Dr Mabuse

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Debbie and I are well launched into our Fritz Lang film festival. Having watched The Spiders part 1 (1919), Destiny (1921), and just finished Dr Mabuse the Gambler (27 April 1922) (YouTube). These century-old black and white silent movies with German text and English subscript translations make modern movies seem like weak imitations of the ideas first explored in these pathological films.

How true are these film representations of Germany in the years shortly after these people’s loss of national dignity after World War 1; and the massive amount of dead young men and destroyed country? “A summary of World War I casualties, compiled by the U.S. Public Broadcasting Service, lists 1,773,700 German war dead, 4,216,058 wounded, 1,152,800 prisoners, for a total of 7,142,558 casualties, an amazing 54.6 percent of the 13,000,000 soldiers Germany mobilized for the war”

From the distributor’s hand-out for the film:

“The world which opens up before our eyes in this film is the world in which we all live. Only it is condensed, exaggerated in detail, concentrated into essentials, all its incidents throbbing with the feverish breath of those years, hovering between crisis and convalescence, leading somnambulistically just over the brink, in the search for a bridge that will lead over the abyss. This gambler, Dr Mabuse, was not yet possible in 1910; he will perhaps – one is tempted to say hopefully – no longer be possible in 1930 (sic!) But for the years around 1920 he represents a larger than life-size portrait, is almost a symbol, at least a symptom. Mankind, decimated and trampled under by war and revolution, takes its revenge for years of suffering and misery by eating its lusts and pursuing pleasure . . .” (Lotte H. Eisner, Fritz Lang, p. 57)

There wasn’t a trace of the recent horrific war directly mentioned or referenced, but the despair of the people was ubiquitous in the film’s over-acting, with its characters desperately seeking deeper meaning in their every action. This movie came out shortly before Hitler’s failed attempt to take over German politics with a putsch (a violent attempt to overthrow a government.) He succeeded in 1932. But the putsch of November 1923 was described in Mein Kampf. It was written while he was in prison for his crime. I make this comparison because Dr Mabuse said his goal was to take over the minds of people and the whole world through mind control.

Dr Mabuse was made in personally violent times that make our current national threats seem insipid and foolish.

Recent action on environmental issues

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I recently went to an environmental action meeting and was terribly disappointed. They admitted that their cause was well-defined decades ago, that the issues were clearly stated, that the politicians and big money were the controllers of what was happening, and that population had continued to explode. All of which meant that the problems had grown much worse and even though the public is growing increasingly concerned, the various breeds of deniers were developing effective methods of misinformation and preventing any effective action. The pleas were to get out the vote, to support the anti-single-use-plastic movement, to use less one-time-use earth resources, to recycle more, and to teach the kids to do the same.

I remember going to an ecological event in Berkeley, about 1980, with over a hundred people in the audience, when a professorial-type guy stood up and claimed that all of the stuff they were proposing had been cooking since the 1950s. Nothing had changed. And, now sixty years later, nothing has changed. Isn’t doing the same old thing without significant results the definition of insane?

There are wonderful sparks of creative people, such as Greta Thornberg, making clear and impassioned statements, putting the shame directly where it belongs, but these truths have always died out. Nothing has changed. There have been many wonderful books, with clear proofs of the problems and what needs to be done, but nothing is done that can effectively change the obvious continuing catastrophe that’s already in progress.

At this meeting, there were the usual calls to join with other groups to form a more cohesive action group, coupled with breaking up into smaller groups to form more intimate personal relationships. Nothing has changed!

I mentioned the Earth Ark Project where we could save all, or nearly all, of the plants of the Earth by storing them at the South Pole in shipping containers. It would be easy to do and something productive would actually be done that would be effective. There wasn’t a trace of interest. Nothing has changed!

These over age sixty people spoke of trying to save the planet for their grandchildren. Nothing has changed!

I said the clear event tipping point would come within their lifetimes, with an example. No response. Nothing has changed.

Nothing special today except for this thing.

