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an endless succession of beans and nuts.

"Here we have hot springs with really hot water; we have active volcanoes; we have sneaker waves on beaches..."

"... we have strong winds. We somehow think that we’re invincible when we’re on vacation, but we still have to use our common sense."

She's trying, politely, to deal with Iceland's problem of too many tourists. They get 2 million a year, and they only have 388,000 actual residents.

But what's a "sneaker wave"? It made me think of the mystery of the sneakers containing severed feet that were washing up on the coast of the Salish Sea. Remember that news story from 2021? It started happening after 2007 because of a change in sneaker design that made them more buoyant. There have always been corpses in the sea — from misadventures and suicides and so forth — and the sea creatures have been feeding on them all along — with special attention to the tender, delectable ankles — so submerged severed feet inside shoes was nothing new. They just weren't floating up on shore in the pre-buoyancy days.

But that's not what going on in Iceland. "Sneaker waves" have nothing to do with footwear or severed feet. They're just sneaky waves: 
The waves here are so sneaky, they come creeping up on you and suck you in if you are standing too close - nothing can be done to save people if this happens - so please be extremely careful if you visit these beaches, and never turn your back to the sea and the waves....

The staff at Svarta fjaran - the Black Beach restaurant by Reynisfjara, say that they often go down to the beach to warn people against playing in the waves, only to be sneered at and scolded for trying to ruin the holiday of these people! 
I'd never heard the term "sneaker wave" and thought maybe it's because we use another expression, specifically, "rogue wave"? But these are usually considered different phenomena:
One American oceanographer distinguishes "rogue waves" as occurring on the ocean and "sneaker waves" as occurring at the shore, while the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration loosely defines rogue waves as offshore waves that are at least twice the height of surrounding waves and sneaker waves as waves near shore that are unexpectedly and significantly larger than other waves reaching shore at the time. Scientists do not yet understand what causes sneaker waves, and their relationship to rogue waves, if any, has not been established.

"Find the Place You Love. Then Move There. If where you live isn’t truly your home, and you have the resources to make a change, it could do wonders for your happiness."

The Atlantic suggests an article for me — from a couple years ago — that's right in my zone. It's by Arthur C. Brooks, The Atlantic's happiness expert, who — I'd noticed — has a new article in The Atlantic that I'd seen but chose not to click on: "Think About Your Death and Live Better/Contemplating your mortality might sound morbid, but it’s actually a key to happiness."

Did the Atlantic somehow see that I looked at the death article but decided not to read it and calculate that I might want to contemplate falling in love with someplace other than home and moving there? 

The "Find the Place You Love" essay begins with an anecdote about a man who grew up in Minnesota, moved to Northern California, and then missed Minnesota. When I read the title, I thought the idea was to cast a wide net, consider everywhere, and fall in love with something. But if it's just look back on your life and understand what was your real home, that's a much more restricted set of options. There's a good chance you already live in what is for you the most home-like place, and if you were to leave, thinking you'd found a better place — Northern California is "better" than Minnesota — you'd become vividly aware of the feeling of home

There is a word for love of a place: topophilia, popularized by the geographer Yi-Fu Tuan in 1974 as all of “the human being’s affective ties with the material environment.” In other words, it is the warm feelings you get from a place. It is a vivid, emotional, and personal experience, and it leads to unexplainable affections....

It is worth reflecting on your strongest positive synesthetic tendencies—and the place they remind you of. They are a good guide to your topophilic ideal, and thus an important factor to be aware of as you design a physical future in line with your happiness. 

Could a place that has never been your home become the place you love in this way? It's possible that none of your homes over the years ever felt like home? What is this idealized notion that there's a place that's "truly your home"?  

It makes me think of the old gospel song "I Can't Feel at Home in This World Anymore":

This world is not my home, I'm just a-passing through
My treasures and my hopes are all beyond the blue;
Where many Christian children have gone on before
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore 
Over in glory land there is no dying there
The saints are shouting Victory and singing everywhere
I hear the voice of Nell that I have heard before
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore...

Heaven's expecting me that's one thing I know
I fixed it up with Jesus a long time ago
He will take me through though I am weak and poor
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore....

Back to "Find the Place You Love. Then Move There": 

Among the entrepreneurs I studied, I noticed a tendency to put personal capital at risk in exchange for explosive rewards—rewards that can be hard to see at the time the risk is taken, but that the entrepreneurs intuitively feel will come. As the economist Joseph Schumpeter described the entrepreneur’s impulse, “there is the dream and the will to found a private kingdom.”... [Y]ou can... be an entrepreneur in the truest sense, occupied in the enterprise of building your life, your private kingdom. And sometimes, that means risking your emotional capital for explosive rewards that you feel in your heart will come.

"A California father died after being struck by a car Thursday night while helping a family of ducks cross a busy road...."

