Sunday, March 28, 2010


Sorry about my cranky post yesterday. I was hitting a wall with my cold -- just so frustrated after days of not feeling well. I did finally go to the doctor yesterday morning, and $100 later, I have some antibiotics and an (unnecessary) inhaler.

(Doctors seem obsessed with asthma medication these days -- this is not the first time I've had a doctor put me on an inhaler when I'm getting over a cold. I mean, I hate to act like I know better, but isn't it normal to have some mucus in your lungs after a cold? Won't they clear out on their own? I guess this is why drug companies advertise their asthma meds so aggressively.)

Anyway, I'm glad I seem to have turned the corner, because Dave and I are taking off tomorrow for a five-day vacation in Provincetown. I've never been there before, so I'm looking forward to it. Apparently we're slated for some chilly weather while we're there, but I'm excited no matter what.

Last night we went into the city to visit with a friend before she moves out of New York for good -- she's going back to Michigan because she couldn't find a job in the city. (I can relate!) We went to the Shake Shack in Madison Square Park, which made for a chilly dinner -- it was 37 degrees and we were sitting outside. (No indoor seating. Did I mention that I have a cold?)

(Photo: Fence in Red Hook, Brooklyn, last week.)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Still Sick!

My cold has lingered for a week now. Despite my continual coughing and hacking, I thought I was getting better -- and then woke up this morning with a pounding sinus headache. So I'm going to the doctor.

I usually try to let my body take care of itself, so when this cold first arose and Dave urged me to go to the doctor, I resisted. I figure there's no point in spending money when my body will heal on its own.

Dave, on the other hand, went to the doctor promptly when he contracted this cold. He's still coughing a bit but he hasn't had nearly the scope of problems I've had. His cough was milder and he hasn't had any sinus trouble at all. He missed work one day, but I was out of commission for at least four days this week.

Was the difference because he went to the doctor, or just because the cold affected him less? Who knows? All I know is, I'm annoyed and sick of being sick. Argh!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Space: 1999

How many of you remember a TV show from the mid-'70s called "Space: 1999"? It starred Martin Landau and Barbara Bain in their post-"Mission Impossible" years, as astronauts stranded aboard a moon colony when a nuclear explosion blasts the moon out of orbit. It was syndicated and aired on independent channels around the U.S.

I watched it fairly regularly as a kid, but I hadn't seen it since. The other day I got to thinking about one particular episode involving a tentacled alien monster that ate several astronauts and spit out their smoking corpses. As you can imagine, that image vividly imprinted itself on my childhood mind. I think it gave me nightmares, but at the very least it creeped me out.

I went online and looked up an episode guide for the series. Sure enough, the episode was called "Dragon's Domain," from 1975. Assuming I saw it around that time, I would have been nine years old.

And imagine my excitement when I discovered DVDs of the entire series available on Netflix! Naturally I ordered "Dragon's Domain" immediately, and Dave and I watched it last night.

I'd forgotten so much about the series! For one thing, it was made in England, so everyone except Landau and Bain has a British accent. The costumes and sets are vaguely Kubrickian a la "2001: A Space Odyssey," though on an obviously much smaller budget.

It was fun to watch -- especially now, from the other side of the real 1999. It's funny to think people in the 1970s imagined we'd be so advanced in our conquest of space by then. (Once again, shades of "2001.")

My memory of this particular episode was surprisingly very accurate. The monster (obviously foam rubber, with a blazing headlight for an eye) ate the four astronauts in the order I remembered, and was killed the way I remembered. There was a lot of exposition in the middle that I naturally did not remember, but what do you want from a nine-year-old?

I always wonder what children would be learning if they didn't have television. If I hadn't invested my time, energy and brain cells in "Space: 1999," would I have learned more about my environment? Maybe I'd know the names of all the weeds in the front flower bed. Or maybe I'd have been bored and getting into mischief and bitten by a poisonous snake. Who knows?

