The voice of conscience is so delicate that it is easy to stifle it; but it is also so clear that it is impossible to mistake it. -Madame De Stael
1. Today is Garrison Keillor’s birthday
2. It’s also the anniversary of court ruling on obscenity of Ulysses
3. Schedule for counting native oysters during August
4. No Wall on the Waterfront can use contributions/do a tour on Aug 17
5. George Bilgere remembers his father taking out the trash
6. Past, Present, & Future of Presidio’s Mountain Lake Aug 18/Read about Nature Soundscapes last month
6b. Spider slide show
7. What’s your vision for Holloway Avenue? Aug 15
8. Nominations open for SF Beautiful’s Annual Beautification Awards
9. Ruminations on the face, by Orwell, Camus, et al
10. Figures of speech; ruminations on language
11. Notes & Queries: Could one produce a newspaper with just positive news?
1. Born 7 August 1942 - Garrison Keillor
JS: I have been fanatic of Prairie Home Companion ever since the 1970s, so I want to celebrate his birthday. I won't try to summarize his contributions to the world - they are too numerous and varied. Below are just a few tidbits.
Definition of a generation: The time it takes from hating your father until you're acting like him.
Garrison Keillor: Lindbergh flew the Atlantic without a radio; now we wouldn't think of going through the produce section without one.
One of his personas is Guy Noir, private eye. Some lines of Guy Noir:
“Time is a great healer but a lousy beautician”
“Age doesn’t always bring wisdom; sometimes age comes alone.”
“She’s not pushing 60, she’s pulling it - with a long rope.”
"I married Miss Right. It was only later that I found her first name was Always."
Garrison Keillor (broadcasting from Town Hall), about learning to drive in New York City: "Go through all yellow lights, and the first part of the red, to keep from getting hit in the rear."
"I hate to see that evening sun go down." (W.C. Handy)
"The most perfect line of iambic pentameter ever written." T.S. Eliot
“The legs are not what go first” Garrison Keillor after a small gaffe (quoting the above line, except saying ‘The most perfect line of iambic pentameter ever heard.”
Max Baer, heavyweight champion of the early 1930s, after unaccountably losing the title to the reputedly has-been James J. Bradford: "I got a million-dollar body and a ten-cent brain."
Or, as Garrison Keillor (as Guy Noir) put it:
"A $50 haircut on a 59-cent head."
On this day in 1934, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the novel Ulysses, by James Joyce, was not obscene. It had been banned in the United States in 1920, and though it was a big-seller on the black market, and Joyce knew he was losing a lot of money to pirate publishers, the only way to fight the ban was to provoke the government into a new obscenity trial. So in 1933, Random House decided to import a single version of the French edition of Ulysses, and the company had people waiting at the New York docks for the book's arrival. It was a hot day and the U.S. Customs inspector didn't want to be bothered with another inspection, but the Random House people made sure that one book was seized. Random House and Joyce appealed, and the judge, John Woolsey, ruled that it was not pornographic. In his judicial opinion, Judge Woolsey wrote, "In respect of the recurrent emergence of the theme of sex in the minds of his characters, it must always be remembered that his locale was Celtic and his season Spring."
Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac
3. The Watershed Project
Hello oyster supporters,
Our summer Bay-wide native oyster monitoring is upcoming so get acquainted with the shoreline of your San Francisco Bay estuary! If you're interested in putting on rubber boots, waders or maybe even a wetsuit and are open to getting a little wet, then this is your opportunity.
If that's a little too adventurous, we also need volunteers to help us count and measure oyster spat on Saturday, August 24th. Either way, this is your chance to become "citizen scientists" and help gather usable data for future oyster restoration projects in the San Francisco Bay. If you can join us, you'll also learn more in-depth information about oyster restoration efforts in the Bay.
Please RSVP soon due to limited spaces. To RSVP, please contact Chris at email@example.com or call 510-214-6897.
