By: Esther Powell
Posted on: Tue, August 02 2016 - 8:29 am
August 31, 2016
This month's Atlantic Monthly has an article called Fun with DNA and my mind is now officially blown. It turns out that DNA really is a code, like any other code, that can encode nonliving things like novels as well as, well, us.
I guess I should have expected as much. After all, I have been exposed to fractals and the place in the size continuum we occupy along with electrons and stars and the universe, which turns out maybe to have been an inflated word for our current perceivable reality.
But if we're really just a programmed code that can also be used to store all kinds of knowledge like little mini-micro-nano computers, what does that say about us, really?
Well, babble froth stutter I don't know.
My mind is officially blown.
* Burnt Great chef movie. We enjoyed it very much, and one of us is a real chef.
August 30, 2016
I can't raise one eyebrow. I can't wink - at least not with style.
I used to think I could only wink by screwing up my cheek grotesquely. My left-eye wink might (in a pinch or with enough distortion of my other features) be comical - but never droll.
This morning I looked in the mirror while thinking about my wink and tried winking with my right eye. I did it! And without raising my right cheek an inch! Sure, it wasn't accomplished by lowering one lid without squinting my eye a little. That right-eye wink certainly possessed no style.
It still rated as a wink though, I think.
My morning winking experience has been sobering, though, because it demonstrated that over the years I have focussed on my disability (no left eye wink) so strongly that I completely forgot I can wink with my right eye! I discounted my ability.
Now my question is, have I done this in other realms? Have I allowed my failures to obliterate my confidence and ability to take advantage of my successes?
If so, this would be a bad habit impossible to wink at.
Especially with my left eye.
*Race to Nowhere Must-see documentary about the state of education in the U.S. today, and that makes for more exciting viewing than you might expect. Not in a good way.
*Lured Lucille Ball, Boris Karloff, George Sanders and others have a lot of fun cavorting around in this mystery cum comedy cum romance. Light-hearted post-world-war film.
August 29, 2016
Thinking about the people in this building and the lives that brought them here, I started getting sentimental about the place.
The Ohio River, which of course we never drink from, is a constant source of refreshment.
I will always wax nostalgic about the green hills if I move elsewhere, even if I do get frustrated at their hiding (along with the sempiternal clouds) my coveted views of planetary conjunctions and solar eclipses.
It actually almost caught my imagination - the (for me not novel!) idea of writing a tale set in these cliffs and waterways - and although I recognized the irony of trying to write so far away from any possibility of firsthand confirmation of minor features it hit me: that is exactly where the novel came from!
The juxtaposition of novelty and nostalgia.
How, after all, did writing progress? Probably from the most immediate practical stuff like lists and quantified enumerations to journals written during travels and letters home.
In fact, some of the first novels were written in the form of letters, and maybe a majority to this day involve journeys.
Has there ever been a novel written by a person who has not traveled?
Oh don't argue with me, I agree, I am sure there has, but only because they read writings that came before: the earliest form of teleportation.
Ha, ha, there's a formulation for you - the diagnosis of the novel as a severe symptom of homesickness.
Look at how many of our great recently-published books are the works of expatriots.
*Romeo and Juliet Zefferelli's gorgeous 1968 version of this best-known play is my favorite production ever. Knowing what is to come, I had some resistance to seeing the play again but I am so happy I did. Profoundly affecting, these young people.
*Dark Horse True story of a Welsh consortium from a small town who support the training of a racehorse which they name Dream Alliance. A sentimental success story which succeeded brilliantly with us.
August 27, 2016
I thought of a great title for a book - or a bar: The Feral Goose. Ha, ha, ha doesn't that just sound like the name of one of Martha Grimes' English pubs?
I often think of feral geese around here because there are a few. You can tell them by their orange legs, and often seem to be in positions of authority - not because of their flashy feet, I believe, but because of size. I think the main goosey leader here is a greylag goose and he is a big one. He shepherds his flock back and forth across the streets along the river and probably takes credit for the disappearance of the red foxes which used to bedevil their offspring.
In reality, I am told, the sewer folks in town trapped the foxes. I hope they relocated them to another woodland.
By the way, I just saw an item on Facebook about Big Oak Wildlife Preserve which reported that a bear there has been eating wild boars some biologist is trying to introduce into the area. Did I read that correctly? Is my looney-tune feral goose of a Neanderthal mind sorting the information correctly?
