Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Stop, stop! Stop this thing NOW!

Our Sea to Sky adventure got a bit hairy when at maximum altitude, the wind began to howl. At that point my husband helpfully said, "They stop it when the wind picks up." STOP IT?? How do you stop a gondola in mid-air? How do you get OUT Of the thing?

Ringo is the meaning of life

Monday, September 18, 2017

Bird in the bush

One of my more poetic nature videos. I shot this from very far away, through a window with a screen in it, but it lent the video a fey, almost mystical quality. Well, maybe. It's pretty wobbly, because I had a hard time keeping the bird in my sights and even had to edit out a big chunk where I lost it altogether (which is why I substituted music for my "fuuuuuck"s on the sound track).  I am not sure what bird it is - perhaps a robin, with that fat, rounded body, or a varied thrush. At one point it appeared to be asleep, with one foot drawn up.

Sometimes it strikes me with a shock of surprise that all this was out in the yard for the past thirty years, and I paid not the slightest bit of attention to it. Now, suddenly, a wonderland has opened up for me. What else am I looking at and not seeing?

Vintage Jell-o advertisements

Sunday, September 17, 2017

"Edith Keeler must die!": Star Trek romance music

I found a lovely YouTube video of all the romantic music from the original Star Trek (as if there were any other Star Trek!) - but it was marred by the most HORRIBLE thumbnail I have ever seen. Totally inappropriate. It screams of clickbait, since people are more likely to click on a cheesy picture of Kirk and the Gorn than on Kirk kissing Edith Keeler.  These are such incredibly beautiful images, capturing the romantic essence of the series (which was, in case you didn't notice, very romantic indeed), making me wonder why on earth someone would ruin it with a stupid Gorn image with an even stupider caption.

I took some screen shots and made a slide show from the images in the video, then realized it was sort of redundant because the whole video IS a slide show. Mine is Spock-heavy, but that's not just because I favored Spock back then (and now!) - it's because Spock's romances were more intense, more significant, and much more tortured because they went against his Vulcan nature.

The music for the Jill Ireland episode (This Side of Paradise) was borrowed from Shore Leave, in which Ruth, Kirk's old flame from the academy, suddenly pops up out of nowhere, but she doesn't do very much except stand there in her prom dress. The Spock romance is wrenchingly poignant, the music heart-perfect - and Ireland, who died tragically young from breast cancer, stands in front of Spock with real tears streaming down her face: "And this is for MY good?" It is one of the most compelling moments in the entire series.

So please enjoy this, but don't pay any attention to the awful thumbnail because it is fake news. Or whatever. But the rest of the visuals are stunning, and the music more romantic than Tchaikovsky.

These are my personal favorites.

Reasons I love fall

Saturday, September 16, 2017

How to make a simple task incredibly difficult

How do you teach a wild bird to eat from your hand? by A. Byrd X-pert

Around my parts, we practice a form of conditioning; acclimating the birds to our presence and our hand in a gradual process.

Place a feeder near a window of the house and keep it filled,

Over the course of a couple weeks, place the feeder closer and closer to the house.

Place the feeder right next to the window (one that can be opened)

Place bird feed on the windowsill,

After several days, stick the sleeve of a large shirt under the window sash and close the window on it.

Put bird feed on the sleeve where it is flat on the windowsill. Keep seed there for several days.

After several days, put a work glove on top of the sleeve cuff and put bird feed in the palm of the glove.

After several more days, you can open the window a bit, stick your arm into the sleeve and your hand into the glove. If you don’t move around much, if you hold bird feed in your gloved palm and keep it where the glove has been for several days, the bravest birds (tufted titmice and chickadees around here) will land on the glove and take the food.

When you are getting good responses, try feeding without the glove.

After a time, you could put a chair under the window, put on the familiar shirt, and extend your hand out with feed in it. It may take some time, but the brave birds will often come to your hand and take the food. Once you get to this point, you can sit in the chair with just about any clothing and the braver birds will make the effort to take the best food from your hand.

In NO case should you attempt to otherwise touch or pet the bird(s). Let them decide how close they are willing to get. Let them decide how long to stay. Let them control the interaction. They will never be pets, but they may become long-time friends….as long as you keep feeding them regularly.

I have no kick against this particular bird expert, but the first time I decided to try wild bird feeding (3 days ago), I walked up to my feeder, stood 3 or 4 feet away from it, held out my hand with some seeds on it, and within one minute a chickadee flew down and took a seed of my hand.

The next day I wasn't quite so lucky, as birds kept flying towards my hand, then veering away.  But today two chickadees decided not just to fly down, but to light for a couple of seconds while picking out a favorite seed.

The whole glove thing, I don't know, it's like a puppet show or something! I think a glove attached to a flat, empty sleeve would freak them out more than a normal human hand.

Back in my day, a thousand years ago, we used to call this method "federalizing the simple". I don't know where that expression came from, but it means taking something completely natural and simple and splitting it into a million difficult parts. 