(Photo: "We are coming," Red Hook, Brooklyn, last week.)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I've come down with a heck of a spring cold. Bleah! It started with a tickle of a cough on Sunday night and now it's in my nose too. I'm just lying around the house, watching lots of TV, and I don't have the energy to do anything else. Normally lying around like this would make me crazy!

I may try to get out for a little walk later today, just to get some air. Meanwhile Ernie and I are camped in the recliner, watching old episodes of "Little House on the Prairie." Pathetic!

Dave (who had this particular cold himself about a week ago) keeps urging me to go to the doctor, but I don't have a fever, so I don't think the doctor could do anything. It's just a cold, and it needs to run its course.

(Photos: Old bumper stickers on a derelict car parked near our apartment.)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Omnivore II

As I mentioned earlier, I've been reading Michael Pollan's book "The Omnivore's Dilemma," which is a look at the way we produce and consume food in America. It's most generally an indictment of industrialized agriculture, which we practice to the detriment of our health, environment, economy, family and society.

There's a lot of food for thought in this book, to make a bad pun. I learned a lot of little factoids I never knew before. For example, did you know that you can harvest enough "wild" yeast from the air to bake a loaf of bread?

But beyond the interesting factoids, there are greater issues to be considered. I especially appreciated Pollan's discussion of the ethics of eating animals, a topic I frequently struggle with, as my approximately four longtime blog readers know. Pollan concluded that the act of eating the animal may not be the most important question, but rather the way we eat the animal, and the way we raise and treat it during its life.
"The industrialization -- and brutalization -- of animals in America is a relatively new, evitable, and local phenomenon: No other country raises and slaughters its food animals quite as intensively or as brutally as we do. No other people in history has lived at quite so great a remove from the animals they eat. Were the walls of our meat industry to become transparent, literally or even figuratively, we would not long continue to raise, kill, and eat animals the way we do. Tail docking and sow crates and beak clipping would disappear overnight, and the days of slaughtering four hundred head of cattle an hour would promptly come to an end -- for who could stand the sight? Yes, meat would get more expensive. We'd probably eat a lot less of it, too, but maybe when we did eat animals we'd eat them with the consciousness, ceremony, and respect they deserve."
His conclusion coincides with the position I've reluctantly taken in my own life: That I'm going to eat animals, but I'm going to try to eat them wisely and sparingly. I once ate no animals at all, and I still believe I am more vegetarian than not by nature. But when I began to work out about 15 years ago, and felt I needed more protein, I began eating chicken and fish. Now, out of deference to Dave's passion for cooking all sorts of dishes including beef and pork, I've liberalized my stance even further, but I still try to be conscious of what I'm doing and the suffering I'm causing. Maintaining awareness leads to a healthy degree of moderation.

Overall, I think I'm a relatively responsible eater. I don't buy a lot of pre-processed food, and I don't patronize fast food joints or cheap restaurants. (Well, OK, the occasional diner!) I don't drink soda or consume a lot of empty calories. I'd like to shop more locally, and explore the area farm stands when they open this summer.

I try my best, and that's all any of us can do within the confines of the industrial system in which we live.

(Photo: Williamsburg, Brooklyn, last Friday.)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Health Care

Last night we watched the House debate the health care reform bill. It was difficult to endure -- many opposition lawmakers seem to have abandoned their individual sense of what's right and just in favor of toeing a party line. It's been interesting to watch them use the same keywords and phrases over and over for weeks. They obviously all got the same crib notes.

The pundits are fond of pointing out that even Johnson in the 1960s managed to get Republicans to vote for Medicare. But the political climate in the 1960s wasn't as poisonously partisan as it is today, when Republicans are hell-bent on disinformation and obstructionism. (I'm reminded of Rush Limbaugh's stated goal of seeing Obama fail. You can say what you want about Rush not being a spokesman for the party, but let's face it -- he helps define and express the conservative viewpoint in this country, and that viewpoint is largely Republican.)

I believe Obama honestly tried to work with both sides, and the Republicans fought him every step of the way. He tried to move beyond partisanship, and he was rebuffed. Sad.

