Archive for January, 2010


January 29, 2010


   A while back (cf 7/24/09) I mentioned a bit about a tooth extraction.  Even though the gap was unobtrusive enough that wife didn’t fit about my place in daughter’s wedding photos, dentist said that it had to be filled.  Otherwise other teeth would slowly shift and faults would form. Mandibular plate tectonics.

  Both dentist and MD with the pliers said that an implant was the way to go.  Research confirmed their recommendations.  “A Dental Shift: Implants Instead of Bridges” wrote Jane Brody in the NYT 11/17/09.  I read about the procedure and asked my dentist friend what was the longest I could wait before setting something up.

  He told me and I added another month and made the appointment.  Yesterday was the day.  Began with the same daunting consent form.  “Swelling, bruising, and pain can occur…Jaw fracture is quite rare… etc.” At least I still didn’t have to worry about the effects of antibiotics on the potency of any birth control.

  This operating room was much bigger than last time.  “Need more stuff for implants” said nurse.  “And room to move”.  I noticed the defibrillator on the wall as she took my blood pressure.  “Let me cover you up and Doctor will be right in.”  She did a pretty good job, but I had worn a red sweater just in case.

  Doc came in, put the same hockey puck back in the left side of my mouth, numbed me up, and unrolled his tool pouch.  “Just like the ‘surgeon’ at the end of Braveheart” he chuckled. I tried to find something on the ceiling to count.

  “First gotta drill me a hole.  You ready?”  Sounded just like a hammer drill going through a wall.  Only louder.  He drilled and drilled.  I began to worry about an inadvertent trephination.  He withdrew the bit just in time and screwed the implant in finger tight which wasn’t very far.  Could feel the sharp threads with my tongue.

  He fastened a lever onto it and leaned forward.  It was a ratchet.  OMPH clinkity, OMPH clinkity, OMPH clinkity.  “Ok let’s see how we did.”  Put one of those cardboardy bits of film in mouth and took x-ray.   “Dang”.  Ratchet in reverse he backed it out and drilled some more.

  Final tightening underway, all I could think about was the countless number of times I have stripped threads while undertaking some mechanical or home repair.  Just this side of that sort of mess with neck at ninety degrees and all cervical vertebrae in subluxation, he stopped, threw a few stitches with racquet string and “voila”.

  “Uh, that doesn’t feel much like a tooth” I said.  “Won’t celery fibers and stuff get hung up around it?”

  He laughed.  “Don’t worry, we have to wait a few weeks to make sure it’s snug and not infected. Then we’ll spin on a nice new tooth and you’ll be good to go.  Nurse here will tell you what to do to stay out of trouble.  Soft foods for a week…”

  Jeesh.  I wrote the big check, stepped outside, sighed, and took a deep breath.  The way negative wind chill frosted the thing up like a finial on a fencepost in the Gulag.


January 22, 2010


  The only thing I remember, well the first thing that comes to mind I guess, about Mrs. Nichol’s sixth grade music class is the way she’d draw a circle on the blackboard and make me stand there with my nose in it for most of the period.  I mean who cared about Saint Saens, whole notes, or the fact that Anton Dvorak had actually been in Iowa?

  The only interesting thing I recall was listening to her describe her husband’s malaria.  He’d been in the Navy during WWII.  I never’d heard of anything you couldn’t shake. Anyway, I didn’t like music, the circle didn’t work, and I became intimately familiar with every corner of the principal’s office. 

  The sounds of the sixties perked up my ears, but being a-political and an emotional nitwit nothing found more than passing resonance.  I began to wake up in college – I’m probably not alone in having had an epiphany in front of Disney’s Fantasia.  The Beethoven’s Sixth segment was to my mind what Kool-Aid was for the Dead. 

  All of a sudden I had an incredibly eclectic taste in music and an incipient thirst for understanding.  What is it?  It’s got to be more than epiphenomenal…  Everybody has at least a little rhythm.  Why is it so great to hear Gene Kelly “Singing in the Rain” by the produce at the grocery store when the mini-sprinklers go on?  Wasn’t that a wonderful movie?  Can’t you just see him twirling about the lamppost, drenched?

  Long determined to launch a serious investigation, I didn’t have a clue about how to begin until wife fixed me up with guitar lessons recently.  Month into it now and I’m fascinated.  I can read a few notes, make annoyingly recognizable sounds, and am amazed at the mind state that’s induced.

