Thursday, July 19, 2007

Looking for the music

I am looking for music. I haven't played my clarinet for several weeks because I have a sore thumb. The Norwegians aren't dancing this month, either, and the regular Balkan session is not happening because of Patrick's sore throat. Strange thing, music needs company. I always thought making music alone was enough. Now I know that is not so. Music demands interaction. It can't be alone.

But I must keep looking out there, looking for the music. And even if its just the sound of the finches in the brush or the hummingbird hovering over the beam of water looking for diamonds in the dispersing water droplets, there must be a concert somewhere. The rustling of the wind in the leaves is the harmony to the flute in my mind. And I keep looking for the Western Bluebird I saw through the window at the Credit Union. I am wondering what his sound would have been.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The shame of disinformation

I have an idea that there are forces at work that do not let the truth be told. The light of the sun, the symbol of truth, is being put in the shadow by a man-made menace of advertising slogans and nonsensical paradigms.

I am talking about the myth that the sun is bad for you. How did all that talk about staying out of the sun get started? In Victorian days, it was the idea that nobility could not mingle with the peasants. Peasants were those people who got a tan, and getting a tan would mark you as person spending time slaving away at mundane task such as ploughing, sowing, and harvesting. People of breeding didn't have to work out there.

That train of thought stopped when the anti-rachitic factor was discovered. In the early 20th century, scientists discovered that a substance called vitamin D cured rickets, a disease that caused children's bones to bend. The easiest way to obtain vitamin D was to go out into the sun. It was inexpensive. So, all of a sudden, it became fashionable to get a tan, and to spend your leisure time outdoors in the sun. The laborer became an indoor worker, and a tan was proof that you had time and money to lounge around at the beach. Sun-worshipping became so popular that people spent all their holidays at the seashore. Nudist camps became popular. However, gradually a drawback was noticed. Since most people could only afford two weeks vacation, all the sun had to be gotten in such a short time that the skin would invariably burn. Skin cancer rates were on the rise.

The discovery of being able to ingest vitamin D through food then made it possible to launch a disinformation campaign that assured everyone that it was now possible to get all the vitamin D from irradiated milk (that's how vitamin D gets into the milk; it is not naturally in cows' milk, not in mothers' milk either). Cod liver oil was not advertised as aggressively because it tasted bad, and it could not be sold other than in UV-sun-deprived countries like Norway. The problem with milk is that you have to drink an awful lot of milk to get enough vitamin D. So, in come the pharmaceutical companies. They smelled profit. Instead of telling people to get just a little bit of sun every day, they advertised sun-screen as well as multi-vitamin pills. And everyone swallowed it hook, line and sinker. It seems like such a simple solution. The fact that you can overdose on vitamin D pills -- you really can -- was not emphasized. It became a mantra. Thou shalt not go into the sun lest thou get skin cancer. Where are the voices that should shout it from the roof-tops that vitamin D deficiency leaves the body without defences and very much subject to breast cancer, prostate cancer, leukemia, multiple sclerosis, and susceptible to tuberculosis and other infectious ailments and other immune deficiencies? The most obvious effects of not enough vitamin D, of course, are broken bones and hip- and knee-replacements. No pharmaceutical company spends money to point out that osteomalacia is adult rickets. With children you see the rickets outright. In adults, it takes a doctor with a hunch (no pun intended) to discover the deficiency. It's usually called osteoporosis. (Of course, no one has vitamin D deficieny any more. Really? Think again!)

All told, it's more convenient to sell drugs that "strengthen" bones (Fosamax, Boniva). Why get rid of a cash-cow in favor of a few rays (20-minutes worth per day) of noon-day sun that is free?

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Birds at the beach

Stefan and I went to see Erik in Capitola. Before we visited the house where he lives with his caregivers, we spent some time at Mr. Toots. Mr. Toots is located right next to Margaritaville at the beach, except that Mr. Toots is upstairs. I had the soup of the day, and Stefan had a bagel and a coffee. Mr. Toots has a very small observation deck from where we watched the seagulls and other birds and the beach life below. The river is dammed in and forms a lake before it washes through a small drain into the ocean. Stefan fed the gulls while I watched them catch the bread in flight. Other birds tried to follow their example. There were pigeons and swallows swooping across the water. The pigeons were clearly trying to flock with the gulls. No dice though, the pigeons could not land in the water. Another strange bird was pretending to join the water birds. It was a kite-bird. It had the appearance of an eagle, I guess a tribute to Independence Day; it was made of what seemed to be paper. The young men held it on a string and tried to run with it to get it airborne. As much as they tried they couldn't make it fly. So here we had seagulls on the water, a pigeon (peace?) flying high, and a paper eagle tethered, a metaphor for this July 4, 2007?

Erik had a buzz hair-cut. He was so happy to see Stefan. He didn't hesitate and gave us a big smile when we entered his room. His vitamin D metabolite/hormone seems to make him better. Then, today I read that maybe Vitamin D deficiency in the mother causes autism. Erik probably has had Vitamin D deficiency since before he was born. His was most likely caused by having had a kidney problem for all that time. That's my idea. I am waiting for the doctors to confirm that.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Today is my grandmother's birthday

Liebe Grossmutter! Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag! -- My grandmother would be turning in her grave if she knew how the world has turned. It is now upside down, and she would have to do a 180° turn to see the beautiful trees at the Osterholzer Friedhof. That's where she is buried in Bremen. She would be pleased about the new University there, exactly at the spot where we used to go ice-skating, and not far from where her son Helmut used to go dancing at the Munte II. She went there with me often to reminisce about what might have been if he had survived. She didn't tell me what she thought, but I knew. She thought about her dead son. He was only 20 years old when he died. The year was 1940, and this was his second tour of duty in the German Luftwaffe. The mission was "Unternehmen Seelöwe".

My grandmother would not believe that America is now fighting this senseless war. How many American mothers will think about their sons and what might have been?