I'll get back to you on that.
Well, I am back. The bear is in the vicinity, and must have a way of getting in and out of the fence if he is both being videotaped outside Big Oaks and killing boars inside (joke?). People seem to think it is the same bear that was photographed near Corydon, IN earlier this summer.
Seems to me there could be more than one bear around. We'll see what transpires.
August 25, 2016
I have liked and appreciated many lovely objects people have given me, but I have been forced to let go of a lot of stuff when I had to move. I've moved fourteen times in my life, necessitating thousands of decisions about what to keep, what to shed.
No doubt about it. Moving is the enemy of sentimentality.
*Mothers and Daughters I found this movie kind of splintered and confusing, but I also found it moving, the more so as it moved toward rapprochement and understanding between mothers and daughters. Netflix viewers only gave it two stars, which I don't understand. We reserve the two star rating for movies we hate, really. Why would so many viewers really dislike this film?
August 24, 2016
While trotting along Vaughan Drive trying to keep up with the beautiful motion of the Budweiser Clydesdale team, I ran into Brenda Shropshire, camera in hand, for the third time in three days. I was thinking of writing about her anyway and that coincidence sealed my resolve.
This morning Brenda was photographing a beautiful pink sunrise - her favorite color. She said it was the first time in days that the river hadn't been too fogged in to photograph. I asked her a question about the vagaries of light reflecting off the river, but somehow we got onto the subject of Pokemon.
Pokemon is luring people into the streets - and field and stream, for all I know. Brenda talked enthusiastically about having conversations with young people she never would have had occasion to speak with in the past, and said they had also commented on the phenomenon.
One young man had what she considered a brilliant idea, and I am inclined to agree: merchants could lure people into their stores with Pokemon. I have no idea how the people who manage the Pokemon game decide where the various manifestations will appear, but a marketing ploy that would involve opportunities for gangsters sounds wonderful to me.
People who take no delight in having a dozen players turn up in their flower beds at 2 a.m. might not at all have three times that number turn up at their place of business during working hours.
"Come eat with Pokemon!" "Pokemon is in our fireplace right now!" even "Pokemon is sleeping here!" sound like magnetic lures to me.
I'm embarrassed to admit I don't know where Brenda Guess Shropshire's work might be displayed besides on Facebook. If I run into her again I'll ask her and let you know. Maybe madisonareaarts.org will give you a lead.
*Maggie's Plan The changing times have raised opportunities for all kinds of unlikely and unorthodox situations to act as a basis for laughter. This one is right up there in the realm of bizarre, and is a great deal of fun.
August 23, 2016
There is no doubt in my mind that our society would be better off if more people studied science and fewer people studied religion, but somehow you can't blame them for choosing religion.
Science has become so specialized. It is kind of hard to imagine getting enthralled by and lost in the narrow byways and capillaries of the in-depth studies that the pursuit of science requires today.
I always thought it would be fun to be the one to synthesize the hard-won studies of others, but even that is probably a many-layered process now. Sure, it might not be too hard to write a study about a variety of experiments about the same subject, studying the statistics of the overall results. (Even using the word statistics, though, makes me realise how hard that might be. After all, I never had a course in statistics.)
Actually reading experimentation about physiological reactions and interpreting them, or studying unicellular organisms for hours at a time, or doing mathematical analyses of the behavior of gases or people - well these things are quite frankly mind-boggling.
Still, I challenge you young people to try to do it. Immerse yourself in the nature of a ray of light or a crystal or a black hole or a dung beetle!
I guarantee you'll have more worth to society than if you spend your time pondering the nature of Being - or ghosts.
Of course, whether society will acknowledge your value by actual physical support (i.e. money) is another matter. You might have to write an autobiography about your interesting life in science to retire comfortably.
You will have the reward, though, of knowing something very arcane and esoteric that no one else knows. That's unusual. Definitely a road less traveled by.
After all, billions of people know God.
*Far from the Madding Crowd This 2015 production of Thomas Hardy's tale is charming. Reminds me again of how wonderful his books are, even though my brother-in-law found them depressing. I just found them to be real. This film makes the rich farmers to be much richer than I remember from the novel, but maybe that simply reflects the poverty of my own imagination.
August 22, 2016
When I was in my twenties driving with a writer/professor friend of mine, she pointed out a couple letting themselves into an ordinary-looking apartment building and said, "What do you think they will do when they get inside?" And urged me to invent something.