  The first lessons were a bit awkward for sure.  I’m easily three times as old as most of the students in the facility.  Years older than most of the parents reading People Magazine in the lobby as a matter of fact.  But after practicing a little bit every day I have begun to feel like I did the first time fiddling with buttons on a shirt that was not my own…

   What’s up with the elephants?  In February of 2007 on the radio program “Speaking of Faith” was a segment with acoustic biologist Katy Payne.  It is going to be rebroadcast Sunday.  You should listen.  Or visit the site:  Her descriptions of whales composing complex songs are incredible.  Her stories of emotional networks maintained between and among elephants miles apart are enthralling. 

  She’s a Quaker working at the Bioacoustics Research Program at Cornell.  “I see my responsibility as being to listen.  My church is outdoors.  And I must say that if I could ask these animals that I like so much if there’s anything equivalent to what we speak of as being faith, I would love to do that.  We just don’t know.”

  “Many animals make sounds, everything from crickets to humans to whales.  Birds, of course.  Frogs.  And these sounds, in the case of animals, are thought of in relation to reproduction and courtship.  In humans, although they may serve exactly the same function, they’re thought of in relation to aesthetics.  And one of the aspects of my work has been to say, ‘Look, we don’t have to have two languages for this.’

Know how stupid the average guy is?

January 15, 2010


  In the highly esteemed journal Nature this week was a report of recent research indicating that men have evolved more rapidly than women*.  The study compared the Y chromosomes (the bit that makes a man male, (you know XY instead of XX) of chimps and humans. 

  Chimps are our nearest living relatives and over the last six million years our genetic codes have only diverged about two percent.  Except the Y chromosome which is some thirty percent different.  That’s a big change in a relatively short period of time.

  There are several possible explanations for the Y being “such an evolutionary powerhouse”.  One is that since the Y is a loner and not part of a pair like all of the rest and thus can mutate more easily.  Another has to do with the randy attitude of female chimps in heat.  Since they seek out many partners, there is huge evolutionary pressure on the males to produce the most and best sperm…

  I probably should support my own team and heckle the laggard other, but while reading the piece a George Carlin routine came to mind.  “Know how stupid the average guy is?  Just think – half of them are stupider!”  For proof, just check out the Darwin awards which are given annually to the nuttiest manner by which people have removed themselves from the gene pool during the previous twelve months.

  A woman has only won first prize once.  A random perusal of the site** turned up the story of a drunk twenty year old Californian dude who caught a rattlesnake.  Snake slithered its tongue to whiff the environment and get its bearings. (Snakes’ tongues are involved in their olfactory process)  Genius stuck out his tongue in response into which snake sunk its fangs.  Tongue swelled up choking the poor dumb guy to death***.

  Or take the first words the masterpiece of the great French poet Charles Baudelaire: Les Fleurs du Mal (Flowers of Evil):

Stupidity, delusion, selfishness, and lust
torment our bodies and possess our minds,
and we sustain our affable remorse
the way a beggar nourishes his lice

  Now, I certainly don’t feel that way all of the time and am dang glad I don’t have to go to hen parties, but will admit that I am an easy and logical target for regular self deprecation.  Wife agrees.



***If this reminds you of anything you’ve previously read in this space, please don’t tell anyone.  (7/7/09)

****cf post of October 9, 2009

Have Any Breath Mints?

January 8, 2010

  I can see a television when I shave in the morning and while I often watch CNN or the local news, sometimes I turn to Despierta America on Univision (must see!) or VH1 or a movie channel.  While flipping through early on New Year’s Eve I found, in black and white on AMC, hay bales moving around a field to the tune of Three Blind Mice.  Remember that one?  The Three Stooges are awesome!! 

  I couldn’t stop laughing and nearly cut myself.  Wife rolled her eyes, tisk-tisked me, and asked when I was going to grow up.  For the umpteenth time.  Jeesh.  She’s lost hope.  Nyuk, nyuk.  After she left though I began to wonder about the evolution of humor.  Later I googled the notion for a bit and found but turgid prose. 

  Hobbes’ thought that life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” before the grace of government came to mind.  Seems logical to me that it might have been an evolutionary advantage to have been able to be funny while standing around a campfire gnawing on mammoth bones.  Life would have been tough (to coin a phrase). 

