Thursday, December 27, 2007

Dick Flick Marathon

Since I'm off this week, & find myself twiddling my thumbs on many a cold, dark night, I journeyed out to Blockbuster & rented movies. I chose only manly sagas, those flicks with plenty of action, good looking chicks, devoid of uncomfortable emotions (other than anger & revenge), & always triumphant against the bad guys in the end. Here's my list with a few reviews:

Bloodwork Clint Eastwood B+++
Goldfinger Sean Connery (haven't watched yet)
The Fugitive Harrison Ford B-
Serpico Al Pacino B+/ A-
Mission: Impossible Tom Cruise (B+/A- even though I had little idea of what was going on most of the time)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Gifts of Xmas' Past & Present

My dad brought out this old camera to show me on Christmas Day. His brother Willie gave him the camera for Christmas when he was a little boy. My dad's had this camera for 60 years.

I looked up the make and model of the camera on Google. It took me just minutes to find out it was made by the Universal Camera Company in NYC, in the late 30's, early 40's. The company made several models from the 30's to the 50's, including a movie camera. Their idea was to create small cameras that were affordable. At the time, this camera cost one dollar. It neatly fits into the palm of your hand.

My unique gift this year was antique riding goggles, from my sister. I did an internet search on vintage goggles & found some similar models, but not the exact pair. I did find out a few facts though. The most interesting info. is that the eye rims are likely made of bake-lite, & the glasses were probably made in the 1930's or 40's. Lastly, as much as I'd like to picture them on the mug of some vintage, baronistic motorcyclist, they were likely used for welding. (Look at the damage on the lens, & they're tinted green). Still, with an added leather strap, they'll make a fine addition (with my vintage helmet) to my baron attire. Thanks, J!

Sunday, December 23, 2007


Boy, did I have fun yesterday at Toys R Us. I went hog wild buying toys for my two nephews and niece. I have to admit, I selected certain toys because I want to play with them myself (tee hee).
I also spotted a reissued, classic Fisher-Price telephone from 1962. I had this telephone when just a mere tot.

ahh, cute

Friday, December 21, 2007

Trio Versions of Cole Porter

My favorite Cole Porter song is, "Don't Fence Me in." Here below are three different versions of his glorious song. One, the Andrew Sisters, 1940's,

Two, Abba, the 1970's

Three, David Byrne, 1990's....

De-Lovely Cole Porter

Cole Porter. One of our greatest American composers.
The divine Ella Fitzgerald-- with her wide ranging, gorgeous voice--- found enough songs to fill two CDS of his music. See "Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook, Vol 1 & 2."
Some of Cole Porter's hits include:
"You do something to me."
"You're the Top."
"It's De-Lovely."
"Let's Do it. Let's Fall in Love."
"I Get a Kick out of YOu."
"Don't Fence me in."
"Begin the Beguine."

Here is Ethel Merman singing: "I Get a Kick Out of You." (1936)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

It's a Grand Old Name

I have always liked this old song, "Mary's a Grand Old Name," by George M. Cohen, 1905. He wrote "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and other Broadway tunes.
I used to go around my apartment, humming this song, when I had a roommate named Mary. Mary is a good old name, isn't it? Do you know any unpleasant Marys?
Here below are some beloved Marys.

Recently, I saw an article about Mary Christmas. She got married in Utah last week.

Seems about right.

Monday, December 17, 2007

How To Build An Igloo

Friends, Just in case you were wondering how to build an igloo, here are the detailed instructions, printed in the Boston Globe this past week. A gal should always be prepared.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

What a Woman of 45 Ought to Know

Sounds pretty ominous. Being that this is the year I gracefully transition to being 45, I went to my bookshelves & searched for a little wisdom. I found this book, a joke gift given by a friend a few years ago. (thanks, ER!) Somehow, my mind is not at ease, after thumbing through Mrs. Emma F. Angell Drake's fine book: "Purity & Truth: Self & Sex Series: What a Woman of Forty-Five Ought to Know." 1902. Here below are some bullet highlights of the vast subjects she covers. If any of you gals out there need more details, let me know.

