Monday, August 31, 2015

Peter, Paul & Mary: Where Have All the Flowers Gone?


Peter, Paul and Mary perform “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” live at their 25th anniversary concert in 1986. The group consists of Peter Yarrow, (Noel) Paul Stookey and Mary Travers (who died in 2009, age 72, as a result of leukemia). This folk group first recorded the song in 1962 on their debut album; you can hear an earlier version here.

Pete Seeger wrote the first three verses of the song in 1955 and Joe Hickerson added additional ones in May 1960. The tune taken from the Ukrainian folksong, “Kolyada Duda.” Seeger also drew inspiration from Mikhail Sholokhov’s novel And Quiet Flows the Don (1934), which is a sweeping narrative of the Cossacks residing in the Don River Valley during a period of great change before the First World War. Some have compared Sholokhov’s novel to Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace in its complexity and over-arching themes of love, honour and war. Sholokhov won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1965.

Where Have All The Flowers Gone?
by Pete Seeger & Joe Hickerson

Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the flowers gone?
Young girls picked them every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the young girls gone?
Gone to young men every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the young men gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young men gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the young men gone?
Gone for soldiers everyone
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Gone to flowers every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

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True; and, where have our values gone? I remember learning and singing this song in elementary school around 1964 or ’65 (I am now 57); we had wonderful teachers at Bancroft School in Montreal.

Surviving Hiroshima: 6 Stories, A Year Later (1946)

Surviving The Atomic Bomb: Hersey of The New Yorker writes: “A hundred thousand people were killed by the atomic bomb. Survivors wonder why they lived when so many others died.”
Photo Credit: Rolls Press; Popper Foto via Getty.
Source: The New Yorker

In a series, “Perspectives on War,” in The New Yorker, there is a fine piece of reportage by John Hersey, published on August 31, 1946, a year after the American atomic bombing of Hiroshima. It chiefly looks at the lives of six survivors.

In “Hiroshima” (August 31, 1946), Hersey writes:
At exactly fifteen minutes past eight in the morning, on August 6, 1945, Japanese time, at the moment when the atomic bomb flashed above Hiroshima, Miss Toshiko Sasaki, a clerk in the personnel department of the East Asia Tin Works, had just sat down at her place in the plant office and was turning her head to speak to the girl at the next desk. At that same moment, Dr. Masakazu Fujii was settling down cross-legged to read the Osaka Asahi on the porch of his private hospital, overhanging one of the seven deltaic rivers which divide Hiroshima; Mrs. Hatsuyo Nakamura, a tailor’s widow, stood by the window of her kitchen, watching a neighbor tearing down his house because it lay in the path of an air-raid-defense fire lane; Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge, a German priest of the Society of Jesus, reclined in his underwear on a cot on the top floor of his order’s three-story mission house, reading a Jesuit magazine, Stimmen der Zeit; Dr. Terufumi Sasaki, a young member of the surgical staff of the city’s large, modern Red Cross Hospital, walked along one of the hospital corridors with a blood specimen for a Wassermann test in his hand; and the Reverend Mr. Kiyoshi Tanimoto, pastor of the Hiroshima Methodist Church, paused at the door of a rich man’s house in Koi, the city’s western suburb, and prepared to unload a handcart full of things he had evacuated from town in fear of the massive B-29 raid which everyone expected Hiroshima to suffer. A hundred thousand people were killed by the atomic bomb, and these six were among the survivors. They still wonder why they lived when so many others died. Each of them counts many small items of chance or volition—a step taken in time, a decision to go indoors, catching one streetcar instead of the next—that spared him. And now each knows that in the act of survival he lived a dozen lives and saw more death than he ever thought he would see. At the time, none of them knew anything.
We know more today.  It is seventy years later, and we know the effects that atomic bombs have on people, on civilization itself. The larger problem—and it still looms large—centres on war itself, which is impersonal and has become more so with weapons that are guided from afar; the classic example are drones. The difference between a video-game and war is that one is a virtual-reality game, the other a plague on civilization.

We ought to question the necessity of war. If Hiroshima taught us anything, it is that the purposes of war differ for the leaders who declare them than for the men (it is still mainly men) who fight and who battle—the soldiers themselves are caught in the trap of their leaders’ decisions. All that some have left afterward are “honour” alongside missing limbs and bad memories. There is a valid reason why post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) are so common, and why its numbers are rising. War might be common among humans, but it is not normal. To be sure, it is never good for one’s mental health.

The story of the civilians, which this article gives from six different perspectives, is another one altogether. No enlistments here; no one signed up to fight. Common to the individual stories of six survivors is how each of their lives changed, without warning, in a flash on that morning in early August. Reading their stories might change your view on war and whether it should be given the honour it is often accorded.

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For more, go to [NewYorker]

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Deriving Einstein’s Famous Equation: E=mc²




In this NOVA documentary on PBS-TV, originally broadcast on October 11, 2005, the history of Albert Einstein’s most-famous equation, E=mc², is recounted and explained; it shows and perhaps proves that science builds on previous work and knowledge, the scientific pioneers, as it were, “standing on the shoulders of giants.” When a breakthrough does eventually happen, it often seems as if  “Nature” deigns to give up some of its secrets, and reluctantly reveals itself to humanity.

This TV documentary, narrateed by John Lithgow, is based on the book, E=mc² : A Biography of the World’s Most Famous Equation, by David Bodanis.

Making An Impression In Art

The Ancient & Modern World

Paul Gauguin’s “Landscape with Two Breton Women” (1889), Pohl writes “is an example of how Impressionists embraced the Japanese style of decorative motifs and flat, contrasting colours.”
Photo Credit: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Source: MFA


An article, by John Pohl, in the Montreal Gazette looks at two art exhibitions taking place in Quebec City: “Egyptian Magic” at the Musée de la civilization April 10, 2016; and “Looking East: Western Artists and the Allure of Japan” at Musée national des beaux-arts until September 27, 2015.

