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Kamis, 12 April 2012

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Numerology

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 10:05 PM PDT

Numerology

April 12, 2012 at 1:05 am (By Amba)

In a few minutes, I will have completed 66 years on this earth. Add another 6 . . .

turn it upside down . . .

and you have the Mark(down) of the Discount Retailer!

 



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A musical interlude…

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 06:27 PM PDT

A musical interlude…

April 11, 2012 at 9:27 pm (By Ron, Uncategorized)

Here's a little something for our cat dancing bloggeress to get those kitties bouncing around the room too!  Hat Tip to you, Mighty Amba!



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Selasa, 10 April 2012

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Neoteny, or What’s It All About?

Posted: 09 Apr 2012 11:14 PM PDT

Neoteny, or What's It All About?

April 10, 2012 at 2:14 am (By Amba)

Not long ago, my new little girl kitty was absorbed in the pure delight of play for play's sake. Watching her I thought, "Maybe this is the ultimate aim of life. Maybe all the struggle and passion and toil is about recreating this state of pure play over and over again, since it can't last." Like tossing a ball up into the air again and again just for that moment when the sun gilds the ball at its apogee, its moment of freedom from gravity.

And then it falls, its momentum harvested for the next toss.

Kitty, barely legal at 9 or 10 months, is in the agonies of heat for the second time in three weeks. As young men are drafted into the army before they're even mature, young females are drafted into the army of reproduction before they've had more than an eyeblink to enjoy life and discover their powers. Said powers, barely suspected, will be bent to the service of feeding the next generation as it enjoys its brief moment of consummate freedom to play. This is as true of traditional human societies as it is in nature.

It's easy to understand why this has been necessary. Life is in a race against death and this was the only way not to lose. The second law of thermodynamics is on the side of death; life is an energetic defiance with a high cost. It can afford only the briefest of escapes from the drag of thermodynamic necessity.

This disproportion between the time spent keeping life going and the time spent enjoying it may be natural, but let's not pretend it's noble.  It's brutal. Rilke wrote about life's mystery that too many of us "pass it on like a sealed letter." Or, at best, we steam it open and steal a glimpse before guiltily gluing it shut again to get it back in the mail to the ever-receding future.

I propose that traditional societies are misguided in glorifying submission to necessity and trying to keep life confined within its strict forms. I propose that the greatest achievement of human beings (which indeed has come at a high cost of extraction of energy from the rest of the living planet) has been to push back death far enough to prolong that time of pure play.  Curiosity, creativity, wonder, pleasure, delight—there can't be too much time for that. There still isn't enough. Growing up late, having fewer children later and handing them an opened letter, playing one way or another all our lives—call it narcissistic self-indulgence, call it "failure to launch" or "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," call it art, call it witness, call it high praise.



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Senin, 26 Maret 2012

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Medical Mythology

Posted: 25 Mar 2012 02:54 PM PDT

Medical Mythology

March 25, 2012 at 5:54 pm (By Realpc)

I was walking through town today (Sunday) and a woman offered to give me a ride home. I said no thanks, I have a car, I'm just taking a walk. But then I went back and asked how she knew where I live. She said she sees me walking, walking, walking, all the time. I explained that I only walk a half hour before work on week days, which really is not much. I asked if she thought I was a crazy homeless person, just because she sees me walking. I said I have been walking, and doing yoga, all my life and that is probably the reason I am not sick and on drugs, like practically everyone else my age.

(I don't usually do this, must have been in a weird mood today).

So she replied that the drugs must be doing something right, because we are living longer than ever now. She said there are lots of people in their 90s now, and there never were before.

I said first of all, there were always people in their 90s. And if you ask someone in their 90s you may very well find out they don't go to doctors or take drugs. I said we are not being kept alive past age 40 thanks to the drugs, that is just propaganda from the drug companies, to make us think we need them.

I tried to explain that average lifespan has increased, mostly because young children are not dying anymore, thanks to antibiotics and vaccines. I tried to explain how the drug companies misuse the statistics to make us think we would all drop dead at 40 if not for them.

She waited patiently for me to give up and leave. If she didn't think I was a homeless crazy before, she was sure of it after my lecture.

But I am so tired of hearing the same old myth.



