“Anything, anything would be better than this agony of mind, this creeping pain that gnaws and fumbles and caresses one and never hurts quite enough.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre

 (Since publication, I have since been informed that this image is actually from a 2010 movie, After Shock. Now I’m perplexted as to whether or not I should delete the image since it is produced. Does that make it less powerful? Thoughts?)

” . . . but when the pain is unmerited, the grief is resistless.” ~ Ovid

I have not been this haunted by a photograph since I saw the photograph of an old man carrying his starving child on his shoulders in Ethiopia.  I still have this curled, yellow newspaper image somewhere in my collection of clippings and pictures.

I am reminded of Kate Daniels’s poem “War Photograph,” which references the Pulitzer-Prize winning photograph by AP photographer Nick Ut. The iconic 1972 image depicts a naked, burned child (nine-year-old Kim Phúc) running away from her village, which has been napalmed.

Following is information that I have culled from various sources regarding yesterday’s events in Japan and the Pacific:

Japan was hit by one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded on Friday. The magnitude-8.9 quake spawned a deadly tsunami that slammed into the nation’s east coast, leaving a huge swath of devastation in its wake. Hundreds of people are dead and many more are still missing or injured.

Japan has often donated when other countries have experienced disasters, such as when Hurricane Katrina impacted the United States. Below are organizations that are working on relief and recovery in the region.

AMERICAN RED CROSS: Emergency Operation Centers are opened in the affected areas and staffed by the chapters. This disaster is on a scale larger than the Japanese Red Cross can typically manage. Donations to the American Red Cross can be allocated for the International Disaster Relief Fund, which then deploys to the region to help. Donate here.

GLOBALGIVING: Established a fund to disburse donations to organizations providing relief and emergency services to victims of the earthquake and tsunami. Donate here.

SAVE THE CHILDREN: Mobilizing to provide immediate humanitarian relief in the shape of emergency health care and provision of non-food items and shelter. Donate here.

SALVATION ARMY: The Salvation Army has been in Japan since 1895 and is currently providing emergency assistance to those in need. Donate here.

AMERICARES: Emergency team is on full alert, mobilizing resources and dispatching an emergency response manager to the region. Donate here.

CONVOY OF HOPE: Disaster Response team established connection with in-country partners who have been impacted by the damage and are identifying the needs and areas where Convoy of Hope may be of the greatest assistance. Donate here.

INTERNATIONAL MEDICAL CORPS
: Putting together relief teams, as well as supplies, and are in contact with partners in Japan and other affected countries to assess needs and coordinate our activities. Donate here.

SHELTER BOX: The first team is mobilizing to head to Japan and begin the response effort. Donate here.

Yuki Kajiura, “Hear Our Prayer”

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“Very superstitious, writings on the wall,/Very superstitious, ladders bout to fall” ~ From Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”

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The U.S. Book Cover for Supersense

“There is superstition in avoiding superstitions.” Sir Francis Bacon

Supersense: Bruce Hood’s Book Hits the Shelves

I know that several people who follow my blog also follow Supersense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable (http://brucemhood.wordpress.com/), which is hosted by researcher, scientist, and author Bruce M. Hood.

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Supersense U.K. Cover

Bruce’s blog is always entertaining, very often educational, and the comment streams can be great fun. I have been visiting Bruce’s blog for a while now, and I will freely admit that it is one of my favorites. I think that I enjoy the comments as much as the blogs themselves. Those of us who comment regularly are an irreverent bunch, mostly from the UK and the US, but people drop in from all over the world.

Bruce is currently on the U.S. leg of his promotional tour for his book, which has the same name as his blog site; unfortunately for me, Bruce’s tour dates didn’t come anywhere near the Mid-Atlantic, or I would have traveled to see him. As it is, once I am able to purchase is book, I am probably going to send it to Bruce so that he can autograph it for me.

I’ll probably order the UK version as I really prefer that cover to the US cover. (Decisions on cover designs for different countries is fodder for an entire class on design. Don’t get me started.)