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A few days after not getting a Tamiflu pill from the ER room for my impending flu, I discovered this in the bathroom sink after blowing my nose. I posted this photo on January 3, 2020, but I couldn’t help making it a little more visually exciting.

I cleaned the color balance of the photo and sharpened it a bit to emphasize its qualities. This represents my relationship with visual images better. An image of a thing isn’t the reality of the thing portrayed! It is a visual representation of something conceived by the creator. I present this image to you as a challenge to re-view the reality that exists around us all the time. This reality has its own unique relationship to beauty. It has been said that “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” I say,

“Beauty is in the mind of one who is presently perceiving a new reality.”

I experiment with creating a habit.

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I don’t have a problem with alcohol, but I do like a frequent sip out of Jack Daniels. Just a thimble full maybe four times per day average. Part of my rationalization is that a single shot of alcohol has been shown to improve health and life expectancy. I wish the statistics were better on the ideal way to drink that single shot, but there isn’t any that I’ve found, and even Wikipedia isn’t giving the information I’m seeking.

What I have been doing is taking one of these sips of whiskey, and I hold it in my mouth as I put the bottle away. Then as I walk away I let the fluid drift from the front of my mouth to the back, and then from the back to the front. I do that cycle about five times before I swallow. Each of those cycles tastes wonderful, but here’s the problem with drinking whiskey that way. It is linking the pleasure too tightly with the act of getting the bottle out, opening it, sipping the whiskey, closing the cabinet, and walking away savoring the whiskey. Because I link it so closely, I am training my habit structure to link pleasure with whiskey, and that might lead to an addiction.

Therefore, I’ve been doing an experiment. I don’t begin to savor the whiskey until I have walked to a place where I can look out a window at nature. I then begin the sloshing sequence.

The idea is to link my habit onto looking at nature instead of tipping the bottle to my lips.

There are still good Samaritans among us. THANK YOU!

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It wasn’t until we were within a couple of blocks from my home that I asked my drivers how much they were being paid to drive me to the VA clinic in Portland, Oregon, wait several hours while I was being treated, and then drive me back to my home in Bend.

The departure point for Portland was only five blocks from my house so I elected to walk the snow-covered alley instead of drive on ice-covered streets at 5:45 AM. That meant I needed to get out of bed four hours before my usual time, dress hurriedly and get moving. Which I did, and arrived precisely on time. There was one other traveler to the Portland VA and two drivers, and we were rolling promptly.

I hadn’t wanted to drive my car over the Cascade mountain passes when there was a terrible storm expected, and I canceled my previous arrangements for a motel near the hospital. Driving time in perfect conditions is 3 h 17 min (164.2 mi) via US-97 N and US-26 W, but the conditions were predicted to be miserable, with possible road closures. I felt that if I took the transportation the VA provided and there was a cancellation due to weather, it wouldn’t show on my records that I missed an appointment.

The ride went reasonably well despite the weather, and over the mountain pass there were snowplows leading the way, clearing snow and spreading gravel ahead of us. It took us about an extra hour to get to the VA hospital.

There were lots of veterans there, most of whom were in various stages of decrepitude. Most of them were clearly overweight and many were in wheelchairs because of their extreme obesity. I got my fourth and final prostate cancer hormone shot not long after arrival but had to wait until 1 PM for my physical evaluation, and then another hour to get my blood sample drawn for the PSA (prostate-specific antigen). Nearly all eighty-four-year-old men have prostate cancer, but this disease is most dangerous when it shows up in much younger men.

My drivers patiently waited around all through of these procedures, and we didn’t get started back toward Bend until after 2 PM. The weather had worsened and at the higher altitudes, we were only going twenty-five mph for maybe fifty miles. Once out of the mountains, we were able to go about fifty mph maximum because of snow and sleety rain. My driver was very experienced with driving this highway, having been a forester here for decades in his previous career.

When nearing my home I asked how much they were being paid for putting in a thirteen-hour day doing something inherently dangerous and boring. “Nothing.” They were doing it as a free service for our veterans.

I routinely do simple little good deeds when I get the chance. The smaller the better because there is so much more opportunity, but these guys were putting in thirteen-hour days, doing much more in a day than I even come close to in a month.