  • relation of early habits to later aches & ills
  • equipped for the change by the creator
  • the fear that unnerves many
  • the age at which it usually appears
  • jewish women
  • placid vs. nervous women
  • childless women
  • excesses
  • effect upon sight
  • increase of flesh
  • chilliness, dizziness
  • nature as woman's helper
  • irritability
  • fall house cleaning
  • Mr. Bok's description of English women
  • dress during this period
  • when the daughter from boarding school returns to make radical changes in the home
  • lustful indulgence
  • different kinds of husbands
  • benefits of cultivating flowers
  • removing dandruff


The Ultimate Performance-- Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey---- "Money", from Cabaret (1972). ATKM--- All the King's Men, a Boston female drag troupe, does a fantastic rendition of this classic.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Plump Fiction

Check out Julie Brown's spoof on 'Pulp Fiction'--- Plump Fiction. When you go to the site, click on 'Plump Fiction' at the bottom. Very funny.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Photographers Part 3

Part 3 of my featured, favorite photographers, is Man Ray (1890-1976).
A kind of a weird guy.
His epitaph reads: "Unconcerned, but not indifferent."

Man Ray considered himself primarily a painter, though I think it's his photography that's most famous. He was an American, but spent time living in Paris with thousands of other American ex-patriots during the Post W.W. I, avant-garde, bohemian 1920's. What a time for the arts, & Man Ray was a man of his times. He was friends with Salvador Dali, Jean Cocteau, and Marcel Duchamp. Fellow artists of the time were: Pablo Picasso, Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Miro, & Jean Arp. His girlfriend during the 1920's---- Kiki de Montparnasse--- posed for many of his pictures (below).

Man Ray's work is the marriage of surrealist painting with photography. He also created fantastic advertisements & experimental films.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

How Many of Me?

Stats can be fun. Here are a few.
There are 303,497,926 people in the U.S. (according to latest census records) There are 584,234 people in the U.S. with my first name. 99.9 % are female. My first name is the 86th most popular name. 943,879 people in the US have my last name. My last name is the 10th most popular name. ONLY 1, 817 people have my full name. (This doesn't count my middle name too. I'm probably the only one.......) Click on below to find out about your own name......
LogoThere are
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Visitation

My nephews came this weekend to stay at my new place for the first time. They were on 'probation' to see how they'd behave. Mother wanted a 'report.'

As you can see, I'm no help because I instigate or go along with most of their shenanigans (to a point). Here we are filming, at 7:30 a.m., part 1 and 2 of our new horror film, "What did you do to my legs???? What did you do to my arms????"

The neighbors didn't mind.

Our flick is so low budget that our only prop was a checkerboard IKEA pillow that has two openings to put your hands & arms in to kept them toasty-- like an old hand muff. My nephew figured out he could put his legs into the openings. Something I wouldn't have tried myself.

Soon American cinematic history was forever altered....

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Spinning Lady Test

Take the 'Spinning Lady' test to see if you are right-brained or left-brained. I'm right-brained. Here are the strengths and preferences of each 'side.'

uses logic
detail oriented
facts rule
words and language
present and past
math and science
can comprehend
order/pattern perception
knows object name
reality based
forms strategies

uses feeling
"big picture" oriented
imagination rules
symbols and images
present and future
philosophy & religion
can "get it" (i.e. meaning)
spatial perception
knows object function
fantasy based
presents possibilities
risk taking

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Uncle Billy

My father's cousin, William Sydenstricker, was a glass designer. He designed a method for baking two pieces of glass, with a stenciled design (usually flowers) with colored sand. His designs were based on an ancient Egyptian art. For many years William owned & operated a successful gift shop in Brewster, Cape Cod, MA, right on Rt. 6A. In the winter he had a shop in Key West, Florida.
Bill was a great & unforgettable man-- funny, kind, generous, friendly, flamboyant, & easy-going. In the 1970's his store in Brewster was at the height of its popularity. He'd open the store at 10 a.m. and it would be cleaned out of wares by 12. He eventually hired many other apprentices to work in his studio.

