Sunday, July 31, 2016

Bill Withers: BBC Concert (1973)

Bill Withers: BBC Concert (1973).
Via: Youtube

Bill Withers (born July 4, 1938; Slab Fork, West Virginia) in concert, in 1973, a half an hour concert of simple heartfelt (yet profoundly intimate) songs, when music was music and it was considered normal for musicians to lay bare their emotions. This takes a certain humility on the part of the musician, as it does to know when to pack it in—as Withers did 30 years ago. In this seven song set, you will recognize two perennial favorites: “Ain’t no Sunshine” (1971) and “Lean on Me” (1972). Both songs are ranked on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (2004).

00:00 Ain’t no Sunshine
03:18 Lonely Town, Lonely Street
09:14 Grandma’s Hands
11:47 Use Me
16:06 Let Me In Your Life
20:20 Lean On Me
24:43 Harlem

You can read an excellent bio on Bill Withers by Andy Greene of Rolling Stone [here.]

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Recording The Multiple Sounds Of Nature


Sugarloaf Mountain: Brandon Kein writes for Nautilus: “Krause’s microphone perched beside a creek, recording a dawn chorus, in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, California.”
Photo Credit: Brandon Keim
Source: Nautilus

An article, by Brandon Keim, in Nautilus discusses not only how one man has found a way to decode Nature's sounds, but also explains why each sound is important. In “Decoding Nature’s Soundtrack” (July 21, 2016), Keim writes:
At this particular moment in Earth’s history—the morning of what some scientists call the Anthropocene, an age in which human influence on natural processes is ubiquitous and immense—we have many tools to measure our ecological impacts: by eye, generally, focusing on particular species or guilds of interest, counting them in the field, peering by satellite at changes in land use, and translating our observations into the language of habitat type and biodiversity.

To Krause, these are measurements best made by listening to natural soundscapes. In a career of listening and recording, he’s amassed a veritable Library of Alexandria of nature’s sounds, and he emphasizes that they’re not merely recordings of individual creatures. The traditional approach of bioacoustics, focusing on single animals and species, is anathema. It’s “decontextualizing and fragmenting,” he says, like trying to extract a single violin from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. “Take an instrument out of the performance, and try to understand the whole performance, and you don’t get very much,” he says.
Near where I reside is a public park with a forested area, where many birds, rodents and even coyotes make their home. It has more five kilometres (about three miles) of trials. Despite signs warning of coyotes, I have yet to encounter any. I have, however, heard the distinctive sounds of rodents such as squirrels and chipmunks and birds such as robins, sparrows, red-winged blackbirds and mallards nearby when I walk in the forested area of the park, which I tend to do daily with my family in the summer.

We have also encountered, on rare occasions, the yellow warbler and the Baltimore oriole and not seen but heard the tapping sound of the woodpecker. We can never predict on our walks what new species we will encounter, but we can say that in most cases the sights and sounds of nature are pleasant and balm for a mind and soul made tired by too many unpleasant man-made and artificial sounds.

For more, go to [Nautilus]

Friday, July 29, 2016

Otis Redding: (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay (1968)

Otis Redding [1941–1967] sings “(Sitting’ on) the Dock of the Bay.” a record that was released after the singer's death, It is found on the album of the same name, released on January 8, 1968. The song appears to have a nice easy summer feel to it, the sound of tides rolling in and rolling out, yet the layer of escapism is an attempt to cover the unease and tensions beneath (Look like nothin’s gonna change / Everything, still remains the same). This acts as a counterpoint to the first verse, written, Wikipedia writes, while Redding was “on a houseboat at Waldo Point in Sausalito, California,” (Sittin’ in the mornin’ sun / I'll be sittin’ when the evenin’ comes). 

Wikipedia adds:“It was recorded by Redding twice in 1967, including once just days before his death in a plane crash. The song was released on Stax Records’ Volt label in 1968,[2] becoming the first posthumous single to top the charts in the US.[3] It reached number 3 on the UK Singles Chart.“ Redding died in a plane crash on December 10, 1967; he was 26. (The other victims of the crash were four members of the Bar-Kays—guitarist Jimmy King, tenor saxophonist Phalon Jones, organist Ronnie Caldwell and drummer Carl Cunningham; their valet, Matthew Kelly; and the pilot, Richard Fraser.)

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Black Models Of London’s Swinging ’60s: October Gallery


Drum Cover Girl Marie Hallowi (born in Nigeria), Rochester, Kent, U.K., 1966.  London in the swinging ’60s was home to a burgeoning multicultural scene, where style served as a basis of identity. Drum magazine, an influential anti-apartheid magazine based in Johannesburg, and Africa’s first black lifestyle magazine, served as the home for photos of black models; the photographer was James Barnor, born in 1929 in Accra, the capital and largest city in Ghana.  It was in  the Jamestown area of Accra where Barnor set up his studio, called “Ever Young.” He came to London in December 1959 to develop his craft and attend art school. October Gallery, in London, writes: “After moving to the UK in 1959, he continued to work on commissions for Drum, in London, shooting multinational models for its covers. Barnor’s portraits depict the self-assurance and individualistic fashion trends that dominated.” The exhibit, which includes Italian photographer Daniele Tamagni, runs from September 8 to 30, 2016 at London’s October Gallery. For more, go to [OctoberGallery]. You can also see some of the cover photos from 1969’s editions of Drum magazine here.
Photo Credit: James Barnor; courtesy of Autograph ABP.
Source: October Gallery

