The Universe and Me

Friday, June 30, 2006

We come on a ship they call the Mayflower

PBS series: Colonial House. I have to preface this post by saying I’d have lasted about a day in this place before I ran screaming for civilization, and give these people tremendous credit for living there four months. Stepping back to 1628 in reality isn’t the same as taking a day trip to Plimouth Plantation. Although, if you want to and can swing the cost, Plimouth now offers a weekend stay. Just let me warn you that when I visited lo those many decades ago, the smell was too noxious to stay in a house for more than a few minutes. So the series:

Straight off I had an objection to the narrator’s using the term “genocide” when referring to the decimation of the native population. The settlers brought diseases (such as smallpox, etc.) over but I’m reasonably sure they had no idea the Indians weren’t immune to them, so it was not on purpose. The definition of genocide is the purposeful extermination of a group. The narrator or series producers should have consulted a dictionary. Not that I don’t feel tremendous sympathy for the Native American plight and fact that their land was stolen from them and spoiled.

Next objection: it seemed some of the House participants had their own personal agendas for joining the project. It was my understanding that they were supposed to live completely as they would in 1628, following all rules and ways of life. Back then individualism wasn’t allowed and the need for survival meant no real freedom for anyone because they had to work from sunrise to sunset. While I’m all for John & Michelle exercising their 21st century freedoms in the 21st century, they couldn’t have (without risking banishment or even death) in the 17th. Michelle seemed to understand that women had no rights and was miffed at Julia for suggesting they each have a day off. So she must have understood there was also no freedom of religion. Which led me to believe she signed up to make a personal point.

I don’t want to malign her or John, as their personalities were engaging, especially their sense of humour. I laughed myself silly when the new group arrived, were asked if they were hungry and Michelle said in a timid, plaintive voice, “We’ve got peas.” I think she may also not have understood, not having lived it, that as Governor W said when his son was ill and he was talking about how many settlers watched their children suffer and die and heart achingly so, that they still thought the New World was better than the persecutions they suffered in the Old. Attending a weekly church service was harmless compared to the treatment she may have previously received wherever she was from. Plus it looked like everyone was fine with not working on the Sabbath, which has religious origins. (To be fair, the women still had to cook all day, so they still had to work.)

As for Governor W’s attempts to punish them for swearing, blasphemy and whatnot, wow was that useless. I wonder if it went better in 1628. Perhaps the threat of death from illness or starvation made the real colonialists more spiritual. Something I learned from having cats is that they don’t respond to punishment and it might behoove people to consider that others (especially children and Governor W did call the group “spoiled children”) might be more like cats than anyone wants to admit. Cats respond to praise. If you want them to stop doing something bad, yelling at them will only rile them up and make them more aggressive at that behaviour. To make them stop, you have to divert them, bring them to something you want them to do and when they do it, offer copious praise and head pats. Would such excessive positive reinforcement work on humans? Should we reward people for following the laws?

A few other gripes. I couldn’t believe they slept in until 9 or 10 in the morning. No adults now can afford to do that. What were they thinking? Only the last day did they bother to get up and watch the sunrise. This should have been done every day. Had they been expected to stay the winter (or forever), there would have been proper motivation for that and to work even harder. Plus they needed to be stockpiling provisions: firewood, preserves, everything possible. The corn crop was good, but it was my understanding it was headed back to England. They should have been growing more vegetables for themselves. Carrot or string beans or beets. Something. Such poor nutrition would do them in quicker than anything.

The one guy who went on a walkabout was a major disappointment. If he truly did tell Governor W that he would stay outside civilization, then he should have turned back as soon as he saw the highway. Where’s integrity? And no one’s personal orientation needed to be revealed for the purposes of the project. That seemed like a ploy for attention. I was most appalled at the two young men who decided to take time for their own crafts while the rest of the gang worked their pilgrim hats off. It was not only selfish and thoughtless, it seemed cruel. What I learned: Don Woods is a hero, muskrat takes like chicken, and life in the 17th century was “a void that has no replacement. You just duck your head and keep going.”