Of the two, the latter one interests me more than the former. Perhaps this reflects an interest based on greater knowledge and accessibility to western art, and notably the Impressionists. In “Japan's influence on Impressionism, ancient Egypt’s magical world meet in Quebec City;” (August 20, 2015), Pohl writes:
At the Musée national des beaux-arts, work by Impressionist painters hang alongside the Japanese prints that inspired their composition, colour scheme and subject. Looking East: Western Artists and the Allure of Japan displays 130 works by 100 artists, including such Impressionist luminaries as Van Gogh, Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Degas, Gauguin and Cassatt, in an exhibition from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Japanese art and culture inspired and influenced all aspects of European life, and it was disseminated by department stores selling Japanese lacquerware as much as by artists. Western culture took Japanese fashion, design and decorative arts and made them its own.
In art, graphic Japanese prints known as ukiyo-e that stress the intimate aspects of life and its ephemeral nature resonated the most. The Japanese engagement with daily life encouraged the Impressionists, whose own depictions of bourgeoisie pleasures were dismissed as frivolous by an academic art world still in thrall to the lessons of history.
“These Japanese artists confirm my belief in our vision,” wrote the Impressionist Camille Pissarro, after seeing an exhibition of ukiyo-e prints in 1893.
Ukiyo-e prints, with their bird’s-eye views and asymmetrical compositions, were a revelation for Western artists trained to depict the world from a single perspective, according to the exhibition catalogue.
The Japanese use of decorative motifs and flat, contrasting colours also attracted Western artists accustomed to using shadows and modelling to create convincing three-dimensional forms. Paul Gauguin’s Landscape with Two Breton Women is an example.
As the Musée national des beaux-arts describes the exhibit  (“Looking East”) on its site, writing that the works “come from the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, which has one of the largest and most renowned collections of Japanese, American and European art of the period.”

The muted colours direct the eyes to the two Breton women out in the fields, shaded slightly by the trees, doing an everyday activity, an important ritual: eating. The simplicity of life in Brittany appealed to Gaughin, in contrast to the complexity of life in the urban confines of Paris. With this in view (and in mind), the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston site writes: “The right-hand figure seems at first to be praying, but in fact she’s eating—holding a piece of fruit, perhaps, in her left hand and a knife in her right. The painting demonstrates a shift in Gauguin’s style away from the brushy, Impressionistic manner of his early career towards the broad, flat expanses of color that characterize his Tahitian pictures.”

What caused artists like Gaughin, Van Gogh and  Toulouse-Lautrec, for example, to move toward such a different style? One answer is given by Patricia Flynn of Yale University. In
“Visions of People: The Influences of Japanese Prints Ukiyo-e Upon Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century French Art, Flynn writes:
During the period of time that the ukiyo-e print was suffering its demise in Japan, it was having a vital impact upon artists and writers in Europe, especially in Paris. Many reasons accounted for the appeal of Japanese art. During this time imperialism in Europe had brought about an interest in other cultures of the world. With the opening of Japan to trade its culture was revealed to Europeans as being not only unusual and strange, but refined and elegant. Japanese culture was conveyed to European intellectuals as possessing artistic values in all aspects of its life. This condition was attractive in light of some of the depressing qualities of the new industrial society in Europe. The refreshing spirit of Japanese art offered a creative alternative to artists who were weary of the Greco-Roman styles of art that were popular at the time.22
Weariness explains much. It either defeats you or compels or guides you to another place or to another way of viewing the world around you. In that regard, the initial bout of weariness, although prolonged and tiring, can actually be a benefit to the artist who is always looking or seeking some renewal of a vision. Some offering of an idea. Some impressions of time and space. The true artist is not static; there is a necessity to look all around, to seek truth in its rendering of the physical and the spiritual, the material and the immaterial. This takes work and effort, not only to do, but, equally important, to maintain. The artistic life is not for the faint of heart. Or mind.

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For more, go to [MontrealGazette]

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Leonard Cohen: Hallelujah (2008)



Leonard Cohen performs “Hallelujah” at the Montreal Jazz Festival in 2008. Cohen recorded the song in June 1984, and it was released by Columbia Records in December 1984. In a 1992 interview with Paul Zollo, published in From Songwriters on Songwriting, he gives some background on the song's slow and painstaking evolution, so to speak:
That was a song that took me a long time to write. Dylan and I were having coffee the day after his concert in Paris a few years ago and he was doing that song in concert. And he asked me how long it took to write it. And I told him a couple of years. I lied actually. It was more than a couple of years.

Hallelujah
By Leonard Cohen

Now I've heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don't really care for music, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you
To a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Baby I have been here before
I know this room, I've walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you.
I've seen your flag on the marble arch
Love is not a victory march
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

There was a time you let me know
What's really going on below
But now you never show it to me, do you?
And remember when I moved in you
The holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

You say I took the name in vain
I don't even know the name
But if I did, well really, what's it to you?
There's a blaze of light
In every word
It doesn't matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah

Switching Off Cancer

Medical Research

Cell ReplicationCatharine Paddock writes: “The researchers found when they restored normal miRNA signals in cancer cells, they could reverse the process that makes cells grow uncontrollably.”
Photo Credit & Source: Medical News Today


An article, by Catharine Paddock, in Medical News Today reports that researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Florida have found a way to program cancer cells from replicating and have reprogrammed tumorous cells to normal ones. The study, in Nature Cell Biology, suggests that changing the code that produces cancerous cells might be one of the keys to stopping such cells from not only reproducing, but also reverting these to normal cells,

In “Reprogramming cancer cells back to normal looks feasible, study shows (August 24, 2015), Paddock writes:
Senior investigator Panos Anastasiadis, a professor of cancer biology at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL, says their findings represent "an unexpected new biology that provides the code, the software for turning off cancer."
The discovery centers around the role of adhesion proteins - the glue that keeps cells together to form tissue - and how they interact with microRNAs (miRNAs) - molecules that orchestrate cell programs by regulating gene expression.
The study shows that when normal cells come together, a specific group of miRNAs suppresses genes that encourage cell growth. But, for some reason, this is disrupted in tumor cells, and growth becomes uncontrolled - the hallmark of cancer.
The work focuses on two proteins: E-cadherin and p120 catenin and their interaction with another protein, PLEKHA7; the absence of PLEKHA7 somehow allows uncontrolled growth of cells.  So, how these proteins react with the miRNA molecules, which regulate gene expression, seems to be an important piece of the puzzle that switches cancer on and off.  It would make sense that if cancer switches on, it can be switched off; the key is finding the right switch, which is no easy matter.  This switching has now been performed in laboratory conditions. Whether it can be done on a larger scale, outside the lab, is what we are waiting to see. 