She was urging me to use my imagination. I said, "I can't! I can't!"
Maybe at the time I felt that as something of a failure, but looking back on the incident I don't blame myself a bit. Realistically? I felt that nothing happening in that sterile box of stucco could be anything but banal or worse, sordid. The inner truth of the people involved might not have been fairly represented in my imagination but let's put it this way: you can't tell your imagination what to be grabbed by.
So, now, more than a dozen years after my friend's passing, I will try to answer her suggestion more honestly: "No, ugh, yuck, I don't want to.
"I won't! I won't!"
*The Confirmation Not Clarence Thomas's, this one is a Catholic one. He movie made us really uncomfortable at first, but it grew on us - big time. Even got funny.
..and over the last few days...
*Youth Old codgers deal with old feelings, each other and death. It indulges in a teeny bit of magical realism, but maybe that was just a dream.
*Touched With Fire Trying to live with bipolar disorder off and on the meds. Romance that begins while the protagonists are inpatients. Not very realistic about treatment, maybe, but instructive nonetheless.
*Wonder Boys Very creative film about successful and potential novelists and their milieu. Madcap, really, but still seriously thought-provoking.
August 21, 2016 before five a.m.
If I had written day before yesterday maybe I would have written about waking up from a dream in which I was standing in front of a desk that was my occupation in life and essentially nonfunctional. The lawn (on the desk, mind - the blotter, relocated?) had turned into a chenille mowed into different patterns and tufted designs like low shrubbery. The only task I could see to do was to move the empty large clear glass vases to a more out-of-the way space in the cabinet. Meanwhile bright young things bustled around me in the bright office doing real work. I was obviously only someone whose presence they charitably patronized.
If I had written yesterday I might have written about poor rained-out Ribberfest. It did enjoy hours of okay maybe even fine weather allowing performances which to be honest I did not enjoy from our closed-up living room although it was loud enough even for my deaf ears but the professionals who were the main draw of the evening got noisily drowned out by a thunderous rain that necessitated the turning off of electrical equipment and a bolt of lightning so powerful that I feared for the lives of the people on the sodden ground. (Actually the lightning may have shut off power, although we still had lights over here.) "They're okay," my mate assured me. "They might find a dead body on the ground tomorrow!" I retorted. Through the dark rain we could barely see people milling around in different surges impossible, from a block away, to read as to intent. (Yesterday was obviously a day of run-on sentences maybe inspired by run-on runaway irresponsible reading on my part.)
Today? Ah, today? I already know what I'm writing about today... if I can still remember when I wake up again later...yawn.
August 18, 2016
A year-and-a-half after cataract surgery and my vision is still 20-20 (or as good as) and my eyes have half the pressure that might put me at risk for glaucoma than they used to. Before the surgery they were borderline high-risk.
Needing glasses for close vision is a pain because I am constantly taking them on and off inside. The relief and security and pleasure I experience from being able to see TV, movies and the great outdoors without dealing with frames and dirty lenses, however, far outweighs the inconvenience of my feeble fumbling indoors.
No new lenses or glasses required this year. I figure in nine years the surgery will have paid for itself in eyeglass savings alone.
* Member of the Wedding 1952 movie with a very tiresome emotional sub-teen played very well indeed by Julie Harris. Actually, all the acting was good. Maybe this version of Carson McCullers' tale will stick with me.
* Woman in Gold Another good story taken from life - what a history!
August 16, 2016
Republicans want Hillary Clinton to release her medical records, while Donald Trump won't even release his tax returns.
Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!
This election year just keeps getting funnier and funnier.
*East Side West Side Old black and white love septagon. Still easily followed, though.
*Tallulah Loved this film! Best we've seen for a while, with an unusual plot and unexpected dialogue. Definitely refreshing.
August 15, 2016
Ha, ha, here's my latest take on Trump:
If he does want to win (hard to believe, I know) and he were actually to win (unlikely as it may be) he will be the first President to not resign, but to abdicate office.
The Vice President would become President Pence.
Are you ready for that, folks?
P.S. I heard his voice on TV from the kitchen and dividend his next entertainment career move - voice for an animated (cartoon) film. Sensational!
*Brooklyn Why all the secrecy? Oh, yeah, without it there would be no movie! Aside from that major flaw, it was kind of enjoyable. (Much later - but honestly I didn't much approve or appreciate that heroine, I forgot to say!)