I'm happy the bill passed. I think it's a step toward more equitable health care in this country, where we have long endured an unfair system that compares unfavorably with those in most other industrialized nations. Sadly, the fighting isn't over, as the Republicans have promised to try to block the bill's implementation through court battles and other means (and they're already talking eventual repeal). I just want to say, "Go to your room!"

(Photo: Apropos of nothing, a photo of Ernie and Ruby on the Raritan River Art Walk, earlier this month.)

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Just in time for the first day of spring, the wildflowers are appearing in the field next to our apartment. When we walked the dogs yesterday, I was stunned to find tiny white blossoms in the grass, where just a few weeks ago there were several feet of snow.

This morning I found the little purple, slipper-shaped blossoms above. I have no idea what they are. Does anyone know?

It's amazing how quickly the plants come to life, and in the case of these yellow flowers, even go to seed. Nature wastes no time!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Con Edison

Well, I'm back in New Jersey, sitting on the couch in the early morning light with Ernie snoring beside me. I had a good couple of days in New York, walking and photographing. I'm now stocked up with enough photos to last the next few weeks.

We had a little crisis at my apartment building in New York. When I got there on Thursday I found a legal notice pasted to the front door by Con Edison, saying our power bill had not been paid and the electricity would be turned off. I'm the co-op board president, so I contacted the managing agent, who initially said the bill was current. But then I called Con Edison directly, and they said we were more than $10,000 in arrears.

I called the managing agent back, and after further investigation he said we'd run short of money in January and February and simply hadn't paid the bill. After picking myself up off the floor, I said, "Were you going to tell the board about this?" (We have access to a line of credit where we can borrow money in case of such emergencies.)

The whole episode left me dumbfounded and utterly seething. I still don't have an explanation for why the manager initially said the bill was current, and then changed his story. It's clear to me that he and his staff don't know what the heck they're doing, and I shudder to think what would have happened if I hadn't come home Thursday and found that notice.

My term on the board is ending in May, and I've decided not to run again, since I'm not sure whether I'm going to remain in the building or sell my apartment. This latest saga makes me want to get the heck out of there.

(Photo: Corner of our living room in New Jersey, one morning a couple weeks ago.)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Red Hook

I'm in New York today, celebrating the beautiful weather by walking
around Red Hook, Brooklyn, with my camera. (In shorts and a t-shirt,
no less!) I love this time of year, when I can finally leave my coat
in the closet. It's so liberating!

More tomorrow, when I return to New Jersey!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


It's spring once again, which means it's time for Peeps! I went to CVS yesterday and found a shelf of them, so of course I had to buy some. They're not really good, supersweet and vaguely soapy. But they're cute and I like them anyway.

I realized after I bought them that I'd never tried the microwave experiment. So I placed a sacrificial Peep on a plate and placed it in the nuker. Below is the result.

I took a video to document the Peeps' inflation to the size of a large softball. But the door of our microwave is somewhat opaque (partly because, let's face it, it's somewhat dirty), so the video didn't really work. Suffice to say the Peep swole* up, and then deflated into a burned puddle.

I must be releasing my inner teenager!

*Yes, I know "swole" isn't really a word. I'm expressing my southern roots. :)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Yesterday was pretty nondescript. It rained all day, so I stayed inside reading "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and taking care of a few things around the house.

I'm enjoying the book -- I was fascinated to learn that the United States experienced a surfeit of corn in the early 1800s, which led to an explosion in the availability and consumption of corn whiskey. Apparently people were real drinkers in the first half of the 19th century, even more so than in later years. Who knew?

Of course, the main goal of the book is to point out all the problems with our present-day industrialized food stream. I like to think I'm a pretty healthy eater, since I usually buy fresh produce, meat and dairy as opposed to all the processed stuff. But even fresh products in a supermarket are tainted by their origins in factory farms, slaughterhouses and feedlots. I can only hope the author gives me some ideas about how to eat more conscientiously -- I'm sure that will mean buying locally produced food, but how does one buy local in New Jersey in the middle of winter?