There truly are good Samaritans amongst us, and I unknowingly was a recipient of their kindness. A hearty THANK YOU to all of you unknown good people.

Who am I?

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That question was asked of us at the UU, and we were requested to turn to someone nearby but new to us. I suspect that most people were a bit flummoxed by the question. I was. I usually don’t ask that question of myself and just live my life as it comes along, and respond in a way that fits the situation.

Who are you, really? What is the purpose of your life? What was the biggest mistake of your life? Yikes! Can questions get any more personal than these?

Even though we had a snow blizzard going outside the picture windows, the approximately two hundred people indoors struggled with their problems inside, inside themselves. My partner and I had a few moments of self-revelation, and as I glanced around the whole room was filled with people quietly talking with their partners.

This was not a typical church service with a sermon being delivered to subservient parishioners, with the usual prattle of telling you that you should be good and do the right thing. Instead, it was a direct challenge to the self-worth of your inmost being. And being spontaneously challenged to face up to who you really are. Who you are to yourself behind the public persona you present for the world to see and respond to.

It became apparent as the service proceeded, that we are all a vast complex of different personalities that we each have cultivated to respond to our many different life situations. We are like the patchwork quilt that our grandmothers made out of pieces of clothing somehow handed down from their grandparents. I slept under such a quilt through much of my childhood. Because each of those patches meant something special to those people in my genetic past they, in their projected futures, were giving warmth to me along with my physical life.

When living in Homedale, Idaho, with my grandparents during much of World War II, I remember those old ladies, probably in their forties, sitting around quilting and telling stories. If I had been a more sensible child I would have listened in and taken copious notes. But that didn’t happen. I was doing more important things, like playing Monopoly with my cousin Thomas. The stories those patches could have related of the scenes they had participated in back when they were part of living clothing. Those old ladies were probably revealing personal things that would shock a modern TV audience. And laughing the roof off the house.

Who am I, but the result of all of those women’s genes, personal events, and pieces of fabric sewn together into a warm quilt for their descendants? I am one of them!

A day of blood pressure experiments.

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I am scheduled to go to the Portland VA for my last prostate cancer hormone therapy shot this Monday. The drive over the mountains has been very beautiful on my other trips, but the weather forecast for this time is miserable. It seemed reasonable to take the VA provided transportation which is free, and I won’t have the responsibility of failing to make the appointment if their transportation fails. Strangely, the departure location is only a fifteen-minute walk from my house, and the only problem is that the van leaves at 6AM. I need only be out the door at 5:40 and all should be easy, going and coming. Probably be back home by 6PM. All the rest of the day will be reading or looking out windows.

I’ve been taking my blood pressure every day since the possible Lyme disease event last June, when the BP reading on my old-fashion cuff monitor went to 190 systolic. I went to the ER and the nurse observed my target-like patch the size of a silver dollar and we did the Lyme test. And did it again a month later with negative (that means positive results for the patient) results. There is still an active red/white spot where the bite was but my medical team isn’t worried.

Because of those events, it seemed reasonable to purchase a modern blood pressure monitor, and I got the OMRON with the cell phone linkage. It is very easy to use and collect lots of data. Today, for our first of two daily walks Debbie and I walked down to the VA van pick-up point which we expected to take about fifteen minutes, and which took exactly fifteen minutes. I took my BP before leaving and right away when I got back. It was 113/66 48 when we left, which is a bit lower than my typical 119/60 55, but close, and 103/52 65 when we got back. That is quite low for me, but according to the usual stuff we see when researching such things, it was very good. From last June 26, 2019, Near ideal blood pressure is 105/70:

“The Ideal blood pressure for someone who has recently walked, but is now sitting and rested for five minutes is 105/70. Adding or subtracting 5 points from those numbers would mean that 110/70 to 100/70, or 105/75 to 105/65 would be so close to the unknowable ideal as to be undetectable and insignificant. Strangely, this method of choosing an ideal would mean by the pre-1977 rule of thumb, 100 plus your age, that our ideal would be the blood pressure of children.”

