rare bird visits u.s., gets killed by car

It sounds like it could be a headline from The Onion, except that it’s true.

This past week, an ultra-rare Corn Crake, a field-dwelling bird elusive even its usual Eurasian range, showed up on Long Island in New York State, where there have been only two records of this species in the past 129 years, the last one in 1963. Two days later the bird was found dead, having been hit by a car, with fractures in both hind limbs and pelvis.

In America, where we live by the car and die by the car, no one is safe on the roads, no matter how unusual or rare you are.

Last week, partly in response to the recent terrorist act in New York City where a man drove a truck onto a popular bike path, killing 8 people and injuring 12 others, BikeSnobNYC author Eben Weiss penned an editorial for The Washington Post. His primary point is that an act like this will not scare NYC cyclists off the road because they already risk their lives in the face of vehicular violence every single day. He then goes on to name-check several NYC cyclists who have died on the road in recent years. While Weiss is speaking in particular on behalf of NYC cyclists, his point applies across the country. In 2015 alone, 818 U.S. cyclists were killed by vehicular violence. And it’s worse for pedestrians: in that same year 5,376 pedestrians died in motor vehicle crashes.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a cyclist, a pedestrian, or a rare bird. When people get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, whether intentionally or not, they weaponize themselves. In the wake of this most recent terrorist attack, discussions have arisen in New York about whether to ban motor vehicles altogether in high pedestrian and cyclist traffic areas such as Central Park. And while it’s unfortunate that it takes extreme acts like the one that happened in NYC for civic leaders to sit up and consider taking steps toward better protecting pedestrians and cyclists from automotive danger, at least they are now paying better attention. Let’s hope that it moves beyond just talk.

small poems in prose [alejandra pizarnik]

The sun closed, the sense of the sun closed, the sense of the closing was illuminated.

*

A day arrives in which poetry is made without language, day in which the great and small desires scattered in the verses are called together, suddenly gathered in two eyes, the same ones I praised so much in the frantic absence of the blank page.

*

In love with the words that create small nights in the uncreated part of day and its fierce emptiness.

 

[Alejandra Pizarnik, Texts of Shadow and Last Poems (1982)]

(The Unstoppable Myth of Alejandra Pizarnik by Enrique Vila-Matas)

bob sloth’s one-man show

Vinyl siding salesman Bob Sloth was starring in a nowhere-near-Broadway production of a play he’d written called ‘My Life Feels Like a One-Man Show.’ One night he wasn’t feeling well enough to go on so he called his understudy, also named Bob, better known as Bob the Sloth, for he was indeed an actual sloth. Bob the Sloth (or BTS, for short) had been waiting for (and dreading) this call ever since he first agreed to help Bob out. He answered the phone is his usual slow manner.

Hello, Bob speaking.

Bob, this is Bob.

Oh, hi.

Look, I’m not feeling myself today, so I need you to play me in the show tonight.

Uh, okay, sure…

C’mon, man, I need you to muster some enthusiasm. I need you to convince me you can play me. That you can be Bob.

Well, I am Bob.

I know, I know. But you’re Bob the Sloth. I need to know you can be Bob Sloth.

I can do it, man. I won’t let you down.

Great! I’m glad to hear it. Break a leg tonight.

BTS hung up the phone with a heavy sigh. It had taken all of his remaining energy to convince Bob he could do a good job. Consequently, he decided that a nap was in order. A nap would replenish his energy and he would still have plenty of time to practice his lines and get down to the theatre. The theatre was in the town of Largest, not to be confused with Largesse, which is the town where both he and Bob lived.

While BTS took his nap he dreamed of his ancestral birthplace—the Land of the Sloths. It was a pleasant dream and he awoke with a tinge of sadness that it was now over. To sweep this feeling away, he rehearsed his lines for the play.

Hi, I’m Bob, he intoned. But the intonation was off. That was not how Bob spoke at all. BTS went through a few more lines—all of them fell flat. He grew discouraged and soon fell asleep curled in a ball on the floor.

When he woke up it was late. He only just had time to get dressed before he had to rush out the door and hustle down to the theatre. From behind the curtain he stared out at the audience. It was a big crowd. The word had spread about Bob’s show and the reviews were good. ‘Bob really nails the role’ screamed the headline on this week’s issue of Variety. The review goes on to rave about how it almost seemed as if Bob was born to play this role. ‘The most genuine performance we’ve ever seen from Bob Sloth,’ it triumphantly concluded. Well, thought BTS, those people out there won’t be seeing Bob Sloth tonight. They are stuck with me. So here goes nothing.

It’s really best not to belabor the specifics of what happened next. Suffice it to say, BTS did not kill it. In fact he was booed off the stage. He couldn’t remember any of the lines, for he had not learned a single one of them.