Today folks still carry on his legacy. (Bill died in 1994). His gift shop--
Sydenstricker Galleries-- is still operating 'down the Cape.'
Below is a couple of pieces I own. Each year Bill would design a Christmas plate, and give my grandmother--"Aunt Lottie"-- a signed plate. From 1970 to 1990 or so, she had all the collection. On each plate, Bill would cleverly hide the year. Below you can see I have 1974.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Sweet Dreams

Lyndell's Bakery in Ball Square, Somerville, MA., is celebrating its 120th year in business. Monday, they were giving out free cupcakes, which I missed.

Anyone who grew up in Somerville, or Medford, knows Lyndell's. At some point, everybody's mom, grandfather, uncle, aunt, or dad would "stop off at Lyndell's" to pick up sweets for the family. Lyndell's signature jelly donuts, birthday cakes, half moons, macaroons, whoopie pies, and mocha cakes were not to be missed.

All through the years, the best thing about Lyndell's is that it never changed. The interior always had the same decor, old cash register, tile floor, busy high school girls behind the counter, & that machine that magically tied the boxes with white string. It's was like walking into a 50's diner, owned by Mom & Pop.

Saturday mornings were the busiest at Lyndell's. Since all the pastries were made on the premises, you had to get there early, take your ticket, & stand around. Many times my Dad came home with a box of boring old, plain krullers because the jellies were all gone. We were disappointed.

Still, I think over the years we got our fair share of Lyndell's sweets.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Dos Boxes

My father gave me these old boxes over the Thanksgiving break. (after much cajoling) I want to create an art project with them. They're beautiful. Despite the boxes looking like little coffins for my Barbie dolls, any other suggestions? Let me know........

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Scenes from Childhood

One movement of a lovely piece by Robert Schumann, "Scenes from Childhood (Kinderszenen Opus 15) 1838." This part is called "About Strange Lands & People." I first heard this piano piece featured in the movie "My Brilliant Career," (1979) with Judy Davis. Awesome movie with a feminist theme, set in Australia, directed by Gillian Armstrong. If you've never seen it, check it out.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Last week my friend M came by & helped me hang several prints & original works. Thanks M! In the kitchen, I've hung several of M's own excellent work, her still life fruits. (((She does these kinds of paintings very easily, as 'studies.' She gave me the rotten banana for free)))
I think the fruits look good. They are painted on large blocks of wood with black sides, which makes them unusual. As for color, I especially like the plum. It looks so voluptuous. As for theme, I love the floating cherries. If cherries should be painted, they definitely should be floating.
As you can see, the paintings are also kitty approved....

Human Development Index

Why are those Swedes, Norwegians, & Icelanders so happy?
We were just discussing governments on Thanksgiving--my brother-in-law, Dad, sister, & I-- and its effects on people. Capitalism? Communism? Libertarianism? Democracy? Socialism? Which is best?
I brought up the point that year after year the various Socialist Democracies--- Norway, Holland, Sweden, Canada--rank high on citizens' happiness indexes.
Sure enough, this morning I spied an article reporting that Iceland is the world's happiest country in 2007. After six straight years, Iceland beat out Norway on the Human Development Index for the top numero uno country to live.

It seems kind of amusing. How can a barren slab in the middle of the ocean, just south of the Arctic Circle, house the world's happiest humans? Icelanders eat ram scrota, seal's flippers, and something called "bloomor" (blood pudding) regularly.They practically live on top of a volcano. And it's awfully dark there most of the year, isn't it? (this pretty much describes Norway too)

Nevertheless, for the past 27 years, the Scandinavian countries, and/or other Socialist Democratic countries have dominated the top 15 countries for happiness. The index measures standard of living, literacy rates, life expectancy, child welfare, education level, & other factors.

By the way, the United States ranks 12th in the latest statistics, down from 8th.

oh, yeah, they have natural hot springs and good looking
ladies in Iceland.

that might bring up their ranking....