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

I feel a little sentimental

If you look quick, you can view an 8 or 10 minute clip about the Frummenn band's recent trip to Los Angeles over at Ríkisútvarpið . They also peformed in the Iceland studio a new countryish and English song called "Sentimental" tacked onto the end of the show.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Do we need 'em? : Jellyfish

Another of Mr Pilkington’s annoyances (because he stepped on one on holiday) is jellyfish. Since they are at least 95% water, Karl feels they should just give up the remaining 5% and become pure water. There are around three thousand kinds of jellyfish, some small as a pea and others big as a barrel. They only live about a year, have no brain, no head, no skeleton, no scales, no heart. Many have no eyes. Resembling a bell or parachute or open umbrella (take your pick), they are basically a floating bag of gelatin that absorbs oxygen from the water. They eat fish, shrimp, crabs, worms, plankton, plants and other jellyfish. To move, they squirt water out of their mouths. Their tentacles resemble cooked noodles, and can be up to a hundred feet long, but have stingers that poison other fish and hurt like the dickens when you step on them, so it sure seems like we don’t need them. The few fish and turtles that feed on them could likely find easier food sources. Jellyfish fans and connoisseurs (apparently when marinated, they can be quite tasty) are free to disagree.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Yes we're going to a party, party

Documentary/Reality show/PBS special: Regency House Party. Can’t say it was six hours of unmitigated fun, but it was interesting to see modern Brits propelled back in time to the Regency era. And thinking of how I might live in the early 1800s. If I could adapt or not. Jane Austen makes it sound so romantic and intriguing. This film showed the time in a different light. Some things would be horrible, like one bath per week (and everyone smelling like a badger), three hour dinners, not being able to dress oneself to the extreme of not even being allowed to take off your own gloves, women not being independent, not allowed to say and do whatever one wants or feels.

The women on the show complained about being terminally bored, since they were stuck inside most of the time, with each other, doing little besides gossiping and the occasional dance lesson. I felt they didn’t take enough initiative to fill their time in better ways, such as sewing (although they did sew when they were told to) or taking piano lessons, reading, writing poetry or prose (although chaperone Lady Davenport wrote a poem or two and one of the girls mentioned it took her an hour with a quill to write a letter), going for chaperoned walks with the other girls since they weren’t allowed to walk alone or with the men. The men’s existence seemed filled with (to me) pointless feats of bravado. Boxing matches, endless exercises, military drills, drinking too much, and purges.

The show was set up to be a form of reality dating, but someone didn’t realize that there was no dating in the Regency era. There was matchmaking, engagement and marriage. All done for the sake of securing the best social and financial status for the woman. And then one in three women died during childbirth. I’m with the one girl (Hayley?) who said marriage on these terms (being totally at a husband’s mercy, bearing too many children, and having a good chance of dying before the age of 35) wasn’t for her. Me either. The one chaperone (of Miss Braund’s) came across as mean at one point, when she said she couldn’t bear to leave her room and therefore Miss Braund couldn’t leave either. The chaperone was smiling creepily as she said it. I’d have clashed with her too.

The narrator mentioned competition was rife among real Regency women. Something that should have made them vindictive and back-stabbing. But I’ve never noticed much of that in films made about this era. And these modern girls thrown back in time seemed to develop great friendships. Perhaps both eras of women felt such sympathy for each others fate, they couldn’t help but be disposed towards kindness. The main difference between the women of that time and these girls was that, no matter what they were told, the modern girls still chose to listen to their hearts. One major omission from the DVD: an update on where the gang is now, although if you google, you can find some interviews.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Play me my song

On Sunday my oldest nephew mentioned that he's taken to listening to Genesis, a band I used to listen to back in the 70s and 80s. More coincidentally, when I babysat my nephew lo all those many years ago, I used to sing him a bunch of Genesis songs to try to keep him from crying and coax him to sleep. A while back I'd been trying to think of which were my favourites in the Genesis discography. Here's the rudimentary list:

