May 25th, 2008

Book Cover

What a morning!

I woke up this morning feeling a smorgasbord of gratitude in my heart, a deep upwelling of love and peace, and then, I watered and fertilized and fed all my indoor plants and gathered up cobwebs which seem to appear overnight and show up in the sunlight and then I come to my computer and my brother has sent me this.   Wisdom, Yes!!

Older Brain Really May Be a Wiser Brain

Published: May 20, 2008

When older people can no longer remember names at a cocktail party, they tend to think that their brainpower is declining. But a growing number of studies suggest that this assumption is often wrong.

Instead, the research finds, the aging brain is simply taking in more data and trying to sift through a clutter of information, often to its long-term benefit.

The studies are analyzed in a new edition of a neurology book, “Progress in Brain Research.”

Some brains do deteriorate with age. Alzheimer’s disease, for example, strikes 13 percent of Americans 65 and older. But for most aging adults, the authors say, much of what occurs is a gradually widening focus of attention that makes it more difficult to latch onto just one fact, like a name or a telephone number. Although that can be frustrating, it is often useful.

“It may be that distractibility is not, in fact, a bad thing,” said Shelley H. Carson, a psychology researcher at Harvard whose work was cited in the book. “It may increase the amount of information available to the conscious mind.”

For example, in studies where subjects are asked to read passages that are interrupted with unexpected words or phrases, adults 60 and older work much more slowly than college students. Although the students plow through the texts at a consistent speed regardless of what the out-of-place words mean, older people slow down even more when the words are related to the topic at hand. That indicates that they are not just stumbling over the extra information, but are taking it in and processing it.

When both groups were later asked questions for which the out-of-place words might be answers, the older adults responded much better than the students.

“For the young people, it’s as if the distraction never happened,” said an author of the review, Lynn Hasher, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto and a senior scientist at the Rotman Research Institute. “But for older adults, because they’ve retained all this extra data, they’re now suddenly the better problem solvers. They can transfer the information they’ve soaked up from one situation to another.”

Such tendencies can yield big advantages in the real world, where it is not always clear what information is important, or will become important. A seemingly irrelevant point or suggestion in a memo can take on new meaning if the original plan changes. Or extra details that stole your attention, like others’ yawning and fidgeting, may help you assess the speaker’s real impact.

“A broad attention span may enable older adults to ultimately know more about a situation and the indirect message of what’s going on than their younger peers,” Dr. Hasher said. “We believe that this characteristic may play a significant role in why we think of older people as wiser.”

In a 2003 study at Harvard, Dr. Carson and other researchers tested students’ ability to tune out irrelevant information when exposed to a barrage of stimuli. The more creative the students were thought to be, determined by a questionnaire on past achievements, the more trouble they had ignoring the unwanted data. A reduced ability to filter and set priorities, the scientists concluded, could contribute to original thinking.

This phenomenon, Dr. Carson said, is often linked to a decreased activity in the prefrontal cortex. Studies have found that people who suffered an injury or disease that lowered activity in that region became more interested in creative pursuits.

Jacqui Smith, a professor of psychology and research professor at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, who was not involved in the current research, said there was a word for what results when the mind is able to assimilate data and put it in its proper place — wisdom.

“These findings are all very consistent with the context we’re building for what wisdom is,” she said. “If older people are taking in more information from a situation, and they’re then able to combine it with their comparatively greater store of general knowledge, they’re going to have a nice advantage.”

blue jellyfish

Peace -

Papananook posted this today on Live Journal. I borrow it from him in the interest of spreading peace.

The words come originally from here:

Len, who posts there, posted this on his blog.

Why do we celebrate Memorial Day? Many see it as a day off, picnics, family gatherings, but why was it established? To honor and remember those who have died in the service of war. In other words, Memorial Day is a consequence of war.
So by holding a vision to eliminate the reason for Memorial Day, we are asking for the elimination of war. You may say, it's not possible to eliminate war. But I ask, "why not?" Perhaps not in our lifetime, but if we do not hold the vision for the possibility, it will never become a reality. It has to start somewhere, so let it begin with me! Peace begins with me.

He also had this to say about Mother's Day.....

Mother's Day did not begin as an exercise in commercialism, but rather, as an exercise in activism. It began by women marching in the streets, not marching into restaurants. While I'm all for honoring mothers on a special day, let's honor the visionary women who stood up and said "war is not the answer." Let us honor them by promoting and energizing the cause they stood for, for their wisdom in knowing there is a better way, and for their courage to say so.
Mother's Day was originally created to not only end war, but to also encourage mothers to participate in the community, serving in hospitals and social welfare projects. In other words, they saw the power of the collective voice to bring about change, to raise awareness about social and economic justice. Can you imagine if this Sunday, mothers, instead of going to Sunday Brunch, went instead to Sunday Protest? During the 1980s, Mother's Day gatherings at nuclear sites protested the arms race. Can you imagine that same effort today to help address our impact on the environment? How about a Mother's Day filled with declarations for a sustainable society, a sustainable planet, a sustainable future - because the future belongs to the sons and daughters of those mothers.
Let's restore Mother's Day as a day that honors women's civil activism, that honors women's political participation in society, that recognizes their insights into creating a culture of peace, into healing the planet. Let's begin by taking Julia Ward Howe's Proclamation and sending it to those who represent and lead us, to remind them that today, just as in 1870, war is not the answer.