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Chosen Family

Today, I enjoyed my second Thanksgiving, with my 'chosen family'--- my circle of friends. Not to take away from my 'natural' family..... I had a good time, and a delicious meal, with both parties...
Why not sit down & eat copious amounts of food, twice in one weekend?

November Scoot

Regarding my scoot, I've recently been anticipating it was soon time to hang up the keys, (very reluctantly) put away the helmet, & hunker down for the winter.
The Baron would give up baronessing.
Then along comes today!
I thoroughly enjoyed an exhilarating ride to my friend Molly's house this afternoon. What a beautiful day! Watch.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Naming of Cats....

The Naming of Cats
by T.S. Eliot

The naming of cats is a difficult matter,
It isn't just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I'm mad as a hatter
When I tell you a cat must have three
different names.

First of all, there's the name
that the family use daily,
Such as Victor, or Jonathan,
George or Bill Bailey--
All of them sensible everyday names.
There are fancier names
if you think they sound sweeter,
Some for the gentlemen,
some for the dames;
Such as Plato, Admetus,
Electra, Demeter--
But all of them sensible everyday names.

But I tell you,
a cat needs a name that's particular,
A name that is peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he
keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers,
or cherish his pride?

Of names of this kind,
I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkustrap, Quazo or Coripat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellyrum--
Names that never belong
to more than one cat.

But above and beyond
there's still one name left over,
And that is the name that you will never guess;
The name
that no human research can discover--
But The Cat Himself Knows,
and will never confess.

When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought,
of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.

illustrations by edward gorey,

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Little Bopper

Here's my niece, singing "Be-Bop-A-Lula, she's my baby.....," while jumping on me. I survived without a punctured lung or broken ribs. I like how she says, "Done." (Also note the chocolate on the tip of her nose)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Jacqueline du Pre

If you ever get the chance to see the movie "Hilary and Jackie," watch it (1998). It's one of my favorites. It's the true story about two musical sisters from Britain, one a flutist and the other a cellist. Jacqueline is seen below in this clip performing Elgar's Cello Concerto in E minor, Opus 85, 1st movement, sometime in the 1970's.. It's her most famous piece, and well worth listening to.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

What the Fluff?

In late September several of my friends participated in the "What the Fluff?" fest in Somerville, Massachusetts.
In case you didn't know, fluff--- that all American 'food product'--- was invented in Somerville. Archibald Query (certainly the name of a man who would dream up fluff) began selling marshmallow fluff in 1917. After WWI, he sold the recipe to Durkee and Mower, from Lynn, MA. Then fluff became the fluff we all know and love.
If you watch this silly video carefully, my friends Molly & Chris are at the beginning, with blue & red T-shirts on, respectively. Gail & Sue are at the end, participating in a fluff hairdo contest. They're in the middle of the stage.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Somerville Theater

In the late 1930's, during the Depression and the eve of World War II, my grandmother was no fool. Every week she went down to the Somerville Theater for a well deserved break, and the chance to procure some free goods.
Back in those days, the
Historic Somerville Theater gave away free flatware, dishes, & other gifts to lure women to the movies. Each week a movie-goer would get one piece of a set. All my grandmother had to do was sit back & watch all the current Hollywood musicals and fancy-free romances, & the occasional disturbing newsreel of the war. She didn't mind.

Perhaps my grandfather did. Family lore has it that my grandfather, saddled with the 3 screaming children, came marching down to the theater, searching for "Gwenie" among the women in the aisle. He announced flatly, "The baby won't stop crying." Dutifully, my grandmother rose up from her seat, & walked back to our house, probably missing some tantalizing & critical flatware addition that evening.
Original Ad, circa 1930's:

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Leave It To the Ladies

A few weeks ago, I posted about the latest findings concerning our nearest human cousins, the Neanderthals. For some reason, I've got a soft spot for these evolutionary underdogs. As the Geico ads prove, 'cavemen' just don't get the respect they deserve.