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Tree & Me

Posted: 18 Mar 2012 07:20 PM PDT

Tree & Me

March 18, 2012 at 10:20 pm (By Amba)

This young Magnolia grandiflora, planted today on my friend Chris's land outside Chapel Hill, will incorporate some atoms of Jacques and will eventually grow to be 40 to 50 feet tall.



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The priest, the rabbi, and the minister

Posted: 17 Mar 2012 11:48 AM PDT

The priest, the rabbi, and the minister

March 17, 2012 at 2:48 pm (By Rodjean)

So, officer O'Malley comes into the back room at the Italian restaurant, only to find the priest, the rabbi and the minister sitting on the floor with dice and cash in plain view. It is obvious that they have been illegally gambling, but the cop hasn't actually seen them doing it. So, he turns to the priest ans says, "Father, have you been gambling?" The priest says a quick Hail Mary, then says, "No." The cop turns to the minister and says, "Reverend, have you been gambling?. The minister says a short prayer asking Jesus for forgiveness, then he also denies gambling.

Frustrated, he asks the rabbi if he has been gambling. The rabbi responds, "With whom?"

I heard a number of such jokes when I was growing up. They were pretty mild, but they often played softly with stereotypes. The priest was generally earnest and a little naive. The rabbi was usually clever and a little more worldly.

It is hard to imagine a little joke like this getting through the din of vulgarity in the modern world.



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Minggu, 25 Maret 2012

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Tree & Me

Posted: 18 Mar 2012 07:20 PM PDT

Tree & Me

March 18, 2012 at 10:20 pm (By Amba)

This young Magnolia grandiflora, planted today on my friend Chris's land outside Chapel Hill, will incorporate some atoms of Jacques and will eventually grow to be 40 to 50 feet tall.



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The priest, the rabbi, and the minister

Posted: 17 Mar 2012 11:48 AM PDT

The priest, the rabbi, and the minister

March 17, 2012 at 2:48 pm (By Rodjean)

So, officer O'Malley comes into the back room at the Italian restaurant, only to find the priest, the rabbi and the minister sitting on the floor with dice and cash in plain view. It is obvious that they have been illegally gambling, but the cop hasn't actually seen them doing it. So, he turns to the priest ans says, "Father, have you been gambling?" The priest says a quick Hail Mary, then says, "No." The cop turns to the minister and says, "Reverend, have you been gambling?. The minister says a short prayer asking Jesus for forgiveness, then he also denies gambling.

Frustrated, he asks the rabbi if he has been gambling. The rabbi responds, "With whom?"

I heard a number of such jokes when I was growing up. They were pretty mild, but they often played softly with stereotypes. The priest was generally earnest and a little naive. The rabbi was usually clever and a little more worldly.

It is hard to imagine a little joke like this getting through the din of vulgarity in the modern world.



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Crime Pays

Posted: 14 Mar 2012 03:59 PM PDT

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Senin, 19 Maret 2012

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Tree & Me

Posted: 18 Mar 2012 07:20 PM PDT

Tree & Me

March 18, 2012 at 10:20 pm (By Amba)

This young Magnolia grandiflora, planted today on my friend Chris's land outside Chapel Hill, will incorporate some atoms of Jacques and will eventually grow to be 40 to 50 feet tall.



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Minggu, 18 Maret 2012

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The priest, the rabbi, and the minister

Posted: 17 Mar 2012 11:48 AM PDT

The priest, the rabbi, and the minister

March 17, 2012 at 2:48 pm (Uncategorized)

So, officer O'Malley comes into the back room at the Italian restaurant, only to find the priest, the rabbi and the minister sitting on the floor with dice and cash in plain view. It is obvious that they have been illegally gambling, but the cop hasn't actually seen them doing it. So, he turns to the priest ans says, "Father, have you been gambling?" The priest says a quick Hail Mary, then says, "No." The cop turns to the minister and says, "Reverend, have you been gambling?. The minister says a short prayer asking Jesus for forgiveness, then he also denies gambling.

Frustrated, he asks the rabbi if he has been gambling. The rabbi responds, "With whom?"

I heard a number of such jokes when I was growing up. They were pretty mild, but they often played softly with stereotypes. The priest was generally earnest and a little naive. The rabbi was usually clever and a little more worldly.