Here is our upcoming schedule:
Berkeley 8/18/13 5:00 - 7:00 am
Tiburon 8/19/13 5:00 - 6:00 am
Oyster Point (south San Francisco) 8/19/13 6:45 - 9:00 am
Ferry Point (Richmond) 8/20/13 5:00 - 6:45 am
Point Orient (Richmond) 8/20/13 7:00 - 8:00 am
Alameda 8/21/13 5:00 - 7:30 am
Point Pinole (Richmond + wetsuits) 8/22/13 7:00 - 10:00 am
Richmond (counting + measuring) 8/24/13 10:00 - 1:00 pm
(JS: Contact San Francisco Tomorrow for a special tour of this project (and lunch) on Aug 17: http://sftomorrow.org/)
No Wall on the Waterfront
The great decision the people of San Francisco made over 20 years ago to tear down the Embarcadero Freeway that walled off our waterfront for decades is now being put at risk by the 8 Washington ballot measures - Propositions B and C - that would raise waterfront height limits to build luxury condo towers and create a new, even higher "wall on the waterfront."
See former SF Mayor Art Agnos in our powerful new video: Facts vs. Fiction: NO on 8 Washington. Click here to watch the video now.
Contribute now to show this powerful video to the voters who need to see it. Every $100 you give will help us broadcast this video to 500 voters. Click here to put your donation to work right now.
Our campaign to win has just begun. Thank you for your support.
No Wall on the Waterfront
Facts vs. Fiction: NO on 8 WASHINGTON - NO on B, NO on C
Taking Out the Trash
by George Bilgere
I remember as a child
watching my fader take out the trash
at the frozen crack of dawn, cursing
as he dragged the stinking cans to the curb,
and thinking, that's not something
I'm ever going to do.
In other ways I was a model son,
standing at the mirror as he shaved,
dabbing the warm cream on my cheek,
dreaming of a razor
and whiskers of my very own.
Watching him light up
as he read the Sunday paper,
one eye squinted against smoke
and bad news, had me reading the funnies
before I could even read, my eye
squinted against nothing.
And the deft, one-handed way
he straightened his fedora's brim,
while at the same time
adjusting the coordinates
of rake and tilt,
makes me regret that the hat,
like my father, has vanished,
along with the strop and razor,
and lathery bowl of curds.
Even smoking, and the Sunday paper
are on their way out.
These are the losses I'm mourning
this morning as I drag the stinking
trash cans to the curb.
"Taking Out the Trash" by George Bilgere, from The White Museum. © Autumn House Press, 2010.
San Francisco Natural History Series
Past, Present, & Future of Presidio’s Mountain Lake
Guest Speaker: Jonathan Young & Brian Hildebidle
7:30pm, Thursday, August 15th, 2013
FREE at the Randall Museum, 199 Museum Way, San Francisco, CA
Jonathan Young & Brian Hildebidle will talk about the historic/cultural aspects as well as the current aquatic ecological remediation and restoration project.
For some more background information, check out this news report:
From Dan Dugan's 7/18/2103 lecture -- Nature Soundscapes
Dan Dugan’s Nature Soundscape Lecture (July 18th) was the first time we’ve had a speaker in a couple hours before the talk began to set up. The auditorium was filled with a couple miles of cable, and a loud hissing as — he and a helper calibrated 4 speakers for our listening pleasure. And pleasure it was: a raven quorking its way through redwood trees, rocks crackling, mud bubbling, ice cracking, wind howling through palm trees, frogs croaking, 3 separate flocks of birds successively launching into the air, bats crinkling into the air from lava tubes, and the same bats humming back home later, coyotes singing, Lassen, an overflight of geese wings buzzing, elephant seals grunting and clucking through the sound of surf, the booms of spring ice falls in Yosemite, a chorus of jays in Muir lake, and the sounds of Mariposa Grove.
These were examples of geophony and biophony — sounds of the earth and the biosphere — terms introduced by Mr. Bernie Krause a local soundscape analyst. The importance of soundscape has only come to our attention in the last 25 years and how anthrophony — the sounds that we humans make — can impact ecologies. Our sounds reduce the amount that predators and prey, and mates and friends can hear.
