Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Remember when smoking was an ice-breaker?

Something precious was lost when the world stopped smoking.

A tradition of "offering" was stolen from the tentative processes of social overtures.

The proffering of a cigarette packet, one ciggie thoughtfully pulled forth, and the single question "cigarette?" could break the ice in countless contexts. Once upon a time.

It was an excuse to start a conversation, a way to bring an outsider into a circle, a pick-up line, an outreach, a kindness...

It had partner contact lines in "do you have a light?" or "care for a light?" - the swish of a match on red phosphorus, the classy click of a Zippo, the sharing of a living flame. And people came together, initiating further exchanges under an ease of inhaled smoke.

Those were the days.

People could express themselves with their style of smoking - assert an urbane charm or myriad elements of mood and character. A flourish. A toss of the head. An agitated ashing.

Now we are all clean smoke-free, we have forgotten about the old mores.

The anti-smoking fanatics have gone so far as to erase cigarettes from photos and films, even from the period flavor of celebrated theatre pieces. Noel Coward plays lose a lot when the nuance of smoking is cut from the action - since it IS the action. Suddenly, where a character smoked, the character now does nothing. In one production, I noted he was provided with chewing gum in lieu of a cigarette. Hardly Noel Coward, darlings.

And when they do make token efforts to incorporate the culture of the cigarette into period theatre pieces, the tender little actors will light a cigarette, take a lightning-fast suck, not inhaling but blowing fast in a desperate puff and then stubbing the cigarette out furiously. Token smokin'. It is poor form since it does not represent the history or the character. And, for heaven's sake, no true smoker would ever butt out a freshly-lit cigarette.

But there it all is. History sabotaged by reformist zeal.

Meanwhile, what is there to replace the old social icebreaker of the cigarette? One television program introduced an eccentric character offering Nicorettes to people. Nice comment on the lost custom. I wonder how many viewers saw the irony? Too few, since we fast are entering the "before my time" generation made up of those who have only ever seen deadbeats and villains with a smoke in hand. That image has been elevated as part of the anti-smoking propaganda.

Not that I am espousing smoking. I am among the sturdy formers who can't stand the smell or taste.

I am simply reflecting on a social crutch of yore. It was an invidious habit, but it burned the flame of friendship and conviviality and was a shared ritual which has found no peer.

May I offer you a toothpick?

Monday, September 03, 2012

Being aware of consciousness

Anyone working with animals could have told them aeons ago. And did. But today, finally, the massed wisdom of science has acknowledged that animals have consciousness, just like man. Cross-species there always was a communication issue. But, people who have looked into the eye of the whale say that their lives somehow are changed. Indeed, anyone who has looked into the eye of a crocodile has felt a shift in the status quo. They have felt contact. I certainly did. To my amazement, meeting eyes with an old croc in the Northern Territory was a beautiful experience. It was a focused connection, a real hello. I was not expecting it. But I have changed my tune with those ancient reptiles.
Our relationship with cats and dogs, sheep and goats is based on mutual awareness and co-operation. It has been had to accept that the animals we kill for food have that astute conscious understanding of their fates. The smell of fear in the abattoirs. We shut off our knowledge to cope with the guilt - and the hunger. I am among those who has had a pet sheep, which followed one everywhere and recognised one years later when said sheep was retired to the country. There was no doubt about his consciousness. Then the two goats I milked each day in my farming years - smart, interesting, delightful and strongly bonding animals. Now the scientists have allowed us to go a step further and accept that octopus and squid are animals also with the mystery of consciousness. Perhaps even sense of self.
The dark mystery of the cleverness of cephalopods is their short-life span. But just look at the name. Cephalo means head foot. They are mobile brains. I have looked these creatures in the eye - and felt a connection. I also have eaten them. The emotions grow complex and the denial rises to protect one from the self-interest of comfort and survival - not to mention the decadent luxury and artistry of cuisine. I've witnessed hens dealing with threat. They are deemed pretty stupid animals against the Einstens of the parrot world. But they are intelligent and, damn it, clearly conscious. They establish relationships of love. Interspecies love. The scientists have put it down formally. Thank heavens. Here's the official edict.