I don't know how far I'll get with feeding wild birds by hand. I'd like those jays to come down, and so far they're skittish. It seems unlikely, but still more plausible than feeding them with a goddamn seed-dispensing hand puppet.

What I'm thinking of doing

Is it OK to pick up the violin again after more than ten years, because your doctor said you needed finger exercises for your arthritic left hand?

What would happen if opened that box?

When I put that thing away, it was the time my whole life changed.

My whole life. Everything. The box of my brain, and everything that was in it.

If I open that box again, after more than ten years, will my brain still be there?

Will my fingers still know how to play?

Nazi Squirrel II

Trying to find a post on this blog after five years and 3762 posts (!? - merciful GOD) is like straining birdseed through a sieve. Or something. But I finally found this animation, which I made quite a while ago, and which now seems just a tad simplistic.

In looking back, which you should never do, I found a shocking number of posts which referred to squirrels. I don't know why that is, because I don't even LIKE squirrels particularly, and find them nasty, aggressive, and ugly to listen to with all their suburban cursing and swearing. 

Maybe that's why they make naturally good Nazis, as expressed in this, my second Squirrel Sieg Heil animation.

This is just the poisoned icing on the cake.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Who's that cat? It's Bentley!

We noticed early on that Bentley had a certain quality in front of the camera. He doesn't pose, of course - no cat would. It's something else. I don't remember our last cat (Murphy) being like this, though he was gorgeous in his 22-pound prime. 

The camera captures Bentley's inner as well as outer beauty. There's something a little sad about his eyes, which are very luminous and sometimes a bit scary. It's his "moon eyes" look, nearly all pupil, in which his eyes glow, oval and most un-catlike. 

Bentley will be cool to me sometimes, turn ass and ignore me the way cats do, and then, when I'm curled in a dark room to try to have a nap to make up for a crappy night, I will feel "something", someone bumping up against me, almost violently, then turning around and around to find the best place to snuggle. 

It's Bentley.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

HEY! Meet the Swinger

This near-perfect advertising gem from the mid-'60s stars a shockingly young and fresh-faced Ali Macgraw, who would soon rocket to fame in Love Story only to plummet into total oblivion. Being married to Steve McQueen will do that to you.

But before all that, there was this delectable ad for the Polaroid Swinger: "it's more than a camera, it's almost alive/It's only 19 dollars and 95!" A yet-to-be-famous utility singer named Barry Manilow sang the irresistibly catchy jingle. And such a product! It was new, it was affordable, it was"right now". Instead of a red light going on when you were ready to shoot, the camera flashed a large black-and-white YES. In fact, it used only black and white film, which didn't seem to matter to the young and hip.

I remember Polaroid cameras, the very early ones where you "zipped it off" (ripped off a plastic cover after allowing the thing to "stew" for so many minutes). I remember my Dad taking pictures of me on my horse, and him getting this - stuff - on his hands, this caustic goo from the margins of the picture, chemicals for developing it or something. After the picture dried - and it had to dry, just like those old-fashioned photos you developed in a tray, then hung up with clothespins - you had to stick on an adhesive-backed piece of cardboard to keep it from curling. But once that backing was on there, you'd never get it off.

I still have some photos - OK, a lot of them - with thick plastic backings on them, tiny things about 2 by 3 inches. For a few years, this was all we took. They had the instant payoff factor, but unfortunately over the years they have become almost indecipherable. I scanned a few of them and blew them up, but the results were mixed. Some of the best shots of my kids growing up were taken with this low-tech method, meaning that most of them were lost. 

But that aside, this is one of the most perfect ads I've ever seen, second only to that first Maxwell House work of genius with the bongo-drum percolator ("tastes as good as it smells"). The Swinger embodies the '60s, beach life, freedom from responsibility, being young and attractive and with your whole life ahead of you. You could smoke then, and stay out late, and eat and drink whatever you wanted to, and still look great with no effort. Ali Macgraw had that earth angel innocence, the no-makeup face, the wash 'n wear hair. 

I made a ton of gifs last night from this, my all-time-second-favorite ad, but they somehow turned out to be unsatisfying. It's hard to extract a few seconds out of such a seamlessly tight work of art. The shots cascade and tumble into each other, creating a dizzy sense of freedom. And - click - click - every move, every pose, every activity is captured on film, in crisp black and white that develops right before your eyes.

So what was I going to focus on? Hair. Ali's hair, which is used in a particular way in this one-minute saga of '60s youth. It's very very fast, so you have to watch for it. Her hair whips around, tosses, flings, and is casually pushed back. I did gifs of Ali's hair, plus a few of her walking in delightfully washed-out light, so that she becomes virtually animated.

Since I can't leave anything alone these days, I mucked around with the speed/direction/order of the frames and made them do things. I don't know if this improved them or not. I had mixed feelings about it, but thought, damn, I made all these things. Might as well put them up, as is. Wash 'n wear.