Another grain of food for thought -- our entire food-production structure, which has enabled the planet's population to balloon to the point it has, is heavily dependent on fossil fuels. What happens as those fuels become more scarce? Do we face a future where starvation is a possibility?

Today I'm going to tackle another chore and try to get Dave's car inspected. First we have to install a front license-plate bracket, because his car didn't come with one, and a front plate is required in New Jersey. Bureaucracy!

(Photo: Pine cones on my rainy walk yesterday.)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Nature's a Mother

And I don't mean that in a good, nurturing way! We got hammered by a storm on Saturday that knocked out the power for about 25,000 people in East Brunswick, and left our tap water temporarily undrinkable. High winds knocked down trees (including this poor specimen in front of our apartment building), and it's raining more, even now.

Dave and I were home Saturday watching movies as the storm became more and more violent. Every once in a while the building would shudder and we'd look at each other and say, "Wow!" The wind and rain were so fierce that we had water coming in above our sliding glass door -- the wind blew it through the frame. It was like a low-grade hurricane.

We had tickets to a concert at the 92nd Street Y that night (ironically, replacement tickets for a performance we couldn't attend due to a blizzard), and we decided not to go. It's a good thing, because New Jersey Transit shut down the trains on Saturday evening, and if we'd gotten into the city there's a chance we couldn't have come home. Some poor passengers were stuck in trains immobilized on the tracks. I'm going to toss those tickets and call them a donation to the Y. I'm clearly just not meant to use them!

We tried to order Chinese food from our usual take-out place up the road, but they weren't answering their phone. Turns out they had no power. So we wound up making pasta.

Yesterday we had a friend over for dinner, and I'd just served everyone a big glass of ice water when Dave got word that school drinking fountains would be turned off today because of a boil-water advisory. Yikes! I'd been drinking water all day yesterday, including using the water fountain at the gym, and that was the first I'd heard of it.

I made my (hot but unboiled) coffee as usual this morning. I'd rather risk a dose of bacteria than forego my morning brew.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Lacuna

I just finished Barbara Kingsolver's brilliant novel "The Lacuna." It's about a young man of Mexican-American heritage who works as an aide to the artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Mexico City in the 1930s, when they were associates of Leon Trotsky. Meanwhile, he's trying to become a writer himself, laboring each night over pages that he hopes to eventually turn into a book.

At one point, Kahlo gives him some advice which resonated with me:
"I think an artist has to tell the truth," she said finally. "You have to use the craft very well and have a lot of discipline for it, but mostly to be a good artist you have to know something that's true. These kids who come to Diego wanting to learn, I'll tell you. They can paint a perfect tree, a perfect face, whatever you ask. But they don't know enough about life to fill a thimble. And that's what has to go in the painting. Otherwise, why look at it?"
The main character asks her how an artist learns enough about life to fill that thimble. She replies, "He needs to go rub his soul against life," doing things like working in a copper mine, eating bad food and having libertine sex. Living, in general.

I'm not sure about her specific recommendations, but I think her words about truth versus technique are spot on. A person can be equipped in a technical sense to write a book or paint a picture, but that doesn't mean they have anything truthful or insightful to say. (And we're back again to "Why I will never write a novel.")

The main character eventually becomes a writer and moves to the United States, only to become entangled in the anti-communist fervor of the 1950s. Here I definitely felt Kingsolver drawing a subtle, subconscious parallel between the dangerous far-right activism of the McCarthy era and that of our present day.

This is a terrific book. Read it.

(Photo: Sunspots in the East Village, February 2010.)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Face Goo

Since I got my iPhone I've been experimenting with the killer "apps" that everyone gets so excited about. One of the apps I downloaded is called "FaceGoo," and it allows you to distort photos in truly hilarious ways. I was playing with this while I stood in line for the Daily Show Thursday, and again on the train on the way home. I laughed so hard I was crying.