It is hard to imagine a little joke like this getting through the din of vulgarity in the modern world.



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Jumat, 16 Maret 2012

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Crime Pays

Posted: 14 Mar 2012 03:59 PM PDT

Crime Pays

March 14, 2012 at 6:59 pm (By Realpc)

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/guy-who-rented-all-94-rooms-of-aspen-hotel-for-party-scores-awesome-new-goldman-job-20120312



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The Creationist Conspiracy

Posted: 10 Mar 2012 04:50 PM PST

The Creationist Conspiracy

March 10, 2012 at 8:50 pm (By Realpc)

Steven Novella, who writes a skeptic's blog, has discovered a sinister conspiracy. The Creations have joined forces and organized and they are infiltrating our universities and scientific publications. Scary!

http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/id-making-an-end-run-around-science/#more-4253

"… they want to change society and the nature of science itself. They want to inject supernaturalism into the process of science, so that it can be made to support their world-view and religious beliefs. They cannot do this honestly, so they do it deceptively. They are also well-funded and tireless."

Oh my godless! The Creationists are coming and we must find a way to stop them!



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Harassment Theater

Posted: 10 Mar 2012 10:39 AM PST

Harassment Theater

March 10, 2012 at 2:39 pm (Uncategorized)

Did you hear the one about the priest, the rabbi, and the minister?  You better not tell it at my office – or a lot of offices these days.

The partners in my firm were gathered together again for sexual harassment training.  The earnest young lawyer talked about recent developments in the law, then she put on a film which, on about a sixth grade level, told us a pat on the back for a job well done constitutes sexual harassment.  As management, We're supposed to be safe persons to whom to report sexual harassment – as well as inappropriate religious jokes or ethnic comments.  We then trigger the investigation.  The basic message is better safe than sorry – don't touch anyone you work with – or engage in conversation that touches on race, sex, gender, religion, physical handicaps, etc.  Half the people in the room – essentially lawyers aged 35 – 70, were checking emails on their iphones as the earnest young lady spoke.  We all knew the drill.

Two hours later, my secretary attended the "staff" session of the same program .  At age 64, she found the "training" mildly insulting, and mostly just stupid.  She walked into my office afterward,  mockingly saying she had to report questionable conduct – while on the elevator, a secretary had touched an attorney.  Playing along, I reminded her that I had a duty to investigate to determine whether the contact was inappropriate.  So I quietly asked, "Were they going down?"  We laughed at the stupidity of the behavior code, and we got back to work.

Several other long time secretaries commented on how lame the "training" was.  Our office is not a hotbed of harassment, but most people ignore the code which sounds like it is out of Catholic school in the 50s.  Most folks know the difference between office banter and harassment and know how to tell somebody who is taking things too far to knock it off , and most dislike sitting through some fatuous film telling them what they already know.

Why do we go through (and pay for) this Kabuki theater?  Because, if a harassment suit is filed, a good defense is that the firm was unaware of the harassment and had in place a harassment policy with regular sessions designed to tell us what behaviors are inappropriate and who we can complain to.

I am old enough to remember when women put up with real workplace harassment.  The situation was not good.  But, the remedy -  establishment of a statutory right to be free from upsetting behavior in the workplace, or any comments based on gender, gender preference, or gender expression, which is defined as a "hostile work environment," has created a cottage industry paid to teach us what we already know. It is Harassment Theater.



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Senin, 05 Maret 2012

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Why, yes I did go.

Posted: 04 Mar 2012 10:27 PM PST

Why, yes I did go.

March 5, 2012 at 2:27 am (By Ron)

I went to the Altan show that I had mentioned earlier last night.  Pics and video interview over at Fluffy Stuffin.  Enjoy!



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Sabtu, 03 Maret 2012

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The Natural State

Posted: 02 Mar 2012 07:09 AM PST

The Natural State

March 2, 2012 at 11:09 am (By Amba)

Promoting this from the comments on the last post—it's an idea I've wanted to inject into the political conversation for ages. It seems to me this is a vital notion and ought to be common knowledge. It helps a great deal in thinking clearly about economics and politics.