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For more, go to [MedicalNews]

Friday, August 28, 2015

Mike Oldfield: Moonlight Shadow (1999)


Mike Oldfield with his 1999 tour band performing "Moonlight Shadow" live at the VH1 studio; the singer is Helen “Pepsi” DeMacque. Oldfield, a British musician and composer, will forever be known for his 1973 multi-instrument multi-layered masterpiece, “Tubular Bells.” This was the first album on Richard Branson’s Virgin Records. As for this song, Moonlight Shadow was first released as a single in May 1983, and later that year included on the album Crises. You can listen to earlier versions sung by Maggie Reilly in 1983 here and in 1985 here 

Moonlight Shadow
by Mike Oldfield

The last time ever she saw him
Carried away by a moonlight shadow
He passed on worried and warning
Carried away by a moonlight shadow.
Lost in a riddle that Saturday night
Far away on the other side.
He was caught in the middle of a desperate fight
And she couldn't find how to push through

The trees that whisper in the evening
Carried away by a moonlight shadow
Sing a song of sorrow and grieving
Carried away by a moonlight shadow
All she saw was a silhouette of a gun
Far away on the other side.
He was shot six times by a man on the run
And she couldn't find how to push through

I stay, I pray
See you in Heaven far away...
I stay, I pray
See you in Heaven one day.

Four A.M. in the morning
Carried away by a moonlight shadow
I watched your vision forming
Carried away by a moonlight shadow
A star was glowing in the silvery night
Far away on the other side
Will you come to talk to me this night
But she couldn't find how to push through

I stay, I pray
See you in Heaven far away...
I stay, I pray
See you in Heaven one day.

Far away on the other side.
Caught in the middle of a hundred and five
The night was heavy and the air was alive
But she couldn’t find how to push through
Carried away by a moonlight shadow
Carried away by a moonlight shadow
Far away on the other side.

The other side being the other side of life, or death from this world. Many believe in an afterlife and that what we call “death” is just part of a journey (“a passing”) into another or new life. Heaven becomes the domain of the new life in some form, which has a basis in many religions. The song’s imagery is somewhat about the inability or difficulty of pushing through or connecting with the spirits of those no longer here on earth. It is about breaking the boundaries that separate the two.

In the song are found some prevailing ideas of spiritualism, which views such boundaries as artificial, unnecessary and a limitation of human consciousness. Can the dearly departed contact us from another realm, or is this merely wishful thinking, a fantastical idea? Although most rational people will say no to the first and yes to the second, some might also hope it is, indeed, possible. Hope carries people into unknown territory. We often find ourselves in a position of hoping against hope. Reality can be like a stiff reed, unlike the soft caresses of hope.

Back to the imagery in front of us. A moonlight shadow is ethereal, visible yet immaterial. In real terms, the moon casts a shadow only when its light meets an object obstructing it. Here is another thought. A shadow, in  Jungian terms, is an unconscious (often undesirable) aspect of an individual’s personality, a reality hidden from plain view. Despite the advances (and claims) of neuroscience, we know so little about this part of human existence.  Is absence of proof, proof of absence? 

The Carter Doctrine: The Gracious Life

The Good Life





We are today more comfortable as a society talking about death. This became evident when former President Jimmy Carter revealed that he has cancer that has spread to his brain. When he was informed, on August 3, that he has melanomas that spread to his brain, he thought that he had only a few weeks to live. But I was surprisingly at ease,” Carter said, revealing how his Christian faith influenced his views on life and death.

In “Ailing Jimmy Carter ‘at Ease With Whatever Comes’” (August 20, 2015), Richard Fausset and Alan Blinder write in The New York Times:
Mr. Carter said that he began to feel unwell in May, while monitoring elections in Guyana. He returned to Atlanta, where doctors at Emory University noticed a mass on his liver. Doctors, he said, told him that the mass was “slow growing,” so he delayed the surgery to remove it until he completed a tour promoting his latest book, “A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety,” which vividly describes his boyhood on a Depression-era farm outside tiny Plains, Ga., his career as a naval officer, and his rise to the peak of American politics.
After the Aug. 3 procedure, which Mr. Carter’s office at the time described as “elective,” doctors concluded that the cancer was also in the former president’s brain.
“At first, I felt that it was confined to my liver and the operation had completely removed it, so I was quite relieved,” he said. “And then that same afternoon, we had an M.R.I. of my head and neck, and it showed up that it was already in four places in my brain. So I would say that night and the next day, until I came back up to Emory, I just thought I had a few weeks left.
“But I was surprisingly at ease,” Mr. Carter added. “I’ve had a wonderful life, I’ve had thousands of friends, and I’ve had an exciting and adventurous and gratifying existence.”
Mr. Carter said that he had so far faced minimal discomfort and that his cancer had not spread to his pancreas, a point of particular concern because Mr. Carter’s father and three siblings all died of pancreatic malignancies.
He said he signed on for the treatment without a moment’s hesitation. “Now I feel that it’s in the hands of God,” he said.
President Carter says in the same press conference that he will also leave it to his doctors. I can’t say I don’t like his attitude and his mix of gratitude and fighting spirit: I do. I tried to do the same when I was handed a diagnosis of cancer (December 2012), but I might have had more of one than the other. It seems to me that Pres. Carter exhibits much greater grace and gratitude than I did. I do have some regrets; and there is more that I would like to accomplish.

Even so, this gets me thinking about what is important and essential to a good life, and how to achieve it, if “achieve” is indeed the right word. Such an achievement is not of the material kind. It might well be that a life devoted to giving and focused on grace is the best way to have little regrets and help prepare for the end of life, which eventually visits us all. From what I have read about the man, this describes Pres. Carter’s life, and there is much to recommend it. Forgiveness is also important, both the giving and acceptance of it.

I hope that I am not being in any way presumptuous here. Perhaps, all ex-presidents should take note of how Carter decided to live his life after leaving higher office. His list of accomplishments are worthy. Like many others worldwide, I wish President Carter success in his treatments, and a full recovery.

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For more, go to [NYT]

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Story Of Vaccines

Disease Prevention


Vaccines are one of the best methods of preventing diseases and epidemics—they are one of the greatest advancements in modern medicine. Such is my view;  and I have written many blog posts supporting and defending this idea. I have no doubt on the efficacy of vaccines, and advocate vigorously for it. [see here, here & here]

This NOVA documentary (“Vaccines—Calling the Shots”) on PBS-TV, originally aired on September 10, 2014 and rebroadcast on August 26, 2015, shows why some diseases, like measles, which were thought eradicated in western nations, have returned. This has to do with lowering vaccination rates, led by parents, both secular and religious (the anti-vaccine movement, or anti-vaxxers), who are suspicious of the science supporting the efficacy of vaccines. Often it is a result of lack of information, or of listening to the wrong information. 

The consequences of not vaccinating children, according to schedule, are here discussed. Many are debilitating, if not deadly. It is bad enough that such an ill-informed decision on the part of a parent affects his or her children, it is made worse in that it affects others. An unvaccinated child helps spread the disease to others. If you want first-hand information on what life was like before vaccines, ask an older person (born before 1950) about polio, pertussis (whopping cough) and measles. I was (fortunately) born in 1957, and remember the stories my mother had told me, particularly about polio.