Isn't it ironic we use the word "arms" to represent both the loving embrace of a mother's hug, and the weapons we use to kill their sons and daughters? Only the first can restore peace and sanity to this planet.


Mothers' Day Proclamation: Julia Ward Howe, Boston, 1870
Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts, whether our baptism be that of water or of fears!
Say firmly: "We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says "Disarm, Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe our dishonor nor violence indicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after their own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God.
In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.

Julia Ward Howe

Book Cover

Amazing -

Alan posted this and I borrow it too. I check out my walk score, the closeness of my house to what I might need, so I can walk and not use my car. It gives me a score of 34 our of 100, but what I see is that it seems to think that walking even a mile might me too much. It is also a bit off on where things are.

I can easily walk to downtown Mill Valley or downtown Sausalito, and with a little more oomph to the top of the mountain. I would give myself a 100% score. I have lived here and, at times, rarely gotten into a car depending what is going on in my life. With a bicycle, I can get to San Francisco or San Rafael....

I see that the purpose of the site is to suggest places where you can live without a car. A score of 90 to 100% means you could live without a car. I checked a site at 67th and Broadway in Manhattan and it got 98%. One would not want a car if they lived in Manhattan...

I had a neighbor who did live here without a car.. She took a bus to the city and bought her groceries daily at the local grocery store, which is 6/10th of a mile, but to live here a car really is required.

Check out where you live:
cirque du soleil trapeze

Peace -

Op-Ed Columnist
Memorial Day at ‘South Pacific’

Published: May 25, 2008

NEW YORK is a ghost town on Memorial Day weekend. But two distinct groups are hanging tight: sailors delighting in the timeless shore-leave rituals of Fleet Week, and theatergoers clutching nearly impossible-to-get tickets for “South Pacific.”

Some of those sailors served in a war that has now lasted longer than American involvement in World War II but is largely out of sight and mind as civilians panic about gas prices at home. “South Pacific” has its sailors too: this 1949 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical tells of those who served in what we now call “the good war.”

The Lincoln Center revival of this old chestnut is surely the most unexpected cultural sensation the city has experienced in a while. In 2008, when 80-plus percent of Americans believe their country is in a ditch, there wouldn’t seem to be a big market for a show whose heroine, the Navy nurse Nellie Forbush, is a self-described “cockeyed optimist” who sings of being “as corny as Kansas in August.”

Yet last week one man stood outside the theater with a stack of $100 bills offering $1,000 for a $120 ticket. Inside, audiences start to tear up as soon as they hear the overture, even before they meet the men and women stationed in the remote islands of the New Hebrides. Among those who’ve been enraptured by this “South Pacific” the most common refrain is, “I couldn’t stop myself — I was sobbing.”

This would include me, and I have been trying to figure out why ever since I first saw this production in March. It certainly wasn’t nostalgia. I was born two months before the show’s Broadway premiere in April 1949 and had never before seen “South Pacific” on stage. It was mainly a musty parental inheritance from my boomer childhood. My father had served in the Pacific theater for 26 months, and my mother replayed the hit show tunes incessantly on 78s as our new postwar family settled into the suburbs.

Like countless others, I did see Hollywood’s glossy 1958 film version. As the British World War II historian Max Hastings writes in “Retribution,” his unsparing new book about the war’s grisly endgame in the Pacific, “Many of us gained our first, wonderfully romantic notion of the war against Japan by watching the movie of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ‘South Pacific.’ ” But the movie of “South Pacific,” a candy-colored idyll dominated by wide-screen tourist vistas, is not the show. Its lush extravagance evokes the 1950s boom more than war.

In the 1960s, after the movie had come and gone, Vietnam pushed “South Pacific” into a cultural black hole. No one wanted to see a musical about war unless it was “Hair.” Unlike its Rodgers and Hammerstein siblings “Oklahoma!” and “The Sound of Music,” it never received a full Broadway revival.

Today everyone thinks they’ve seen the genuine “South Pacific” only because its songs reside in the collective American unconscious. “Some Enchanted Evening.” “Younger Than Springtime.” “There Is Nothin’ Like a Dame.” But few Americans born after V-J Day did see the real thing, which is one reason why audiences are ambushed by the revival. They expect corn, but in a year when war and race are at center stage in the national conversation, this relic turns out to have a great deal to say.

