I've been busy with work, website revamping, and other offline issues. However, I'm still writing on these topics, and I still have some days open.
Day 4: plasticsturgeon: Deep Sea Fish
This one is turning out to be a poem, and it’s coming slowly. However, I can tell you ten fascinating facts about deep sea fish.
1. We don’t know much about them, partly because their bodies are adapted to the enormous pressures of their native ocean depths. Any lab where they could be examined would have to be under the same pressure, in which case human scientists would be flattened.
2. If brought too rapidly to the surface, they can get the bends, just like human divers.
3. Or their cells can explode – not, so far as I know, like human divers. This fact may be the origin of the Discworld delicacy called blowfish squishi. See Pyramids.
4. They live so far below the ocean’s surface they never see sunlight.
5. Some couldn’t see sunlight anyway, because they are not just blind but eyeless.
6. Others, however, would be blinded by an excess of light. Their eyes are as much as 100 times more light-sensitive than human eyes. (All these comparisons with humans seem stale, but our own selves are the measure of strangeness.)
7. Among the top Google results for “deep sea fish” are several articles touting the weirdness and ugliness of these astonishing creatures.
8. Why do they have eyes anyway, if they never see sunlight?
9. I can’t give you a because. “Because” implies causality.
10. They swim in the dark, lit only by the glow of their own luminous flesh.
Day 5: amaebi: An Echo of Guy Fawkes
Last year I reread Brideshead Revisited for the first time since high school. (Unfortunately, I never saw the BBC production starring the young Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews. ) One of the things that most struck me in the reread was the difficulty of being a Catholic in a Protestant country. By the time of the novel, most of the official laws to keep Catholics out of full civic participation had been eliminated. Nevertheless, being Catholic was a problem. Even though most Protestants in the book didn’t take religion seriously. Even for members of the noble Marchmain family.
“They could not hope for purer lineage or a more gracious presence than Julia's; but there was this faint shadow on her that unfitted her for the highest honours; there was also her religion…. Wherever she turned, it seemed, her religion stood as a barrier between her and her natural goal.”
I’d never really thought about the position of Catholics in twentieth-century Britain, but now I saw the lingering prejudice inherent in Guy Fawkes Day and the laws that make Catholics ineligible for the throne.
And then I looked closer to home. Because in 200-odd years, the USA has had 1 (one) Catholic president (who was assassinated in his first term) and one (1) Catholic vice president – Joe Biden. No Jews or Muslims or Buddhists or atheists.
And I realized that religious persecution was alive and well in our political system. Nothing overt. We don’t need to burn effigies, let alone recusants. But just as Lady Julia was excluded from certain paths, so are all people in the US who aren’t Protestants.
In my lifetime I’ve seen political power shift from mainstream Protestant to fundamentalist Protestant. I’ve seen small inroads being made by members of other excluded groups: women, people of color, queer folk. But I was left with a renewed sense of wonder and irony that so many Protestant fundamentalists still think of themselves as a persecuted minority when they are the only ones who can be elected to the very highest office. (Assuming, of course, that they have the money, the looks, the education, the family, the personal traits, and the influence to climb the political ladder.)
Day 6: melannen: The Weather
When I first started seeing gramina, I lived on top of a hill in northeast Pennsylvania, and she lived in a Los Angeles suburb. I was surprised to learn that her cable package didn’t include the Weather Channel. She explained that the weather was so predictable, most days nobody needed to hear a forecast, and on the days when the weather was bad, it was so destructive that it made headline news. Fire, flood, downpour, landslide, earthquake—and the most terrifying of all, an occasional, paralyzing flake of snow.
That was LA. The Bay Area is somewhat different; we rarely get the blasting desert heat of LA, and our air is considerably less polluted. That’s not civic virtue on our part, it’s topography. Long ago, before LA had any permanent buildings, it was known as the Bay of Smokes for its frequent fogs. There’s a near-permanent air inversion layer over much of LA that prevents smog from dissipating.
California has climate, not weather—an observation I believe was made by John Steinbeck, a native son. I grew up with ever-present possibility of extreme weather: summer days that could be over 100 degrees and 100% humidity, frosts that could strike from September to June, snow as late as Memorial Day, ice storms, blizzards, tornados, the edges of hurricanes, thunderstorms that lit up the nights or blackened the sky in mid-afternoon, and the bitter winter of 1976-1977, when for weeks the days never went above zero and the nights went down to 30 below. Fahrenheit. One Christmas it was 65 degrees. More than once on my August birthday it was 53 degrees and raining. (Ah, summer in upstate PA, indistinguishable from winter in more fortunate climes.) The weather was varied, and perfect days were savored for their scarcity.
In California, months go by with no rain. Autumn is less a season than a condition of specific trees; winter is a place to visit (the Sierras), Almost every day is spring because new flowers can bloom any time. Roses bloom twelve months a year and require approximately the same delicate care that people back home bestow in lilac bushes. (Almost none.)
Though I miss the four-season climate of my first 40-odd years, I’ve learned to love the subtleties of the San Francisco Bay Area’s Mediterranean climate: the slow greening of the hills when the rains come, the soft shimmer of their summer gold against the endless blue of the sky, the almost daily tide of fog pouring over the hills like breaking waves.
Now, after the worst drought in more than a thousand years, we’re finally getting the rain we crave. Tomorrow the Bay Area is supposed to get 50mph winds and 4 – 9 inches of rain. (You read that correctly.) We need every drop, but we don't need the subsequent mess of snarled traffic, flooded streets, fallen trees, and power outages. Not just weather: headline weather. This entry was originally posted at http://wordweaverlynn.dreamwidth.org/643030.html. Please comment here if you want, or there using OpenID. Or send me a message via carrier pigeon or fortune cookie. I'm dying to hear from you.