Thursday, October 29, 2009

Nat Geo: The story behind the grieving chimps

Source. The November issue of National Geographic magazine features a moving photograph of chimpanzees watching as one of their own is wheeled to her burial. Since it was published, the picture and story have gone viral, turning up on websites and TV shows and in newspapers around the world. For readers who’d like to know more, here’s what I learned when I interviewed the photographer, Monica Szczupider.

On September 23, 2008, Dorothy, a female chimpanzee in her late 40s, died of congestive heart failure. A maternal and beloved figure, Dorothy had spent eight years at Cameroon’s Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center, which houses and rehabilitates chimps victimized by habitat loss and the illegal African bushmeat trade.

After a hunter killed her mother, Dorothy was sold as a “mascot” to an amusement park in Cameroon. For the next 25 years she was tethered to the ground by a chain around her neck, taunted, teased, and taught to drink beer and smoke cigarettes for sport. In May 2000 Dorothy—obese from poor diet and lack of exercise—was rescued and relocated along with ten other primates. As her health improved, her deep kindness surfaced. She mothered an orphaned chimp named Bouboule and became a close friend to many others, including Jacky, the group’s alpha male, and Nama, another amusement-park refugee.

Szczupider, who had been a volunteer at the center, told me: “Her presence, and loss, was palpable, and resonated throughout the group. The management at Sanaga-Yong opted to let Dorothy's chimpanzee family witness her burial, so that perhaps they would understand, in their own capacity, that Dorothy would not return. Some chimps displayed aggression while others barked in frustration. But perhaps the most stunning reaction was a recurring, almost tangible silence. If one knows chimpanzees, then one knows that [they] are not [usually] silent creatures."

Sanaga-Yong was founded in 1999 by veterinarian Sheri Speede (pictured at right, cradling Dorothy’s head; at left is center employee Assou Felix). Operated by IDA-Africa, an NGO, it’s home to 62 chimps who reside in spacious, forested enclosures.

Szczupider submitted the photograph to Your Shot, a magazine feature that encourages readers to send in pictures they've taken. The best are published on the website and in the magazine.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Finally! A great essay on Halloween's real and present evil

I feel the way this author does about Halloween. I always have disliked this holiday, even before I was a Christian. Now, I dislike it more.

Rethinking Halloween
By George Berkin
October 28, 2009, 6:52PM

Attacking Halloween seems as heartless as attacking Mom, apple pie or the flag.

To mix a metaphor, how Scrooge can you get? Why would anyone pick on a holiday that has given happiness – not to mention buckets of candy and a fun night out – to so many children and their parents alike?

But Halloween, with its emphasis on death and the devil, glorifies evil. By its “cute” approach to the wickedly supernatural, it also sanitizes evil. More deadly still, Halloween aims its “message” at children.

For those reasons and more, even skeptics – those who think the devil is a bunch of hooey – should be wary of celebrating Halloween.

Of course, parents wary of Halloween will find themselves fighting a tidal wave of Halloween “propaganda” at this time of year in New Jersey and across the nation.

Employees at many workplaces, for example, routinely dress up in “holiday” garb. By many counts, Halloween is the second-biggest holiday seller of the year, surpassed only by Christmas.

The business community also pushes people to “celebrate” Halloween, much as it pushes people to diminish the spiritual meaning of Christmas and replace it with mere gift giving.

Many secular individuals, of course, will reply that I’m taking this Halloween stuff too seriously. Really, they reply, witches and warlocks, costumes and seasonal scares -- all are merely good fun.

But as C. S. Lewis famously wrote, there are two – opposite -- mistakes to make when thinking about the Devil. The first is to never think about him at all, to assume that he cannot and does not exist. The second is to think too much about him, to glorify him by giving him too much place.

In our modern celebrations of Halloween, we seem to be making both mistakes at the same time.

