Monthly Archives: July 2011

The Fantastic, Incredible, Amazing and Totally Confounding World Of Human Beings

I was thinking about humanity today.

I know what you might be thinking. Doesn’t this guy have anything better to do that to sit around and think about…humanity? I mean, when it comes to thinking (which itself is becoming more and more rare), contemplating the future of the human race is a pretty dangerous thing. It can take you down some pretty tricky alleys. Thinking about why human beings behave the way we do is actually pretty frightening. Hell, if you think too much, you might end up…depressed or worse

But earlier I was watching a British television program, Penn & Teller: Fool Us. The basic idea of the show is that magicians from around the world go on this British Saturday night prime time television program, hosted by a bloke who I believe is a magician or the U.S. equivalent of Jay Leno (ie: Not too funny), and try to perform magic tricks that fool the great magic duo of Penn & Teller.

Penn is the guy on the left, a sort of spoof of a carnival barker who’s also a master magician and at six feet eight inches tall is a rather imposing figure. The guy on the right is named Teller and he is probably one of the most well-read and respected magicians in the world. But like Harpo Marx’s character in the Marx Brothers films, Teller is mute. He never speaks, not never, not no way, no how. (Although he does speak in private, he “holds his tongue” whenever Penn & Teller are performing. But magic fascinated me because it can be used to entertain, but also to deceive. Lately, there’s been more than too much deception by politicians in America. So it put me in a very thoughtful, rather cynical mood.

Later in the day, I was doing the rather dull task of mopping the kitchen floor. To me, mopping is a lot like raking leaves. It’s a job that never ends. Also, mopping is not the most demanding psychological task. It gives a person like me a chance to ponder some of life’s larger questions. For instance, one thing I was thinking about was why we now have have an elected body of representatives in Washington who refuse to agree on…anything! For example, there’s been endless debate on taxation and how much money the rich and the poor in this country should be forced render unto our government. Also up for debate has been how that money should be spent; whether it should be used to buy more guns and tanks and weapons to destroy other human beings or, perhaps, on ensuring health care for all Americans, something that we could do as a nation, if we wanted to.

So there I was mopping away my Sunday afternoon afternoon. I began thinking specifically about how humans are capable of fantastic, incredible and amazing things. Humans, as most would agree, are at the top of the food chain, meaning that we’re smarter than chimps and dolphins, we can use our thumbs (which come in very handy when you’re mopping) AND (this is the biggie, so here it comes…) WE CAN REASON. Yes, our ability to use a tiny portion of our brains to reason is the one thing that differentiates us from Harry the dog and Kitty Cat and the rest of the animal kingdom, of which we are, of course, the master of for all time. Yes, human beings are the master race. And if you don’t believe me, check out what good old Charles Darwin had to say way back in the 19th Century:

Darwin established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.– Wikipedia, (that Internet resource of complete and total accuracy.) Ha ha.

There he is…Charlie Darwin, a very serious fellow, indeed, who certainly spent more than his share of time mopping the kitchen floors and thinking about humanity. (Or maybe he had the maid mop for him.)

But if human beings are the top of the pops, the bees knees, the best and the brightest of all living things, then I would like somebody to step up to the plate and explain to me a thing or two. Firstly, I’d like to know why human beings cannot seem to stop killing one another. Since the beginning of recorded history, we humans have hellbent on a crazed and insatiable bloody rampage intended to murder or maim anybody who looks, acts or behaves different from us. It seems to be part of a terrible dichotomy; our ability to at once love and hate one another. Our history as humans is a degrading, beguiling time together filled with either great progress and achievement that can takes your breath away, or else endless murders, wars, conquests, and genocides that should make you and I ashamed to call ourselves humans.

Check it out. 160 million people were killed in the the 20th century alone due to fighting and endless blood lust. Why? This may sound naive, but I’d like a good answer to why human beings seem unable to stop killing one another? Why can’t we all just get along? Why can’t humans make love and not war? Despite the overpopulation of certain areas, it’s a big old world out there and there’s still plenty of space on the planet for everybody. And there should be plenty of food for all too if we could only find a way to distribute it without greed getting in the way. If we could use our brains to create new eco-systems and new resources for energy we could stop living on top of each other and use all the wonderful natural resources that Planet Earth has to offer.

After all, it is a beautiful blue ball. But what we make of it is not so beautiful.

The sad news is this: It may be too late to save the planet. In the last few weeks and months we’ve seen record breaking heatwaves, tornadoes, earthquakes and floods all over the world. Do you think Mother Earth is trying to tell us something? Do you think we might be on the wrong course and in dire need of redirection?

