought in Lhasa. I had put them on a cairn that was annually built at the very end of the beach. They blew away and utterly disappeared in the autumn. When I went back in the spring, the wind had returned them to the end of the beach, tangled, what seemed to me inextricably among the twigs of the dead bush.

I consider the shells, on the dead tree, the horseshoe crab shells arranged on the sand and the wind's caprices with my prayer flags, all a part of the natural wonder I witness year after year in this tiny bit of  Cape Cod that feels "mine" even though it is public property. 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Atanarjurat, The Fast Runner

        
This amazing movie was made in 2002; I saw it way back then and saw it again yesterday.  Made in a Inuit village (area) in Canada with an entirely Inuit cast and mostly crew; this almost-three-hour movie tells an ancient legend updated to modern time (such as they are in that Arctic area where people live as they've lived hundreds or thousands of years. 

It is a story of three bad (selfish, murderous) members of the group, and how everyone survives (except the murdered man) and how they are finally expelled so the others can live as before.  The women are as strong as the men although the society is divided between the men who hunt and the women who prepare food and the skins of animals for clothing. At the base of the story is the ancient story of two brothers and one woman.  In the midst of the tale is the utterly unforgettable scene everyone who sees this movie finds unforgettable. 

When the evil ones ambush two men sleeping in a summer tent, one is murdered and the other, Atanarjurat (the fast runner of the title) flees, naked across the ice and the melted snow puddles with the three in pursuit. He manages to outrun them, collapses eventually and is saved by a small family  who are gathering bird eggs. He stays with them (his feet are badly cut up) for a season it seems and then returns to right the situation.

Much about this movie is ethnographic, we see an igloo being built, we hear songs and see a native dance with various people taking part while the group sings to the rhythm of a single drum. The showing of the film to a small group who take the usual documentary film class was the suggestion of a member of the group who has had a particular interest in the Inuit, knows their history and collected carvings and prints made by the group in Cape Dorset in the Canadian province now called Nunavut (I think that's the spelling).  The CD was available through the Massachusetts library system and I assume it is available to those who might want to watch it.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Ah, Spring!

I looked up yesterday an there they were: Mama, Papa and the fuzzy septuplets.  The day before I saw five adults on the lawn, today not a single goose. But yesterday's visitation was delightful. When they decided to leave they lined up neatly, Mama (maybe it was Papa) in front, the family all in a row and Papa (or maybe Mama) bringing up the rear. They are totally unfazed by cars, they cross the relatively busy street with total confidence and, so far, they have been unharmed.  Just beyond the commercial buildings across the road is a kettle pond (of which there are many, many, many on Cape Cod). I believe the nest is somewhere over there.  Probably the population on the yard will be much enlarged in a few weeks.

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.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Misnamed Michael Moore Movie

Michael Moore always has something to say that needs saying.  In this case I think he has chosen a title and overall point of view that will be off-putting to those who don't really like being told the unpleasant facts about our country. He is not talking about American invasion anywhere. (I expected something about Syria, actually.) Not at all.

He visits a number of countries and looks at things that work extremely well there, much better than it works in the US. He interviews people from the President of of Slovenia and former first woman President of Iceland, to people who run schools, prisons, school cafeterias (in France), and so on. He points out how well things are working in that sphere of these various countries, including Germany where "we must remember" is a part of all curricula in school and another school were sex education actually teaches something, to Tunesia where an uprising toppled a dictatorship without a war. 

What he is saying is that they're doing a good job. We're doing a shitty job in these areas -- I was most impressed with his thesis briefly stated that by having the stiff drug laws the USA has managed to reinstitute slavery  -- that is a high percentage of the young black men are in prison and while there they are kept busy making things -- men's clothing, various industrial goods that are made for almost no pay to the prisoners (probably -- he doesn't say this -- a profit to the corporations that run the prisons, because prisons are a thriving big business).  It will be a shame if people stay away from this movie because so much can be learned and Moore is not preaching as much as sometimes, he's not harassing anyone, he's mostly acting astonished by the short work week, the paid vacaeion time  for workers, the gourmet school lunches, the attitude of a Norwegian man whose son was one of the victims of the terrible massacre of campers on an island a couple of summers ago. 

We don't need Moore's silly business of leaving a flag behind saying 'we have conquored' this idea.  What he finally says is that most of these good ideas had originally been American but they have somehow been discarded in favor of what we think are more profitable ways of running things.

Friday, February 26, 2016

YOUTH, a movie about aging

Youth is a movie about aging, an under-the-radar type movie, set in that anachronism, an expensive spa-resort in the Swiss Alps, with a huge cast, including cows, with a good many touches of fantasy.
The two main characters are a octogenarian Michael Caine, a famous composer/conductor who is retired and refuses even to do a command performance for the Queen of England. and his long time friend, a screen writer, Harvey Keitel and Caine's daughter, Rachel Weitz. We care about these two, and about Lena the daughter who is jilted by her lover, who is Keitel's son. All the rest of the huge cast are sprinkles on the cupcake icing.

There are many luxurious scenes including Caine on a stump in an Alpine pasture conducting the ringing of the cowbells and the mooing chorus. There's a wonderful masseuse who is a dancer in private, an amazingly beautiful nude "Miss Universe", a meditating lama who floats away, Jane Fonda as a stereotypical hardened screen diva who tells Keitel exactly what she thinks of him, and much, much more.  I do not usually wish to read books twice or see movies twice but I would watch this again just for the sense of stepping back into another time of movie making and enjoying the vignettes. Plus I have enjoyed Caine's performances for about 45 years and don't see enough of Keitel -- a wonderful Actors' Studio regular. I won't see it again as I don't watch movies online and this was the last showing at my beloved local Cape Cinema. They have a fewinte resting ones lined up for the next three weeks so I'll be going back although I was'nt enticed by their February offerings.

To have such a theatre -- in a building that is a heirloom (it has a Rockwell Kent painting of the Greek god and godesses in a stary sky arching across the rounded ceiling -- is a treasure I cherish, and only 25 minutes drive, and, with  my senior discount card, I can't complain that my fee just went from 6.50 to $7.00.