* * * * * *

realpc said,

March 2, 2012 at 6:38 am

  1. The best way to make things fair is to allow competition. The problems we have right now are partly because Wall Street and the US government work together, instead of being in competition. So there is nothing to prevent them from being corrupt.

  2. mockturtle said,

    March 2, 2012 at 10:46 am

    The problems we have right now are partly because Wall Street and the US government work together, instead of being in competition.

    Yep!

  3. amba (Annie Gottlieb) said,

    March 2, 2012 at 11:02 am

    Double yep!

    Although I don't think the government, by definition, can compete. In practice, that would turn into controlling/regulating. That's the only kind of adversarial relationship it seems government and private enterprise can have. And deregulation or regulation loopholes then become one kind of favor the government has to sell.

    This idea seems really important to me: Nobel Prize-winning economist Douglass North on "the Natural State." North says "limited-access" social orders, which we would see as cronyism (capitalist or otherwise) and the monopolizing of power by self-perpetuating elites, seem to be the natural way for large societies to organize themselves, and "open-access" social orders, which allow access by merit and are protected by competition, are a rare achievement. Once you grasp this idea, it becomes very clear how an open society is always tending to almost gravitationally revert back to the natural state. Once you see that inertial trend at work in our own society, you see what amazing tools the founding fathers gave us to fight it, but you also see how much vigilance and ingenuity must be employed in using those institutions to keep open access pried open as the heavy door keeps falling shut.

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Capitalism: The Loyal Opposition

Posted: 28 Feb 2012 08:27 AM PST

Capitalism: The Loyal Opposition

February 28, 2012 at 12:27 pm (By Amba)

Interesting interview with economist Richard Wolff in The Sun magazine. His prescriptions are predictable, but his diagnosis is startling. Even if you do not favor direct government employment of the unemployed, or taxing the rich and corporations at 1960 rates, as Wolff seems to — ain't gonna happen, so forget about it — he makes some strong points that are hard to answer about the particular ways wealth has been transferred upward.

He talks about how for the first time, after about 1970, there was no labor shortage (because of automation, offshoring, and women in the workplace), so employers no longer had to raise wages to retain workers, while workers had to work longer and harder—and yes, go deep into debt—to maintain or increase their standard of living. Result: productivity and profits increased, but the ones who were doing the producing didn't share in the proceeds.

it's been the best thirty years that employers in this country have ever had. More product was being produced, but employers didn't have to pay workers more.

[The interviewer points out that we in the U.S. equate capitalism with freedom]

Yes, employers are free, in this system, to stop raising workers' wages. But their exercise of that freedom has deprived the mass of Americans of a rising standard of living to accompany their rising productivity. Employers have kept all the benefits of the productivity increase in the form of profits [which were attributed to the genius of executives]. So one sector of our free economy has deprived another sector of its due.

This too was interesting, on deficits:

Then the government turns around and borrows money. It borrows from foreign governments, but also from banks, insurance companies, large corporations, and rich individuals who purchase Treasury bills, notes, bonds, and securities. In effect corporations and the rich can not only keep more tax dollars; they can then turn around and loan the money they kept to the government and earn interest on it. The interest that must be paid to them comes either from taxes levied upon the mass of Americans or from the savings the government achieves by cutting its payrolls and programs.

I'd love it if you would read and discuss this.  I'd love it even more if you did not assume I'm endorsing most of what Wolff says.  I don't favor his prescription, but I did find these two points of diagnosis startling.  You know I am economically naïve, and these points may have been obvious to most of you.  But go ahead, try to explain them away.

You will say that entrepreneurs are rewarded with profit for risking capital and providing products, services, and work opportunities for others. I'm with you so far.  But squeezing ever more work out of fewer employees for the same or less real pay, stressing workers and families to the breaking point?  Mind you, Wolff is also critical of the overconsumption and overindebtedness of the average American family — yet that, too, has been one of the engines driving profits until recently.  Moral disapproval of that behavior from those who've encouraged it and profited from it . . . well, it smells a little.

Can we conceive of a system that would encourage and reward productivity, not just extort and exploit it? And how could that come about (could it?) without empowering the government as enforcer?

