Monday, October 5, 2015

Looking to Fly A Little Higher

Wingsuiting seems too extreme.
On this beautiful October morning here in rural Maine, which is about as nice as life gets, at least my life, since I don't own a house in Provence or a villa on Lake Como, I am wondering if it's possible to get sick of yourself? Because if it is, I am, and utterly. Sick of my pesky medical problems that have no diagnosis, and especially sick of my boredom with things that many others find interesting. It's time to turn in my brain and get a new one. I wonder where and how one does that, short of having a lobotomy which I definitely do not want.

So, since common wisdom defines stupidity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, I guess I'll have to do some new things and see what happens. I am not going as far as wingsuiting, that relatively new sport that is becoming quite popular, but I may try to push my own envelope at least a little. Something's gotta give.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Film Review: THE MARTIAN

Here's what you need to know: Watching Ridley Scott's lates film, "The Martian," is tons of fun, and might even warrant a second viewing. (Next time I'm going with the 3-D version.) Except for a gruesome scene early on where he performs surgery on himself, actor Matt Damon is his usual cheery self despite horrible odds in this fairytale about an astronaut who mistakenly gets left behind and presumed dead on Mars.

Matt Damon channels Clint Eastwood as he surveys his new digs on pretend Mars.
As Mark Watney, a brilliant botanist facing four years alone on the red planet until the next scheduled NASA mission could possibly rescue him, his preposterous problem-solving abilities would put physicist Stephen Hawking to shame. In addition to his surgical skills, Watney figures out how to grow food and make water, thus staving off certain death. (Chances are if he had enough time he'd figure out how to remove a rib and make himself a woman.) And besides saying the F-word several times, he maintains a positive attitude throughout that is almost too hard to believe. But then so is the whole movie, where everything always works and if it doesn't, a little duct tape fixes it right up. (Smiley face!)

Never fear, there's more to this story than life on Mars. Back on Earth, a puffy-faced Jeff Daniels as the head of NASA leads a team of kooky, nerdy scientists bent on bringing Watney home after a random ping on a computer alerts them to the fact that he's still alive. And led by a dour Jessica Chastain as their boss, his original crew mates, now heading home on their super-cool Lego spaceship, scrappily jump at the chance to participate in Watney's rescue, even though it means another 500-plus days away from their families. But hey-- no problem, what with all the video chatting, time literally flies by.

There are lots of floating astronauts, giant computer screens at NASA headquarters and enormous panoramas of a desolate landscape that looks like a cross between certain parts of Utah and a video game. And despite an underlying feeling that something bad is about to befall our hero, it doesn't. Complicated equipment that has lain buried under the sand for years springs to life in minutes; all you gotta do is dust everything off and plug this tube here into that hole there, and voila--it's a Martian miracle! Nope, it's just Hollywood at its finest, and definitely worth the price of admission.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

A Potentially Historically Funny Post

Right now I am drinking a cup of potentially life-threatening coffee in my potentially life-threatening living room. There are potentially dangerous winds outside, and any one of them could shatter a window, sending shards of glass into the room that could lodge in my heart and kill me. Or else tiny pieces of broken glass could land in my coffee cup and I could drink it and that would be that. At least according to the writers at Huffington Post, who see the potential dangers in everything and say so in their headlines. 

For example this morning, the expected and downright hoped-for hurricane not making its way to the East Coast is turning out to be quite a disappointment to all those weather forecasters who live for these situations. Still, they manage to spin it to sound bad, saying things like, "Even though Joaquin is very unlikely to make a direct hit on the U.S., rich tropical moisture will still be involved in the soaking setup in the East." Well, at least that!

Here's how it usually goes: It starts with a bit of wind somewhere, which is then termed a potential tropical disturbance. Even ordinary rain can lead to saturated soil which in turn it leads to potential flooding, which is always life-threatening. That graduates into a potential tropical storm, then a potential Category 1 hurricane, and if all goes well, a true Category 4 hurricane the likes of which nobody, nowhere has seen for lo these many years. The jackpot would involve words like "serious, severe, destructive, dangerous," and, the most revered of all, "historic."

The thing I don't get is this: Isn't everything historic once it happens?