But still there are legions of people who continue to deny “Global Climate Change”. “It’s gotta be some kind of socialist propaganda that Al Gore is still trying to spread,” they say. It can’t possibly have anything to do with these useless giant SUV’s that clog our roads coughing out poisonous, toxic carbon monoxide. And it couldn’t be our oil and coal burning plants belching out endless streams of black smog. And please, please, please don’t tell me that it was all predicted to happen this way and that we are entering the “end times” prophesied in the bible or the Koran or some other book written by crazed extremists. Cause they’ve been predicting the end times practically from the start.

We are in trouble, folks, both locally and globally and nobody is doing a damned thing about it. Sadly, if this isn’t just the decline and fall of the imperialist United States, it could be something much, much worse.

Several years ago, the writer Cormac McCarthy published, “The Road.” It the story of a father and son walking through a ruined America, searching for food, warmth and people who hadn’t yet gone insane. McCarthy never specified the cause of all the destruction. Instead, he wrote of the terrible realities of a society in which people had abandoned all morality and decorum. He painted a picture of a world, that you and I don’t would not want to live to see. A world in which wandering rogue gangs stalk the countryside, enslaving of the weak and old, committing acts of thievery, murder and even eating each other to stay alive. The horror, indeed.

I pray that there is still time left for human beings to recognize their common interests, needs and desires and instead of fearing and fighting and warring we can begin to work together to save the planet, save humanity and save ourselves.

The future is in your own hands.

How will you use your hands? Will you use them to help or to hurt? To build or to burn?

As they say, the rest is up to you.

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“Jaws – Memories From Martha’s Vineyard”

On a recent visit to Martha’s Vineyard, I was browsing through the books inside the A Bunch Of Grapes bookstore in Vineyard Haven, when out of the corner of my eye, I spotted it. It was a large coffee-table sized book with the title, Jaws – Memories From Martha’s Vineyard. Being a longtime Jaws fanatic and knowing that much of the movie was shot on Martha’s Vineyard (and in the waters off the coast), I began poring through the pages of this gorgeous 296-page masterpiece of a book.

I was only 15 when the film was released, and looking through the pages of this exciting new Jaws book took me instantly back to those teenage years, not to mention the incredible heart-pounding suspense of Steven Spielberg’s seminal film about a Great White Shark that wreaks havoc on a busy, beach community and just won’t go away.

The book was compiled by author Matt Taylor and Jaws expert and memorabilia collector Jim Beller. For the first time ever, the two men have put together a shark-sized, treasure trove of behind the scenes photos, drawings, production notes and stories from the folks who were there during the making of the film, both Islanders and filmmakers who came to Martha’s Vineyard to make a movie of Peter Benchley’s best-selling novel Jaws. According to the Jaws: Memories From Martha’s Vineyard web site (www.mvremembersjaws.com), this is a “one of a kind collection sure to please even the most diehard Jaws aficionados.”

The pictures of the making of the film are absolutely riveting, like this one of a young Steven Spielberg filming one of the attack scenes from the front of the bow of the Orca, the boat that eventually tracks down the Great White Shark in the film.

Hundreds of locals had to be hired as actors, extras, production assistants and laborers. And the book includes eyewitness tales and tidbits along with interviews with many of the Islanders who participated, many of whom became movie actors for the first time in Jaws. Also interviewed in Jaws: Memories From Martha’s Vineyard: Jaws Production Designer Joe Alves, Screenwriter Carl Gottlieb (who also acts in the movie), Location Casting Director Shari Rhodes and many more.

The book features countless stories about Bruce, the first name of Spielberg’s attorney and the name given to the mechanical shark(s) that were used to create the special effects, back in the days when directors like Steven Speilberg insisted on shooting on location with as much authenticity as possible. When Jaws premiered, it set just about every box office record and became not just a blockbuster of a film, but a part of movie making history. Plus it made “going in the water” an unnerving endeavor for quite some time.

Now all of the memories of the making of Jaws have been compiled into one huge coffee-table book (the book’s website features the warning: You’re Gonna Need A Bigger Coffee Table. Indeed, this is being called the greatest “making of a film” books ever compiled. The book is available in two formats, a softcover version and a special signed and number “Limited Edition” hardcover copy that also includes a DVD and an actual 1″ by 1″ piece of the Orca II, used in the film.

This is truly a must-have book for any fan of the film Jaws. As temperatures continue to soar into the 90s and higher, this book is a tremendous way to revisit a time and a place long ago. All you have to do is buy the book, and then simply find yourself a nice cool spot where you can “really sink your teeth” into Jaws: Memories From Martha’s Vineyard.

For more information on how to purchase your copy, visit http://www.mvremembersjaws.com

(I think I might need a bigger blog!)

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