Here is a brief description from the Amazon site:

Why is it that Tony Blair always wore the same pair of shoes when answering Prime Minister’s Questions? That John McEnroe notoriously refused to step on the white lines of a tennis court between points? And that President-elect Barack Obama played a game of basketball the morning of his victory in the Iowa primary, and continued the tradition the day of every following primary? Superstitious habits are common. Do you ever cross your fingers, knock on wood, avoid walking under ladders, or step around black cats? Sentimental value often supersedes material worth. If someone offered to replace your childhood teddy bear or wedding ring with a brand new, exact replica, would you do it?

It has been wonderful keeping up with him and his promotions people in the big lead up to the publication dates in the UK and in the US. And in spite of his busy and hectic schedule, he still finds time to post to allow his regular readers to keep up with his goings on.

He was on NPR on April 7 with Brian Lehrer, but I missed the show. If I hadn’t missed it, you can bet that I would have called in and asked Bruce about mummified mermaids. But since I missed the show, I wanted to take this opportunity to post the youtube of the show, called “Are You Superstitious?”

 

 

“Men are probably nearer the central truth in their superstitions than in their science” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Personally, I am very superstitious about some things but not others, but I don’t really think about it until someone points it out. For example, I have no problems in opening an umbrella inside of the house or a building, but this drives my poor mother crazy. However, I do not like to walk under ladders; but to be perfectly honest, I think that this dislike arises more from clumsiness than superstition.

I don’t believe in throwing salt over my shoulder or knocking on wood (more because everything is laminate, and that kind of defeats the purpose of wood), but I do believe in ghosts, more because of events that have happened in my life. I’ll pick up pennies whether they are heads up or heads down, just because I view a penny as part of a larger whole; is that in itself a superstition?

arnold_6661Friday the 13th passes by without my acknowledgement, but I wouldn’t want to stay on the 13th floor of a hotel, nor would I want to stay in room 666. I don’t believe in the seven years of bad luck associated with breaking mirrors, but I might want to rethink that one considering the string of bad luck that we’ve had.

I don’t believe in lucky clothes, but I’m not an athlete. My former husband used to be a competitive runner, and he had a lucky t-shirt. And I’ve known other people who play sports who have lucky socks or lucky shirts. However, I do have an old sweater from the sixth grade that I refuse to rid myself of, as well as a t-shirt from high school that is faded and wouldn’t fit on my thigh, but I cannot bring myself to throw that away either. Superstition or sentimentality? Is there a difference?

walking-on-broken-glass
Walking on Broken Glass by L. Liwag

I am not afraid of black cats; in fact, I find them rather beautiful. But I do believe in angels or angelic presence. I don’t believe in things commonly referred to as “old wives’ tales,” but my mother still clings to many of these.

For example, my mother still has a thing about the night air, as in people who are sick shouldn’t go out in the night air. This “old wives’s tale” actually dates back to the Renaissance and before. People used to believe that ill humours floated about in the night air, and those who actually chanced a nightly constitutional among the humours would be affected adversely by catching diseases and ailments. As a result of this, my mother would never let me go out at night when I was younger for fear that my asthma would be affected by the night air.

Okay, then.

I can tell you that since my operation, my back now is a very good predictor of rain and snow, just as people for years have claimed that their arthritis predicts bad weather.

“Like it or not, we’re still a primitive tribe ruled by fears, superstition and misinformation.” ~ Bill Maher 

My father used to have this funny superstition, but I’m not sure if he really believed it or just found it funny enough to pass on. Apparently, an ancient Filipino, perhaps Asian cure for when people were choking on fish bones was to pat them on the head. I’ll never forget when Alexis seemed to have something caught in her throat, and my dad said, “Pat her on the head. It will go away.” Luckily, she wasn’t really choking. We’ve laughed about that one for years.