By that standard, I should have been feeling great when I got back from that half-hour walk, even though we walked through eight-inch snow, and I was wearing very heavy snow boots, and we ascended about sixty feet. But I wasn’t feeling great; I was quite tired.

Thus, my personal experience is that the official Blood Pressure recommendations are wrong. They say you can’t feel your blood pressure, but my experience and the experience of my older friends with low blood pressure is that it makes you feel really tired. They told me that going below 90 systolic makes you feel really tired. I wasn’t nearly that low, but I did feel tired at 103 when I should have been feeling energized. When I am in the systolic range of 120-135 I feel more fully functional.

We survived another day, and I’m wondering what Monday’s post will be. Tired?

FRITZ LANG

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Debbie wanted to sell the book FRITZ LANG by Lotte H. Eisner and asked if I wanted to look at it before she posted it for sale. I fell into the rabbit hole and a couple of hours later we were at the library checking out Fritz Lang DVDs and going to various online sites to see what we could see.

It’s been years since I’ve seen any of his movies, but I had mentioned two of Lang’s movies in the last week while in conversation with friends. M with Peter Lorre is older than I am, but it makes an impression that lasts a lifetime, and I probably saw it as a youth, along with King Kong, Bambi, Shane, Laura, and Freaks.

In another conversation, I mentioned Metropolis, also by Fritz Lang. It is a few years older than M. It too is one of those movies that everyone must see to be a complete human being.

When I glance back over these movies I see how they warped my world view.

What outrageous thing have you done today?

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What outrageous thing have you done today? I went to a book club discussion of Daring Greatly by Brené Brown. We saw two TED lectures by her followed by a half-hour discussion. As usual, I was the only one of the eighteen present who had read the book. It does appear to me that the less you read of the book under discussion the more you have to say about it. So I didn’t say anything. I did enjoy the various people’s discussions of it and how they were responding to their personal realities with the suggestions presented in the book.

The book states on its cover that it is a #1 New York Times Bestseller, so who am I to mention the obvious fact that the principles the author espouses are mostly in direct contradiction to what she presents on the TED stage? She talks endlessly about flexibility, and she is an excellent example of a person driven by the very principles she challenges as being destructive to a sane person’s behavior.

Many of the principles she espouses are probably reasonable when they are applied by an already reasonable person, but when they are applied by an ordinary person they are just as likely to yield poor results. The principles listed throughout the book are probably just as valid when stated oppositely by a clever wordsmith.

She encourages us to be outrageous and choose willingly to do things we are afraid to do, to which I would ask everyone present at that discussion:

What outrageous thing have you done today? Why, or why not?

Eight days into 2020 and no war yet.

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I don’t want to write about this subject! I have been far too close to these things a couple of times and I don’t want anything to do with it! Nothing! And yet, I, like you, am trapped here on this Earth which is loaded with people who believe they will benefit in some way if we do have a major conflict.

The bad guys used to be fat, wear stovepipe hats, tuxedos, and have white mustaches, and they appeared on Monopoly boards owning the good properties. They used to be called the military-industrial complex, and they were the fall guys to be blamed for promoting conflicts, so they could make more money. I don’t see anyone dressed like that anymore and it appears that the super-rich people are hiding out somewhere in disguise, possibly as old widows riding around on cruise ships pretending to be young again, or as ecologists.

It seems impossible to me that those who have a lot of money would risk their whole world to make a few percentage points more. And yet, we look around and it appears to be those with the most to lose who are the ones who are risking the most for … for what?

I live in Bend, Oregon, and it is rated as one of the fastest-growing cities in the US. Nine years ago it was a quiet little city with friendly people, but now there is traffic congestion and lots of new public and private buildings under construction which means there will be even more traffic next year. The streets are already inadequate for the traffic, and the nice people are turning sour with the stress. We presently have an abundance of construction workers, but when the construction boom bursts many of these folks will depart and the property values will plummet because their unoccupied homes will go on to the sales market. What to do?

I can’t find a Querulous Curmudgeon hat, I’ll have to make one.