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Senin, 27 Februari 2012

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One Single Distilled Drop of Oscar Snark

Posted: 26 Feb 2012 09:16 PM PST

One Single Distilled Drop of Oscar Snark

February 27, 2012 at 1:16 am (Uncategorized)

Billy Crystal has started looking like Kim Jong Il.



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Minggu, 26 Februari 2012

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Terminal Agitation

Posted: 25 Feb 2012 11:52 PM PST

Terminal Agitation

February 26, 2012 at 3:52 am (By Rodjean, Uncategorized)

Months have passed since I posted here. Now I have something to share.

Two weeks ago my father died. He was a professional violinist, an avid sports fan, a strong man and a strong personality. He put down his worn tuxedo at 90, after playing professionally for78 years. Congestive heart failure eroded him till he could not walk ten steps without stopping to catch his breath. He declined aggressive treatment, deciding instead on hospice care.

He was chipper on the morning of his last day on Earth. The about Noon he took a turn for the worse. His passing would be brief, but not easy. He started groaning and gasping for air, complaining that he could not get comfortable as the nurse and I rolled him onto one side, then another. I held his hand and recited a couple of prayers with him. I looked into his eyes, my face a foot away from his, and told him that I loved him. I talked about the good old days and how he had performed for Presidents and played with Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennet, Sammy Davis Jr., and other stars. He listened and spoke occasionally, but he was still uncomfortable. He looked at me with anxiety in his eyes and grabbed my arm with a strength he had not shown in years.

The nurses gave him a combination of Ativan, Morphine, and Haldol. His speech started to slur, but he restlessness and discomfort continued. He cried out for Jesus. At times he was unintelligible. At one point, after about four hours, he lifted his arms towards the ceiling, gazed upwards, and in a breathy voice, he whispered, "I'm dying, I'm dying," as if it had just occurred to him. The nurses gave him more Ativan. At five hours, a new pattern appeared. He started to doze, not breathing for about 30 or 40 seconds, then he suddenly awoke with a start and with a wild look in his eyes, he started gasping for breath. This lasted for about two minutes, then he stopped breathing and appeared to doze again for another 30 or 40 seconds, followed by more gasping. (I have since looked it up and learned that this has a name. It is "Cheyne-Stokes" breathing. The literature claims the dying look more uncomfortable that they are, but who knows?) I just held him and talked to him. At six hours he wasn't saying much, but he gestured and said he had pain in his throat. I looked at the nurse and said, "Isn't there anything you can do to make him comfortable?" She gave him more morphine. Finally, a few minutes later he fell asleep and began to snore. I stepped out of the room and asked for a drink of water. I returned two or three minutes later, and he had stopped breathing.

Some of you may have been present through a "hard passing" death. I had never been with someone in the hour of death before. It was harrowing and disturbing. It left me spent and a bit numb. The nurse told me it was quite common. If you Google "death – agitation" you will see that this is how many people die. I had no idea. The movies portray the dying as very collected, saying things like asking Knute Rockne to tell the team to "win one for the Gipper" some day, or trying to give a cop a description of a criminal. That may be true for a few, but not for most of us. We are never quite in harmony with this world. Rudely shoved out, we enter this world, and many of us will be rudely shoved into eternity.

PS There was one funny moment. After switching my dad every few minutes onto one side or the other, at one point he was on his back, with his head elevated. He mumbled that he wanted to be moved again. I said, "Dad, which way do you want to go?" He just pointed up.

Months have passed since I posted here. Now I have something to share.

Two weeks ago my father died. He was a professional violinist, an avid sports fan, a strong man and a strong personality. He put down his worn tuxedo at 90, after playing professionally for78 years. Congestive heart failure eroded him till he could not walk ten steps without stopping to catch his breath. He declined aggressive treatment, deciding instead on hospice care.

He was chipper on the morning of his last day on Earth. The about Noon he took a turn for the worse. His passing would be brief, but not easy. He started groaning and gasping for air, complaining that he could not get comfortable as the nurse and I rolled him onto one side, then another. I held his hand and recited a couple of prayers with him. I looked into his eyes, my face a foot away from his, and told him that I loved him. I talked about the good old days and how he had performed for Presidents and played with Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennet, Sammy Davis Jr., and other stars. He listened and spoke occasionally, but he was still uncomfortable. He looked at me with anxiety in his eyes and grabbed my arm with a strength he had not shown in years.

