Saturday, April 25, 2020

The Kakapo of New Zealand

Rare Birds

The Kakapo of New Zealand: Nature writes about this beautiful and rare bird: “Andrew Digby works to protect the kakapo, a critically endangered New Zealand bird. To know them is to love them, Digby says of the large, flightless, nocturnal parrots. During the breeding season, which happens every few years when the rimu tree fruits, Digby spends months on the four predator-free sanctuary islands that are the kakapos’ last refuge. For more, go [here].
Photo Credit: Nature via Deidre Vercoe/New Zealand Department of Conservation

Friday, April 24, 2020

Our Mute Swan Friend, George

Mill Pond

Our Mute Swan Friend, George; During our regular walks in and around Mill Pond, we saw George, a mute swan (Cygnus olor), for the first time this year. George appears to be in fine form. He is part of a couple that we call George and Georgina. We have yet to see Georgina. 
Photo Credit: ©2020. Perry J. Greenbaum

Monday, April 20, 2020

Isolation in Canada’s North

Covid-19 Pandemic

Quarantine at the Edge of the World: Portraits from the Arctic follows Pat Kane, a documentary photographer from Yellowknife, a city of about 20,000 persons situated 400 kilometers (250 miles) south of the Arctic Circle and the capital of NWT.
Via: The Atlantic & Youtube

Like everywhere else, the residents of Northwest Territories are staying indoors and staying apart from each other: In an area that is already geographically isolated from the rest of Canada in the best of times, this pandemic brings about a double isolation. Its residents, however, take it in stride, a reminder of the historic relationship that we Canadians had with the land and how we adapted to its remoteness and harshness.

Truth be told, Canada has much untouched natural beauty to behold. In many ways, this defines Canada—a large land of forests, fields, wild life and waterways with a small number of people residing within its borders. The vast majority of Canadians reside along the 100 km (60 mile) ribbon of land close to the U.S. border, chiefly in large cities such as Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.

This makes Canada's North an exceptional place in a number of ways. The Atlantic writes:
The Northwest Territories encompasses some of the northernmost regions of Canada and extends high into the Arctic Circle. It is about twice the size of Texas but home to only 44,000 residents, who live in small communities spread across its vast area. The capital city of Yellowknife is 1,500 kilometers from the next-closest major city. It’s cold, ruggedly beautiful, and very isolated. 
For some, this is the appeal. Its remoteness.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Voices Rock Canada!: Rise Again (2020)

Covid 19 Pandemic

Voices Rock Canada!: Rise Again (2020). This is a choir made up of women physicians working in Toronto, Canada, who got together virtually to perform “Rise Again,” a well-known Canadian song written by Leon Dubinsky of Sydney, Nova Scotia. This song gives us a respite from the bad news and despair, where the voices of hope sing out.
Via: Youtube

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Reaching Out By Phone

Human Speech

The phone conversation is making a comeback during this pandemic, as people are returning to the need to hear the human voice while in quarantine and isolated for the most part in their homes. In an article in The New York Review of Books (“A New Connection with the Lost Art of Phone Conversation;”April 15, 2010), Daphne Merkin writes:
I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds myself spending hours on the phone with friends and editors I used to converse with minimally, if at all. Surely this has everything to do with the limited and mediated intimacy provided by our more recent modes of communication—email, texting, Twitter direct messages, chat apps, FaceTime, and now the suddenly ubiquitous Zoom—as well as with our longing for a more immediate, audible sense of connection in these harrowing times. (It may be a generational thing, or my own intractable Luddism, but video-chats just don’t do it for me; they seem stagy and artificial. Besides, who wants to look at oneself bobbing up on a screen that much, even with helpful hints from the likes of Tom Ford on how to look good on camera. Whatever the lighting and the angle at which one tilts one’s phone or screen, one always looks somewhere between wan and ghoulish.)
I agree; I too find that video-chats and the like have an unreal quality about them. I tend to avoid communicating in such manner, and prefer the warmth and intimacy of phone conversations to other more modern modes of communication. Only a face-to-face conversation is better, and while this is not currently possible, we always have the phone. Yes, I still have a landline. And, yes, I do remember Bell’s campaign to “Reach Out and Touch Someone to encourage long-distant phone calls with its catchy jingle.