August 14, 2016
I've written before about foods I didn't like as a child that I was strongly encouraged to eat. Pie crusts. Olives. Gravy. I learned to eat them all - they became acquired tastes. Since then I have learned that they might be bad for the health. It might have been better had I never learned to appreciate them at all.
Now I am wondering how many other things are like that - emotional things. Teasing, put-downs, practical jokes, attention, drama, quarrelsome behavior. Maybe all these states were originally suffered and tolerated by us but eventually became amusing or addicting to those of us strongly encouraged to keep on loving the folks subjecting us to them.
I've tried to unlearn the fat drama of anger and the sour and salty treats of meanness and irritability and I believe I've done pretty well.
Eat a piece of pie without the crust, though?
Not gonna happen.
*Splendor in the Grass I can't be objective about this movie - saw it in my early teens and positively fell in love with Natalie Wood. Actually, I still think it very very good.
August 12, 2016
Ha, ha, ha Trump says Obama is the founding father of ISIS.
I guess King George III of England is the founding father of the United States of America.
Too bad the Republicans didn't read my Rumilluminations article of October 15, 2015 and take it to heart. Trump is not a serious candidate, he doesn't want the job, and the Republicans threw away a chance to elect the next President.
Of course, there is some chance that he might win. As Nate Silver maintains, anyone who is 100% sure of anything is wrong.
My only fear is that the cockroaches will come out of the woodwork - that people who have never before voted will turn out for Trump in the biggest election fiasco in U.S. history.
I'm hoping the odds of that are lower than the chance of the sun failing to rise on election morning.
*All Fall Down We thought this early sixties black and white was a really good film. So different from Midnight Cowboy made a scant ten years later! This story reminded me of Tennessee Williams.
August 11, 2016
*Jean de Florette and Manon of the Springs Movie set in beautiful Provence, France where the ugly mean behavior of two humans seems exceptionally venal. Two movies comprising one tale, it's long but lush. I saw a film in the year it came out, 1986, that may have been an edited combination of the two. I certainly don't remember it being this long!
*Shadow on the Wall 1950 psychological thriller that highlights play therapy. We enjoyed it.
*The Drowning Pool This film was done okay, but what convinces in the pages of a book starts looking improbable on the screen. As for the pivotal scene in the defunct mental institution, my partner thought it could have been made much more intense.
August 10, 2016
"...all other factors being equal..."
Ha, ha, ha, ha!
I completely get why science is basically saying this with the process of experimentation and it really does help with understanding reality.
Predictability, however, is something else, for when has everything ever remained unchanged?
Oh, yeah, that's right - when you want it to change.
Well, so at least something is predictable!
(I don't know what just happened here. I didn't mean to write something that seems so negative, but got somehow jogged sideways by logical sequences that pulled me in a direction other than I had planned.)
...and that's what it's all about.
August 9, 2016
Sunday we went to Carrollton, Kentucky and walked through town and along the Ohio River there. It is so peaceful and quiet there! Sure, it was Sunday morning so all the shops we saw were closed, but we think it's partly the distance from an Ohio River bridge and all the truck traffic that brings.
We also thought it was high time we checked out the General Butler State Resort Park. We were amazed at what a big deal it is. Huge campground and more than a few cottages which I envisioned as cabins and were more like small suburban homes. (From the outside, anyway. I don't know what domestic amenities they possess.)
The park has an observation area that looks like a Civilian Conservation Corps structure - very cool and a fossil trail we intend to get back and hike very soon. There's a lake for water activities. Looks like a great place for families. The woman at the entry booth told us that although she's not sure of its present status, for years General Butler was the highest-rated park in the state.
A couple of days ago we watched
*The Men Who Stare at Goats What can I say? Sublimely silly and great for your abs. Bridges is endearing and Clooney has earned the name change to Clowny for his precious performance of comic proportion.
August 6, 2016
I just saw the other day the assertion that rumination implies a negative form of thought. That had never occurred to me, and sure enough, when I looked up the definition of ruminate it just has the sense of thinking deeply about something. Same for rumination - that is until the psychologists get hold of it.
In psychology, evidently, rumination becomes "compulsive" thought about "failure" to solve "problems."