Below I'll summarize some interesting facts about Neanderthals, then list some possible reasons for their demise. For the full article, click on the link below....
1. Neanderthals made fire and mastered tools.
2. Women as well as men hunted.
3. Some Neanderthals were believed to have flaming red hair & pale skin.
4. Neanderthals possessed a gene known to underlie speech and language.
5. The Neanderthal range is wider than thought, to Russia & possibly Asia.

Of course we know the Neanderthals died out. Why? Possible reasons are many, not a few.
1. If forced to hunt, too many Neanderthal women of childbearing age would be injured or killed.
2. Climate change led to a change in game herds. The Neanderthals could not adjust quickly enough.
3. The Cro-Magnons did have cognitive, adaptive, and practical (more tools) advantages.
4. Genocide. Modern humans killed the Neanderthals.
5. The Cro-Magnons may have brought diseases fatal to the Neanderthal.
6. If females were hunting, they weren't gathering & harvesting. The bulk of a tribe's food comes from the gals.

Rescue Me

This hunk of a young man happens to be my cousin's oldest son, Brian. (sorry the photo's so crappy) Yes, I changed his diapers once, but now he's 21 and rescuing people at sea. Recently he saved a man's life. Of course, we are all proud of Brian. Here's the story below.

Mass. Maritime cadet applies school lessons to save a life
SANDWICH - When Brian Taylor spotted a man in the water and a boat adrift at Sandwich Marina Tuesday night, he immediately called for help. "I saw a red jacket in the water and his hands up by the side of the boat," Taylor, a seasonal employee at the town-owned marina, said yesterday. "I called the assistant harbor master and told him to get over there with the harbor master's boat right away. I told him there's a person in the water."
Taylor, 21, a sophomore at Massachusetts Maritime Academy, jumped into a dinghy at about 7:40 p.m. and headed toward a 44-foot Hinckley yacht adrift about 50 yards from the docks. He found a man, his face barely out of the water, trapped along the side of his boat by a rope that was entangled in the yacht's engines.
"As I got closer, he gained consciousness," Taylor said. "He started screaming, 'Help me. Help me.'"
Jack Erbes, a boat captain driving the multimillion-dollar yacht from Nantucket to a Maine boatyard, had hit his head on the concrete of the marina's fuel dock, said David Whearty, an assistant harbor master credited with assisting in the rescue.
Erbes was apparently attempting to jump from boat to the dock with the ropes in his hand when he smacked his head and wound up in the water.
"We think he got flung backwards because one of the ropes was sucked into the jet propulsion engine," Taylor said.
That rope is what trapped Erbes against the side of the yacht. "It jammed his hand against the boat," Whearty said. "He was able to keep just a little bit of his head out of the water."
Taylor, an emergency management major, cut the rope with a knife and helped Erbes onto the yacht's swim platform. The yacht's engines were shut down and it was towed to a slip.
"He had no life vest and the water was cold," Whearty said. "There would not have been a good ending if no one was here."
In fact, Taylor's season ends Sunday. He has worked for the town for about five years.
Erbes, an employee of Hinckley Yachts in Rhode Island, was taken by Sandwich Fire Department personnel to Jordan Hospital. He suffered a large bump and cut on his head and was disoriented, officials said.
Erbes returned the next morning to retrieve the boat and head toward Maine, Whearty said. Erbes did not return a call left on his voice mail yesterday.
As for Taylor and Whearty, they were recognized for their heroics by the Sandwich selectmen last night. "I'm very happy he was OK," Taylor said.

Taylor will also likely receive a cadet ribbon for having the presence of mind to use his emergency management training so effectively, Adm. Richard Gurnon, Massachusetts Maritime president, said yesterday.
"It's nice to see all those things come together with a successful outcome," he said.
Whearty downplayed his own role, giving full credit to Taylor for the rescue. "He is the one who saved the man's life, without a doubt."

Saturday, November 10, 2007

It's a Wedgie

These two adorable twins absolutely know what's important in life--- a wedgie free existence. Apparently it's a boy thing, because I don't remember ever suffering a wedgie. But necessity is the mother of invention. These boys invented wedgie-proof underwear. With wars, murder, disease, and other horrors going on in the world, it's comforting and amusing to listen to the logic of these two boys.