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Previous Posts
1. On Vaccines: A Matter of Life
(http://perryjgreenbaum.blogspot.ca/2011/02/on-vaccines-matter-of-life.html)

2. Informed Parents: Making Good Choices
(http://perryjgreenbaum.blogspot.ca/2011/03/informed-parents-making-good-choices.html)

3. The Measles Vaccine Has An Added Benefit 

Leonard Cohen Interview (2009)


Jian Ghomeshi of CBC Radio’s Q show interviews Leonard Cohen, poet, singer-songwriter, at his home in Montreal. It was aired on April 16, 2009. Ghomeshi is a good interviewer, who is not only intelligent, but can also elicit honest reflective answers from the people sitting in front of him. This is no small talent.

Below are some excerpts from their discussion:
Q: You said to the Observer newspaper that at this stage of your life you refer to as the third act. And you quoted Tennessee Williams saying “Life is a fairly well written play except for the third act.” You were 67 when you said that, you’re 74 now. Does that ring more or less true for you still?
A: Well it's well written, the beginning of the third act is... seems to be very, very well written. But the end of the third act (is) of course when the hero dies... each person considering himself the central figure of his own drama. My friend, my friend Irving Layton said, he said about death, he says: “It’s not death that he’s worried about, it’s the preliminaries.”
Q: Are you worried about the preliminaries?
A: Sure, every person ought to be.
Q: But this was a brand new career for you that you were starting in your 30s. How fearful were you of starting a second career at that point?
A: Well I’ve been generally fearful about everything, so this just fits in with the general sense of anxiety that I always experienced in my early life... When you say I had a career as a writer or a poet, that hardly begins to describe the modesty of the enterprise in Canada at that time. You know, we often printed our books we often mimeographed our books. An edition of 200 was considered a bestseller in poems.
Nothing has changed; it still remains so, For those who do not know, Irving Layton [1912–2006] is one of Canada’s famous and greatest poets. (Layton born in 1912 as Israel Pincu Lazarovitch, to Jewish parents in the Romanian town of Tirgul Neamtwas; they arrived in Montreal in 1913.)  Layton was a mentor to many poets, including Cohen. Other notable influences were Canadian poet, A.M. Klein [1909–1972] and Spanish poet, Federico Garcia Lorca [1898–1936].

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Loreena McKenitt: The Lady Of Shalott


Loreena McKenitt performs “The Lady Of Shalott,” which is on her fourth studio album, The Visit (1991). The lyrics are adapted from the 1842 poem of the same name by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and is based on the Arthurian legends of a much-earlier era (12th century), the castle and court of mythical Camelot being the locus of romance, heroics and chivalric order of the knights. The Knights of the Round Table, for example, is one of the most-familiar images drawn from this medieval period of British history.

The poem also engendered an 1888 painting by the Englishman, John William Waterhouse, a print of which hangs prominently on my living room wall. The Tate Gallery in London, England, where the painting is on display, says the following about this work of art:
The picture illustrates the following lines from part IV of Tennyson’s ‘The Lady of Shalott’:
And down the river’s dim expanse
Like some bold seer in a trance,
Seeing all his own mischance -
With glassy countenance
Did she look to Camelot.
And at the closing of the day
She loosed the chain, and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
The Lady of Shalott.
McKennitt is a Canadian with a beautiful haunting voice; you can listen to a longer version of the The Lady of Shalott here.

****************************************
The Lady Of Shalott

On either side of the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the world and meet the sky;
And thro' the field the road run by
To many-towered Camelot;
And up and down the people go,
Gazing where the lilies blow
Round an island there below,
The island of Shalott.

Willows whiten, aspens quiver,
Little breezes dusk and shiver
Thro' the wave that runs for ever
By the island in the river
Flowing down to Camelot.
Four grey walls, and four grey towers,
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers
The Lady of Shalott.

Only reapers, reaping early,
In among the bearded barley
Hear a song that echoes cheerly
From the river winding clearly
Down to tower'd Camelot;
And by the moon the reaper weary,
Piling sheaves in uplands airy,
Listening, whispers "'tis the fairy
The Lady of Shalott."

There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with colours gay,
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stay
To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily,
And little other care hath she,
The Lady of Shalott.

And moving through a mirror clear
That hangs before her all the year,
Shadows of the world appear.
There she sees the highway near
Winding down to Camelot;
And sometimes thro' the mirror blue
The Knights come riding two and two.
She hath no loyal Knight and true,
The Lady Of Shalott.

But in her web she still delights
To weave the mirror's magic sights,
For often thro' the silent nights
A funeral, with plumes and lights
And music, went to Camelot;
Or when the Moon was overhead,
Came two young lovers lately wed.
"I am half sick of shadows," said
The Lady Of Shalott.

A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,
He rode between the barley sheaves,
The sun came dazzling thro' the leaves,
And flamed upon the brazen greaves
Of bold Sir Lancelot.
A red-cross knight for ever kneel'd
To a lady in his shield,
That sparkled on the yellow field,
Beside remote Shalott.

His broad clear brow in sunlight glow'd;
On burnish'd hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flow'd
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
As he rode back to Camelot.
From the bank and from the river
He flashed into the crystal mirror,
"Tirra Lirra," by the river
Sang Sir Lancelot.

She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces taro' the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
She looked down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror cracked from side to side;
"The curse is come upon me," cried
The Lady of Shalott.

In the stormy east-wind straining,
The pale yellow woods were waning,
The broad stream in his banks complaining.
Heavily the low sky raining
Over towered Camelot;
Down she came and found a boat
Beneath a willow left afloat,
And round about the prow she wrote
The Lady of Shalott

And down the river's dim expanse
Like some bold seer in a trance,
Seeing all his own mischance -
With a glassy countenance
Did she look to Camelot.
And at the closing of the day
She loosed the chain and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
The Lady of Shalott.

Heard a carol, mournful, holy,
Chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
Till her blood was frozen slowly,
And her eyes were darkened wholly,
Turn'd to towered Camelot.
For ere she reach'd upon the tide
The first house by the water-side,
Singing in her song she died,
The Lady of Shalott.

Under tower and balcony,
By garden-wall and gallery,
A gleaming shape she floated by,
Dead-pale between the houses high,
Silent into Camelot.
Out upon the wharfs they came,
Knight and Burgher, Lord and Dame,
And round the prow they read her name,
The Lady of Shalott.