Email, texts and other electronic written modes of communication are efficient and quick, and certainly have their place in our modern world, especially for non-personal conversations. These modes of expression are, however, not really ideal for sharing personal feelings and often lead to misunderstandings. When you want to just talk, when you want to hear the human voice of family or friends, there is nothing like the old-fashioned phone, Sarah Larson writes (“In Praise of Phone Calls;” March 18, 2020) in The New Yorker:
The phone calls have reminded me, with new clarity, about the things that are expressed in tone, beyond words. Last night, I listened to a younger co-worker friend tell me a story he’d planned to share over a drink, about a burial he’d arranged for an elderly friend who’d died. As he described the series of kindnesses he’d encountered—of a city worker, of volunteers at a Jewish service organization, of the men in the minyan who came to the burial—I could hear a whole bouquet of notes: amazement, respect, quiet gratitude, affection, his own understated kindness.
That’s a good explanation as any. It just might be that talking on the phone is important, and that it is missed when it is missing in our lives. It is the same reason many of us like to hear podcasts or the radio—we have a need to hear the human voice, with all its inflections, timbre and turn of phrases. Voices are particular to a person, and we can quickly recognize a person who we know well by his or her voice. The human voice meets us in a familiar place and tells us that we are not alone, even in our isolation.

For more on the return of the phone call, go [here] and [here] and [here] and [here].

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks: Pesakh, Covid-19 and Freedom

Jewish Ideas

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks is here sharing some ideas, which discuss the Covid-19 pandemic in light of Pesakh (“Passover”), the bread of affliction and community suffering, and the general meaning of herut (“freedom”). Today is the seventh day of Passover. This video was posted on April 1. It has some good insights, which are not only timely, but also timeless. The story of Primo Levi’s last days in Auschwitz, in the lager, is instructional. We can no longer continue our selfish ways; we must not continue business as usual. We must do better, because we can do better. This crisis will test our resolve to do better, to be better. It will, in the end, show our humanity, and, I hope, our humility and our humaneness.
Via: Youtube

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Influenza 1918 (1998)

Influenza Pandemic

A Word dropped careless on a Page
May stimulate an eye
When folded in perpetual seam
The Wrinkled Maker lie

Infection in the sentence breeds
We may inhale Despair
At distances of Centuries
From the Malaria —

Emily Dickinson [1830–1886],
“A word dropped carelessly on a page” (1873)

Influenza: Chapter 1. The 1918 Influenza pandemic killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide. This documentary, first aired in 1998, is narrated by David McCullough and Linda Hunt. It is produced & directed by Robert Kenner and written by Ken Chowder. To get an idea of what is often remembered, even decades later, you ought to watch the complete documentary [here].
ViaPBS Youtube

Pandemics and national health emergencies bring to light much about people’s fears, which are easy enough to understand; the number of people infected rise as do the corresponding number of people dying. Even in the face of such large and growing numbers, some decide that denial is best, deciding it is better to carry on. I am not part of this camp, chiely because of the numbers.

The numbers are revealing. PBS’s American Experience writes:
In September of 1918, soldiers at an army base near Boston suddenly began to die. The cause of death was identified as influenza, but it was unlike any strain ever seen. It was the worst epidemic in American history, killing over 600,000—until it disappeared as mysteriously as it had begun.
In Canada, some 50,000 people died between 1918 and 1920. The influenza pandemic understandably caused general and widespread fear, a disorienting fear that we are now only beginning to appreciate and understand with our Covid-19 pandemic. There is the fear of infection and death, of course. There is the fear of growing numbers, the fear of it unrelenting and continuing for many months, past this summer and fall, and well into next year. Unpleasant and gnawing feelings of the unknown.

There is also the palpable fear about loss of control brought about by great unplanned changes—social, economic and political—to our way of life, which might become long lasting and permanent. Our current pandemic is the kind of seminal event that I suggest will long be remembered by a great majority of people living today. It will be hard to forget, despite efforts to do so, often by keeping busy and establishing routines. All of this might be good and enviable and maybe necessary for mental health.

But will this be enough? I am not so sure. You see, I have these gnawing feelings of doubt that it will not be a return to business as usual, even when people eventually return to work, school, etc. Sure, we will try to act normal, with family, friends and colleagues, valiantly trying to forget what just took place, but there will be the invasive memories of what was and what still is with us, what remains before us.

There are certain truths we need to acknowledge. This will be with us for a long while. This is an opportunity to examine and re-examine., to reflect and make changes. A thousand and a million times over. Again and again. Words said; words that could’ve been said, but was it fear that has taken over? Powerful emotions. Not a time for victim blaming or shaming; we will have to get past that. It will not help; it will only hinder.

There will be memories of the losses. There will be memories of what could’ve been, including whether it was possible to show more kindness, more generosity, more love during these difficult and disorienting times. And more care. Aren’t these always in short supply? I wish that I was better at it. I need to be. Don't we all? For great changes are upon us; this is only the beginning.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Covid 19: What Doctors Are Afraid Of (2020)

Coronavirus Pandemic

What Doctors Are Afraid Of (Emily Buder, Jeremy Raff, and Annalise Pasztor; The Atlantic; April 4, 2020) says what must be heard. It is emotional and heart-wrenching to watch what doctors and nurses are now going through at the front lines, knowing that this is taking place and understanding that this will not be ending soon. Not soon enough.