The next day Bob Sloth called up his understudy but there was no answer. He’d heard the reviews and wanted to make sure BTS was holding up okay. After trying him a few more times he went down to the theatre for rehearsal. On stage practicing his lines he heard a faint snoring sound coming from below his feet. He peeked down into the orchestra pit and there was Bob the Sloth sound asleep, curled in a ball on the floor.

Bob…Bob!!

Hnrrh??

Bob, wake up. It’s me.

Oh, hi Bob.

Look, man, I know things didn’t go well last night, but I just want you to know that it’s okay. You’re not me, I get it. So how can you be expected to play me in my own one-man show?

Well, I didn’t want to let you down, Bob. No one ever asks me to do anything responsible like this, so I felt like I couldn’t say no, like it was a big opportunity for me. And then I blew it.

Don’t worry about it. Tell you what—let’s go and get some ice cream. I bet that’ll make you feel better.

Thanks, Bob. That sounds real nice.

On the way out the door, BTS turned back and looked down at the stage. Maybe one day I’ll have my own one-man show, he thought. If I ever do, I think I’ll call it, ‘My Life Feels like Bob Sloth’s One-Man Show.’

a pilgrimage together

If we could take a journey, make a pilgrimage together without any intent or purpose, without seeking anything, perhaps on returning we might find that our hearts had unknowingly been changed. I think it worth trying. Any intent or purpose, any motive or goal implies effort—a conscious or unconscious endeavour to arrive, to achieve. I would like to suggest that we take a journey together in which none of these elements exist. If we can take such a journey, and if we are alert enough to observe what lies along the way, perhaps when we return, as all pilgrims must, we shall find that there has been a change of heart; and I think this would be much more significant than inundating the mind with ideas, because ideas do not fundamentally change human beings at all. Beliefs, ideas, influences may cause the mind superficially to adjust itself to a pattern, but if we can take the journey together without any purpose, and simply observe as we go along the extraordinary width and depth and beauty of life, then out of this observation may come a love that is not merely social, environmental, a love in which there is not the giver and the taker, but which is a state of being, free of all demand. So, in taking this journey together, perhaps we shall be awakened to something far more significant than the boredom and frustration, the emptiness and despair of our daily lives.

Krishnamurti, The Collected Works vol XI, p 243

a myth about gun violence

From staff members at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research (via The Washington Post):

Myth: Mental illness is behind most gun violence against others.

National opinion polls show that the majority of Americans believe that mental illness [sic]*, and the failure of the mental-health system to identify those at risk of dangerous behavior, is an important cause of gun violence.

Research says otherwise. Only an estimated 4 percent of violence against others is caused by the symptoms of serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Impulsivity, anger, traumatic life events such as job loss or divorce, and problematic alcohol use are all stronger risk factors for gun violence . Research also shows that mental-health-care providers are poor predictors of which patients will go on to harm others. Further, most people with mental illness will never become violent, and most gun violence is not caused by mental illness.**

But mental illness is a strong risk factor for firearm suicide, which accounts for the majority of gun deaths in the United States. While improving America’s mental-health system would benefit millions of people with mental illness, it would not substantially reduce gun violence against others.

*I don’t support use of the terms ‘mental illness’ and ‘mentally ill’ as it implies acceptance of the biomedical model of mental health, i.e., that people who struggle with mental health issues are ‘sick’ and therefore need to be ‘cured’, typically through the use of pharmaceutical medications. This ‘Mental Health Literacy’ parable explains more.

**emphasis mine

(read the other myths here)

impostor!

hello

tim hecker – hatred of music i & ii

being alone

You see, you are not educated to be alone. Do you ever go out for a walk by yourself? It is very important to go out alone, to sit under a tree—not with a book, not with a companion, but by yourself—and observe the falling of a leaf, hear the lapping of the water, the fishermen’s song, watch the flight of a bird, and of your own thoughts as they chase each other across the space of your mind. If you are able to be alone and watch these things, then you will discover extraordinary riches which no government can tax, no human agency can corrupt, and which can never be destroyed.

Krishnamurti, This Matter of Culture, p 89

r.i.p. harry dean stanton

Yet another significant cultural figure has passed away. Harry Dean Stanton first captured my attention with his role in the cult film Repo Man. From then on he was one of my favorite actors and his presence in a film always made it worth watching. The fact that he rarely landed leading roles says a lot about Hollywood. Harry Dean was really too cool for the Hollywood star assembly line. He existed on the periphery for a very long time. Oddly I was just thinking about him earlier this week and marveling at how long he had endured. It’s a fitting tribute that his final film comes out this fall, with him front and center as he always should have been. I look forward to it with great anticipation. In the meantime, here’s Harry Dean as Bud explaining the code of the repo man to Otto, played by Emilio Estevez:

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