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Join Starfleet Academy @ NYC’s Star Trek Exhibit

Flights Of Fantasy

Space Shuttle Enterprise, the prototype NASA orbiter that paved the way for the space shuttle program. Peter Bright writes for Ars Technica: “On the flight deck of the USS Intrepid aircraft carrier that gives the museum its name is, much to the chagrin of my Houston friends, the space shuttle Enterprise. The Enterprise has an important link to Star Trek, since its name was chosen after a write-in campaign by fans of the show. Temporarily parked alongside the Enterprise is the Star Trek shuttle craft Galileo, which was lovingly restored a few years ago after being abandoned and left exposed to the weather for decades.”
Image Credit & SourceIntrepid Museum 

Some museums can be more fun and interactive than others, and help us both learn and feed our escapist fantasies and fuel our imagination. For example, an article, by Peter Bright, in Ars Technica showcases the Starfleet Academy at New York’s Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, located in the Hell’s Kitchen area of Manhattan. The museum is on the flight deck of the USS  Intrepid aircraft carrier.

In “Join Starfleet Academy at New York’s Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum” (July 23, 2016), Bright writes:
As a cadet at the academy, a wide range of interactive exhibits allow you to diagnose injured Klingons in sick bay, set phasers to stun in security, investigate the unknown at the science station, and more. After completing and signing in to each interactive portion with your RFID wristband, all Starfleet cadets must take the Kobayashi Maru test from the bridge of the Enterprise. At the conclusion of your training, the system says which part of Starfleet you'd be best at: are you captain material, or would you be better off as the next Mr. Spock? I learned that I'm not really cut out for security, because phasers are actually hard to aim. Gun-shaped guns turn out to be much easier!
Because it's kid-oriented, the academy portion isn't too complicated or involved. For parents, the exhibit's various historical artifacts will probably be the most interesting. Props and costumes from the show are a window into how technology evolved from (ugh) Enterprise to the unfairly maligned Voyager. I know it had some ropey episodes, but c’mon, as a starship, the Intrepid-class Voyager was easily the coolest of the main ships: it had sports car styling, and the ability to land on planets in a starship beats the pants out of beaming down or riding a shuttle.
The exhibit coincides with the 50th anniversary of the original series (1966) and the release on July 22nd of Star Trek Beyond, the 13th film of the Star Trek franchise. There is good reason why the film will do well, particularly among a certain segment of the population who find the humanistic values put forth by “Star Trek” to be enviable. Humans (and non-humans) get to act “human.” Contained within its narrative is hope, the possibility that humans can always and eventually get their act together.

At a time when such values are not overly evident, they become for those who admire them more desirable—at least by those who care about such things as collaboration, compassion and opportunity.  And of course, Peace. At a time and place when war might be arise, peace is still the goal and it is a place where its is also achieved in time. If there is war, peace ought to follow, as surely as day follows night.

Something enviable, to be sure, because this idea seems far from our grasp today. Humanity today can’t seem to find the way to peace. Is it for lack of trying or something else altogether? This much I can say, and although it sounds very much like a cliché, this does not make it less true. Without the very real possibility of peace, there is no hope. The Starfleet Academy experience runs through October 31st at the museum.

For more, go to [ArsTechnica]

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

British Vogue: 100 Years Of Fashion

Fashion Photography

Naomi Campbell (1987) in one of the more than 280 prints on loan from London’s National Portrait Gallery and on display at the Manchester Art Gallery, which writes about this exhibit, entitled Vogue 100: A Century of Style, as follows: “Highlights of the exhibition include the entire set of prints from Corinne Day’s controversial Kate Moss underwear shoot, taken in 1993 at the pinnacle of the ‘grunge’ trend; Peter Lindbergh’s famous 1990 cover shot that defined the supermodel era; a series of exceptional Second World War photographs by Vogue’s official war correspondent, Lee Miller; a rare version of Horst’s famous ‘corset’ photograph from 1939, which inspired the video for Madonna’s hit song Vogue; and vintage prints by the first professional fashion photographer, Baron de Meyer.” The exhibit, which is open to the public for free, runs to October 30th, 2016. For more, go to [ManchsterArt].
Photo Credit: Patrick Demarchelier, 1987

Monday, July 25, 2016

A Defense Of Social Wasps

Stinging Insects
Pleading Innocent: Simon Barnes for The Spectator writes not only in defense of the wasp (Hymenoptera), but also says that humans ought to give them more respect than they often get, perhaps, even some gratitude: “Wasps changed the way we humans act as a species, but we have seldom shown much gratitude, or for that matter much sense. We have created a series of chemicals that kill invertebrates, never thinking for a second that it’s actually quite a good idea to look after insects. In parts of China they’ve got rid of insects so efficiently that they have to pollinate their fruit trees by hand. Wasps are important pollinators.”
Image Credit: Heath
Source: The Spectator

An article, by Simon Barnes, in The Spectator says that despite their bad reputations—one that I view as well-earned—wasps perform a valuable service for humanity. In effect, Barnes has decided to act as an advocate for all wasps, including social wasps, many of which sting. In “Why all civilized people should love wasps” (July 23, 2016), Barnes writes for the British magazine:
We never see the best of wasps because of the way they act in late summer, when their labour is done. Before that they have led exemplary lives. There are nine species of social wasps in this country, including the much-feared but comparatively mild–mannered hornet, and they’re all honest toilers for most of their existence. Hornets can give a pretty fearsome sting, but you have to go out of your way to experience it. They come into the ancient category of ‘this animal is dangerous — it defends itself when attacked’.
Seriously? I remain unconvinced and am not sorry about my unrepentant heart in regards to the stinging insects. (I know that many species of wasps are of the non-stinging variety, so my argument against wasps is about the stinging variety.) Social wasps, like the familiar yellow jacket (Vespula), sting, and such is my mental association. That they help humanity is overshadow by the fact that they sting, and act aggressively, despite protests from their advocates that they sting only in self-defense.