The National Park Service established soundscapes as an official resource in 1999, and have been taking inventories, monitoring changes, and drawing up plans. 6 people in the National Sounds & Night Skies Office in Fort Collins (http://www.nature.nps.gov/sound_night/index.cfm) run this effort – lending out gear for parks to monitor their soundscapes.
These monitoring stations produce spectrograms (http://www.nature.nps.gov/sound/data.cfm) that show sounds over the course of a day. From this all sorts of things can be picked out: bugs, birds, the dawn chorus, and all the anthrophony: mostly aircraft — but you can tell helicopter, from jet, from prop plane. These become important in how Parks then manage overflights from private tourist companies, but also passenger jetways. High altitude jets leave a sound “trail” 30 miles wide. This kind of monitoring has had some impact where in some places aircraft have been limited to certain altitudes, defined lanes, and only certain hours. There has now been discussion of making some parks no-fly zones.
Dan lead us through a lot of the techniques and tools by which his recordings were made. The types of microphones used for different things, the methods of capturing sound: mono, stereo, or surround, how our perception works with these different techniques, and the set up of all those things to effectively catch sound. Delivering these beautiful sounds though doesn’t stop with the recording — which is arduous in itself: hauling in the gear (he has lightweight gear for going further), getting up early to capture the sounds, finding the right place at the right time. It requires a good deal more work in
the studio to polish those sounds up and combine recordings. (If you want to know more about this, I recommend signing up with the Nature Sounds Society for more info.)
He led us through a fun exercise looking at a sound spectrogram, and then hearing it — looking for the patterns of all that we were hearing (it was from a rainforest in Costa Rica — so there was a lot going on). The best part of the night was the fruition of all that work — listening with our eyes closed to the beautiful sounds around us. http://www.naturesounds.org
September 19 -- Ancient Monuments and Funerary Places -- Perry Matlock
October 17 -- Bird Feathers and Bird Bones -- David Lukas
November 21 -- World of the California Newt -- Lance Milbrand
6b. Spider slide show: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/07/spider-photos-nicky-bay_n_3719123.html
7. Greetings Jake,
I wanted to let you know about an upcoming community open house the San Francisco Public Utilities Meeting is holding for Holloway Avenue. We want to get as much community participation as possible for this meeting and feel having it posted in Nature News will help us get the word out.
What's Your Vision for Holloway Avenue?
Holloway Green Street, Community Open House #1
Thursday, August 15, 2013, 5:00pm to 8:00pm
Ingleside Presbyterian Church - Gymnasium
The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) is kicking-off planning for the Holloway Green Street project and we need your help. This green infrastructure project will help relieve our sewer system by reducing stormwater runoff while providing important community benefits. Come to the open house anytime to learn more about green infrastructure technologies, give us your ideas, and speak one-on-one with the project team.
Join us to talk about:
• Rain gardens
• Street trees
• Permeable pavement
• Enhanced pedestrian space
• More green space
• Beautifying the neighborhood
• Improved bicycle access and safety
• Increased traffic calming opportunities
• Enhanced connection between SF Community College and SF State University
For more information, contact Teresa Young, SFPUC Communications at (415) 554-3274 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
8. San Francisco Beautiful
I just wanted to give you a heads up that the nomination process is now open for SF Beautiful's 42nd Annual Beautification Awards. It would be great if you could spread the world!
9. The face
The fingers of your thoughts are molding your face ceaselessly. -Charles Reznikoff, poet (1894-1976)
The imperialist "wears a mask", wrote George Orwell, "and his face grows to fit it.".
At 50 everyone has the face he deserves. Geo Orwell
Albert Camus: "Alas, after a certain age every man is responsible for his face."
