Saturday, September 26, 2009

10 x 10 Superlatives

I saw an article in National Geographic Magazine listing all of the second biggest, fastest, oldest, tallest animals, cities, languages, oceans, mountains, etc... of the world. The article inspired me to check out the 10th largest, smallest, heaviest, deepest, etc... animals, humans, oceans, mountains, etc...., of the world and the United States.

Just curious. This list compiles the unsung heroes of the World Book of Records.

San Jose, Ca. population 939,000 as of 7/1/2007

Mount Bear, Alaska 14,831 ft.

Percheron Draft Horse 7ft.

Bison 1,764 lbs.

Shanghai, China 16,650,000

Kamato Hungo, Japan 116 years, 45 days

Eunice Sanborn, Texas, US 113 years, 68 days born in 1896

John F. Carroll 8ft. 0 in.

Japan Sea 12,276 ft. deep

Judith Polgar Chess Champion IQ 170

Friday, September 25, 2009

It's the Eye of the Cougar

Having just visited Glacier National Park in Montana last month, I have had close encounters with mountain lions recently on my mind. Though more likely to see a grizzly bear at Glacier (cougars are very 'reclusive'), mountain lions, or pumas, do reside in Glacier National Park.

Apparently these fine wild cats have made somewhat of a resurgence in the past decades in the United States. The puma has always resided in Florida, but now lives in the mid-area of the U.S. stretching from Texas to North Dakota. The largest population of cougars aggregates in the Dakotas and Nebraska. However, more mid-Western states have had sightings. Last year a mountain lion was found in Chicago!

A few sightings have occurred in the Northeast. In fact, my friend J.D.'s Mom is pretty sure she saw a puma meandering in the hills of NH. While others may have thought she was going "off the deep end," she was later vindicated by an article in a nearby newspaper confirming that other folks had seen a mountain lion in the area. Naturalists, however, do not think there's a viable population of mountain lions in New England. The cats are likely escaped pets.
________________________________________National Geographic Data

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Cool Funk Ain't Old Junk

Wow! Chaka Khan in the late 1970's. I've always loved this old funk song--"Tell Me Something Good," and never realized the great Chaka Khan was the lead singer! Check her out!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Blast From the Past

This evening I got together with my second cousin Nancy for dinner, who I probably haven't seen for 20 years. She needed some professional advice regarding her son. I met her two children McKenzie and Michael, and they were delightfully entertaining.

As children Nancy and I spent a fair amount of time together. We are about the same age. Nancy and her sister Paula lived in Everett, and my sisters and I would visit their house in Everett and they'd visit our house in Somerville. Our moms-- Judy and Pat--were not only first cousins but were and still are good friends.

I told Nancy our moms were both born on the same street in Chelsea, only months apart. She didn't know this family history tidbit. Out of all my mom's cousins, she was always closest to Pat.

Nancy now lives in Peabody, and Paula lives in
Las Vegas. If I go out to the Southwest this February, I'd like to see Paula.

It was really great to see Nancy. I was a little nervous, but it seemed like old times right away. She gave me this picture. Here we all are on June 3, 1973. From left is Paula, me (age 10), Nancy, (a neighbor on Nancy's lap), my sisters Janet and Jennifer.

Hopefully we'll keep our promise to keep in touch and get together for a BBQ in the spring.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day

Currently I'm reading Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States," 1492 to Present." Though perhaps more cynical than I am able to swallow, Zinn does tell the 'other side' of American history, the story of the poor and 'have-nots', a group which has included in various centuries Native Americans, women, children, African Americans, immigrants, farmers, labor workers, religious minorities, and others.

Zinn deflates some of our American heroes like Jefferson and Lincoln by describing the varied political and selfish motives behind their endeavors like the Declaration of Independence and the Emancipation Proclamation, rather than purist American ideals. Zinn then highlights aspects of American history like the labor movement. Though called communist and criminal, labor reform was perhaps one of America's greatest democratic triumphs for the 'ordinary' man? The poor labor workers had everything to lose by contributing even a small amount, and the very rich like J.P. Morgan had so little to lose by sharing a fraction of their wealth.

Indeed, true history is like a complicated woven fabric. There are many sides to each issue. However, though very many American institutions, businesses, museums, foundations, banks, universities, etc... were founded by men like Carnegie and J.P. Morgan, with a fraction of their wealth, Labor Day should help us keep in mind that these institutions were built on the backs of thousands of ordinary American workers, like my ancestors and yours.

Labor Day: JP Morgan Vs. The Coal Miners
Labor Day: JP Morgan Vs. The Coal Miners

Friday, September 4, 2009

Ella Es el Matador

--------Mari Paz Vega
The other night I happened to catch a P.O.V. documentary on
PBS, call "Ella Es el Matador." It was about female bullfighters, which I didn't even know existed! Apparently there's a long and spotty history of women and bullfighting. Going back to the 1930's and on there were female bullfighters, and some of them were well known.

It's surprising to me that such
masochistic cultures as Latin America, Mexico, and Spain would ever allow women to fight, but a small number of women have fought consistently throughout the decades. In Spain, during Franco's reign, women were banned. Even today Spain is more sexist towards women. Some of the women in the documentary have to pursue their careers in Latin America, though Spain is perceived as the ultimate place to fight and become famous.

The documentary follows several women during the pursuit of their careers. All of the women must work extra hard and be extra lucky to become '
el matador,' compared to males. There is a long process of being an apprentice matador before graduating to the title of el matador. The film points out that there is no true title for a female matador, which should be 'la matadora.' Even though females can fight, there is an invisible wall of sexism and prejudice that prevents most women from ever becoming established bullfighters. Only one woman in the film, Mari Paz Vega, 'makes' it.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Eva Florencia
The film acknowledges cruelty to animals, but does not make the issue a focus. Bullfighting exists, and is a sport Spaniards love which is difficult for many others to understand. I cannot explain her love, but there is no doubt the film captures one women Eva Florencia's ardent passion for bullfighting and the bull. She paints pictures of bulls, and sees the bull as a deeply symbolic figure. It's also clear in the film that there are deep religious overtones to bullfighting, and there are numerous ritualistic habits associated with the fight.

In my opinion
Spaniards love bullfighting because 'el matador' is a Christ-like figure facing death over and over. Watching this film does make me want to read Hemingway's "Death in the Afternoon."

Conchita Cintron (1922-2009)

Patricia McCormick (one of the few American
female bullfighters)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Nat's Letter

My five year old niece sent me a thank you letter for the new bike I bought her in August. Made my day.