Well, here is a story of one social wasp that acted contrary to such theories. A number of years ago, I was at the beach with my family to celebrate Canada Day. It was a glorious July 1st holiday outing. We brought a cooler of food with us, including sandwiches of various cold cuts. While my wife and children were playing in the water, I was sitting in a chair, deciding to eat one of the sandwiches we had brought with us. As I placed the sandwich in my mouth and took a bite, unbeknownst to me, a wasp entered my mouth and stung me on my tongue. The pain was immediate, as was the accompanying swelling of my tongue. In what way, was this wasp defending itself?

As for being wonderful pollinators, honey bees (Apis) are also wonderful pollinators and rarely act in such an aggressive manner. I will welcome a bee over a stinging wasp any day. So, the best that I can muster is a begrudging admiration and respect for these stinging hooligans, and agree that their colors are beautiful and striking—albeit I do so from a distance. I think that I am being more than fair, considering the history and recent circumstances.

For more, go to [TheSpectator]

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Manfred Mann Earth Band: Blinded By The Light (1977)

Manfred Mann Earth Band perform “Blinded by the Light” on The Midnight Special in 1977. The song, written by American rocker Bruce Springsteen and released in 1973, is the first track on the  a British band’s 1976 album The Roaring Silence. It’s a fun song that has lots of rhyme in it, but I am not sure if it has much meaning behind it. Blinded by the light/Revved up like a deuce/Another runner in the night. The band's lead is Manfred Mann [born Manfred Sepse Lubowitz; 1940], who was born into a Jewish family in Johannesburg, South Africa, and who left the country in 1961, in opposition to its apartheid system.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Hubble Image Of ‘The Final Frontier’


“Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”
Capt. James T. Kirk  of the U.S.S. Enterprise, “Star Trek” (1966)

Abell S1063, an estimated 4 billion years old: This image was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, which has been exploring the universe from an orbit around the Earth since 1990. One could say that we humans have been prepared to become awed of such momentous impressions of the final frontiers of space much earlier. perhaps since the now immortal words of  Capt. James T. Kirk (first uttered by William Shatner) were broadcast in a TV show, “Star Trek” in 1966. The power of this particular mystical-like photo, the power of words and the possibility of imagination and their link to the popular sci-fi film & TV franchise is intimated by Elizabeth Howell for, who writes : “‘The newest target of Hubble’s mission is the distant galaxy cluster Abell S1063, potentially home to billions of strange new worlds,’ just like those visited by the USS Enterprise, according to a European Space Agency description. The cluster's massive gravity magnifies light from background galaxies due to an effect known as gravitational lensing.” For more, go to [Space].
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and J. Lotz (STScI)

Friday, July 22, 2016

Lots Of Mammals Call The Philippines Island Of Luzon Home


Long-Whiskered Tree Mouse is found exclusively on the island of Luzon in The Philippines.
Photo Credit: Larry Heaney, Field Museum

Luzon, an island of The Philippines, has the greatest number of distinct animals—mammals not found elsewhere on our planet, says an article, by Ben Garrod, in The Conversation. In “A Philippines island has the world’s greatest concentration of unique mammals – here’s why” (July 15, 2016), Garrod writes:
We’re taught that evolution is all about “survival of the fittest”. But that’s not always the case. In fact, sometimes evolution can be the result of a lucky animal finding “any port in a storm”. And the finding that Luzon, an island in the Philippines, has the greatest concentration of unique mammals in the world – even more than Madagascar – is the perfect example.
Islands are often examples of an evolutionary free for all, where a newly-introduced species may find itself in the perfect situation, whether that’s a new and different type of habitat and resources or even a complete lack of competitors and predators. Being introduced to an island ecosystem can turn a rather mediocre mainland species into a weird and wonderful new creation.
Examples of species found on one island and nowhere else (known as island endemics) can be found almost anywhere we look. The lemurs on Madagascar are found nowhere else on Earth, the Galapagos islands are home to flightless cormorants and aquatic iguanas and there are even quirky examples of island species from across the British Isles such as the Scilly shrew or the Orkney vole.
What this says is that our understanding of evolution is evolving, and what was the case before is no longer the case today. Our knowledge changes with our understanding and this is the case in how scientists explain how an island can have a concentration of species not found anywhere else in the known world. Evolution is a long process, but our understanding of its processes can take place much quicker.

For more, go to [TheConversation]

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Diane Arbus: The Outsider Photographer

Human Faces

Diane Arbus: At the “New Documents” show at the Museum of Modern Art, in 1967.
Photo Credit: Dan Budnik, 1967
Source:New Yorker

Diane Arbus [born Diane Nemerov; 1923–1971] liked to photograph people who would not ordinarily be photographed, including the outcasts and marginal: the people who resided on the margins of, or were outside of, respectable society. These people were in no way beautiful, not in any conventional sense and certainly not how high fashion photography views beauty.