Another superstition among many tribes and religions is that of a woman being unclean when she is menstruating. In some cultures, these women were/are made to go stay in a separate hut or room until her menses passes. Often the superstition is that the woman can contaminate the rest of the village somehow, or, that the menstruating woman is a little bit mad. I can vouch for the latter: Men should try having bloating, cramps, headaches, insomnia, and mood swings every month of their lives . . .

full-moon-croppedThen there are the serial killers. Now there’s a superstitious bunch for you. What do I mean? How about those who will only kill under the full moon? Or those who will only kill women with blond hair? Or those that will bury their dead in the same place because it’s lucky? Icky, huh?

Or cultural superstitions: not eating cows because they are sacred (India), throwing coins in a fountain while facing away from a fountain will grant three wishes (Argentina), or not sleeping with your head pointed north because that’s the direction that dead people face (Japan).

Or doomsday cults. That’s another superstitious subculture. The world will end at the new millennium. The world will end when women get the vote. The world will end when blacks are integrated into society. The world will end when I finally publish a book. No wait, that one is mine. Sorry.

I’m not even going to touch on the superstitions tied to various religions. That is a book all by itself. Scientology anyone?

I could go on, but it would be much better if you ordered Bruce’s book (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or your independent bookseller), and read about these things as written by an expert on the subject.

I do want to close with a quote by the incredible Carl Sagan when he was pondering what would happen at the close of the millennium: “I worry that, especially as the Millennium edges nearer, pseudo-science and superstition will seem year by year more tempting, the siren song of unreason more sonorous and attractive.”

 “Siren song of unreason”—boy I wish that I had written that.

More later. Peace.

Nothing A Hot Bath Won’t Cure

“Sorrow can be alleviated by good sleep, a bath, and a glass of wine” ~ St. Thomas Aquinas

“Water is life’s mater and matrix, mother and medium. There is no life without water.” ~ Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

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Berthe Morisot's "A Woman at her Toilette"

I was thinking about baths today. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to have a long soak in our old tub without running out of hot water, which totally defeats the purpose of a long, hot bath. As Sylvia Plath once said, “there must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure, but I can’t think of any of them.”

For years, though, a long, hot bath has been my escape. At one time, and this will sound completely insane, but you would have to have known me at this time, I used to run a really hot bath, filling the tub almost to overflowing. And then I would open a bottle of Spumanti and sip on my sparkling bubbly and talk on the telephone with one of my oldest and dearest friends. The catch here was that I would take a valium first.

You’re probably thinking, ‘my god, she had a real problem.’ Not exactly, it was only a few months after losing my daughter Caitlin, and I was having a very hard time deciding if I wanted to keep trying in this game known as life. So I would numb myself to the pain in the only way that I knew how at the time, and then I would let my friend Kathleen talk me through it. The water was usually cold by the end, and I would have cried myself silly and just go to bed and collapse.

I haven’t done anything like that in years, but when you are in pain, and you feel as if you have nowhere to go, sometimes the only thing that you can do is take a bath, because deep down, you know that if you get in a car, you probably won’t be coming home.

But over the years, the kids have learned to leave me alone when I am in the tub. Of course, when they were much younger, I could only take a long, hot bath after they had gone to bed; otherwise, they would be standing outside of the door saying, “What are you doing in there, Mommy? Why can’t we come in?” which definitely defeats the purpose of trying to have a bit of time to yourself.

Now, my routine is usually something along these lines: hot water plus bath salts, usually lavender or verbena, two or three candles, my small boombox and a few CD’s, depending upon how long I plan to retreat. I might just choose a collection of Bach or Chopin, or maybe one of my compilation disks. Also, I need a cup of tea, and then no bath would be complete without my dog Shakes . . .

Shakes? Yes, unfortunately, Shakes decided when he was very young that anytime I go in the bathroom and shut the door, he has to come in and protect me. And depending upon his mood, might take the whole protection thing a bit too far. For example, if Corey tries to bring my tea in after I’m in the bath, sometimes Shakes nips at his toes as if to say, ‘no one allowed except for me.’