The NY Post quotes a 12-year-old boy, who took photos of the man and then witnessed his death:
"He got out of the car and was shooing the ducks and everyone was clapping because he was being really nice... They were saying, 'Oh, it’s so cute. It’s so nice of him.' And then all of a sudden he was hit by a car.... He was the only person to get out of the car and try and help them and probably the nicest person in the entire area. It’s not fair." 

"Unless I am in unbearable pain, I should be able to live right up to the last moments."

"Here is an inspiring (although slightly gruesome) example: Under bloody Queen Mary, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, the author of the lovely Anglican prayer book, was burned at the stake for his protestant views despite signing false confessions of faith in Catholic doctrine. Even as the flames licked up around him, and his death was moments away, he was very much living (not dying) when he put his right hand into the heart of the fire to punish it for signing false confessions. I know I will die soon. But must I be miserable about it? Why not find a cause for joy in each day?... There’s nothing wrong with dying. All the best people in history have done it. Let foolish philosophers see themselves as dying every day. Thinking of death, I choose life."

"[W]e just got back another blood result... My wife, Marla, and I say to each other, 'No matter what this shows, it’s perfect.'"

"Indeed, it showed a big jump in this blood marker, which wouldn’t be something to celebrate. It is what it is. It’s real. And what’s more fun than reality?"

Said Dr. Roland Griffith, quoted in "A Psychedelics Pioneer Takes the Ultimate Trip" (NYT). The "ultimate trip" refers to his dying (of cancer). 
After getting the diagnosis, I had no immediate interest in psychedelics. I felt in many respects that I was having a very psychedelic-like experience. There was this awakening, this aliveness, and I hesitated to take a psychedelic because I wondered whether it was going to disrupt that. 
Then a question arose: Is there something I’m avoiding by not taking a psychedelic? Am I defending against some dark, fearful thing I’m in denial about? Am I papering it over with this story of how great I’m doing and actually I’m scared to death?...

So he took LSD, and he "asked the cancer," "What are you doing here? What can you tell me about what’s going on?" Getting no answer, he flattered cancer: "I really respect you. I talk about you as a blessing. I have had this astonishing sense of well-being and gratitude, despite everything that’s happening, and so I want to thank you." Then he got an answer when he asked cancer if it was going to kill him:

The answer was, “Yes, you will die, but everything is absolutely perfect; there’s meaning and purpose to this that goes beyond your understanding, but how you’re managing that is exactly how you should manage it.”

"Those visits are typically what people are trying to avoid when they keep their conditions secret...."

Writes Carolyn Hax, responding to a letter, in "Aunt kept her cancer secret, so no one could say goodbye" (WaPo).
It’s not necessarily a personal rejection of their loved ones, so please don’t think your aunt was avoiding you specifically or her family in general. In my experience, it’s the goodbye scene that the terminally ill are rejecting. It’s not just illness, either. Many people go out of their way not to be the center of attention, period. There are brides who dread aisles, birthday honorees who dread their own parties, sufferers who conceal their pain for fear of mobilizing a help army, patients who deflect bedside displays of concern.

Ha ha. I identify with that, not as a person who has hidden a disease, but as a person who had the smallest possible wedding and who hasn't had a birthday party since my age was in the single digits. 

I think if the aunt saw her loved ones as she was dying, she was saying goodbye to them, and she wanted to see them as they were to her when they saw her as she was when she was not dying. That is, she didn't want them transformed into something strangely overdramatic but to experience life while she was still in it.

Forced into acting by a steady diet of chicken patties and canned peas.

I'm reading this obituary of a character actor:


That's from 1946. I was interested in Charles Butterworth because I just watched the 1932 movie "Love Me Tonight." I was going on about that movie in the comments to yesterday's post about 3 movies from the 1930s. The other 2 were "The Smiling Lieutenant" and "One Hour With You." 

All 3 starred Maurice Chevalier, and all 3 featured the character actor Charles Ruggles, but this morning I was clicking around and reading about Charles Butterworth, reading his Wikipedia page, wondering if he killed himself and fascinated by the information that "His distinctive voice was the inspiration for the Cap'n Crunch commercials created by the Jay Ward studio."


In the comments to yesterday's post, I linked to video of the entire movie "Love Me Tonight" (which was directed by Rouben Mamoulian). I specified that I loved the first 18 minutes, which features some brilliant use of what I think is called musique concrète. Sound effects like hammering and street noise converge into music. I'll just embed the video below.

We're introduced to Paris in general and then Maurice Chevalier specifically and to his highly sexualized relationship to Paris. Eventually, the montage of sound and the music carries us to the Princess who's longing for love but cloistered in her chateau (and singing her lungs out).

The 18 minutes I love are completed as a ladder comes into view. Scroll to that point and you'll experience the entrance of Charles Butterworth (as the Comte de Savignac, the extreme opposite of a desirable lover):

Here's something interesting about Butterworth: He was friends with Robert Benchley and other literary wits of the time and "became so famous for his dry quips and cynical asides that Hollywood screenwriters began writing only fragmentary scripts for him, hoping that the actor would 'fill in the blanks' with his own bon mots." We're told he once "complained," exclaiming, "I need material as much as anyone else!" 