This desire, on the part of Arbus, to take photos of such people seems all the more remarkable for two reasons: she grew up visibly wealthy, wrapped in the garments of privilege; and she started out in early adulthood as a fashion photographer, working for such magazines as Vogue & Harper’s Bazaar for nearly a decade before exiting this life of unfeeling artifice, aged 33. Then 15 years later, she made a final exit of this world altogether by committing suicide, aged 48.

Yet, during those years she changed photography, and yet was acutely unaware of it. In “Was Diane Arbus the Most Radical Photographer of the 20th Century,” Alex Mar writes for NY Mag:
Diane Arbus would continue numbering her negatives over the next 15 years, up until her suicide at the age of 48. But this first moment of self-awareness, when she confessed to herself that she was an artist, is pivotal to both a new book and a show of her earliest works opening today. “I can’t do it anymore” — that’s how Arthur Lubow’s essential biography, Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer, starts out; the exhibit at the MetBreuer, “diane arbus: in the beginning,” features about 70 never-before-seen prints, the experiments that immediately followed “#1.” Together, these go a long way toward making whole an artist who’s long been distorted by a cult of personality.
By the late ’60s, Diane would become renowned for her striking, often confrontational black-and-white images of outsiders, from cross-dressers to drag performers to circus “freaks.” She gave a human dimension to extravagant individuals living on the fringe, while her photos of American families, children, and socialites had an undeniably dark tenor — she flipped the social balance, as if the entire country had gone through the looking glass. With her sudden death in 1971, she became one of the best-known American photographers in history — and one of the most controversial.
If she (or more so, her photos) were viewed as controversial, it is because her curiosity of people and the lives they lived was in a large sense about the desire for experience, for understanding of the larger questions. As is common with artists with a sensitive nature, she was also conflicted—yet, after so many years of internal conflict, she could no longer hold it together. In so many ways, she was the outsider, a photographer who could momentarily win the trust of people and take personal photos, often intimate.

Perhaps, she had no choice and she was fated to live as she did, seeking out to understand and portray the inner lives of people who were supposedly miserable, the kind that she was not supposed to have known in her formative years, where she was protected from the realities that so many others faced. The hard-edged unpretty realities that also, at times, contain hints of love in some form. This is all speculation on my part, but speculation based on hard-fought life experience. One could say that Arbus/Nemerov sought out in adulthood what was denied her in childhood, the foundational truths of life itself.

For more, go to [NYMag]

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Science V. The Public

Health & Wellness

Imperfect Science: Science is not without its faults, including those of chasing grant money, lacking incentive to investigate certain important topics and facing poor replication of results, Wischhover writes: “It’s also important to note, however, that science is not without its limitations, as noted by a survey of 270 scientists recently published by Vox. ‘Today, scientists’ success often isn’t measured by the quality of their questions or the rigor of their methods. It’s instead measured by how much grant money they win, the number of studies they publish, and how they spin their findings to appeal to the public,’ the authors wrote. There’s not enough interest in certain topics or substances (this seems especially true in wellness and illness prevention), statistics can be manipulated, and there’s often not enough replication of studies to strengthen certain hypotheses.”
Image Credit & Source: NY Mag

An article, by Cheryl Wischhover, in NYMag’s The Cut looks at the conflict between science and wellness advocates; although the latter often claim science on their side, much of what they claim falls under the rubric of alternative and complementary medicine. In other words, outside the domain of what is called evidence-based medicine.

In “Can Wellness Be Scientific” (July 19, 2016), Wischhover writes:
One of the big hallmarks of the modern wellness movement, which helps to explain how the concept got somewhat divorced from science, is a general disdain for traditional experts and western medicine. And no one idea exemplifies this growing chasm between science and wellness more than the ubiquitous concept of detoxing.
It doesn’t matter how many times doctors publicly debunk detoxing; it persists. Charles Mueller, Ph.D., a clinical associate professor of nutrition at New York University, made an indignant sound into the phone upon being asked about detoxing. “It’s very difficult for people like me to keep my head on when I hear about things like alkaline diets and detoxing. There’s no such thing as detoxing your body, absolutely no such thing,” he says.
But the concept is as prevalent as ever, because people keep talking about it and saying it works, which is another common practice in the wellness world, thanks to the ease of sharing information online. (Google “gluten free” for another example of this.)
“I don’t remember who said it first, but the plural of anecdote is not data,” says Folta. In other words, five people saying a juice cleanse cleared up their acne doesn’t mean that juice can help your skin. Folta calls this a “contagion of confirmation bias. People tend to cluster together around their perceived maladies and that’s a horrible problem with today’s online tribal nature of communication.”
True, and I too have doubts about many of the claims put forward by alternative and complementary medicine. Even so, Science is not without its faults and needs to put its house in order. What this article says in an unsaid manner is that many people, including people who are highly educated, are second-guessing the scientific community—and with good and valid reasons. Consider. Scientists are not immune from making dubious claims, from getting it wrong, for even intentionally misleading the public in order to get published in journals and to receive more grant money. What about the studies that are not published, but should be? What about stats that are manipulated and omitted for lack of convenience?

All of these fall within the realm of conflict of interest, including the troubling cases of Big Pharma and their lack of sufficient transparency in drug trials, the increased lack of independent labs and research institutes, the problems with the peer-review process, etc. Combined, this leads to distrust. Much has also been written about Scientism, which shows that scientists can also have too much faith in an instrument of human endeavor and thinking. These have been well documented, but most of the public is unaware of them. (Note: science is not as self-correcting as it ought to be; self-censorship is common as is the adoption of an overt authoritarianism when making public pronouncements—this does not bode well for public acceptance of science.)