For biblical believers, the issue is very obvious. We are not to glorify the works of darkness in any way. And Halloween, for anyone who takes evil seriously, clearly glorifies death, the devil and the occult.

As a result, many churches across New Jersey have “alternative” celebrations, in which children can enjoy a get-together with friends, without honoring Halloween.

Without those alternative celebrations, some children many feel left out as their friends go trick-or-treating. Others may unfairly conclude that a biblical belief is “legalistic,” not much more than a set of silly rules.

Adults who are biblical believers can take the occasion of Halloween to explain that there are in fact wonderful spiritual realities, even though we don’t want to glorify evil ones. That God and the devil are real (though not equals, obviously).

But what about non-believer, the purely secular person, the man or woman who thinks that ghosts and goblins are all a big fairy tale? Who reckons that Halloween is just a vivid playtime – loads of fun, but in the end much ado about nothing?

I would argue that – even for that person, or especially for that person – that celebrating Halloween is especially unhelpful.

First, Halloween glorifies evil – obviously. Masks depicting Beyonce are sometimes popular, but ghosts and goblins are perennial favorites.

Halloween also sanitizes evil. It takes what is obviously evil – devils, bloodied bodies – and makes them “cute,” “harmless” and “innocent.” Even if one does not believe that the devil exists, the trick-or-treater still celebrates a symbol, a picture, of evil.

That’s a bad habit to get into. Because evil is so present, from workaday urban crime to child abuse to the horrors of war, it is very easy to get desensitized to just how wicked evil really is. In our culture, even words describing evil quickly lose their sting. “Wicked” is merely the name of a popular Broadway musical.

To make matters worse, Halloween, perhaps even more so than other holidays, is aimed at children.

It goes without saying that children are very impressionable creatures. And it’s true, naturally, that children outgrow the need to go trick or treating. But here, in their most formative years, many children participate in a holiday that treats evil as just a fun pastime. That can set a poor pattern for the rest of their lives.

Finally, there is the matter of just how the holiday originated. Accounts differ, but many trace it back to Celtic rituals some 2,000 years ago. One account, for example, says:

“Because the boundary between the living world and that of the dead was blurred, the Celts believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth on that day. In an effort to keep evil spirits from possessing their bodies, the Celts dressed up in costume, either as animals or evil entities to trick the spirits.”

From those origins, the holiday evolved under the Romans, and during medieval times. But always, the emphasis was on the dead, and devils. This tie between Halloween and the pagan fascination with death and devils is well understood.

For example, The Star-Ledger on Wednesday paired a Halloween holiday food story (“Mixing Cheers and Fears”) with a feature story on how the Day of the Dead is celebrated in South America. It came complete with a recipe.

In one sense, Halloween has done for the occult, the fascination with death and devils, what Playboy magazine did for pornography. It took an evil practice that has existed for a long time, but on the edges of society, and brought it into the mainstream.

As Playboy magazine made pornography “respectable,” so too has Halloween made the occult a “respectable” part of the pantheon of American holidays, as “American” as Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ode to fences

I discovered that one of the unintended consequences of changing templates is that you might choose one that does not support Pictobrowser slide shows. I made this discovery after having worked for an hour to prepare a slide show entitled "Ode to Fences." I am into fences lately. I love boundary demarcations, whether land and sea, air and space, or plot of land to plot of land. Edges of things fascinate me. So while reviewing my pictures, I noticed that I have a lot of fences in them. I realized that I had unwittingly included that type of demarcation in my visual stash. However, after putting twenty pictures into a show and ready to upload using the wonderful Pictobrowser, that my template won't accept it. Petulant and perplexed, I pecked away at this problem for the last few days, hence the lack of posts. I am still obstructed by this problem, but I decided to just put up a picture and worry about the slide show later. So here you go: Ode to Fences. One by aggravating one.

Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village Store in New Gloucester Maine is a Shaker community having the last Shakers still living on it. There is a hugely popular store featuring authentic Shaker items, including the last of the actual shaker boxes. This is the edge of the antique and original store building, with its white fence meandering off into the meadow.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Kid getting haircut

One of my favorite kids pics. From the archives:

Now you see it, now you don't

My favorite place to vacation was Downeast Maine, from Machias to Lubec/Eastport. I often took a cottage in Machiasport on the Machias River, and in latter years shifted to Lubec on Globe Cove, but truly, anywhere is gorgeous up there. Jasper Beach in Machias is an unusual beach. It has no sand, but only rocks from small to large that make up the beach. You walk on them and they clack like billiard balls, and they are round from being tumbled in the water. Being Downeast Maine, it is often foggy. There is a permanent fog bank that hovers over the water, and the day can range from having the fog bank stay off to coming in. But it is always there, distant or close, present and threatening. And since fog is silent, you can be enjoying the sun one moment, seeing the glinting water and feeling warm stones under your feet, and in the drizzly cold fog the next! Like this!


Friday, October 16, 2009

Which one has Obama refused to met with?

This was (unfortunately) NOT from an American news outlet. It was in an Australian paper. I have a lengthy essay at The End Time regarding the media and how its misuse can skew the perceptions of an entire nation.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Monument building lives on

For a while I owned and operated a weekly newspaper in Maine. I t was a 6000 circulation paper that from the beginning made a huge difference in the large town of Gray Maine. It won journalism awards, it got attention, it made people laugh, it made them angry, and above all, it made them think. It informed. It was a comet from above, bringing light and truth to that dark, gray town.

I had two offices during the nearly 7-year duration of its life as an independent, stand-alone newspaper. I started in an office rented to me by Jeanne Adams/Gray Dove Design of 12 Main Street, in the heart of the village and a few doors down from the dinosaur of the old newspaper that already existed. I always got a charge out of that. I operated there for several years before moving almost across the street to 4 Brown Street when I expanded to full time and employed an office manager. It was really charming inside and all the space I could have wanted. After a year or so, deciding that working in a building that had no bathroom was more than a drag, I moved back to 12 Main Street.

Here are a few photos of the building as it was then and a couple of shots of the inside. The Mailbox was not for postal mail. Customers left their classified ads or other material in the box after hours.

I thought it was important for a newspaper to be in the middle of town. This building was, right across from McDonald's, and a few steps away from town hall and the building where the political and government meetings took place.

Customers were greeted with a welcome sign as they arrived, and stood at the 9-foot counter to do business, offer tips, hobnob, complain, or just pick up a paper! It was bright and cheery.

In the shot above, you can see the monument out the window, the statue the paper was named after. I had a couch for some folks who liked to come in and water-cooler it, staying a while to chew the fat. It was also for business: I interviewed subjects for articles there. The desk next to the couch was where the office manager sat.

The owner long ago abandoned the building to its fate. Actually, he sort of did while I was there. When the bathroom broke he declined to fix it. What a drag having to walk 200 feet in the driving snow or bitter cold just to take a potty break! After I left the building remained empty. Now the day has come when the building's next life is set to begin. It was moved today, in a series of events captured by Maine Home Town News, an online-only community bulletin board.  The building was not razed, nor sold, but given to the town. It was moved to the transfer station and a swap shop will be set up in there. So a building that housed a barber shop, a newspaper and now a swap shop is STILL the place where people gather to chew the fat! This has a nice synchronicity to it, if you ask me.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Corner View: Love

Jane at Spain Daily has a list of participants going who contribute to a weekly theme from their corner of the world. Take a tour of their entries, and enjoy mine: the theme is LOVE

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Things kids say, continued

I subbed in a kindergarten today. Always fun. At one point I had a small group to myself in the room and we were doing math. There was a 30 second lull as I changed one set of flash cards for another and re-oriented the kids to look at a different bulletin board. As I set it up, they were talking amongst themselves. 'Who was cutest/prettiest.' I had them all give me their cute faces, you now, the one they make looking like a 5 week old puppy when they want something from you. They really were pretty cute and I settled the argument by looking at each one, and said that each one was a cutie pie. One boy then dutifully said, "You are pretty too."