Was that a complaint or an example of the wit?

"I always thought when you got to be a certain age, you’d give anything to be younger. But I am so excited to be dead in, like, 20 years. Because there’s not much more of this I can take."

Said David Sedaris — after he was asked about A.I. taking over the jobs of writers — quoted in "Could the Next Great Author Be a Robot? We Asked (Human) Writers. At the PEN America Literary Awards, David Sedaris, Judith Thurman and others discussed the role A.I. could play in literature" (NYT).

When you're young, you want there to be a lot of space between now and where you're picturing your death day. It's never distant enough — and, of course, it's always potentially today — and you cling to a vague fantasy of immortality. But when you are old, you continually notice benefits in the short time line: These problems are not mine to solve. I do not exist much further out on this trajectory.

If you are young, you should know that old people are mostly keeping this secret. We don't want to demoralize you as you shoulder the burdens of life, and we don't want to seem as though we don't care. 

Look how J.K. Rowling got lambasted 2 weeks ago when she said "I do not walk around my house, thinking about my legacy. You know, what a pompous way to live your life walking around thinking, 'What will my legacy be?' Whatever, I’ll be dead. I care about now. I care about the living."

She was saying that she cared about the living and didn't worry about herself or the ghost of a self that would remain out there in the future. Yet that curt "Whatever, I’ll be dead" really hit younger people.

"[T]he gap between Covid-19 mortality and overall excess mortality has proved remarkably, and mystifyingly, persistent...."

Writes David Wallace-Wells, in "Why Are So Many Americans Dying Right Now?" (NYT).

[A]lmost every week for more than six months, the agency has calculated that total excess mortality was 50 percent larger than and often almost twice as large as the number of official Covid-19 deaths.... What are the hypotheses? 

The first is delayed care [caused by the pandemic]....

A second hypothesis is about the indirect effects of pandemic restrictions... social isolation, anxiety... unemployment, which can worsen a wide range of conditions, as well as, potentially, suicide and homicide and even car accidents and overdoses....

A third hypothesis is that Covid-19 infection does harm to the body that can linger after recovery for some people....

If you are waiting for "a fourth hypothesis, the vaccine," I can tell you it is not in this article. The vaccine is mentioned but not as a possible cause of the excess deaths. But Wallace-Wells discusses a subset of the "third hypothesis" as "another hypothesis":

Another hypothesis is that Covid infection damages immune function in some patients in a long-lasting way....

So the damage to the immune function, if any, is presumed to come from the disease and not the vaccine. Wallace-Wells notes that there is "a lot of contestation and pushback against — and contextualizing," but only about the effect of the disease. Questioning the vaccine cannot even be a hypothesis. He proceeds to talk about how our emotions drive our thinking on the subject:

Among the many lessons of the pandemic, for me, has been how much more complicated and baffling disease severity and death are.... how simplistic it often feels to apply a single cause of death.... Yet we’ve wanted stories we drew from the pandemic to be straightforward and legible, no matter how messy and nuanced so many cases turned out to be....

Does this want cause you to exclude the complicating factor that is the vaccine? As I write this, I am feeling the fear of questioning the vaccine. 

Here's the parenthetical in the article where Wallace-Wells excludes the vaccine:

If long Covid or post-acute sequelae were primarily responsible [for the excess deaths], we might expect to see a spike in non-Covid excess deaths at some interval following each particular wave of infection — perhaps a few weeks or perhaps a few months later. (If vaccination risk was playing a role, it might create the same pattern, but that’s not what the curves show.) 

There is also the idea that the excess mortality is really made up of deaths from Covid that were not registered as Covid deaths because they died at home and why test for Covid when the death certificate can say heart disease?

Throughout the pandemic, about 20 percent of in-hospital deaths have been attributed to Covid-19, compared to barely 2 percent of deaths at home. If you roughly triple the share of at-home deaths attributed to Covid — still well short of the share in hospitals — you make the Covid death toll a bit larger but almost entirely eliminate the excess excess gap. And if you adjust it to match the share of deaths attributed to Covid everywhere but homes — hospitals, outpatient clinics, nursing homes — you actually overshoot the gap....

That sounds quite plausible, but I note the emotion in my desire to embrace it. It's the most comforting thought. People who died were old and already in bad health, and Covid knocked them off relatively peacefully. They died at home. And they were expected to die. They'd reached the end of their life. Nothing strange is going on. Rest easy.

"Where does this leave us?," the last paragraph of the article begins. And here comes the one other mention of the vaccine:

More Americans are still dying than expected, which means at some point the United States may have to reset its expectations for how many will die in a given year at least a bit higher. The country long ago walked away from most mitigation measures beyond vaccination. (And even there, booster uptake has been quite low.)...

You can see that the reference to the vaccine is entirely positive. The only fault is only in us: We're not continuing to take it.

Forced into acting by a steady diet of chicken patties and canned peas.

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