Who is this? And what is here?
And in the lighted palace near
Died the sound of royal cheer;
And they crossed themselves for fear,
All the Knights at Camelot;
But Lancelot mused a little space
He said, "She has a lovely face;
God in his mercy lend her grace,
The Lady of Shalott."


Say It In Neon

Sign Of The Times



Mido Café: PBS writes: “A woman stands in the light of a sign for Mido Café at 64 Temple St., Yau Ma Tei,
Hong Kong.”
Photo Credit: Wing Shya, M+ Museum

Source: PBS News

An article, by Corrine Segal, in PBS News Hour looks at neon signs, which used to dominate urban centres around the world. Neon became synonymous with the success of capitalism since its invention more than a century ago by Georges Claude, a French engineer. It defined, in many ways, the business of the 20th century.
We’ve seen them glowing on New York City theater billboards, Las Vegas casinos and Hong Kong high-rises. They cast unbidden light and shadow into restaurants and homes and are a part of the daily scenery for millions. But neon signs, once a vital part of a city’s culture and barometer for its economic climate, are fading out of sight as the once-popular technology disappears from the streets.
[…]
French engineer Georges Claude created the first neon lamp in 1902, and in 1910 displayed his invention publicly for the first time at the Paris Motor Show. In 1912, Claude created what many believe to be the first neon advertisement: the words “PALAIS COIFFEUR,” which lit up 14 boulevard Montmartre in Paris. By 1914, more than 100 businesses in Paris followed suit, attracting attention to their storefronts with neon. Claude was awarded a U.S. patent for the neon light in 1915 and began selling licenses to others who wanted to produce them.
Neon did not come to the U.S. until 1923, when the Roaring 20s were underway and the automotive industry was booming. Claude sold a pair of neon signs to a Packard car dealership in Los Angeles, which stopped traffic among onlookers who reportedly called the light “liquid fire.” The U.S. auto industry had new visual shorthand for the consumerism that drove it.
“I think people really respond to neon,” said Kevin Adams, a theatrical lighting designer who used neon-imitating LEDs in a design for the Metropolitan Opera’s production of “Rigoletto” in 2013. “There’s a kind of cool factor related to it that people respond to.”
Who could forget the many landmarks, notably restaurants (like in the photo above), whose names were prominently displayed in neon on their facades—they were often in red. These included a few of my favourite Chinese restaurants. Yes, neon might have seemed garish, and it eventually became representative of cheap motels and unsophisticated neighbourhood “dive” bars, but it was bold and so much part of my childhood, a history of the city in which I grew up. What will eventually be lost is the artistry of making neon, now that lower-cost alternatives, such as LEDs and fluorescents, have taken the place that was once held by chemistry's noble gas, neon.

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For more, go to [PBS News]

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Leonard Cohen: The Window (1979)



Leonard Cohen performs “The Window”; it is the third track of Recent Songs (1979). The other male shown in the video is Irving Layton, the great Canadian poet and one of Cohen’s mentors.

The Window
by Leonard Cohen

Why do you stand by the window
Abandoned to beauty and pride
The thorn of the night in your bosom
The spear of the age in your side
Lost in the rages of fragrance
Lost in the rags of remorse
Lost in the waves of a sickness
That loosens the high silver nerves
Oh chosen love, Oh frozen love
Oh tangle of matter and ghost
Oh darling of angels, demons and saints
And the whole broken-hearted host
Gentle this soul

And come forth from the cloud of unknowing
And kiss the cheek of the moon
The New Jerusalem glowing
Why tarry all night in the ruin
And leave no word of discomfort
And leave no observer to mourn
But climb on your tears and be silent
Like a rose on its ladder of thorns

Oh chosen love, Oh frozen love...

Then lay your rose on the fire
The fire give up to the sun
The sun give over to splendour
In the arms of the high holy one
For the holy one dreams of a letter
Dreams of a letter's death
Oh bless thee continuous stutter
Of the word being made into flesh

Oh chosen love, Oh frozen love...
Gentle this soul

The song contains multiple themes common to Cohen’s poetry and songs: spirituality, love and indecision. A window allows light to enter, yet too much light can be blinding. Spiritually, this foreshadows an awakening of the soul. The indecision will vanish, at least for a time, until it finds something else on which to latch itself.

A window allows one to look out & one to look in when at a point of seeking something essential. What does a soul require is the question of this song. In “Speaking Sweetly from ‘The Window’: Reading Leonard Cohen’s Song,” Doron B. Cohen’s poetic essay in Leonard Cohen Files gives some insightful analysis of this song. Here’s one:
The window in this poem is open to a reality beyond this world, beyond death, bringing light for those willing to see it. In the second stanza the poet criticizes those who pray dutifully but meaninglessly, afraid of an unexpected vision that might rattle their secure world. The light, when coming through the window to such people, rather than uplift them, turns them into stone, killing love, causing even the heart of God to freeze. But the unstated meaning of the poem is that there is another way: there is a thirst for vision, for another kind of love, and for a true communion with God.

Return The Trash Cans

Civilization
There are times that city officials make decisions that initially seem right, but are done with insufficient thought as to long-term consequences. This is the case in New York City when the Metropolitan Transit Authority, or M.T.A, decided to remove trash bins from some of its subway stations. Prof. George Jochnowitz writes: “In 2011, for reasons unknown, the M.T.A. removed all garbage cans from the N and R station at Eighth St. and Broadway. It did so from a second station, as well: Main St. in Queens. The M.T.A. apparently trusted subway riders to keep their litter until they reached a station with trash cans, or until they got out of the subway.”

**********************************
by George Jochnowitz

Garbage cans are a wonderful invention. They have existed since time immemorial. They make it easier for people to dispose of trash, and thus, they contribute to cleanliness and health.

In 2011, for reasons unknown, the M.T.A. removed all garbage cans from the N and R station at Eighth St. and Broadway. It did so from a second station, as well: Main St. in Queens. The M.T.A. apparently trusted subway riders to keep their litter until they reached a station with trash cans, or until they got out of the subway.

Mysteriously, the plan worked for a while. It is hard to imagine why it should have been effective, but on Jan. 27, 2014, the M.TA. announced that it would expand the program. Joe Leader, senior vice president of the M.T.A.’s Department of Subways, said, “The results have been for the most part very positive and we have seen some behavioral changes by riders.”

Subway riders are responsible and try to be clean and helpful. Most of them held on to their litter. It was an inconvenience. It is so very much easier to dump your garbage into a convenient trash can. Nevertheless, many people put up with the inconvenience.