Thursday, November 8, 2007


This past weekend my whole paternal side of the family (minus a few) got together at my sister's house in Maine. My Aunt Janet was in town from Texas, and many of us hadn't seen her for years. It was great fun hanging out with my cousins, their kids, niece, nephews, my parents, aunts, uncle, sisters and brothers-in-law. It was like old times, being all together.

Years ago, we used spend much more time together, for better or worse. In fact, nearly every Sunday of my childhood we gathered for dinner at my grandmother's house. We would pass the afternoon and early evening at "Nana's house," usually after my mom succeeded or didn't succeed in dragging us to church.

This Saturday past, some of the 'elder set' of the family was feeling nostalgic. My grandmother, Rachel, was on our minds, and brought up frequently in conversation. Usually we laughed heartily when someone told a 'Ma" story. Afterwards there was sometimes silence. To quote from Jane Austen's Emma, we were often "divided between tears and smiles."

This loving, commanding, optimistic woman was our matriarch, and not to be forgotten. Even for the younger members of the family, who never met "great Nana," her spirit was present.

Rachel Charlotte ---circa 1968

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

You Go,Go-Go Girls

The Go-Go Girls are a memorable band from early 80's pop. They were unique not only for their sound, but for the fact they were a group of rocking gals. The Go-Go Girls did compose some catchy tunes. The band continues to do so today. Check out their hilarious website:

Our Lips Our Sealed

Monday, November 5, 2007

Sweet Caroline

My friend Nil sent this to me. It's been some time since the Red Sox's big win, so I'm already nostalgic for baseball. Watch this video. You have to admit, it's exceedingly cute. What I love best about this clip is the birth of all these future baseball fans. Real Bostonians. I got into baseball when I was 14, watching the 1976 World Series with my Dad and Uncle Robert. Fond memories.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Feed the Kitty

Here's my sister J's favorite Warner Brothers cartoon. The large bulldog, Marc Anthony, falls in love with a kitten, Pussyfoot. He can't let his owner discover the sweet kitty. Original release-- 1952.

Friday, November 2, 2007


I was pleased yesterday that my verbal creation came in third on On, a new 'definition' is given everyday, accompanied by an amusing cartoon to illustrate the concept. (see sidebar for link) The 'definitions' are of those common experiences or objects in life that are as yet unnamed. Players create a word, then get points for their word, and its use in a sentence. Other readers can 'vote' for your word.
My word was 'dribblelert.' Check it out to see the definition.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Young Frankenstein

In honor of Halloween, here's a clip from one of my all-time favorite comedies. As Mel Brooks said, if you haven't seen "Young Frankenstein (1974)," "you're insane."

Starring in this comedy is the brilliant comedian, singer, and actress Madeline Kahn, one of my favorite funny girls ever. I love Cloris Leachman's character too--Frau Blucher. "Yes, yes, say it! He wuz my boyfriend!"

Unfortunately, YouTube does not have links to the best lines and scenes of "Young Frankenstein." I suppose there are too many. (my sister can quote all of them) But here at least is a funny scene with Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman, Teri Garr, and Madeline Kahn. Enjoy. (in my opinion, Marty Feldman ad libs in this scene. Can you guess where?)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Fall Fun Day

I enjoyed an excellent day today. Drove to the Nashoba Valley Winery in Bolton, Massachusetts. Spent the day sampling wine and beer, and picking apples with a group of gals. Afterwards we gathered at one woman's house for curry vegetable soup, cheese, and sweets.

After imbibing copious samples of wine, apparently apple picking can be a rather titillating activity. My video below proves this point. We also had these long, jousting-like poles to retrieve apples, which added much to the comedy of the afternoon. You can only imagine. There was certainly a lot of giggling going on.