"Thank you,"  I replied.

Another boy, the troublesome boy, the one never listening, never watching, and always talking, always playing ... stopped... looked me right in the eye, and said, "You are pretty because you are happy."

What he was seeing was the joy of the Lord in me. Joy cannot be hid. And it makes everyone pretty.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Then and Now

I used to live in Gray Maine. It was a nice enough town, a bedroom community of Portland and not much to speak of for itself, other than being a "Crossroads" that all cars must pass through to get to the mountains or lakes region. Because of the pass-through traffic, lots of gas stations and convenience stores and fast food places popped up. The landscape included neon and the soundscape included horns. It was that traffic that was one of the banes of the town, though I hearit  has been dampened by the construction of a bypass. My Saturday errands used to include wading through this, ridiculous amounts of cars and trucks to negotiate around.

Gray at night, just some of the lovely neon:

But now I live in Comer Georgia. This is a northeastern Georgia county, heavily agricultural. If you have eaten chicken at a fast food restaurant somewhere, likely it was raised in Madison County. My Saturday errands look like this now:

And I am very happy.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Thursday, October 08, 2009

How to watch NASA bomb the moon Friday

Did you know that NASA is spending 79 million dollars (tax dollars) to send a heavy missile up to the moon Friday, and bomb it? Yes. I am not making this up. NASA is looking for water, so they will bomb the moon.

The LCROSS (LCROSS (Lunar CRater Observing and Sensing Satellite mission will send a missile traveling at twice the speed of a bullet to blast a hole in the lunar surface. When the 2000kg rocket blasts the moon's south pole, it will kick up a plume of dust almost 10 km high and last about two minutes. Anyone with a medium telescope will be able to see it, starting 6:30PM eastern time. Though, those east of the Mississippi will be competing with a sun that has not quite set.

You can watch the event live on NASA TV, beginning at 6:30 a.m. ET (3:30 a.m. PT) on NASA streaming live tv here. Anyone thirsty? Mmmm, I sure could go for some Moon water!

Or, you can watch the original moon movie, "A Trip to the Moon" here. (14 minutes). Based upon Jules Verne's notes and directed by Georges Melies, this was the first science fiction movie ever made, dated 1902.  The poster above was the movie's promo piece. To the moon Alice!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Corner View: Typical souvenir from my town

Jane at Spain Daily instituted the "Corner View", a view of the world from your corner. This week's theme is "souvenirs." Be sure to visit her and there are links to the other "Corner Views!

I live in a town of population of about 1200. That is up 22% since 2000, lol. It is a rural community 20 miles from the bedroom of Athens, GA, itself a University town of 113,000. There is not much traffic. There is no huge industry (except chickens and joists.) There is not one hotel nor B&B in the entire county. People visiting me must sleep on the floor or drive into Athens, a 30 minute ride. So as for souvenirs from my town, we have no tourists, ergo, no place to buy a souvenir. However, if the fair was in town and a visitor came, they might buy a funnel cake. It is all about the funnel cake.

The Agricultural Fair just concluded this week. It is a huge deal in our county, and rightly so. It is the learning ground, proving ground, and the showcase for the next generation of farmers. Without farmers we would have no food. I am a big fan of farmers (and fishermen). Everyone looks forward to the Fair all year, eagerly anticipating the animal showcases and also the rides and food. Great fun is had by all.

Adjacent to the Agricultural portion of the fair, is the fairway, with gaudy lights and loitering teens on cell phones and bravado kids daring each other to ride the stomach-plunging rides. If there was a typical souvenir, it would have to be funnel cakes. I wrote about what funnel cakes are, here. It is at the fair and only the fair that funnel cakes are made and bought and eaten and then regretted, for they are a fried, heavy food.