This one goes out to the dreamers (a Scientology moment)

NOTE. Posting this video in no way endorses or promotes or says "hey, hey, hey" to the vile practice of Scientology. I just want to show you these guys' new strategy. They've replaced those cheesy rallies and Veg-e-Matic-style announcer with THIS - steamy, dreamy images that don't really mean anything. Nicely shot, however, which is really why I posted it. 

The cut-off text is just crap anyway.

In my merry lobotomobile

Walter Freeman, who championed lobotomy in the US, toured with his “lobotomobile” demonstrating the procedure

Throughout his life, Walter Freeman was obsessed with finding a cure for mental illness and he thought he found it when he became the first to introduce and popularize the prefrontal lobotomy in the United States.

He perfected the procedure by using ice picks hammered into each frontal lobe through the back of each eye socket and performed nearly 3500 lobotomies in his career.

Walter Freeman was born on November 14th, 1895, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. His father was a very successful otolaryngologist and his maternal grandfather was William Williams Keen, a prominent surgeon in the Civil War.

Dr. Walter Freeman left, and Dr. James W. Watts study an X-ray before a psychosurgical operation. 

Psychosurgery is cutting into the brain to form new patterns and rid a patient of delusions, obsessions, nervous tensions, etc.

In his early years, Walter wasn’t interested in medicine but after he received a bachelor’s degree in 1916 from Yale University he studied neurology at the University of Pennsylvania and earned a medical degree in 1920.

In 1935 Freeman learned of a frontal lobe ablation technique when Carlyle Jacobsen tried frontal and prefrontal lobotomies on chimps and came to a conclusion that the chimps became less aggressive and more manageable.

The same year Antonio Egas Moniz, a Portuguese neurosurgeon devised a leucotome, an instrument for dividing the white matter in the brain, and performed the first procedure known as prefrontal leukotomy.

In 1936 Freeman modified Moniz’s technique and together with his colleague James Watts he performed the first lobotomy operation in the United States on a 63-year-old Kansas housewife suffering from anxiety, insomnia, and depression. He was convinced that the operation was successful and was satisfied with the results so he started to propagandize the procedure heavily recommending it for any type of disorders, from psychosis, depression or neurosis to criminality.

Egas Moniz

Trying to find a more efficient way to perform the procedure he developed the “ice-pick lobotomy”- an operation that didn’t require drilling holes in the skull. Instead, he inserted an ice-pick-like instrument above each eye of the patient by tapping it with a hammer.

Insulin shock therapy administered in Lapinlahti Hospital, Helsinki in the 1950s

Many of his colleagues criticized his method but Freeman was convinced that it was a success and recommended the procedure. Between 1939 and 1951, almost 20,000 lobotomies were performed in the United States and as Freeman claimed, the operation reduced the governmental costs from $35,000 per year for keeping a patient in an asylum to $250 for lobotomizing him.

He popularized the procedure and started traveling around the country in a van he called “the lobotomobile”, performing dozens of ice-pick lobotomies each day. He was able to do a lobotomy in 12 minutes and it is said that he once performed 25 lobotomies in one day. Known as a showman he often used carpenter’s hammers and also liked to insert picks in both eyes simultaneously.

A site of the borehole for the standard pre-frontal lobotomy/leucotomy operation as developed by Freeman and Watts Photo Credit

However, lobotomy’s popularity faded and Freeman performed his last lobotomy in 1967 when his patient Helen Mortensen, died on the operating table. After this incident, he was banned from operating.

Read another story from us: Egas Moniz invented the full frontal lobotomy and won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for it. He was also shot by one of his patients.

In the last 20 years of his life, he continued to tour the country in his “lobotomobile” visiting former patients and documenting their histories. He died on May 31st, 1972.

BLOGSERVATIONS. I don't know what to say about this, but saying something seems to be called for. In another era, I know I would have had my brain ice-picked into submission, no doubt to save those pesky bills from the sanitorium. Humanity has always been terrified of mental illness, and unfortunately remains terrified. There are those (radicals!) who say we've replaced straightjackets with chemical restraints. That instead of warehousing the mentally ill, we dump them out onto the street. And that would be true.

Rosemary Kennedy, sister of JFK, was lobotomized, not because she was violent or unteachable, but because she liked men a little too much. She was unruly and didn't fit the social mold. LOP, went her brain.

Maybe it would be better to have your brain lopped. What would it be like to walk around inside a lobotomized mind? Would it be as full of holes as Swiss cheese? The brain is nothing but a computer made of meat, and meat can be carved up, sliced, even eaten. 

I was going to call this post Borehole, but I assumed no one would be particularly drawn to read it. In any case, borehole was soon to be replaced with eye socket and ice pick. Though Freeman streamlined the lobotomy and made it readily available to the masses, he didn't win the Nobel Prize for it. That went to that Moniz character, ivory tower type, didn't even DO them like Freeman, just theorized. But theorized countless people to a living death. For that, they give the Nobel Prize.