Moreover, much of science communication today is via press release, and this lack of skepticism among science journalists also contributes to the distrust between the public and research scientists. Breathless announcements that say or suggest more than they ought to. In the end, it is the public good that requires protection, and not the advancement of scientific careers, which often seems the norm today. 

I am an educated person, who believes in the benefit of scientific research, but I do not have complete faith in science. This would not only be foolish, it would be unscientific.

For more, go to [NYMag]

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Nan Goldin’s Diary Of Loss Of Independence


A Diary: Nan Goldin’s “Ballad of Sexual Dependency,” the title based on a song in Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s The Threepenny Opera, is about her deeply emotional and personal moments of the giving of love and the acceptance of loss. a remembrance of the past, not filled so much with nostalgia but with painful moments of betrayal. Losing one’s self is painful, as is its recovery. Aesthetica writes: “Now on show at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the deeply personal narratives go back to the late 1970s and 1980s, a time in which the artist’s life was dominated by drug use and domestic violence. With the reinstallation of the museum’s second floor contemporary galleries, about 700 snapshot-like portraits of her partner and herself sequenced against an evocative soundtrack take in the large-scale gallery space, allowing deep encounters between artist and visitors.” The show runs at the MOMA until February 12th, 2017. For more, go to [Aesthetica].
Photo Credit: Nan Goldin, “Nan and Brian in Bed” (1981). Courtesy of MoMA.
Source: Aesthetica

Monday, July 18, 2016

B.B. King: The Thrill Is Gone (2010)

American Blues
B.B. King, joined by a collection of fine guitarists, including Eric Clapton, Robert Cray & Jimmie Vaughan perform “The Thrill Is Gone” at the Crossroads Guitar Festival (2010) at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, IL, outside Chicago, on June 26, 2010. At this point, the show has been going on for almost 12 hours (and it is around 11 p.m.).  This is followed by Buddy Guy leading the grand finale, “Sweet Home Chicago.”where the entire Crossroads crew come on-stage, with surprise guest Ronnie Wood of The Stones, to sing and play; it all ends just before midnight before a full moon.
Via: Youtube

The festival was founded by Eric Clapton in 1999 to raise money for a drug-treatment centre, Wikipedia says: “The festivals benefit the Crossroads Centre founded by Eric Clapton, a drug treatment center in Antigua. The first concert was held on June 30, 1999, at Madison Square Garden in New York City.”

This blues song was written by Roy Hawkins and Rick Darnell in 1951. Love the shirt on B.B. King; he wears it well, like only few could. As for the song’s sentiments, it has stood the test of time and in every generation it rings true.

The line-up, as stated by the Chicago Blues Guide:
Starring, in alphabetical order:

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Jimi Hendrix Documentary (1989)

This is an interesting documentary (1989) of Jimi Hendrix [born Johnny Allen Hendrix; 1942–1970], arguably the greatest rock guitarist of his generation. That he died at such a young age, 27, only makes his death more tragic, and it matters little if this follows the arc of Greek tragedy or our modern understanding of it.

We talk about a candle burning brightly, of the light that a person gives in his lifetime. The curse and loneliness of genius, it is called. His life, however, was not tragic; he seemed to enjoy it, especially when performing. Sure, he was a flawed individual, but all real people, especially artists, are (think of Mozart, Van Gogh, Modigliani, Dante).

The real tragedy today is that not many people can and do enjoy life in a sincere way—that is, to be themselves. Even the sincerity and authenticity is manufactured, and very badly done in such a obviously disingenuous fashion. We like our entertainers managed, safe and neutered, fearing real emotion and thoughts; spontaneity is considered bad, unless it is planned. Changing one’s mind or views is considered morally bad and counter-productive, notably if this goes against the grain. Such shows free thinking, always dangerous. Does mainstream society truly accept originality?

Think about this. Original thoughts are acceptable and lauded as long as they are mainstream and laundered (whitened or bleached) for commercialization; unadulterated originality is marginalized and ridiculed. Under such a policy of self-censorship and self-denial, the ideal is achieved when all persons hold the same views, that is, the only ones deemed right and moral by society’s gatekeepers. Conformity and consistency is more easily understood and managed when people follow everyone else.

Even birds do not belong in bird-cages.  (Do humans need to be managed?) Then we wonder, shaking our heads in judgement & contempt, why “they” act so badly in their private lives.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Building More Accurate Cancer Cell Models

Cancer Research

Human Cancer Models Initiative (HCMI) is an international research effort to build more accurate cancer cell models, Jocelyn Kaiser for Science writes: “HCMI will scale up production of these tissue-based human cancer models and share them with the community. NCI will fund the development of 600 models; the Sanger Institute and Cancer Research UK will create 200; and the Hubrecht Institute will produce 200 models as part of a 2- to 3-year pilot project. (The total funding level hasn’t yet been determined.) Although the focus will be largely on common cancers, such as colon and pancreatic, NCI will try to include rare and childhood cancers too, says Louis Staudt, director of NCI’s Center for Cancer Genomics.”
Photo Credit: Hubrecht Institute
Source: Science

An article, by Jocelyn Kaiser, in Science says there is currently an international effort to build more accurate cancer cell models. The chief reason is that the current tumor cells found in research labs do not act like real tumors. And the closer such experimental cells line up with reality, the better to test the efficacy of cancer drugs.