Though it contains a romance, “South Pacific” is not at all romantic about war. The troops are variously bored, randy, juvenile and conniving. They are not prone to jingoistic posturing. When American officers try to recruit Emile de Becque, a worldly French expatriate, in a dangerous reconnaissance operation, they tell him he must do so because “we’re against the Japs.” De Becque, who is the show’s hero, snaps at them: “I know what you’re against. What are you for?” No one bothers to answer his question. The men have been given a job to do, and they do it.

“South Pacific” isn’t pro-war or antiwar. But it makes you think about the costs. When, after months of often slovenly idling, the troops ship out for the action they’ve been craving, the azure tropical sky darkens to a gunpowder gray. Their likely mission is to storm the beach at Tarawa, where in November 1943 more than 1,000 Americans and 4,600 Japanese would die in less than 76 hours in one of the war’s deadliest battles.

This is a more fatalistic World War II than some we’ve seen lately. When America was sleepwalking on the eve of 9/11, the good war was repositioned as an uplifting brand. Nostalgia kicked in. Perhaps we wanted to glom onto an earlier America’s noble mission because we, unlike “the greatest generation,” had none of our own. The real “South Pacific” returns us to the war as its contemporaries saw it, when the wounds were too raw to be healed by sentiment.

That reflects the show’s provenance. It was hot off the press: a nearly instantaneous adaptation of “Tales of the South Pacific,” the 1947 novel in which the previously unknown James A. Michener set down his own wartime experiences in the Pacific.

Many theatergoers who saw “South Pacific” in 1949 had sons and brothers who had not returned home. Just 10 days after it opened at the Majestic Theater on 44th Street, The New York Times carried a small story datelined Honolulu. A ship had arrived there bearing “the bodies of 120 American war dead,” the remains of men missing in action since 1943. “Thus ended the last general search for the men who fell in the South Pacific war,” the article said.

Watching “South Pacific” now, we’re forced to contemplate Iraq, which we’re otherwise pretty skilled at avoiding. Most of us don’t have family over there. Most of us long ago decided the war was a mistake and tuned out. Most of us have stopped listening to the president who ginned it up. This month, in case you missed it, he told an interviewer that he had made the ultimate sacrifice of giving up golf for the war’s duration because “I don’t want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the commander in chief playing golf.”

“South Pacific” reminds us that those whose memory we honor tomorrow — including those who served in Vietnam — are always at the mercy of the leaders who send them into battle. It increases our admiration for the selflessness of Americans fighting in Iraq. They, unlike their counterparts in World War II, do their duty despite answering to a commander in chief who has been both reckless and narcissistic. You can’t watch “South Pacific” without meditating on their sacrifices for this blunderer, whose wife last year claimed that “no one suffers more” over Iraq than she and her husband do.

The show’s racial conflicts are also startlingly alive. Nellie Forbush, far from her hometown of Little Rock, recoils from de Becque when she learns that he fathered two children by a Polynesian woman. In the original script, Nellie denigrates de Becque’s late wife as “colored.” (Michener gave Nellie a more incendiary word in his book.) “Colored” was cut in rehearsals then but has been restored now, and it lands like a brick in the theater. It’s not only upsetting in itself. It’s upsetting because Nellie isn’t some cracker stereotype — she’s lovable (especially as embodied by the actress Kelli O’Hara). But how can we love a racist? And how can she not love Emile’s young mixed-race children?

Michener would work out this story in his own life. In 1949, he moved to Hawaii, where he would eventually make a third, long-lived marriage with a Japanese-American who had been held in an internment camp during the war. “South Pacific” works through this American dilemma for the audience, too. Years before Little Rock’s 1957 racial explosion, Nellie moves beyond her prejudices, propelled by life and love and the circumstances of war. She charts a path that much of America, North and South, would haltingly begin to follow. (In the script, we also hear of racism in Philadelphia’s Main Line.) “South Pacific” opened as President Truman was implementing the desegregation of America’s armed forces — against the backdrop of Ku Klux Klan beatings of black veterans.

Then and now, the show concludes with the most classic of American tableaus: Emile, Nellie and the two kids sitting down to a family meal. It’s hard for us to imagine how this coda must have struck audiences in 1949, when interracial marriage was still illegal in many states (as it would be in 16 until 1967). But nearly 60 years later, this multiracial family portrait has another context. The audiences watching “South Pacific” in this intense election year are being asked daily to take stock of just how far along we are on Nellie’s path and how much further we still have to go.

And so as we watch that family gather at the end of “South Pacific,” both their future and their country’s destiny yet to be written, we weep for the same reason we often do when we experience a catharsis at the theater. We grieve deeply for our losses and our failings, even as we feel an undertow of cockeyed optimism about the possibilities of healing and redemption that may yet lie ahead.
ashes and snow - wings

Habeus corpus -

Joan, and you can read her in my livejournal friends posts this and I borrow it. I seem to be in a borrowing mood, not particularly original today ...

I didn't listen to it, only read the synopsis. This is information we know and we need to keep it in our awareness.

The Bush administration has violated habeus corpus and the Geneva Convention. We know this and we need to keep the pressure on to return this country to the reasons it began.