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.