In “Major funders launch international repository of cutting-edge cancer models” (July 11, 2016), Kaiser writes:
For decades, cancer biologists have relied on so-called lines of cancer cells for their experiments. But these cultured cells often bear little resemblance to the tumor they came from. That’s because a piece of tumor tissue dropped into a petri dish doesn’t just start growing. Instead, researchers pull out a few cells in the tumor that happen to replicate well—often cells that don’t need the surrounding normal cells that nurture tumors inside the body. And the genetic makeup of cell lines can change over the years they multiply in labs. No wonder, then, that an experimental drug that kills a colon cancer cell line won’t necessarily help a patient with colon cancer.
Now, several U.S. and European funding agencies want to change that. Today, they’re launching the Human Cancer Models Initiative (HCMI), which aims to give the research community tumor cells that behave more like actual human tumors. The project involves four groups: the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Bethesda, Maryland; Cancer Research UK in London; the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Hinxton, U.K.; and the nonprofit Hubrecht Organoid Technology in Utrecht, the Netherlands, which was founded by Hans Clevers, a cancer researcher at the Hubrecht Institute.
The project will draw on new insights into how to make the mixture of cells from a human tumor grow outside the body.
Will this international effort lead to anything good and positive in the way of better cancer treatment? I think so, since sharing and pooling data/information tends to increase knowledge. Research by its very nature is both expensive and time-consuming. It takes untold hours to furnish results and the use of modern and advanced technology to obtain good results. It is through such dedicated researchers working together, through human efforts, that many persons today, despite a cancer diagnosis, are faring better than they did even a decade ago. I am one such person and consider myself fortunate. (I went for a routine CT scan yesterday, one of the modern diagnostic tools to determine heath and wellness.) There might be a day when everyone is fortunate; that day can’t come too soon.

For more, go to [Science]

Friday, July 15, 2016

Eric Burdon: House Of The Rising Sun (2011)

Eric Burdon & band perform “House of the Rising Sun” at the San Javier International Jazz Festival, in Spain on July 22nd, 2011. This is an old English ballad turned Black folk-song about the trials and tribulations of human beings seeking that which is not easily found, leading to a life of lost or missed opportunity and the dissolution of dreams. Poor execution of good intentions or some variation of some unfeeling management thought bubble or some neuroscience brain scan does not explain it in a human way, but it makes its practitioners/adherents feel good and smart, and righteous.

(Can it be true that some people never get a fair shake, that life for these poor souls is almost always unfair?)

Sure, got it, so let’s deny these poor souls more (and give them less), because their lack makes the haves (in particular the ones who hold the reins of power and influence) feel uncomfortable and angry; these decision-makers have as much feeling and insight into the broad and multi-faced human condition as the walking dead. Even so, there is no desire to meet it head on, only a ignorant pretense to do so in some rare cases. The fear is too great. In other words, there is no light, no insight, no feeling. It cannot be genuinely manufactured or summoned, but it can be cheaply and crudely made, which is good enough for most.

Some, however, desire more and will take the dare. So, this song speaks of the genuine. Whether this place, House of the Rising Sun, is real or fictitious matters less than the stories and emotions it evokes, spilling over into the present. Few actively seek moral failure, but many find it for various reasons, finding themselves alone. condemned and unloved. It has happened to the best of us. What is noteworthy and full of irony is that a rising sun speaks of the start of another day.

You can view the performance of The Animals  from >50 years ago, in 1964, [here]; and listen to Bob Dylan, in 1962, [here]; and there is also the incomparable Nina Simone, in 1962, [here].

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Nina Simone: Feelings (1976)

Nina Simone [1933–2003; born Eunice Kathleen Waymon] performs “Feelings” at Casino de Montreux at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Montreux, Switzerland, on July 3rd, 1976. (The pop song’s lyrics were written in 1974 by Brazilian singer Morris Albert.) You either get what she’s trying to do or you don’t. (Hint: in accordance to the song’s title, she is expressing feelings, emotions to an audience that seems to lack them or is embarrassed to display them in any outward measure.) It’s that simple. I find this performance both spine-tingling and sad. This is a woman of deep emotions, of deep feelings and incredible sensitivity and intelligence. The setlist can be found [here].

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Norman Greenbaum: Spirit in the Sky (1969)

Norman Greenbaum [b. Nov 20, 1942] performs “Spirit in the Sky,” which is the second track of the 1969 album of the same name. Greenbaum, who is Jewish, wrote the song with references to Christianity and the afterlife, chiefly to see if he could write a gospel song, Wikipedia writes:
Greenbaum had previously been a member of psychedelic jug band Dr. West's Medicine Show and Junk Band. When they split up he won a solo contract with producer Erik Jacobsen, who had previously worked successfully with The Lovin’ Spoonful. He was inspired to write the song after watching Porter Wagoner on TV singing a gospel song. Greenbaum later said: “I thought, ‘Yeah, I could do that,’ knowing nothing about gospel music, ‘so I sat down and wrote my own gospel song. It came easy. I wrote the words in 15 minutes.’ ”[4]
With its distorted guitar riffs and a 1960s psychedelic hypnotic feel, it is not a gospel song in the traditional sense. But it does take you to another place (Taking you to the place that’s the best.) The song became an international sensation, quickly selling two million copies; it is ranked by Rolling Stone as No. 333 on their list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Canada Joins Deep Ocean Mission

Our Oceans

Deep Ocean Blue: A photo of a Triton submersible craft, which is part of the equipment the Canadian research team is taking aboard the CCGS Hudson on its one-month research mission to better understand our oceans. The research team expects to leave Halifax for Bermuda on July 14th. This mission is part of Nekton’s XL Catlin Deep Ocean Survey (July 14th to August 16th, 2016)
Photo Credit: The Canadian Press
Source: National Post

An article, by Aly Thomson, in the National Post says that Canadian researchers are part of an international team to explore the oceans, a relatively uncharted territory on our planet. We know more about the terrain of Earth’s moon and of the planet Mars than we do of our planet.