The nurses gave him a combination of Ativan, Morphine, and Haldol. His speech started to slur, but he restlessness and discomfort continued. He cried out for Jesus. At times he was unintelligible. At one point, after about four hours, he lifted his arms towards the ceiling, gazed upwards, and in a breathy voice, he whispered, "I'm dying, I'm dying," as if it had just occurred to him. The nurses gave him more Ativan. At five hours, a new pattern appeared. He started to doze, not breathing for about 30 or 40 seconds, then he suddenly awoke with a start and with a wild look in his eyes, he started gasping for breath. This lasted for about two minutes, then he stopped breathing and appeared to doze again for another 30 or 40 seconds, followed by more gasping. (I have since looked it up and learned that this has a name. It is "Cheyne-Stokes" breathing. The literature claims the dying look more uncomfortable that they are, but who knows?) I just held him and talked to him. At six hours he wasn't saying much, but he gestured and said he had pain in his throat. I looked at the nurse and said, "Isn't there anything you can do to make him comfortable?" She gave him more morphine. Finally, a few minutes later he fell asleep and began to snore. I stepped out of the room and asked for a drink of water. I returned two or three minutes later, and he had stopped breathing.

Some of you may have been present through a "hard passing" death. I had never been with someone in the hour of death before. It was harrowing and disturbing. It left me spent and a bit numb. The nurse told me it was quite common. If you Google "death – agitation" you will see that this is how many people die. I had no idea. The movies portray the dying as very collected, saying things like asking Knute Rockne to tell the team to "win one for the Gipper" some day, or trying to give a cop a description of a criminal. That may be true for a few, but not for most of us. We are never quite in harmony with this world. Rudely shoved out, we enter this world, and many of us will be rudely shoved into eternity.

PS There was one funny moment. After switching my dad every few minutes onto one side or the other, at one point he was on his back, with his head elevated. He mumbled that he wanted to be moved again. I said, "Dad, which way do you want to go?" He just pointed up.

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Kamis, 16 Februari 2012

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A bit of color…

Posted: 15 Feb 2012 10:13 PM PST

A bit of color…

February 16, 2012 at 2:13 am (By Ron)

Normally, I do my Fred and Ginger posts over at my blog, Fluffy Stuffin, but I thought I'd share this one with the Ambiance readership.

Color Fred and Ginger from 1939! (there is no sound) This is from the film The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle, the last film they made for RKO in the 1930′s.  They did a color film 10 years later for MGM, The Barkleys of Broadway, but alas, no color for them in the RKO days except for little snippets like this.  They were going to have a color sequence in 1938′s Carefree for the song "I used to be color blind", but RKO cheapened out when Fred's solo film in 1937, A Damsel in Distress, failed badly.  This sequence is quite odd; it's a fantasy dream sequence, mostly shot in slo-mo…and having it in color would have been cool!  Hollywood experimented with color in small sections of black and white films, (The Women comes to mind) but they pulled out all the stops for the big blockbusters like Wizard of Oz and Gone With The Wind.  I believe this bit we see here was shot with Ginger's own camera, which she would take to sets:

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Love in the Middle Ages

Posted: 14 Feb 2012 11:35 AM PST

Love in the Middle Ages

February 14, 2012 at 3:35 pm (By Amba)

The god of love has one year to prove he's still relevant. The lovers he's been assigned as his final exam–two yearning, prickly, battle-scarred, independent middle-aged people, Evan and Eve–aren't exactly making it easy.

Set in Vermont maple syrup country, NYC, and SF, A Godsend, my buddy Dalma Heyn's "love story for grownups"—wry, hopeful, sexy—is available today in all e-book formats for only 99 cents — the price of a song. Literally*. What have you got to lose? And if you know somebody else who might like it, please pass it on.

A love story for all of us who are no longer kids; who are hopeful even in changing times, and who know that love can happen in an instant . . . at any age.

*Don't you love it? When someone says, "You can have it for a song," now we can put a number to that!