  I’ll bet that the hot cave chicks were turned on by a smiling fellow able to flatulate via his axilla while the others stood around in a inchoate state of depression.  How else could Fred Flintstone ever have attracted Wilma?

  Base humor must go back to the moment of our awakening, or I guess I mean back to when we first developed a sense of self awareness.  Once you leave speculation and get to recorded history there are plenty of examples. 

  In the Greek play Peace by Aristophanes for example (421BC), a giant dung beetle plays a major role transporting the main protagonist to heaven to plea for the gods’ intercession.  Bystanders are urged to avoid moving their bowels and thereby distract Trygaeus’ coprophageous mount.  It is an antiwar comedy celebrating the coming of peace after ten years of war on the Peloponnesian Penninsula.

  Interesting that the work of which the Stooges were most proud was also related to war.  They considered their best to be “You Nazty Spy” which in 1940 was a mockery of Hitler and the Third Reich.  Moe played Hitler, Larry was Ribbentrop, and Curly did Hermann Goering.    

  Certainly the standard of humor of an age rides the zeitgeist.  There was no need of subtlety during the thirties.  The Stooges appeared in their first film in 1930.  The Marx Brothers’ Duck Soup came out in 1933.  Etc.

  It’s 2010.  Where are we now?  Lord help us.  Here’s a clue:  

Hi Yo

January 2, 2010

Make sure your sound is on and press this:

Isn’t that a beautiful song?  After the near blasphemy of my last post, I figured that today, at the end of one year and the start of the next, I’d better do something with, well, feeling.  The song is “This must by the Place” by the Talking Heads 

You don’t even have to be able to make out all of the lyrics to get a lift and indeed songwriter and lead singer David Byrne wrote: “The less we say about it the better, Make it up as we go along”.  Perfect.  I obviously overthink most shit.  And an overwrought exegesis can wither the wonder out of fine prose, poetry, or lyrics.

Nonetheless (here I go) I gotta write something.  The music by itself would be sort of catchy and the words alone ok free verse, buthe combination is far more than the sum of the parts.  Together they convey a glimpse of interpersonal joy.

The line “I love the passing of time” made me think of “the power of standing still” in Frost’s Masterspeed.*  The simple enjoyment of the company of another.  If one couldn’t enjoy “the power of standing still” with another, he or she would never come to say “Out of all those kinds of people, you got a face with a view”.

Isn’t that beautiful?  A face with a view.  Jeesh.  Byrne’s obviously not thinking about physical beauty, but about the initial allure of a radient depth and later the rich mindstream procured by a look into the eyes of a loved one.  All of the memories, good and bad, coalesce into a sense of wonderment.

And oh yes, time goes by so quickly: “share the same space for a minute or two”.  But it is delicious: “And you love me till my heart stops”.  Even though he’s far from perfect she has “Eyes that light up, eyes that look through you, Cover up the blank spots”.   Blank spots?  Heh, heh, what about the warts and bad habits?

“Hi yo I”ve got plenty of time
Hi yo, you got light in your eyes”

Damn.  Home is where I want to be.

Home is where I want to be
Pick me up and turn me round
I feel numb – burn with a weak heart
(so I) guess I must be having fun
The less we say about it the better
Make it up as we go along
Feet on the ground
Head in the sky
It’s ok, I know nothing’s wrong… nothing
Hi yo I’ve got plenty of time
Hi yo, you got light in your eyes
And you’re standing here beside me
I love the passing of time
Never for money
Always for love
Cover up and say good night … say goodnight
Home is where I want to be
But I guess I’m already there
I come home – she lifted up her wings
Guess that this must be the place
I can’t tell one from another
Did I find you or you find me?
There was a time before we were born
If someone asks, this is where I’ll be … where I’ll be
Hi Yo we drift in and out
Hi Yo sing into my mouth
Out of all those kinds of people
You got a face with a view
I’m just an animal looking for a home
Share the same space for a minute or two
And you love me till my heart stops
Love me till I’m dead
Eyes that light up, eyes look through you
Cover up the blank spots
Hit me on the head ah ooh.

*cf post of September 4, 2009.

** The song was recorded in 1982, the year son was born who turned me onto it…and courtesy of whose genius you just listened to it!

***The song also has a parenthetical name: Naïve Melody due to an apparent simplicity which I don’t really understand, but it sure works and I’m workin’ to understand.