In “‘There’s so much we don’t know’: How Canadian scientists will try to solve the secrets of the deep ocean” (July 8, 2016), Thomson writes:
The water off North America’s Atlantic coast holds an ocean’s worth of untold riddles.
Now, Canada has signed on to a month-long, transnational scouting mission to try to solve some of them. Around two dozen Canadian scientists will board the CCGS Hudson in Halifax on July 14, sailing across the North Atlantic to explore the “deep ocean” — anything deeper than 1,000 m.
The Hudson will chart a long southern “transect” from Nova Scotia to Bermuda, to track marine life along the entire route. The Canadians will visit the Sargasso Sea, an ocean patch near Bermuda where all sorts of aquatic species spawn and cohabit. And they will explore a few areas of interest closer to home.
There, they will try to resolve a few key questions. How does an ecosystem of globally unique glass sponges, known as Russian Hats, sustain itself in a conservation area off Halifax? Why do bottlenose whales congregate at The Gully, an underwater canyon by Sable Island?
Why indeed? The answers to such question will contribute to a better understanding of our oceans—and their health—and thus contribute to the making of more informed political decisions on how best to protect our water resources and the marine life contained within them. There are many unanswered question, including on food scarcity (or security) and on rising sea levels. Good reasons, it would seem, to me. The health of humans in the most general sense is, after all, inextricably linked to the health of our oceans.

For more, go to [NatPost]

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Santana: Black Magic Woman (2011)

Santana, led by Carlos Santana, perform a wonderful rendition of “Black Magic Woman” at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Montreux, Switzerland, on July 2, 2011. The band first recorded this song in 1970, and is track no. 2 on the album Abraxas.  While the song has long been associated with Santana, it was composed and originally recorded by the British group Fleetwood Mac a couple of years earlier.

More to the point, the song was originally written by Peter Green (born Peter Allen Greenbaum), one of the founding members of Fleetwood Mac and one of the world’s greatest blues guitarists. This song, first released in 1968, is found on track no. 7 on its album, English Rose. You can view a live 1970 performance of the song [here], which has a more rockin’ blues feel to it. As one review says, the song is about love and reconciliation: “The infrastructure of this soaring plea for an elusive love is already here, although Green’s contemplative solo leads to a surprisingly insistent call for reconciliation.”

As for Santana’s version, Wikipedia writes as follows: “Santana’s version, recorded in 1970, is a medley with Gábor Szabó’s 1966 instrumental “Gypsy Queen”, a mix of jazz, Hungarian folk and Latin rhythms.” This song was played a lot on the radio in the 1970s, a perennial favorite of rock stations. The guitar playing is soothing and harmonic. Here is the setlist for the July 2nd performance at Auditorium Stravinski.

Both versions are good, but for different reasons.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Hard Riddle Of Human Consciousness

Human Mind

Living Matter: George Johnson for NYT writes: “Descartes’s notion of dualism — mind and body as separate things — has long receded from science. The challenge now is to explain how the inner world of consciousness arises from the flesh of the brain.”
Image Credit: Chris Silas Neal
Source: NYT

Something old becomes something new, as medical research confirms that cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is as effective as pharmaceutical drugs in alleviating many (but not all) forms of human depression. George Johnson of The New York Times writes (“Consciousness: The Mind Messing With the Mind;” July 4, 2016):
A paper in The British Medical Journal in December reported that cognitive behavioral therapy — a means of coaxing people into changing the way they think — is as effective as Prozac or Zoloft in treating major depression. In ways no one understands, talk therapy reaches down into the biological plumbing and affects the flow of neurotransmitters in the brain. Other studies have found similar results for “mindfulness” — Buddhist-inspired meditation in which one’s thoughts are allowed to drift gently through the head like clouds reflected in still mountain water. Findings like these have become so commonplace that it’s easy to forget their strange implications.
When it comes to the mind, one of the major implications is that science does not have a clear understanding of human consciousness. notwithstanding the many and varied efforts to do so through the tools of modern science. It does not even know why it escapes the grasp of understanding, and as is the case in all hard mysteries many kinds of strange theories are initially put forth.

So, I have my doubts—a healthy skepticism—if it ever will solve the riddle of human consciousness, not because of lack of effort or will, but because of the boundary limitations of science itself, which has itself taken on some of the forms of religious belief. (e.g. being right about one thing suggests that it is right about another, leading to the fallacy that it is right about everything.)

Not surprising, then, that it (Science) alone does not have all the answers; it never did. Nothing has changed in that regard except, perhaps, the thinking (i.e., in some cloistered quarters) that it does.