Friday, October 2, 2015

No Wonder We're All Fat

If the news doesn't improve, and soon, I'm going to need a whole new wardrobe by Christmas. Just today I ate a glazed stick from Dunkin' Donuts, something I never, ever do except under great duress or if I lose a bet. This culinary debauchery came close on the heels of a huge bowl of popcorn (if a bowl of anything can be said to have heels), sprinkled liberally with grated Parmesan cheese. Now I feel sick to my stomach and am filled not only with junk food but also guilt and remorse.

It's all that damn shooter's fault. As the gruesome facts of another mass murder on another college campus slowly come to light, one can hardly do anything but try to assuage the pain. For me it's with food, which is so dumb: Clearly, my eating out of control does nothing for anyone, even me. But it does help to understand why the whole world is getting fatter by the minute. Following are the latest statistics from the World Health Organization as of January 2015:
  • Worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980.
  • In 2014, more than 1.9 billion adults 18 years and older were overweight. Of these, over 600 million were obese.
  • Most of the world's population live in countries where being overweight kills more people than being underweight.
  • 42 million children under the age of five were overweight or obese in 2013.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

America's New Normal

Happily the following instructions do not apply to people in Maine, our state motto being "The Way Life Should Be." Since it's October, all you Mainers should get outside and enjoy this most glorious month of the year. Rake leaves, clean up your gardens, place your pumpkins and mums artfully about your property. But for all of you in the lower 47, unless you absolutely have to go out, stay in your homes.

Besides it being hurricane season, young children are getting transgender surgery at an ever-increasing rate, Iran and Russia are plotting against us, flooding and forest fires are commonplace, mass murders are rampant, Donald Trump is running for president and Hillary Clinton lies like a rug. All the newscasters telling us about everything look exactly alike, the women with long blonde hair parted on the side, sporting large dangling earrings and low-cut, brightly colored polyester dresses showing a lot of leg, the men in suits, ties and hairpieces when necessary.

While you're at home, stay away from the windows. Keep the shades drawn. Turn off the news, bake a pie, make some popcorn. Do exercises, read, clean the fridge. Wash the floors and windows. Watch DVDs of old comedies. Listen to doo-wop. Wait for the all-clear from your local authorities.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Georgia On My Mind

Early this morning while you were still sleeping, the state of Georgia executed the only woman on its Death Row. They did it by lethal injection, the same way you might put down a sick animal. Only she wasn't a sick animal, she was the 47-year-old mother of three children who desperately wanted her to remain alive, even though her crime was convincing someone else to murder their father 18 years ago. The "someone else" was her lover at the time, and he willingly did the deed, driving the cuckolded spouse to a remote area and stabbing him multiple times. But get this: that guy got life in prison with the possibility of parole in 25 years, but for planning the crime, the wife lost her life.

Scary stuff, all of it. It seemed unlikely that the woman was a threat to the general population (or even the prison population) as she, like many others who are incarcerated for many years, found God and turned into a downright angel. Even the Pope, on his whirlwind American tour last week, asked for mercy in her case. You'd think he'd have some pull, but no dice, they went ahead and did it anyway.

There are several lessons here: First, if you hate your husband, just get a divorce. Second, if you're dating someone who asks you to kill their spouse, end the relationship immediately. And finally, if you live in Georgia, be careful what you wish for.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Wellness Community

How many things must one do in order to forget about ISIS and refugees and racism and homelessness and sick babies and drug addicts? Apparently there is no end to the list. My latest attempt at finding inner peace is the study of Taiji and Qigong, which are words not in my native tongue so I don't really know what they mean exactly but what it comes down to is an "internal" martial art.

I have now taken two classes in this discipline and all I can say is that while I am doing it I don't think about all those bad things. It's another one of those mindfulness tricks like meditation, making you focus on something specific so that your mind doesn't go off half-cocked on its own, thinking bad thoughts. I suppose golf or tennis lessons would be just as effective, but you get a lot less respect and are not considered t0 be part of the "wellness community," which certainly sounds like a community we would all want to join.

Anyway, by adding this new (to me, as it's been around for hundreds, if not thousands, of years) form of mental and physical exercise to my acupuncture and meditation and daily probiotic and fish oil and walking, I am hoping to start feeling more relaxed very soon.