Consequently, the M.T.A. increased the inconvenience. They removed trash bins from 29 additional stations, mainly on the J and M lines. It was too much for subway riders. Littering increased. It increased even where there were convenient garbage cans. Once people get into the habit of dropping their garbage on the platform, they do so even if there is a convenient alternative.

When I get off the N or R train at the Eighth St. station, I often see litter or even uneaten food on the benches. This is more common on the Downtown side in the evening. There are also lots of loose scraps of paper on the floor after one passes the turnstiles but before one starts climbing up the steps. Riders who have been carrying their trash with them just give up when they see no relief when they finally arrive at their destination.

The M.T.A. should be happy to make life easier for its riders. It should take advantage of the wonderful, historic invention that our remote ancestors gave us. Please, M.T.A., bring back the trash bins.

**********************************
George Jochnowitz was born in New York City, in 1937. He became aware of different regional pronunciations when he was six, and he could consciously switch accents as a child. He got his Ph.D. in linguistics from Columbia University and taught linguistics at the College of Staten Island, CUNY. His area of specialization was Jewish languages, in particular, Judeo-Italian dialects. As part of a faculty-exchange agreement with Hebei University in Baoding, China, he was in China during the Tiananmen Massacre. He can be reached at george@jochnowitz.net.

**********************************
Copyright ©2015. George Jochnowitz. All Rights Reserved. This originally appeared as a letter to the editor, The Villager (August 20, 2015). It is republished here with the author’s permission.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Elvis In Concert (1977)

Memories


This video shows footage from Elvis’ last recorded concerts in Omaha, Nebraska, on June 19, 1977, and in Rapid City, South Dakota, on June 21, 1977, less than two months before his death. It was filmed for CBS-TV and broadcast as Elvis In Concert on October 3, 1977. (His final show, which is not part of this video, was in Indianapolis, Indiana, on June 26, 1977.)

Here is the song list and other scenes:
  1. Elvis fans’ comments/opening vamp
  2. Introduction/Also sprach Zarathustra
  3. See See Rider
  4. That’s All Right
  5. Are You Lonesome Tonight?
  6. Teddy Bear/Don't Be Cruel
  7. Elvis fans' comments
  8. You Gave Me a Mountain
  9. Jailhouse Rock
  10. Elvis fans’ comments
  11. How Great Thou Art
  12. Elvis fans' comments
  13. I Really Don’t Want To Know
  14. Elvis introduces his father, Vernon, and his girlfriend Ginger Alden
  15. Hurt
  16. Hound Dog
  17. My Way
  18. Can’t Help Falling in Love
  19. Closing vamp
  20. Final message from Vernon Presley

The Jewish Side Of Elvis

Popular Singers

Elvis’ Mother: Goldberg writes about his interview with George Klein, the elder statesman of Memphis rock ’n’ roll: “He told me that Elvis had put a Star of David on his mother’s gravestone. You can see it in the photo above. You won’t see it on her grave at Graceland, though. She was originally buried at Memphis’ Forest Park Cemetery, but after Elvis died in 1977 there was an attempt to rob his grave, and so he and his mother were reinterred at Graceland. The new gravestone, lacking Elvis’s active attention, didn’t get a star.”
Photo Credit & Source: The Forward
For a long time, there has been a lot of discussion about Elvis Presley being Jewish, not outwardly or as an observant Jew, but of being Jewish by Jewish law, or halakhah. An article, by J.J. Goldberg, in The Forward makes a convincing argument that leaves little doubt that the king of  ’n’ roll was, indeed, a member of the Jewish People.

In “On Elvis’ Yahrzeit, His Not So Secret Jewish History (August 30, 2014), Goldberg writes:
I found out about Elvis’s Jewish background the first time (of many) that I visited Memphis, back in the mid-1990s. I was there to speak at the Memphis Jewish Community Center. Heading into town from the airport, the center director, the irreplaceable Barrie Weiser, described their recently completed building renovation. In his animated description he mentioned the fact that they’d had to demolish a room donated to the center decades earlier by Elvis Presley. The plaque, dedicating the room, so Barrie recalled, to Elvis’s mother, who had some sort of Jewish background, had been retired to a storeroom.
Barrie went on to tell me that Elvis was a life member of the JCC, largely because he found it convenient to come there after midnight and play racquetball. Elvis being a major donor, the caretaker didn’t mind opening the place after hours for him. (It didn’t hurt that he was the King of Rock ’n’ Roll, I thought to myself.)
The next day I went on my first pilgrimage to Graceland. I was in for a series of shocks. First, there was nothing convenient about it. It was way across Memphis from the JCC. Elvis played racquetball at the JCC because he wanted to be at the JCC. Something mysterious was behind this.
As I took the tour, the mystery deepened. After you visit the various rooms on the ground floor (the upstairs was off limits, I was told, as it was still occupied by Elvis’s two elderly aunts) you were sent to the basement to view an endless row of display cases with all of Elvis’s album covers, gold records, jumpsuits and more. The very last display case, before you left the building to roam the grounds, featured the things Elvis was wearing the night he died. Included were his religious paraphernalia, which he “always wore,” the docent told me: a cross and a Chai pendant (visible in the photo above).
 Curiouser and curiouser.
What is not at all surprising is why Elvis could not publicly say he was Jewish, or claim his Jewish ancestry, or intimate that he had an interest in the Jewish People. This was primarily due to pressure from his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, who thought America was not then ready for a non-Christian pop idol. So, one of the world’s most popular singers had to find other ways to display his Jewish ancestry, including wearing a chai (“life”) and surrounding himself with long-time Jewish friends, dubbed the Memphis Mafia. This is one way to circumvent the tight clutches of an over-reaching manager and equally those of societal expectations.

Elvis excesses have been well documented, including his generosity. That his music touched the lives of millions (including me) is also beyond dispute. So should the claim that he was Jewish. He had fans around the world, a true international entertainer. This reminds me of a story; when I recently attended a barbecue hosted by a Chabad-Lubavitch family (a Hasidic branch of Judaism), I struck up a conversation with a chassid, who had recently arrived from Israel. He spoke some English, and for some reason I can’t recall, the conversation soon turned to popular music and to Elvis. The man, around my age and of my generation, said rather unequivocally that “Elvis was Jewish” and that his neshamah (“soul”) was Jewish. He gave many reasons to support his assertion, including evidence from his rabbi.

For many, this fact is immaterial to his music and to his status as a legendary entertainer. This is undeniably true, and I do not want to make too much of it—it his his music that is most important, and for which he ought to be most remembered. (Whether or not he was Jewish did not matter to me when I growing up.) Such music transcends culture, religion, and national boundaries. And this is a beautiful idea.