10. LTE, The Economist
A figure of speech
SIR – Lexington’s column on political language (July 13th) reminded me of a leader about Harold Wilson in The Economist some 40 years ago: “Like many of Mr Wilson’s speeches it contained difficult passages in which it is impossible to disentangle what the words really meant to him from what they were intended to mean to others and what they might later be said to have meant at the time.”
Stellenbosch, South Africa
(JS: The syntax of American presidents could be the subject of a book by itself. The recent horrors of Vice President Dan Quayle (yes, he was a heartbeat away from being leader of the free world) was so garbled and risible that collections of them were bestsellers. I still have some in my basement. Risible, yes, but also depressing.)
“POLITICAL language”, wrote George Orwell, “is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” No leader will admit to having had people tortured, but Dick Cheney did say: “I was and remain a strong proponent of our enhanced interrogation programme”—which means the same thing. Notice how, as Orwell put it, “A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outlines and covering up all the details.”
Wars sound horrible in plain English, so they have always generated a smokescreen of euphemism. “Kinetic action” means “killing people”. “Collateral damage” means “killing people accidentally”. Politicians typically use the word “kill” only to describe what our enemies do to us; not what we do to them. In a speech in May explaining his drone warfare policy, for example, Barack Obama spoke of “lethal, targeted action against al-Qaeda and its associated forces”. As Orwell said, when “certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract”.
Orwell worried that sloppy language disguised bad ideas. Some influential Democrats today have a different complaint: that Republicans use words more skilfully to win political battles. Conservatives are shameless and simplistic, they grumble, and it works. When Mr Obama was struggling to explain the circumstances under which doctors might discuss end-of-life provisions with Medicare patients, Sarah Palin yelled “Death panels!” and spooked a huge chunk of the electorate.
“[C]onservatives use language more effectively than liberals in communicating their deepest values,” writes George Lakoff, a linguist at the University of California, Berkeley, in “The Little Blue Book: The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic”. Liberals “present the facts and offer policies”, he claims. Republicans, by contrast, go straight for the gut. Newt Gingrich, while Speaker of the House in the 1990s, encouraged his footsoldiers to repeat focus-group-tested words like “sick”, “pathetic” and “coercion” when talking about Democrats, while parroting “family”, “children” and “liberty” as Republican values.
When Republicans and Democrats use different terms for the same thing, the Republican phrase is nearly always shorter and more concrete, observes Joseph Romm, the author of “Language Intelligence”. He has a point. When arguing about abortion, Republicans favour “life” (evocative) while Democrats talk about “choice” (abstract). Republicans talk about “taxes” and “spending” while Democrats want to raise “revenue” for “investment”. George W. Bush had the “Patriot Act”, whereas Mr Obama has the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”. The former is an awful law that is hard to oppose; the latter an awful mouthful that is hard to remember.
Mr Lakoff urges Democrats to be more concrete. “Have I seen it with my own eyes?” he asks. “Can I take a pen and draw a picture of it?” “Air”, “water” and “soil” are better than the “environment”, for example, which is perhaps why the “Clean Air Act” is the law of the land but the “American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009” (a cap-and-trade bill for greenhouse-gas emissions) crashed to ignominious defeat.
Republicans are also better, Democrats fear, at agreeing on a message and sticking to it. Frank Luntz, a Republican consultant, once said: “There’s a simple rule. You say it again, and you say it again, and you say it again, and you say it again, and you say it again, and then again and again and again and again, and about the time that you’re absolutely sick of saying it is about the time that your target audience has heard it for the first time.”
Democrats sigh that they are too sophisticated to feel comfortable reducing complex ideas to pithy two-word phrases. And they struggle to unite around a slogan because their base includes disparate groups (blacks, Latinos, unions, educated urbanites) who do not, themselves, speak the same way. The Republican base is varied too, including both small-government types and devout Christians, but they unite around slogans such as “liberty”, whether freedom from taxes or the freedom to pray in schools. If only Democrats could “frame” issues better (in Mr Lakoff’s phrase), they would win more battles.