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Something for a Cold Night in February

Posted: 11 Feb 2012 03:17 PM PST

Something for a Cold Night in February

February 11, 2012 at 7:17 pm (By Tim)

Reduced, as we are, to the enforced aphorisms of Twitter, or a few laconic lines in Facebook, the scolded diktat to be pithy in blog posts seems like a piece of Victorian social morality, (pace Strunk & White and Professor Althouse) made quaint by technology and new circumstances. So, I don't think it impolite to ask you to read something that might tax a Twitterer's dried-up brain.

Not having the Latin of Martial to write epigrams,  it might do this blog, and our brains, a little good to see some lengthy, honest English prose, albeit from a time when the educated knew Martial, and their English wasn't as honest as it might have been. They also generally understood the allusions Laurence Sterne put into Tristram Shandy, his comic masterpiece that came out in nine volumes between 1761 and 1767. It was full of everything from Rabelais and Cervantes to the Bible and obscure bits of Classical learning, not to mention Sterne's bawdy humor and ridicule of solemnity. Schopenhauer counted Tristram Shandy as one of the four most important novels written, along with Goethe's Wilhelm Meister, Rousseau's Nouvelle Héloïse, and Cervantes' Don Quixote.

So, here is the first chapter of Book VII of Tristram Shandy, published in 1765, and which I hope can loosen our virtual tongues to say something about in 2012. Sterne, so full of good spirits, and ready to fly halfway around the world to avoid him, did have the honor of Death knocking at his door three years after these lines were written, having been summoned by the "vile cough" he writes of, or as we know it in our modern, clinical way, tuberculosis:

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

No——I think, I said, I would write two volumes every year, provided the vile cough which then tormented me, and which to this hour I dread worse than the devil, would but give me leave——and in another place—(but where, I can't recollect now) speaking of my book as a machine, and laying my pen and ruler down cross-wise upon the table, in order to gain the greater credit to it—I swore it should be kept a going at that rate these forty years if it pleased but the fountain of life to bless me so long with health and good spirits.

Now as for my spirits, little have I to lay to their charge—nay so very little (unless the mounting me upon a long stick, and playing the fool with me nineteen hours out of the twenty-four, be accusations) that on the contrary, I have much—much to thank 'em for: cheerily have ye made me tread the path of life with all the burdens of it (except its cares) upon my back; in no one moment of my existence, that I remember, have ye once deserted me, or tinged the objects which came in my way, either with sable, or with a sickly green; in dangers ye gilded my horizon with hope, and when DEATH himself knocked at my door—ye bade him come again; and in so gay a tone of careless indifference did ye do it, that he doubted of his commission——

"There must certainly be some mistake in this matter," quoth he.

Now there is nothing in this world I abominate worse, than to be interrupted in a story——and I was that moment telling Eugenius a most tawdry one in my way, of a nun who fancied herself a shell-fish, and of a monk damned for eating a mussel, and was shewing him the grounds and justice of the procedure——

"—Did ever so grave a personage get into so vile a scrape?" quoth Death. Thou hast had a narrow escape, Tristram, said Eugenius, taking hold of my hand as I finished my story——

But there is no living, Eugenius, replied I, at this rate; for as this son of a whore has found out my lodgings——

—You call him rightly, said Eugenius,—for by sin, we are told, he entered the world——I care not which way he entered, quoth I, provided he be not in such a hurry to take me out with him—for I have forty volumes to write, and forty thousand things to say and do, which no body in the world will say and do for me, except thyself; and as thou seest he has got me by the throat (for Eugenius could scarce hear me speak across the table) and that I am no match for him in the open field, had I not better, whilst these few scattered spirits remain, and these two spider legs of mine (holding one of them up to him) are able to support me—had I not better, Eugenius, fly for my life? 'Tis my advice, my dear Tristram, said Eugenius——Then by heaven! I will lead him a dance he little thinks of—for I will gallop, quoth I, without looking once behind me, to the banks of the Garonne; and if I hear him clattering at my heels——I'll scamper away to Mount Vesuvius——from thence to Joppa, and from Joppa to the world's end, where, if he follows me, I pray God he may break his neck——

—He runs more risk there, said Eugenius, than thou.

Eugenius's wit and affection brought blood into the cheek from whence it had been some months banished—'twas a vile moment to bid adieu in; he led me to my chaise——Allons! said I; the postboy gave a crack with his whip——off I went like a cannon, and in half a dozen bounds got into Dover.

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