Yet, I think it is important to set the record straight, to give him in death what was denied to him in life—some connection to his Jewish ancestry. So the connections exists in some small way. For example,there is a diner in Israel dedicated to all things Elvis; and Dan Hartal, an Orthodox Jewish performer called Elvis Shmelvis.

Elvis’ yahrzeit (the day of his death) on the Jewish calendar is the 2nd of Elul; this year that fell on Monday August 17th. May his memory among the living stay strong.

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For more, go to [TheForward]

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Beatles: I'll Follow The Sun (1964)



The Beatles perform “I'll Follow the Sun,” a melancholy ballad.” It was released on the Beatles for Sale album in the United Kingdom in 1964, and a year later in the United States on Beatles ’65.


I'll Follow the Sun
By John Lennon & Paul McCartney

One day
You'll look to see I've gone
For tomorrow may rain
So I'll follow the sun

Some day
You'll know I was the one
But tomorrow may rain
So I'll follow the sun

And now the time has come
And so my love I must go
And though I lose a friend
In the end you will know

Oh one day
You'll find that I have gone
But tomorrow may rain
So I'll follow the sun

Yet tomorrow may rain
So I'll follow the sun

And now the time has come
And so my love I must go
And though I lose a friend
In the end you will know

Oh one day
You'll find that I have gone
But tomorrow may rain
So I'll follow the sun

This superficial-sounding pop melody has far deeper meanings than one would expect for an early Beatles song. The song, filled with modern cultural references, speaks about the rejection of youthful love, and its short-term consequences. It follows the literary trope of a young lovelorn man who issues a final ultimatum before leaving town to seek some romantic reward, possibly as some sort of compensatory action. Or is it a kind of redemption offered by the sun?

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Majority Culture

Our Society
Mario Vargas Llosa: Haverty writes: “Vargas Llosa is pessimistic about the survival of literature, which is to say books that aren’t primarily entertainment or pragmatic. He’s pessimistic about how a society can live without coherent religious belief (although he himself can) and not fall into despair, about our abandonment of the concept of privacy. To put the inner self on public display in the way we’re expected to do is to revert to barbarism.”
Photo Credit & Source: The Irish Times


A book review article, by Anne Haverty, in The Irish Times looks at Mario Vargas Llosa’s Notes On The Death Of Culture; I know that we heard this story before, but it is worth looking at it again, notably for those few of us—a minority within greater society—who truly think and care about such things. With T.S. Eliot’s elitism and deep-set melancholy resonating clearly, Llosa says we have squandered our great heritage, that we now live in a culture devoid of values.

Such is the power and influence of majority culture, a theme made clear in Haverty’s article about the Nobel Laureate’s (Literature, 2010) collection of essays in book form:
This is a book of mourning. What Vargas Llosa writes is a lament for how things used to be and how they are now in all aspects of life from the political to the spiritual. Like TS Eliot in his essay Notes Towards the Definition of Culture, written in 1948, he takes the concept of culture in the general sense as a shared sensibility, a way of life.
Eliot too saw culture decaying around him and foresaw a time in which there would be no culture. This time, Vargas Llosa argues, is ours. Eliot has since been under attack for what his critics often describe as his elitist attitudes – as well as much else – and Vargas Llosa will probably also be tarred with the same brush for his pains.

But we must be grateful to him for describing in a relatively orderly manner the chaos of hypocrisy and emptiness into which our globalised culture has plunged and to which we seem to have little option but to subscribe.
It’s not easy, however, to be orderly on such an all-encompassing and sensitive subject as the way we live now. On some aspects, such as the art business, Vargas Llosa practically foams at the mouth. The art world is “rotten to the core”, a world in which artists cynically contrive “cheap stunts”. Stars like Damien Hirst are purveyors of “con-tricks”, and their “boring, farcical and bleak” productions are aided by “half-witted critics”.
We have abandoned the former minority culture, which was truth-seeking, profound, quiet and subtle, in favour of mainstream or mass entertainment, which has to be accessible – and how brave if foolhardy of anyone these days to cast aspersions on accessibility – as well as sensation-loving and frivolous.
Value-free, this kind of culture is essentially valueless.
Bread and circuses
Vargas Llosa adopts a name for this age of ours coined by the French Marxist theorist Guy Debord. We live in the Society of the Spectacle. A name that recalls the bread and circuses offered to a debased populace in the declining Roman empire. Exploited by the blind forces of rampant consumerism, we are reduced to being spectators of our own lives rather than actors in them.
Should the Peruvian writer’s laments be ours as well? Yes, to some degree, in that there are some things that ought to concern all thinking and thoughtful persons. But my reasons for such concern might differ from that of this writer, who is no stranger to popular culture and cashing in on his fame. We are on a different track, and so it must be. Or is. My reasons have everything to do with economic hardships and social alienation, which often finds its faithful among the poor. Poverty does very predictable things to people, most of it deeds soul-numbing, a destruction of the potential of the future.

Spectacles and shows offer some comfort as a brief respite, a short breather, if you will, from everyday realities and hardships.They can never replace reality, but are a carefully staged presentation of it—hence, entertainment of some form. This has spilled over into other areas of life, and is certainly true for what is considered news today in its coverage of politics, business, crime and social issues. Much of it is derivative and partisan, with predictable sound bites; it does not require much attention and concentration to watch the news, such as it is. (There are some exceptional news organizations: PBS in the United States and CBC in Canada come to mind.)

It’s the way it is, most predominantly in the United States, but it is also certainly true in Canada and in many European nations. And the very people who can change things, with few exceptions, are happy about it, the way it is. The cultural gatekeepers have abandoned their posts, all-too-happy to feed “junk food” to the mob of a consumerist society willing to purchase anything. For this, they are handsomely paid. A steady diet of junk food, however, proves unhealthy over a lifetime of living; the operative word is balance. (Using this metaphor, I, for one, enjoy junk food sometimes.)

As it is often said, “Follow the money.” The wealthy business & political elites (and in some cases, the religious leaders) have created (and benefited from) a climate of despair and alienation, thus compelling people (notably the poor) to look to low-brow entertainment (and news) to forget their harsh reality, and, more important, to keep consuming their shoddily produced cultural products. Surely this suggests a culture in deep decline. But, who cares? It also ensures, for the producers of said cultural products, a continuing income stream, the money encouraging more of the same. To be sure, much of it is uninspiring drek.

So, all that is left is sex, and our societal obsession of it. It permeates all areas of human experience. In so many cases, sex—the desire for, the discussion of, and the artless dissection of— has replaced other once-important pleasures, including talk, debate, thinking and erotica. Is the art of conversation one of the lost arts?  On this subject, I would recommend the French-Canadian film, Le déclin de l'empire américain (The Decline of the American Empire), a 1986 masterpiece by Denys Arcand, a Quebec filmmaker. [see video clip here.] I would also recommend Arcand’s  Les Invasions barbares (The Barbarian Invasions), Arcand‘s Oscar-winning 2003 follow-up film. [see video clip here.] The action is in the conversation; in the ideas put forth, in the memories of what was and could never again be.

The news is not all bad, lest this become a doom-and-gloom rant or a paean to elitism, which is not my intent. Such films are still being produced, but are rarer, little gems that do not have wide public appeal. After all, there is more money to be made from selling low-culture; and as long as this is so, it will continue unabated. Even so, it must be said that there are still some fine films, books, artworks being produced; moreover, there are the thousands of years of stored cultural artifacts—the history of ideas, if you will—that is accessible to anyone who has an Internet connection. (There are also libraries, museums, art houses, and the like—at times charging nothing—for those who want to see these up close.)

But it also must be remembered that information is not knowledge and understanding; and this can neither be purchased nor easily and quickly obtained. It takes discussion, engagement, listening and thinking. It takes lots of time and effort. I do not think this is the end of culture, as we know it, but part of another popular movement. (Some will call it a death spiral.)  Where it will lead to is anyone’s guess. There will always be a small minority who will retain interest in ideas that the majority do not care about, often for valid reasons. Such is the way it is.

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For more, go to [Irish Times]

Friday, August 21, 2015

M*A*S*H: The First Episode (1972)


Here is the first episode of M*A*S*H, an American TV comedy based on the 1970 film of the same name, which itself was based on the 1968 novel, MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors, by Richard Hooker. The series is set in South Korea during the Korean War (1950–53). In many ways, it was about the Vietnam War and the deleterious effects, in general, of war. It humanized the participants of war, who were caught in the trap of decisions made by their nation’s leaders.

This show, created by Larry Gelbart, was part of my formative childhood years, and as Wikipedia notes, eventually become popular:
The series premiered in the U.S. on September 17, 1972, and ended February 28, 1983, with the finale, "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen", becoming the most-watched and highest-rated single television episode in U.S. television history at the time, with a record-breaking 125 million viewers (60.2 rating and 77 share),[1] according to the New York Times.[2] It had struggled in its first season and was at risk of being cancelled.[3]
Season two of M*A*S*H placed it in a better time slot (airing after the popular All in the Family); the show became one of the top-ten programs of the year and stayed in the top-20 programs for the rest of its run.[3] It is still broadcast in syndication on various television stations. The series, which depicted events occurring during a three-year military conflict, spanned 256 episodes and lasted 11 seasons.
Many of the stories in the early seasons are based on tales told by real MASH surgeons who were interviewed by the production team. Like the movie, the series was as much an allegory about the Vietnam War (still in progress when the show began) as it was about the Korean War.[4]
Although this show was considered a situation comedy, it would also be classified as a dark comedy. But, then again, this is what one would expect from such a subject.

Cancer Patients Who Hold Spiritual Views Feel Better

Health & Wellness

Prayer: The study’s authors write: “Future research should focus on how relationships between religious or spiritual involvement and health change over time, and whether support services designed to enhance particular aspects of religion and spirituality in interested patients might help improve their well-being.”
Source: TimesLive

An article from Reuters and posted in The Jerusalem Post says that cancer patients who have some kind of spiritual or religious view of a benevolent God report that they do better in treatment and that they fell better, despite a cancer diagnosis; it is important to note that this was a self-assessment rather than a qualitative result. Why this is so is not completely understood, but the chief idea is that the distress of having cancer is counterbalanced by “knowing a higher power is in control.” It can simply be stated as a belief in transcendence.

The study, a meta-analysis involved 44,000 individuals, accounting for a wide range of cancers, was published in the journal Cancer (“How Religious and Spiritual Beliefs Relate to Cancer Patients’ Physical, Mental, and Social Well-Being”). One of the study’s authors was Heather Jim of the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida. (She is quoted in the article.)

The article (“Spirituality may be tied to easier cancer course”; August 10, 2015) says:
For the impact of spirituality on physical health, the studies included more than 32,000 adult cancer patients with a range of cancer types and stages. Higher religious or spirituality scores were generally associated with better overall health.
A sense of connection to a being larger than oneself was associated with better physical function and fewer, or less severe, symptoms of cancer or treatment, according to patient reports. Intrinsic religious belief was also tied to better physical function. Actual practice of religion, like church attendance, prayer, or meditation, was not related to physical health. 
“Cancer patients who reported higher meaning, purpose, and spiritual connection in life also reported better physical health, as did patients who reported more positive religious or spiritual explanations for the cancer (versus a sense of fatalism or anger towards God),” Jim said.
Religious people may engage in more healthy behaviors, avoiding things like alcohol and drugs, and religious communities may provide social support, transportation to appointments, provision of meals and other basic needs, she said.Spirituality may enhance positive emotion such as love, forgiveness, and comfort and reduce stress, she added.
I was diagnosed with cancer in December 2012, and underwent the usual course of treatment; I had the full range of emotions associated with knowledge of a life-altering disease. What had a positive effect on my recovery and well-being was not only a personal belief that I was going to get better, but also the support I received from family and friends. That belief affects health and wellness ought to be an important area of medical research, since it places some of the power of “healing” in the hands of patients themselves.

Such thinking makes patients not helpless beings, but as partners working alongside the medical community in bettering their outcomes. Doctors mean well, but their training  likely works against this idea. The medical community is slow to recognize this reality, fearing a loss of control and perhaps prestige. But change will take place; these kind of large studies supporting and encouraging these necessary modifications.

Patients can positively affect how they feel about having a cancer diagnosis; and what this study also tells me is that any outside support a patient feels that he or she is getting does improve over-all outcomes. Kindness and generosity goes a long way; it shows that someone cares. Whether this support is from a higher power, or from family or from friends, the essential point is that there is support. This includes, for many, support that is spiritual or mystical in nature. The ideas of transcendence need further exploration.

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For more, go to [JPost]

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Park Near Our House

Urban Nature



Here are a few quick snaps of another part of G. Ross Lord Park, behind the apartment building in which we reside. We discovered a stream nearby, a western tributary of the Don River, which winds its way through the city of Toronto. Also noticeable are fallen trees, damaged from the ice storm of a few years ago.  From the photos, it seems that we are no longer in the city. The last picture is our apartment building, from which I take photos of the park. It’s another view.










All Photos: ©Perry J. Greenbaum, 2015