  • In the Wilderness – All I hear is music. When Piano Boy (since Piano Man would be Billy Joel) and I first started dating, I was listening to this song over and over and it always reminds me of that time.
  • Visions of angels – Dance in the sky
  • Dusk – A pawn on a chessboard. It’s those Banksian background lyrics that add enough to make it great.
  • The Knife – Give us a land fit for heroes! It seems I once read Peter stating that “Back in New York City” was the most violent song he’d ever written but I always thought this was moreso what with lopping heads off. I always loved the live version with the audience shouting out their request for it and Peter nonchalantly saying the title before beginning.
  • The Musical Box
  • For Absent Friends - leaving tuppence
  • Harold the Barrel - hasn't got a leg to stand on
  • Can Utility and the Coastliners – Starts out so peaceful, like looking out on a pacific (if not the Pacific) ocean and then builds until the last scathing line.
  • Supper’s Ready – of course. "Something tells me I better activate my prayer capsule." The ultimate struggle of good vs evil with the book of Revelations and the Apocalypse in 9/8 time thrown in. And the fade-out at the end which ends on a symbolic upswing.
  • Dancing with the Moonlit Knight
  • I Know What I Like – Keep them mowin’ blades sharp!
  • The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway – Title track to the album. An unbeatable opening piano section. And its refrain of “On Broadway.”
  • Cuckoo Cocoon
  • The Carpet Crawlers - extremely poetical lyrics and beautiful musicality
  • Lilywhite Lilith
  • Squonk
  • Your Own Special Way – Everybody say “awwww.”
  • The Lady Lies
  • Follow You, Follow Me – Way back when, Piano Boy wrote a couple lines from this on a slip of paper he gave me which I tacked up on my door. The slip is probably still in a box of his letters and things I never had the cruelty to toss out.
  • Me and Sarah Jane – The only song past 1978 worth considering. And that probably only for the Dr Who reference.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Berum út dívanana

A kind soul recently uploaded a video of husky voiced Icelandic singer Ragnhildur Gísladóttir at You Tube. The video is a collection of photographs spanning her career. Born 7 October 1956, she's had quite a career. Learn more about this "besta söngkona allra tíma" at Ragga's fansite.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Quote of the week

"I am one of the few actresses that enjoys a meal once in a while."
Bonnie Hunt

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

We could break the landspeed record

Movie: The World’s Fastest Indian. The first ten minutes or so I wondered if it was a guy film, what with the motorcycle, racing and speed talk and I actually asked myself if it was worth continuing to watch. But then he set off on his journey and it picked up. Way up. And became one of the most charming movies I’ve seen this year. Anthony Hopkins’ performance as affable New Zealander Burt Munro was largely responsible for that. Something that really struck me was how the film made people of that era (the sixties) act so different from the way people behave today. I couldn’t help thinking that these days Burt would have been murdered ten minutes after he stepped off the plane in Los Angeles. Fear or something seems to have turned people into angry killing machines. Back then people seemed kinder and willing to help a stranger because it was the right thing to do. Also, Munro’s spirited character made it easy to help him. I got a kick out of the concern for his leg being burned and he said that’s okay, I’ve got another one. A very feel-good movie about achieving one’s dream. Too much overlooked. Drop by your nearest Blockbuster of library and find this gem.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Do we need 'em? : Miller moths

Taking a page out of Karl Pilkington’s soon to be published book. In a recent e-mail, Bo mentioned how over in CO they are being plagued with migrating miller moths. So I was wondering what made them different from other moths and if we in fact needed them. They were named after the scales on their wings which rub off easily and resemble flour. In caterpillar stage, they present a problem for spring crops as they’ll eat alfalfa, wheat, spinach, etc. But there is only bad damage during highly populous years. The adult moths seem to be merely a nuisance. When they die, the fat in their bodies turns rancid which creates a smell if they die in your house, but when alive they don’t eat fabric and don’t bite. As far as the ecosystem goes, they are food for carpet beetles and other household scavengers as well as bats, birds and even grizzly bears. One bear can consume forty thousand moths a day, the energy equivalent of seventy snickers bars. But it seems it would take the bear the entire day. The moth’s wing dust can provoke allergies. So do we need them? Bo says her cat is extremely entertained jumping around chasing these critters. So on behalf of bored cats everywhere, I say keep ‘em.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Ung og ástfangin

Icleandic band Signía performed the song Ung og ástfangin on 24 May on Icelandic television. If you're going to watch it, be quick, as they only leave the clips on the net for about two weeks. The net may or may not also provide a working mp3 of the song, which also (or only?) goes by the title Amor.