Shakes is a very single-minded Jack Russell. The only thing that he loves more than me, possibly, is a tennis ball, and at one time, he would bring the ball with him into the bathroom and then very deliberately drop it into my bath—over and over again until my bath time was over or I tired of playing bath ball with him.

“Of the water drops that fall/ Into the stone bowl,/You will feel that all the dust/Of your mind is washed away.” ~ Sen-No-Rikyu

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Kurama Onsen Bath House in Kyoto

I have always been intrigued by the concept of the traditional Japanese bath or Ofuro. Because Japan sits between two volcanic belts, the country is replete with many natural hot springs. The tradition of the Japanese bath dates back to the Buddhist Monks around 550 AD, in which the bath was seen more as a religious ritual for purification of the body and soul. Bath houses that use water from a hot spring are called onsen. Bath houses in which the water is heated are called sento.

Bath houses were used not only a ritual cleansing of body, mind, and spirit; they were also used as a means of community socializing since few homes had their own bathhouses. Specific of the onsen or sento would be partitioned off for after-bath socializing, light meals, or tea. The method for a traditional Japanese bath is still quite ritualistic, even though since the mid 20th century, more private homes have their own baths, causing a great decline in the communal bathhouses.

To indulge in a Japanese bath, the bather usually has to perform certain key steps. First, the cleansing of body and hair are done in a separate area of the sento, which allows the communal water to remain clean. The individual bather removes his or her clothes changing room which usually provides bins or lockers for clothes. Afterwards, the bather enters naked into the actual bathroom, which is usually separated by a cloth to keep the bathing area quite warm and steamy, and then bathes and washes completely using a personal cloth brought from home.

Only after bathing in the actual bathing room is the bather allowed to enter the communal bath, which is very hot. Bathers are immersed up to their necks in the hot water, and can relax as long as they like. Often, there is a smaller pool of cool water to jump into before going into the very hot water. After the long soak, most Sentos offer Shiatsu, or massages.

The entire process can leave a person feeling completely relaxed and rejuvenated, but often not willing to do much more afterwards, which is why so many people bathe in the evening.

“We cannot see our reflection in running water. It is only in still water that we can see.” ~ Taoist Proverb

after-the-bath-woman-drying-herself-by-edward-degas
"After the Bath, Woman Drying Herself," by Edward Degas

Anyway . . . I was thinking about some of the better bath tub scenes from movies that I can recall. Let’s see . . .

There is the scene in The English Patient in which Katharine and Almaszy are sharing a tub, and she makes Almaszy tell her what he loves and what he hates. It begins as a seemingly light-hearted scene, but ends with Katharine’s anguish when Almaszy declares that what he hates most is “ownership.” He tells her, “Ownership. Being owned. What you leave here you should forget me.” Not a good way to end a bath.

In Legends of the Fall Susannah and Tristan are bathing in a hot spring after Tristan has had to kill a calf that was caught in barbed wire. The scenery is beautiful, but the interaction between Susannah and Tristan is nonexistent because Tristan has already left in his mind.

Witness in which the newly-widowed Rachel gives herself a sponge bath in a standing tub, which John Book comes upon, is one of the most chaste moments of passion in film.

The Fountain contains a passionate bathtub scene between Rachel Weisz and Hugh Jackman that is more romantic than revealing.

The next one isn’t necessarily important to the movie, but I love the bathtub itself in A Perfect Murder, with Gwyneth Paltrow, Michael Douglas, and Viggo Mortensen.

Mustn’t forget Harry Potter’s gigantic bubble bath scene in the fourth installment of the series, The Goblet of Fire.

And just for grins, I thought that I’d throw in the bathtub scene from Fatal Attraction. Moral of the story: make sure the psychopath is dead before turning your back on her.

In reflecting on it, there are far more shower scenes in movies and on television than bathtub scenes; unless you are interested in gore, in which case bathtubs full of blood and gore abound in movies. But that’s not exactly what I would call relaxing.

More later. Peace.