Ha, ha, ha! The word rumination comes from what cows do with grass. They chew on it, then they swallow it and deliver it to one or more of their (seven, is it?) stomachs. If I remember correctly, sometimes it gets sent back up for a second chew. When cows do it it's called chewing their cud.
Hard to believe there is anything negative about it.
I don't believe Elsie goes out into a lush green meadow and thinks, "Dang! Look at all the mowing I have to do today! And all that eternal chewing and digesting it takes to process it! Poor me. A milk cow's work is never done."
Nah. The psychologists have messed up again. Why couldn't they just stick with words that already had a negative connotation? What's wrong with the word brooding? That implies unhappy thought.
Or if brooding isn't long enough, how about obsessing? Obsession has compulsivity built into it already and it possesses three syllables!
But no, a word for psychology has to have four syllables to be weighty enough, evidently, so they had to pick on my choice.
Maybe I could have used pondering for my article title but honestly it never occurred to me. And really, doesn't pondillumination sound like something turtles are more likely than humans to respond to? (Although now that I think about it, people might expect these articles to be about the world of rum. I don't believe that ever occurred to me until just now.)
When I chose the word rumination I did it with a certain amount of humility. I thought that these jotted down ideas didn't really aspire to the heights of meditation.
Now that I reflect upon it, medititillation might have possibilities as fun yet uplifting cheap thrills, but no. Those articles will not be written by me or I would have thought up that name years ago.
I rest content with my now ten-year-old choice, and the psychologists can go brood.
August 5, 2016
You always hear about comics practicing in front of mirrors.
But didn't comedy come before mirrors?
I'm sure laughter precedes primates.
Speaking of laughter, isn't that an odd-looking word?
Alongside slaughter and daughter which seems the most ridiculous? How did it possibly get into such company? Shouldn't laughter rhyme with otter?
Or should we be saying laffter, slaffter, and daffter?
Now that I look at it daughter seems the weirdest. What is she, the child who slings the dough around? The literal dough, that is, while the son... well, he is simply the sun, I guess, that slings the dough (in the sense of wealth) around.
After a mini research I cannot see where the word daughter really comes from except that it, like son, has Germanic origins. Evidently the word son originally meant offspring, so maybe daughter is a later discrimination.
I feel I must mention that there is a Scottish word daugh meaning gate which was used also as a measure of acreage but I don't know if that relates at all to the English word daughter.
Imagine, yes. Know, no.
August 4, 2016
Salt or no salt? Omega threes or omega sixes? Potatoes or notaters?
People get angry with science (or at least scientists) and maybe they should.
Much of scientific method is designed to isolate factors: does the phrase "isolate variables" sound familiar?
In truth, however, it is the balance of variables that often proves to be of more importance than the value of any one factor alone.
For instance salt intake.
For quite a while now, I have had a ratio occasionally emerging to my consciousness from its usual niggling spot in the back of my head: sodium/potassium or Na/K.
These are two elements molecules of which lie on either side of the membranes of the cells of our nervous system (and maybe all our cells but of lesser significance or importance?)
Anyway, the point of this is that what is called too much or too little salt is totally dependent on how much potassium you get. In other words it's okay to get a little more salt if you also get more potassium.
Maybe the three-banana-per-day recommendation for health I saw in Facebook reflects not so much the health value of bananas, but the outlandish quantity of salt in the North American diet today - largely due to processed foods - which makes a normal intake of potassium woefully inadequate.
And that is only one ratio of nutrients important to our bodies! What about the ratio of omega-threes to -sixes? What about the other tens of thousands of relationships between and among molecules in us that are dependent on what we choose to eat?
It would be mind-boggling if we had any minds left to boggle!
(Sorry - couldn't resist that. It just sounds funny and I fell off the cliff of moderation and sensibility.)
So what's my point? A holistic approach to diet - and I would spell it wholistic! More - a holistic approach to life.
It has become my favorite word.
Keep your balance!
August 3, 2016
Ben Franklin figured that the brand new U.S. government would last in any truly democratic form for a couple hundred years.
The trend towards ossification (in the case of government, oligarchation) destroys true democracy. We've done well in this country in redefining who a citizen is, what equality and freedom are, and what citizens deserve a voice. We've done great! At least in theory.
How, though, do we defend ourselves against oligarchy? According to some (myself included?) the battle is already lost.
Maybe the Roosevelts Theodore and Franklin helped the U.S. restore and maintain a middle class.
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