Another item indigenous to this locale that people purchase (but I advise against it) are boiled peanuts. The peanuts are boiled in the shell for hours in salty water till soggy. The purchaser peels the soggy shell, now a consistency resembling moldy cardboard, and drops or spits the shell on the ground. You pop the now-soft nut in your mouth, itself having a consistency and taste like ... lima beans. Why anyone considers lima beans a treat is beyond imagining, and having to tear through soggy shells first is too much work for no reward, if you ask me.

At any fair are gee-gaws to buy and it is here the closest thing to a souvenir may be obtained. This is a booth I admit I have never stopped at and I am not entirely sure what-all is for purchase. There are a lot of Confederate flags for sale and the tent itself is adorned with a huge one.

Wikipedia says: "The display of the Confederate flag remains a highly controversial and emotional topic, generally because of disagreement over the nature of its symbolism. Opponents of the Confederate flag see it as an overt symbol of racism, both for the history of racial slavery in the United States, and the establishment of Jim Crow laws by Southern states following the end of Reconstruction in late 1870s, enforcing racial segregation within state borders..." Alternately, "Supporters of the flag view it as a symbol of heritage and the freedom of the distinct cultural tradition of the South from the oppression of Northern government. White southerners often see the flag as merely a symbol of southern culture without any political or racial connotation. According to Civil War historian and native Southerner Shelby Foote, the flag traditionally represented the South's resistance to Northern political dominance; it became racially charged during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, when fighting against desegregation suddenly became the focal point of that resistance."

It is an important part of culture and history here and for that reason I make no opinion about it, only to show the typical souvenir booth at the fair.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Slideshow of the Comer Fair, 2009

Get the flash player here:

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Face off: Doughboy versus funnel cake!

In New England the ubiquitous carnival or fair snack is the "doughboy." (AKA fried dough). This northern snack is something my friends in the south have never heard of. Doughboys consist of rolled out pizza dough fried in peanut or canola oil. The dough puffs up on one side and it gets flipped in the oil so it can puff up on the other. Top it with confectioner's sugar and add cinnamon and you have a typical New England doughboy. Warm and flaky, hot from the oil and sweet from the sugar, it sure is tasty.

I've been hearing about the southern mirror to the doughboy, the famous southern "funnel cake." This southern fair snack consists of pancake-like batter poured out through a funnel onto hot oil. The batter is poured in a circular pattern criss-cross. When topped with confectioner's sugar, it looks like a large lacy doily.

Doughboys are made with yeast dough that rises and the funnel cake is made with unleavened batter. Funnel cakes are actually Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine. It is a dessert for the Amish descended from the Germans who emigrated to the US. So which is better, funnel cakes or doughboys? Both are good! I grew up with doughboys so I am partial to them because of tradition. I love risen bread in all forms, so again, the doughboy has it over the funnel cake. The funnel cake is also good because as a fried item it therefore crispy. I think I prefer the chewiness of the doughboy to the crunchiness of the funnel cake.

See you next year at the fair! I hear they have this thing called fried apple pie...

Friday, October 02, 2009


This is a work in progress

I finally found a template I'd like to experiment with. I will change the top picture and the background colors as the evening progresses. Playing is fun!

Red sky, sailors take warning, signs of the times

Feeding my cats in the dark back room this early morning, I looked through the small window to see the entire sky a deep red. I nipped outside to snap a photo, but the sky had lightened. It is still pretty. I thought of the old adage,

"Red Sky at night, Sailor's delight. Red sky in morning, sailor take warning."

Where did this adage come from? I had observed it to be true often enough, having lived on a sailboat for two years. We did take notice when the sky was red in morning because it often stormed later. Well, it comes from the bible:

Matthew 16:2-3-- But He replied to them, "When it is evening, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.' "And in the morning, 'There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.' Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?"

Indeed. More here on the signs of the times.