Not all weasels are Republican
But hold on. Democrats have won four of the past six presidential elections, so they can’t be doing everything wrong. And many of them use short words deftly. Barack Obama’s 2008 slogan, “Yes we can”, whipped crowds into a frenzy of approval (though one of Mr Obama’s speechwriters is said to have hated it). Bill Clinton’s formula “safe, legal and rare” helped bolster support for legal abortion. Democrats invoke “working families” to remind voters that “poor” and “scrounger” do not mean the same thing.
Democrats can be shameless, too: the campaign ad showing Paul Ryan tossing an old lady in a wheelchair off a cliff was not exactly nuanced. They repeat messages aggressively: Mr Obama in 2012 never stopped reminding voters that Mitt Romney was rich. And their rhetoric is often misleading. When arguing about budgets, for example, they use the word “cut” to mean “spend less than was previously planned”. So a “savage cut” can actually be a large increase. This is such a potent subterfuge that Republicans use it too, at least when talking about military spending.
Politicians will never use language the way Orwell did, marrying clarity of thought with precision. A politician has to win elections, which means convincing lots of people with widely varying interests and opinions that he is on their side. Alas, that requires waffle, fudge and snappy slogans. These are hard to coin, as Mr Lakoff inadvertently proves. He has urged Democrats to refer to taxes as “membership fees” and to argue that “Patriotism requires Medicare for all.” Somehow, neither has caught on.
11. Notes & Queries, Guardian Weekly
I read the news today, oh boy!
Could one produce a newspaper with just positive news? What effect would it have on the readers?
The Children's Newspaper, especially under Arthur Mee, demonstrated that it was possible to publish a newspaper for children containing just positive news. However, publications for adults have to reflect the real world in which even positive events have negative aspects. Pending the delayed arrival of what was forecast for 1984, a newspaper for adults with merely positive news is an impossibility.
Philip Stigger, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
• No, because what is positive to one reader could be negative to another.
Dick Hedges, Nairobi, Kenya
• Reading sad news can – and should – result in a feeling of empathy for those whose lives are affected by tragedies and calamities of various kinds, and in our taking action to help others less fortunate. It can also help to make us feel thankful that our own circumstances are so much better than those of many in the world.
Reading only good news could result in a lack of knowledge – and, therefore, interest – in those less fortunate than ourselves. It could also make us feel depressed that our own lives are not as rosy as those of others. This could be depressing!
Avril Taylor, Dundas, Ontario, Canada
• It would go broke in very short time; only question is: one month or two months? We, the readers, like to be titillated, and we have little tolerance for boredom.
Jake Sigg, San Francisco, California, US
• If a regular meditation on positive thoughts can have mood and health benefits as well as improved immune function, as reported in a recent New Scientist, just think what a positive newspaper could do for us. On the other hand, the makers of anti-depressant medications might become more miserable!
Margaret Wilkes, Perth, Western Australia
• Most papers have positive news, so it's done all the time. However, as mathematicians know, negative news cancels positive news depending on its degree of negativity. This type of news was used successfully under Stalin to erase events and persons. I can imagine its judicious use today.
Jim Williams, Castlemaine, Victoria, Australia
• Yes, though with slim prospects of journalistic success. It would attract only readers content to be ignorant of what goes on in the world.
Lawrie Bradly, Surrey Hills, Victoria, Australia
• Surely Bhutan has such a newspaper?
Ben Elliston, Canberra, Australia
The people are scammers
What were history's greatest scams?
Bill Webster, Woodend, Victoria, Australia
• Economics as a science.
Andrew Muguku, Nairobi, Kenya
• Jesus Christ.
Edward Black, Paunui Beach, New Zealand
• The Labour party victory in 1997.
Charlie Lasham, Liverpool, UK
When one side in an argument claims "they say", who are "they" and are "they" to be trusted?
Peter Vaughan, St Senoch, France
What does relaxing really mean?
Sklief Garweagle, Necum Teuch, Nova Scotia, Canada
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