For more, go to [NYT]

Friday, July 8, 2016

A July Morning At Edwards Gardens (2016)

Urban Nature

We went to Edwards Gardens last Sunday; the photos below tell the story of our encounters with nature, including with ducks or mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) and with groundhogs (Marmota monax).

All Photos: ©Perry J. Greenbaum, 2016

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Becoming Fit For Life: Keep On Exercising

Training & Fitness

Older People Exercising: There are many benefits to exercising, including rebuilding lost muscle mass, for people over the age of 50 (my cohort). People well into their 80s are encouraged to do some form of exercise. Kate Devlin of  The Telegraph writes: “People lose muscle as they age, which can make daily chores more difficult.But working out by using small weights or elastic bands can help to rebuild these muscles, a review of the available evidence shows, while the risks of developing an injury are low for older people.”
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Source: The Telegraph

Many medical studies show that exercising has many long-term benefits, not only for physical fitness but also for mental fitness. Moreover, exercising on a regular basis can slow down the process of aging.

Supporting this view is one of the most famous studies, “The Dallas Bed Rest and Training Study, which dates to 1966 and which was repeated 30 years and 40 years later, with similar results.  In a article in Harvard’s Men’s Health Watch (“Exercise and aging: Can you walk away from Father Time?” June 2009), it says:
No man can stop the clock, but every man can slow its tick. Research shows that many of the changes attributed to aging are actually caused in large part by disuse. It's new information, but it confirms the wisdom of Dr. William Buchan, the 18th-century Scottish physician who wrote, "Of all the causes which conspire to render the life of a man short and miserable, none have greater influence than the want of proper exercise." And about the same time, the British poet John Gay agreed: "Exercise thy lasting youth defends."
Exercise is not the fountain of youth, but it is a good long drink of vitality, especially as part of a comprehensive program. And a unique study from Texas shows just how important exercise can be.
So true. This shows that inactivity can lead to aging, or more important, that physical activity can slow down the aging process. If good health and long life are your goals, I would recommend that you read this article. And then go out and exercise. Regularly.

For more, go to [Harvard Health Publications]

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Tennis Game

The Sporting Life

Me & Jack: After the game, we went to the local mall for a coffee and for a post-game chat. It was a good July 4th morning all around.
Photo Credit & Source: Jack Eigenmacht, 2016

few weeks ago, I said I would be hitting the tennis courts after a long five-year absence of not touching a racket, and as a result I was becoming stressed out over it. Here is my report: I played better than expected and better than my friend and tennis opponent expected. I didn’t play a game, but I hit some ground-strokes, tried some serves and even a volley or two. I was on the court for an hour and did quite a bit of running. My forehand is much better than my backhand, which needs a lot of work. Even so, when I switched to an one-handed backhand, I was more successful in returning Jack’s shots. I would say that Jack was by far the better man on the court, but this might change in the future. Such is often the case with tennis; once the tennis techniques are in place—the physical part of the game—it all comes down to the mental game.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Giving Wing To Hopes & Dreams

Inspirations & Aspirations

“Hold fast to dreams,
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird,
That cannot fly.” 

Langston Hughes, “Dreams,” Golden Slippers: 
An Anthology of Negro Poetry for Young Readers (1941)

Happy Independence Day (2016) To My American Friends.

Bald Eagles: What a beautiful poetic description Langston Hughes has given us. Hopes and dreams are the wings that give flight to the future—that make the possibility a probability and the probability a reality. Hopes and dreams make life more meaningful and richer. Hopes and dreams are the engines that power our imaginations with inspiration. Without these, life is poorer and sadder and, I would add, deadened. Is nothing less alive than a person who has given up hope, who has no dreams? The United States has been built on such hopes and dreams; such is a fundamental part of its history and its destiny as a great and welcoming nation. Happy Independence Day to my American friends as it celebrates its 240th birthday. It was on July 4th, 1776, when the U.S. signed its intent to secede from Great Britain and form its own nation with the Declartion of Independence, one of the three—the other two being the Constitution and the Bill of Rights—founding and seminal documents of the new nation.
As for the bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), it is America’s national symbol, its national bird, an animal of power and majesty, which carries with it images of authority and statehood. 
Photo Credit: Paul Nicklen, National Geographic Creative
Source: National Geographic

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Juno’s Jupiter Arrival: July 4th

Our Solar System

Independence Day: This is an artistic rendering of NASA’s Juno spacecraft arriving in orbit around Jupiter, which is scheduled for July 4th, American Independence day. ”Robert Z. Pearlman writes for On Monday (July 4), NASA flight controllers will join mission scientists and managers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, to watch as the agency's Juno spacecraft enters polar orbit around Jupiter. If successful, the Juno team will celebrate the culmination of a nearly five-year voyage to the giant gas planet to study its atmosphere and origins. Oh, and it will be America's Independence Day, too. [Photos: NASA's Juno Mission to Jupiter]
Illustration Credit: NASA/Southwest Research Institute

Friday, July 1, 2016

Happy Canada Day (2016)

Holidays & Celebrations

Happy Canada Day (Fête du Canada) to my fellow Canadians from coast to coast. Our nation, began as a peaceful experiment in confederation of four provinces in 1867 (within the confines of the British Empire), has withstood the test of time, slowly growing in economic stature and gaining political independence from Britain in a series of agreement, culminating in the patriation of the Canadian constitution in 1982. We are now 149 years in the making and going strong. I am both glad and fortunate to reside in Canada. More on Canada and on Canada Day can be found at [Wikipedia].
Photo Credit & Source: