Sunday, March 29, 2009
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Ripping the legs off live crabs and crowding lobsters into seafood market tanks are just two of the many practices that may warrant reassessment, given two new studies that indicate crustaceans feel pain and stress.
The findings add to a growing body of evidence that virtually all animals, including fish, shellfish and insects, can suffer.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
It’s hard to appreciate just how radical The Big Sleep seemed when it came out in 1939, how it disturbed critics with its portrayal of a world peopled by “moral defectives” (as one reviewer said), how it was a “study in depravity” (according to another), a story populated by pornographers and homosexual blackmailers, mobsters, corrupt cops and rich girls who posed nude in exchange for drugs, bad-seed daughters who killed for vengeful sport and gangsters who controlled politicians. The novel depicted a rapacious midcentury America, where getting and spending, hawking and hustling, corruption and greed and all the rotten little secrets beneath the brash, rude surface of the city signified the death of the Victorian-beau ideal. It’s important to remember that Chandler was as much an English-Victorian writer as a California-American one.
Among the things he liked about L.A. were cars. He loved to drive, loved the freedom encapsulated in the very word automobile. His big green Packard convertible was perfect for migrating to Big Bear for the summers and Palm Springs for the winter. Maybe it was why he moved more than three-dozen times in and around L.A. With an automobile, Chandler could. He embraced the new world of transience and mobility the way a duck takes to migrating, as if it were part of his genes. He liked screenwriters better than novelists: He felt they were more fun and less pretentious. Hollywood eventually beat him down, but he also had some good times when he worked there in the ’40s.
Chandler didn’t create a feel-good world in his books. He gave you permission to feel unhappy about the society you found yourself in. He witnessed the advent of television and mass advertising: Television had possibilities, he felt, though it bred such passivity that watching it was like being mired in the primeval ooze, while advertising was an elaborate scam, a waste of human intelligence, a conning of the public, an inherently dishonest activity guaranteed to make him hate any product being hawked. He didn’t much like the new post–World War II consumer culture either, or the fact that the all-tile bathroom had become the new standard of civilization. He particularly hated the idea of built-in obsolescence — a phrase, regrettably, that’s hardly even uttered anymore.
Toward the end of his life Chandler said, “The story of our time isn’t the story of war or the atomic bomb. It’s the story of an idealist married to a gangster and how their children and home life turn out.” He could be describing The Sopranos.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Sunday, March 22, 2009
For those who don't know, the castle at High Park is an amazing playground for kids. It's a huge wooden castle of mazes, ladders, bridges, slides, and lots of hidden spaces. Today was a beautiful day in Toronto (high 30sF!) and there were lots of kids at the castle.
I was at the top of a tube slide, and Amado went down. Usually he just gets up and goes around the corner to the place he can climb back up. When he does this, he is out of my sight for just a second, as he climbs up the various stairs and pathways to the top of the slide again.
But this time he didn't reappear. I waited a few seconds, then went down to look for him. He was nowhere to be found. I started searching everywhere--in the small crawl spaces of the castle only a three-year-old could fit in, around the back of the castle, in the hidden places. But he was nowhere.
I knew he could not have gotten far without me seeing him. He had to be in the castle somewhere. My head felt like it started to spin. He had to be there.
I started to rush around, searching all the places I had already looked twice, then three times. My vision felt like it was closing in on me, as I started to panic. But in my rational mind I knew he couldn't get away. He couldn't be lost. I thought about calling Wendy and asking her to drive down and help me look. I started looking at the other parents with pleading eyes, "Have you seen my son?" I could see that some of them were starting to realize what was going on. A Muslim woman looked at me with concern.
This felt like it went on for a long time, but it really just a few minutes. I went to the last place I hadn't looked, a smaller castle that is next to the main structure. Just then Amado came tearing around the corner, smiling, and saying "Daddy, Daddy!" He was covered in mud, but I was so happy to see him. I gave him a big, big hug, as my heart dropped from my throat or head or wherever it was, back to its place.
For a few minutes I had felt what must be every parent's worst nightmare, to lose one's child. And I thought of all those who have lost their children and are still looking for them to this day.
Yes, it's complicated, but that's where we all live.
The way in which we can find our own place is to tune our instrument to the keynote of the chord to which we belong. Sound is the force which groups all things, from atoms to worlds. The chording vibration sounds in the innermost being of ourselves and can only be heard in silence. When we go into the inner chamber and shut the door to every sound that comes from the life without, then will the voice of God speak to our soul and we will know the keynote of our life.
--Hazrat Inayat Khan (1882-1927), The Music of Life
According to string theory, the universe is made up of tiny strings whose resonant patterns of vibration are the microscopic origin of particle masses and force changes. String theory also requires extra space dimensions that must be curled up to a very small size to be consistent with our never having seen them. But a tiny string can probe a tiny space. As a string moves about, oscillating as it travels, the geometrical form of the extra dimensions plays a critical role in determining resonant patterns of vibration. Because the patterns of string vibrations appear to us as the masses and charges of elemental particles, we conclude that these fundamental properties of the universe are determined, in large measure, by the geometrical size and shape of the extra dimensions. That's one of the most far-reaching insights of string theory.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Cornstalks and Crows
Early in the morning in June
I walked out of our vacation adobe
Through a rabbit trail
Past the escusado
And stood with the toes of
My shoes just touching the
Edge of earth where it began
To crumble into the corn patch.
I began to blow into the plastic
Crow whistle I’d fished out of a
Kellogg’s Cornflake box.
I took a step back, blew air into the plastic whistle
My caws stretched over
the bent tassels and rustled
in the Green thicket until a crow, like magic,
Came from no where and landed
with a great black swoop just above my head
On the tallest corn plant.
And listened with glee as the crow answered back
and in one moment like a quickly descending storm
the air was black with the birds.
Blue wings glistening like a giant oil spill
That blotted out the rising sun
Until all I could see was black
And all I could hear was the riot
Of sound and the crushing of the entire field.
Farmers ran and swooped their flannel arms
but the crows had taken up residence as though they too
had sprouted from the earth.
I moved five steps back and watched as the entire
Crop was destroyed.
And sometimes even with the power of the heaviest regret
Things cannot be made right.
Sometimes the need to create and to destroy are as tightly
Bound as the weave of feather on wing.
The cloud of crow sometimes unbidden
But too often hailed by us
On the intake of breath
Sometimes we choose disaster.
Cooper Gallegos's family had a one-room adobe house in a small Mexican village where she spent summers as a kid. Her poem, “Cornstalks and Crows,” is written from a memory of that time. She has been published in Looking Back; What It's Like to Love a Woman; Sisters Singing; and she has read her work on Central Coast Public Radio. She is currently writing a collection of inter-linked stories set in the 1970's Mojave Desert. When not writing she makes “found art” from rusted metal she scavenges from the middle of nowhere.