By the by, for wine lovers, I liked the Blueberry Merlot. Somebody said the Strawberry Rhubarb and the Plum wine was good. As for beers, the Oatmeal Stout was good.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Caveman Speakth

Cro-Magnons (modern humans) have ALWAYS had the image of the Neanderthal as the proverbial "caveman," grunting and snorting whilst dragging off a female to his den by the hair. (Don't get too excited, guys) The Neanderthal man--- brutish, stupid, & mute.

In my opinion, this image of the Neanderthal man stems from a deep-seated inferiority complex on our part. Perhaps, like the interaction of the Europeans and Native Americans, the so-called superior race was actually the more brutish and stupid.

Anthropologists know the Cro-Magnons and the Neanderthals co-existed in Europe for more than 15,000 years. No doubt there was extensive interaction and perhaps intermingling. Why did the Neanderthals die out (except for a lagging mixture of Neanderthal DNA in Modern Europeans (especially redheads-- controversial opinion)) ?

In some ways, the Neanderthal had a survival advantage over Cro-Magnon. They were in Europe for many thousands of years. The Neanderthal had already proven they were hardy survivors in a harsh environment.

But the Cro-Magnons won out, presumably, because of intelligence & language.

Now DNA research suggests the Neanderthal had language too. A genetic marker for speech & language-- FOXP2-- has been found in Neanderthal bones. Other evidence for speech, such as a hyoid bone, a hypoglossal (tongue) muscle, & similar auditory sensitivity, exists. It is likely the Neanderthals did have language. In my opinion, they could not have survived for all those years without advanced communication of some sort.

Cro-Magnons were not necessarily superior in any way, but more adaptable. In a sense, the Neanderthals were overachievers. Their people managed to survive in an extremely limited environment. When that environment rapidly changed, due to climate, or influx of disease, or lack of game, the Neanderthals could not adapt quickly enough.

The superior (more numerous) gene flow of the Cro-Magnon eventually blotted out the Neanderthals.

Yet they remain our human cousins, our closest competition for ruling the planet.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Be Brave, Not Beige

Friends, I like my newly painted purple (plum/eggplant) living room accent wall. I know it's not for everybody, but I love it. It's awesome.

For those of you doomed forever to beige, neutrals, or eggshell white, think twice, and watch this very scary video from an IKEA ad. If you decide to change your beige ways, you can visit their website and experiment with bold colors in the safety of cyberspace.

Be Brave Not Beige! Funny Video - These bloopers are hilarious

Friday, October 19, 2007

Sylvia Plath

After posting about T.S. Eliot, I thought of other favorite poets. There's nothing more scathing & bone crunching than the poem "Daddy" by Sylvia Plath. She is one of my favorites, other than Emily Dickinson, of course.

by: Sylvia Plath

You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.

Daddy, I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time--
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one gray toe
Big as a Frisco seal

And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
Ach, du.

In the German tongue, in the Polish town
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.
My Polack friend

Says there are a dozen or two.
So I never could tell where you
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.

It stuck in a barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.
And the language obscene

An engine, an engine
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew.

The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna
Are not very pure or true.
With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luck
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.

I have always been scared of you,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You--

Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.

You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not
Any less the black man who

Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.

But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look

And a love of the rack and the screw.
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I'm finally through.
The black telephone's off at the root,
The voices just can't worm through.

If I've killed one man, I've killed two--
The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.

There's a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through.

From "Ariel", 1966
List all poems from "Ariel"

Thursday, October 18, 2007

I have heard the mermaids singing.....

One of my favorite poems-- from the great T.S. Eliot. "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" 1919

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats5
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question …10
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,15
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,20
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;25
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;30
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go35
Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—40
[They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”]
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
[They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”]
Do I dare45
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:—
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,50
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all—55
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?60
And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
[But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!]
It is perfume from a dress65
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
And should I then presume?
And how should I begin?
. . . . .
Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets70
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?…

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
. . . . .
And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!75
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep … tired … or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?80
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head [grown slightly bald] brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,85
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,90
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—95
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
Should say: “That is not what I meant at all.
That is not it, at all.”

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,100
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:105
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
“That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all.”
. . . . .
No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,115
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old … I grow old …120
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.125

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown130
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

original manuscript