Above, for example, is a perfectly normal photo of Dave. Below are Dave's various alter-egos, as created in FaceGoo:

Here am I, kind of funny-looking naturally, but never mind:

Here am I, a la FaceGoo:

I'm serious. I haven't laughed so hard in years!

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Daily Show

Dave and I went to a taping of "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" yesterday. We were watching the show a few weeks ago and wondered how to go about attending. We hopped on line, and lo and behold, tickets were available for the March 11 show. So we reserved them. Incredibly easy, and free!

We showed up yesterday about 2:45 p.m. in front of the studio on 11th Avenue. We were early -- audience members were advised to be there at 3:30 -- but they sometimes overbook and we wanted to be sure to get a seat. We stood in line, had coffee and watched hot dog vendors lug their carts up and down the avenue (there must be a cart storage place nearby). We also saw lots of horse-drawn carriages, of the variety that pollute the roadways in Central Park -- I think the stables must be near the studio, too.

Finally we got into the studio at 5:15 or so. It all looks much, much smaller in real life than on television, and also somewhat shabbier. The TV cameras make everything look super-vibrant and shiny, but the studio looks less so. Classic rock (Led Zeppelin, Nirvana) blared from the speakers during set-up, and we were told to applaud and laugh loudly during the show.

A comedian came out and warmed up the audience -- I was a target of the requisite bald joke, as I always seem to be every time I go to a stand-up show. Then Jon Stewart came out and answered some audience questions before launching into the taping. He's funny, of course, but also very smooth -- he never flubbed a line, never had to tape anything twice. (He retaped two minor script changes, but not because of any obvious error by him.) It was hard to tell how much of the show is scripted versus ad-libbed. It all seems off-the-cuff, but I'm sure there's loads of preparation involved.

His guest was some guy who wrote a book, as usual: Eamon Javers, whose book "Broker, Trader, Lawyer, Spy" is about corporate espionage. I was honestly so overwhelmed by all the activity and stimulation that I absorbed very little of the interview (or the rest of the show's content, for that matter).

So did you watch "The Daily Show" last night? If so, maybe you heard me laughing!

(Photo: My Daily Show ticket. Looks pretty down-market, doesn't it? Couldn't they at least cut it straight?)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Raised in a Barn

Last night Dave and I went to see a performance by The Shanghai Quartet here in East Brunswick. Of course the music was terrific -- they played Debussy, Elgar and Schubert, and a modern piece by Penderecki. That one was my favorite -- I could hear the interaction between each instrument, yet at times the piece seemed to buzz like a swarm of locusts. Pretty awesome.

I wanted to clobber the woman sitting in front of us, though. She was there with a little girl, probably five or so. When the music started the girl began swinging her arms in the air, mimicking the conductor, which was cute at first. But the mother did nothing to restrain the kid, and because she was directly in front of me she kept interfering with my line of sight. It went on and on, and I went from laughing at her cuteness to wanting to cut her head off.

During a break in the performance, another woman came up and asked the first to please "be respectful of the music and the musicians" and keep her child quiet. The first woman got indignant and insisted the girl was being quiet.

The show resumed, and pretty soon, the girl -- after twisting around in her seat to examine everyone around her, including me -- announced she was bored. The woman had become absorbed in a hand-held digital device, apparently texting or checking her e-mail. The girl said she wanted to leave, and the woman absently moved aside to allow the kid to traipse freely around the darkened auditorium.

After the girl returned a few minutes later, clomping up the steps next to our seats to resume her squirming, the mother began playing video games on her digital device. I couldn't believe it. And she wasn't entertaining the kid, either -- she was entertaining herself.

I seriously wanted to lean down and ask her why she was even there. Dave said she no doubt had a kid in the performance -- the middle and high school orchestras had opened the show, and some students played with The Shanghai Quartet during the Elgar piece. But still -- let's assume you went purely out of a sense of obligation to your child. Wouldn't you want to at least pretend to be listening? Wouldn't you be respectful of those sitting around you? And why would you bring a little girl who is clearly way too young for a classical music performance?

