Friday, August 29, 2008

Circa 1948

That's me in the cowboy hat, which was, for me in my fabulous childhood, ubiquitous.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A darling TV series

During the past week, my wife and I watched all of the episodes of the 1991-93 British TV series, "The Darling Buds of May," starring David Jason, Pam Ferris, Philip Franks, and Catherine Zeta-Jones (hyphenated in professional contexts). What a tenaciously upbeat, hopeful dramatic series! We loved it entirely, this saga of a wholesome, generous, light-hearted, public-spirited family and the local community (in Kent). It quite brought back to me the way one of my nieces used to apply the adjective "darling" to anything (and many things) that utterly captivated her. Sentimental, no doubt, but I never felt a moment's embarrassment this week from being so. Now, whenever I find myself spontaneously imagining that I am Pop Larkin (the family head portrayed by David Jason), I feel that I am a better person for it.

And what a delight the Larkin children are! Zeta-Jones (portraying Mariette, who is 18 in the opening episode), was in her early twenties when the episodes were filmed, so she of course was not a child.

This series was said to have been the most popular one ever to appear on British television. Wikipedia even has an entry on it.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

"God takes care of his children"

Waiting in a line this morning at the university transportation office to renew my bus pass, I overheard the story of the guy ahead of me. Motorcycle rider, multiple parking passes, one of which he'd returned but was still being billed for. But the clerk helping him was smoothing everything out and seemed to conceive of herself as one of God's angels or something, for she said, "God takes care of his children, doesn't he?" And the guy said, "You got that right."

Well...not really. The lucky ones, maybe. The ones who don't suffer and die prematurely, like my friend Gary, who's not expected to make it after suffering massive brain injuries in a motorcycle accident the other day, right before the eyes of his wife, on her own Harley behind him.

But even Gary's wife asked her friends to pray for him, as though Gary's disastrous fall of the roulette ball could be made right by a miraculous intervention. As though Gary could yet be one of the lucky ones of God's children, even though his being hit and run off the road by the vehicle he was trying to pass (as it pulled out itself to pass the vehicle ahead) seemed to have demonstrated that he was very much not one of those.

People want to believe that they're lucky, that they're being taken care of. It helps them somehow to believe that. Some of them even make up elaborate explanations of why the apparently unlucky ones are really being taken care of anyway, in some mysterious way that surpasses human understanding. The crab that gets sucked in and eaten by a cuttlefish has just gone home to God, by God!

Oh yeah, I'm sure.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Treat all living creatures humanely

Apropos one of my "new ten commandments," there'll be a referendum on animal rights in California this November. As New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof wrote yesterday:
Proposition 2 would ban factory farms from raising chickens, calves or hogs in small pens or cages.
    Livestock rights are already enshrined in the law in Florida, Arizona, Colorado and here in Oregon, but California’s referendum would go further and would be a major gain for the animal rights movement. And it’s part of a broader trend. Burger King announced last year that it would give preference to suppliers that treat animals better, and when a hamburger empire expostulates tenderly about the living conditions of cattle, you know public attitudes are changing.
    Harvard Law School now offers a course on animal rights. Spain’s Parliament has taken a first step in granting rights to apes, and Austrian activists are campaigning to have a chimpanzee declared a person. Among philosophers, a sophisticated literature of animals rights has emerged.
Kristof tells a poignant story of the Chinese white geese:
Once a month or so, we would slaughter the geese. When I was 10 years old, my job was to lock the geese in the barn and then rush and grab one. Then I would take it out and hold it by its wings on the chopping block while my Dad or someone else swung the ax.
    The 150 geese knew that something dreadful was happening and would cower in a far corner of the barn, and run away in terror as I approached. Then I would grab one and carry it away as it screeched and struggled in my arms.
    Very often, one goose would bravely step away from the panicked flock and walk tremulously toward me. It would be the mate of the one I had caught, male or female, and it would step right up to me, protesting pitifully. It would be frightened out of its wits, but still determined to stand with and comfort its lover.
Humans are not such special animals relative to others as most people seem to think. Ironically, many of them are abetted in the belief by one or another of their "holy books." Of course, if geese had written the Bible, "God" might be a super goose and geese the very most special of animals....