This is a very good video of how serious this virus is; what it has already done and what it can do. This will, without a doubt, change the world in myriad ways. It will for one change the way that we think and the way that we behave with people that we don't know for at least a generation. Think about hand shaking; think about hand washing; think about personal space and its importance.

Moreover, it will change the way our governments view the importance of essential items like gloves, masks, respirators, gowns, face shields, and ventilators. among many others, and speaking as a Canadian why these must be manufactured here in Canada, so as to avoid the shortages that are now common and that are putting our front-line workers in precarious positions, i.e., danger. Needlessly. These same views apply in the United States, no doubt, and in New York City, the epicenter, all the more so. And also in so many other nations, like Italy, France and the U.K. that face serious shortages.

Without a doubt, these are essential items. One of the many outcomes of this pandemic is that it will change the discussion on globalization, particularly on the importance of having domestic manufacturing capacity to make personal protective equipment (PPE). A nation must first provide for its citizens; making PPEs here will not only ensure well-paying manufacturing jobs and a solid industrial base, but equally important, also make sure that supplies are on hand here, nearby, and when necessary give us the ability to ramp up production easily and quickly to meet need. 

The absence of domestic capacity shows itself clearly in a crisis, as we are now witnessing. It is the moral responsibility of our governments to protect us in such cases, as it seems that they are now doing, but it is still in catch-up mode. We are in this together. Cost should not matter. It is a responsibility of us, of our society, to do all that is humanly possible to ensure that our front-line workers have all the personal protective equipment (PPE) that they need, so as to do their jobs safely and without fear.

We all benefit when this happens.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Our Cockatiel


Our Cockatiel is Arya, a white faced male. Arya has a wide palate; besides the regular bird fare of seeds, he enjoys homemade spaghetti with red sauce, fresh chicken soup with lokshen (noodles) and traditional matzah ball soup.
Photo Credit: ©2020. Perry . Greenbaum

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Neil Diamond: Hello Again; The Jazz Singer (1980)

Neil Diamond: “Hello Again,” in a touching scene from the 1980 movie, The Jazz Singer, directed by Richard Fleischer and produced by Jerry Leider. This movie touched me when it first came out, shortly after my father died from cancer. One notable critic gave it a horrible review (one star). So much for critics; many are unhappy people, failed artists, puffed up self-important people. I no longer read critical reviews or care what these critics write or say. I have my own taste and know what I like or enjoy. I think that this is the case with most people.
Via: Youtube

Friday, April 3, 2020

Another Visit to Mill Pond (March 2020)


We returned to Mill Pond last Sunday. It was still open, and we saw our friends the ducks and the geese going about their business--duck and goose business, that is. Such is a beautiful, reassuring and calming presence in these troubling times. It is good to get out and walk about when you can. These walks in nature, always enjoyable, are more so now and so precious.

All Photos: ©2020. Perry J. Greenbaum

Thursday, April 2, 2020

April 1 at Twilight


April 1 at Twilight, which was yesterday at 6:29 a.m. Photo is taken facing in a southeast direction under clear blue skies and a temperature of 0°C (32°F).
Photo Credit: ©2020. Perry J. Greenbaum

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Neil Diamond: Brooklyn Roads (2008)

Childhood/The Good Times

Neil Diamond: Brooklyn Roads (2008) describes my childhood in Montreal’s Mile End neighbourhood in the 1960s. This song is the last track (no.5) on Side 1 of the album, Velvet Gloves and Spit, released on October 15, 1968. Neil Leslie Diamond was born in 1941 in Brooklyn, NY, to a Jewish family descended from Polish and Russian immigrants.
Via: Youtube

It, my childhood, was by no means perfect or without trials, but it was good and it was filled with hope and opportunity and the common belief that it was possible to achieve one’s dreams, if only one worked hard enough and applied himself in the right direction. A young person’s dreams, no doubt. Even so, I grew up during the Golden Age in America and Canada, which roughly lasted from the end of the Second World War till the late 1970s—a period of 30 years. Looking back, those were truly good years for me and for many others, I imagine. Such was then; this is now. We are now in transit (figuratively) from one place to another, a transition some would call it.

Change is inevitable, to be sure; and yet, the many changes and the pace of change in the last 30 years or so has been so overwhelming that there has not been enough time to take it all in. Things are coming to a head; one thing home isolation provides us is time, and in particular time to think. The current health pandemic is already bringing about great changes for all of us—many of these disruptions to daily routine difficult in their own right. It is not easy to witness. Gone for now are the many certainties that we counted on. What certainties will remain?

This we cannot know, not just yet. We have to wait and see; do all that we can, all that is humanly possible and hope for the best. Still, how we grapple with it in the here and now will provide us a glimpse, an idea, a sense, of how monumental a change we will all be facing once it is behind us—this pandemic caused by a tiny virus. It might be a good change over-all, a change for the better. I am glad that I am older now, having known some good times, some better times to carry me through to the future.