I was reminded of the time I went to Central Park with my friend Jan to hear the Philharmonic play, and people around us were blabbering. Argh! What is wrong with people?

(Photo: Graffiti by Rambo, which roughly depicts my attitude toward clueless theater-goers. Bushwick, Brooklyn, last week.)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Oscar and Ruby

Did any of you watch the Oscars? We did here. With the exception of the Elinor Burkett moment (and what was she thinking?) there were no surprises. I would have bet on "The Hurt Locker" for best picture, given that super-splashy "Avatar" has already been so commercially successful. I'm glad Jeff Bridges and Sandra Bullock won, because both of them have long been underrated. Too bad Christopher Plummer lost, especially to that guy from "Inglourious Basterds," which I didn't like at all. Now I have to actually go see both "The Hurt Locker" and "The Blind Side," and I'm not thrilled about the latter because it involves football. Ugh.

Our dog Ruby began getting mopey several days ago. She moved more slowly and seemed to be in pain, actually yelping when we touched her. So I took her to the vet on Monday, and it turns out she has something called spondylitis, which involves extra bone growth on her vertebrae. It's an old dog affliction, kind of like arthritis. The vet gave us some anti-inflammatory drugs (and antibiotics for an unrelated possible UTI) and now Ruby seems bright and happy again. She leaped into the car yesterday afternoon with no hesitation. Whew!

I'm still talking to that potential new employer. Had another interview last night, this time by phone. The process is lengthy, but I suppose if it pays off in employment it will all be worth it. Apparently their timetable for making decisions got pushed back a bit, but they hope to wrap things up in the next few weeks.

(Photo: Chelsea, on March 4.)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Among the most depressing sights of the holiday season are discarded Christmas trees. I'm especially depressed by the ones that never get purchased -- that just get piled up in some parking lot on Dec. 25, awaiting the mulcher.

Last year, not wanting to contribute to this campaign of arboricide, we bought a live, potted Christmas tree. We named him Travis, and decorated him with star-shaped lights and ridiculous ornaments. He held up without complaint through the holiday season, and after New Year's -- stripped of those burdensome decorations -- he lived near the window in our spare bedroom.

Keeping Travis alive until we could put him in the ground always seemed like a race against time, in my book. He showed no real signs of ill health -- just shed a few needles from his interior branches -- and in fact he grew a little sprig of new green. Still, I thought he would die any minute. It seemed unlikely that a conifer could stay alive indoors for months, even under the best of care.

The problem is, you can't plant a tree at Christmas time. The ground is too hard, the weather too bitter. We had to wait until the spring thaw and the last of the big snowstorms.

Last weekend, we decided Travis' time had finally come. We bought a shovel and lugged him out to the edge of the field behind our apartment complex -- an area already populated by pines, albeit a different variety. A perfect space waited there for Travis, and indeed, he seems happier in the wild, a Christmas tree no more.


Monday, March 8, 2010

Faux Fauna

The rare New Jersey White Tiger, seen sunning itself near its principal food source.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Rutgers Gardens

Dave and I celebrated the change in the weather yesterday by taking the dogs to Rutgers Gardens, just a few miles from where we live. It's a botanical garden with an attached nature preserve, featuring a trail that winds through woods along a tributary to the Raritan River. It was a spectacular day, and although the ground is still muddy from the recent snow melt it was great to get out and walk.

There's still a bit of snow on the ground, as you can see, but it's mostly gone by now. The snow clung to the north-facing bank of the creek above, but had vanished from the south-facing bank. (See? If I got lost in the woods I'd have some directional skills!)

The gardens also featured beds of native plants, but at this time of year they were all largely identical brown twigs. We'll have to go back in a few months to learn more about our Jersey flora!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Graffiti Bonanza

I went out walking yesterday in Brooklyn and found a super-amazing wall of graffiti. It all looks brand new, and the skill levels are incredible. Some samples are here, and there are a few more shots on my Flickr stream (plus large versions if you want to see more detail).

I was in the city for my third interview with the media company I've been talking to about jobs. Despite the fact that I've had several meetings with these folks, and their apparent interest, I don't think a job is imminent. It sounds like they think I'd be best in a specific division of the company that unfortunately isn't hiring at the moment. So I'm still in a holding pattern.

I visited my former boss yesterday -- I stopped by her house and we had lunch. It was fun to catch up and compare notes on the job search and on the travails of our former employer.

As for this weekend, I'm staying in Jersey. In fact, I need to take the dogs out now. It's a beautiful day, with no precipitation for a change!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Free Shamu

You probably heard about the killer whale at Sea World in Orlando that killed its trainer. The incident prompted a flurry of discussion about whales, whale shows and right vs. wrong.

Larry King hosted a panel discussion two nights ago in which supporters of whale shows like those at Sea World argued that the shows educate Americans about sea life. Zoos and aquariums, the supporters argued, are valuable scientific and educational assets.

The opposing view was that whale and dolphin shows exploit creatures and cruelly force them to live and perform in tiny tanks much smaller than the hundreds of miles they would typically range living in the open ocean. While the Sea World folks say they use positive reinforcement as their primary training technique, the whale supporters argue that it's merely food deprivation.

I read an article years ago that characterized attempts to free captive animals as misguided at best. The article alleged that animals primarily want their basic needs met -- food, water, shelter -- and once that's done, they're content to live in routine. In fact, they like routine, and prefer it to the haphazard dangers of the wild, the article argued.

It's an interesting debate, but I come down firmly on the side of non-performing whales. (No surprise there.) I agree that zoos and aquariums are valuable. They do provide a critical educational and scientific role, and they help rehabilitate injured animals and breed those that are threatened or endangered.

But a zoo or aquarium is not equivalent to a whale show. Equating the two is like saying we should hold human freak shows because hospitals are worthwhile. There's a difference between caring for animals and performing research, and training whales and dolphins to jump through hoops.

Whale and dolphin shows are relics of the past. (So are animal acts in circuses, for that matter.) We now live in a society where people can see exotic animals in more suitable surroundings -- even go whale-watching and see them in the open ocean. (For nearly the same price as a bunch of Sea World tickets, I would bet!)

I think it's acceptable to house and display whales and dolphins, those born in captivity or injured in ways that prevent their release into the wild. But jumping through hoops? Forget it. There's no good reason for that.

(Photo: Catherine Street, last week.)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

So long, Sanders Memorial

I just learned from one of my hometown friends that the elementary school I attended, Sanders Memorial in Land O' Lakes, Fla., is slated to be torn down. Apparently the school district is temporarily moving the students to a brand-new school nearby, and demolishing and then rebuilding Sanders. No word on whether they'll keep the name.

By local standards, Sanders is an old school. It opened in 1948, and was added onto in dribs and drabs over the years. By the time I attended in the '70s, it was a slipshod collection of buildings, and it would never have won a beauty prize.

I understand the need to replace it -- it's not just old but badly planned and poorly laid out. Many of the passages are outdoors -- or at least they were the last time I was there -- which probably doesn't create the best security situation.

Still, I'm bummed to see it go. I guess everyone feels some affection for their old elementary school, particularly if they didn't move around and attended only one, like me. I was there from 1972 to 1978, and many of my fondest memories took place there -- singing Carpenters songs in Mrs. Simmons' music class; making a movie in Mrs. Eisenstein's gifted class; compiling a class cookbook in Mrs. Courbat's class. And of course there are a few not-so-fond memories, like being scolded by Coach Johnston when my mind wandered on the baseball field (a common occurrence).

Ah, well. Time marches on, and change is the only certainty!

(Photo: Face in Tribeca, last week.)

Monday, March 1, 2010


I was making the bed this morning when I noticed the light coming through the window blinds and shining on Dave's gong-shaped wind chime, which he bought in Provincetown years ago. The light seemed to make it glow. I ran for the camera!