Birds appear to offer, in their behavior, neurophysiology, and neuroanatomy a striking case of parallel evolution of consciousness. Evidence of near human-like levels of consciousness has been most dramatically observed in African grey parrots. Mammalian and avian emotional networks and cognitive microcircuitries appear to be far more homologous than previously thought. Moreover, certain species of birds have been found to exhibit neural sleep patterns similar to those of mammals, including REM sleep and, as was demonstrated in zebra finches, neurophysiological patterns, previously thought to require a mammalian neocortex. Magpies in articular have been shown to exhibit striking similarities to humans, great apes, dolphins, and elephants in studies of mirror self-recognition.

What difference these "findings" will make to the top dog arrogance of humans remains to be seen.

Perhaps science will evolve a way species can speak to each other. Perhaps they will move on to other things - for just imagine if the slaughterhouse sheep could speak forth.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Unmigrated Legacy Blogger - huh?

Google, what are you doing to me? To others? It was you, wasn't it? Sent the email warning that "legacy" blogs were endangered and required to be moved.

You are receiving this message because your email address is associated with an unmigrated legacy Blogger account. As we announced in April of last year, legacy accounts will no longer be accessible after May 30th, 2012 unless they are updated to the Google Account system. Any blog content associated with this account will also be unmodifiable after that date.

To transfer your blog to the Google Account system you need to visit the Legacy Migration page at http://www.google.com/appserve/mkt/NQQ3dQolv1dns1 right now to make sure that your account and associated blogs are claimed. If you’ve forgotten the Blogger password that is associated with this email address, you can use our Account Recovery page at http://www.google.com/appserve/mkt/PPo3H8hLB9iHIK to request password information to be sent via email.

For more information, please see our initial announcement we posted to our blog at http://www.google.com/appserve/mkt/STvPY7lCij04Of . If you have questions, please visit our Help Forum at http://www.google.com/appserve/mkt/jW60wlPTgtyRtX and create a message with [Legacy Account] in the subject line.


The Blogger Team Google 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway Mountain View, CA 94043 ---- This e-mail is being sent to notify you of important changes to your Blogger account.

So, I obeyed. My old Blogger password was not accepted. I had to make a new one. Have I have conned? Hacked? What is this all about? It is now harder to get to Blogger. The pages seem to want me to get Chrome. I already have it/

Really - things don't get easier. One wastes an immense amount of time, STILL, fiddling with technicalities and mysterious tech requests. Or, please, someone tell me, have I just be done like a dog's dinner?

Oh, and since when did Blogger stop formatting? Why is everything running together these days? Do I have to do a refresher course in HTML?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

I only turned my back for a minute

There comes a time when the new blood of the Internet has made it all a bit hard to keep up with. Those of us who leapt into cyberspace the moment the window opened got used to things the way they were. In many aspects, they were very good. Sometimes they were a bit hard to learn. I recall without affection the list of DOS commands one had to enter simply to get connected - and the general hiccups of getting online at all with the old dialup connections from "backyard ISPs" through 14k modems. But, ahh, the sweet music of those electronic trills and buzzes as connection was made and there was the world right there at your fingertips - wonderful, living people on IRC. That was the early 1990s. It is incredible to think that we now have a generation which has not known the world without the Internet. Back in the 90s, people thought you were mad to spend so much time on it, to be so enthusiastic about it... They wondered what it was. Now they have taken ownership of the technology - along with the new breed who are making their living and often their fortune from it. But they can't leave anything alone. If it ain't broke, they bloody well will fix it. And thus is Facebook so appalling with its obfuscating Timeline. And what on earth have they done to StumbleUpon. What a mess of a wonderful application - the most civilised open online community ever. Now we are transitioned and transported on Google. I have been busy on other things - and I turn around and find the blogging world about which I have written so much over the years has had some sort of a facelift. I should merge other applications with it. Um...now which password do I use for this? The original blogger password was outdated some time ago. It is all Google now? Let's not get on to the subject of passwords. The new generation, who I have nurtured and adored and in whom I have oft expressed my trust and hope, has been being too smart and too short-sighted and, methinks, not listening and certainly not reading. Just making changes because they can - and they wish to make a mark. They wish to impress whoever is paying their wage. We all do that, I guess. But it's not improving things. If only there was some sort of artistic director, a Steve Jobs to arbitrate quality control and logical elegance of style. If only.