Friday, April 12, 2024

Bonus Post: Borders

Everything needs a border.


Fair-use photo from Black Sheep Wools. ("Fair use" here means that I'm not making any money from these pictures--they're decorations on an article that's free for you to read--but the sites that own the pictures may be. Merchandise at commercial knitting sites comes and goes. You may still be able to buy either the knitted pieces shown, or instructions for knitting something similar.)

Borders are the most visible way people set boundaries. Crossing them without permission is disrespectful. Such disrespect provokes angry defenses. Never trust anyone who says it's all right to cross borders without an invitation.


Fair-use photo from KG Threads.

All things in nature have borders we can see,
And so must all things knitted. Some have tried
To border knits with weaving. This would be
Frowned on today. The fame and pride
Of knitting's thought to call for knitted borders.
Even crocheting edges on what's knitted 
Seems like performing operas on recorders.
To border knitting, only knitting's fitted.


Fair-use photo from The Knitting Space.

Web Log for 4.11.24 with a Found Cat

Cats 

This is not Pastel's new friend, in the picture. This is an adoptable shelter cat in Johnson City, Tennnessee, with a similar coat. Pastel's new friend is a small, fluffy, pale orange tomkitten with amber eyes. I Googled "male models with long orange hair" for a name that's not in use by any humans we know, and came up with Borowiec. I've been calling the little fellow Borowiec. He's not answered to that name yet. Pastel is not the brightest star that ever shone and might not demand intelligence in a mate, but Borowiec looks as if he knows he's been given a name and that's not it. Does anyone know who he is and where he's from? Does he have FIV? Has he ever had a rabies shot? Has he ever answered to a name? He is staying around, warily, when nobody's interested in sex, so he may be a social cat; if so he's undoubtedly been loved and missed. If he's strayed from a nearby house or farm, will someone please let me know.


The shelter cat photographed is currently being called Francisco, which is probably not his name, either. He's not been a pet for some time, but seems to be learning to like being one--probably a stray whose mother was a pet. His web page: https://www.petfinder.com/cat/francisco-64119418/tn/johnson-city/operation-johnson-kitty-tn904/. He's certified in good health, fully vaccinated, and neutered, and will cost just $50.

Libertarians 

This and more inside jokes: danieljmitchell.wordpress.com . There is a more complex, nuanced version of this meme, if you go there and click.


Music 

PJMedia needs to edit these things; is that not the site that aired the interview in which Oliver Anthony admitted that he's no mountain man and never claimed to be? Is this Georgia writer in doubt about the people in the flatter, hotter, Swamp corner of Virginia being able to sing, too? They have soul, they have talent, some of them can grow Duck-Dynasty-worthy beards, though how anybody puts up with one surplus inch of hair anywhere in a Swamp summer is more than I can imagine...they have a just noticeably different accent and style. Anyway, I appreciate the update on what Anthony's doing these days.


Phenology 

Salamanders are laying eggs in North Carolina. You tell me, Gentle Readers. Are salamanders cute? I think they are.


Now about the eclipse, Ysabetwordsmith (Elizabeth Barrette) documented something I did not know: During a total eclipse, even when the light looks dim and the sun shows as a hollow halo around the moon if you look at it through appropriate glasses, the sun is still bright enough that (like the moon) it reflects as a round bright blur in water. She went to Ohio to see this, and was rewarded with sunshine during the eclipse there, while we in Virginia merely noticed that the rain clouds looked a shade darker than usual.


Politics

Was this piece written by a MAGA type? Au contraire. Oh, people...we want the same things, and we don't want the same things, and we've allowed one trivial issue--how much we dislike Donald Trump, personally--to turn us against one another. 


Some people don't want to be told to go to church, and some don't want to be told to stay home. Some people don't want to be told to live on farms, and some don't want to be told to move into town. We all stand to benefit from recognizing how much these viewpoints have in common, instead of letting ourselves be told to fear those who are more concerned about a different manifestation of tyranny than we are.

Bad Poetry: Dignity (Updated with the Actual Poem)

Today's NaPoWriMo prompt suggests a Sunday Post, so let's swap with the prompts suggested for the weekend and consider Dignity. 

The dignity of self-determination
must always be the first consideration
in any plan we think's for others' profit.
"Just tell them to do this or that"? Come off it!
"Use taxes to provide more benefit"?
Has every single one requested it?
"If richer people moved here, more tax money
Would pay for services..." Not even funny!
If public benefactor you would be,
You may go first, inviting "Follow me,"
But never tell another what to do:
What's best for them, they know more of than you.

 

Book Review: Lost and Found

Title: Lost and Found 

Author: Donna B. McNicol

Date: 2012

Publisher: Donna B. McNicol

Quote: "It was getting dark and Brian, her eight-year-old son, wasn't home yet."

This is a short story written to lead into the novel Home Again, introducing Sarah, the divorced mother, and Carl, the attractive giant police officer who organizes the search when Brian fails to come home before dark. There's a hint of a possible romantic triangle but in the short story, and in the first chapter of Home Again attached to it, the focus is on Brian's adjustment to life in a small town in Kansas.

What do you think of short stories packaged together with a chapter or two from a related novel to make an e-book? If you happen to be looking for a short e-book to do a book report on, you may think they are wonderful. Well, this one is clean and wholesome. 

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Web Log for 4.10.24

Glyphosate Awareness 

Certainly subject to criticism for being too general; still, a serious scientific report:


Local Stuff 

When you ask about fare and schedule information for most US cities, you are asked for the state, because so many US city names have been used more than once. Bristol used to be especially annoying in my travelling days. "Bristol is on the Virginia-Tennessee border. I don't know which side of State Street you're on this year. Bristol is Bristol." "Do you mean Bristol, Tennessee, or Bristol, Pennsylvania, or..." One reason why I'd failed to form the habit of always specifying which state a city is in may be that I grew up near Kingsport, Tennessee. There is only one Kingsport in the United States. Though arguably the better known town of that name is in the gross-out horror fiction that inspired "transhumanism."

The king of England never claimed a particular port, it seems, possibly because his official titles referred to five ports. The name of Kingsport was registered only when one or more of the early residents whose name inspired my screen name had a vision of the territory around the Netherland Inn becoming a city some day. At the time river shipping was the most efficient means of transportation, and small ships could go as far up the Holston River as the Netherland Inn, where goods used to be auctioned off from the balcony. Including slaves. 

Hill farmers did not have a great need for slaves. There was still a good deal of wilderness for slaves to hide in, if they wanted to try living on their own. There were Cherokees who had defied orders to move west, some of whom were rumored to help slaves escape just to spite the White government, and hill farmers who agreed with most of the world that ten years, if not seven or even five, was long enough for anybody to be a slave. The Gibson and Collins families on Newmans Ridge, a few days' backpacking from Kingsport, notoriously didn't care what people looked like. Records were easy to lose. 

Today Kingsporters of any ethnic type...probably have no ancestral connection to any of this, because Kingsport was still a few hill farms separated by wilderness into the early twentieth century. Very few of the families in Kingsport are "old." If current residents' ancestors were in Kingsport before 1860 they probably prefer not to discuss the history of slavery in detail. Oral history tends to blur when documents would have disproved a story that was working for somebody and were, consequently, lost. Sources disagree; one seems as reliable, or unreliable, as another. 

Many Black and White Americans used to believe that interracial sex was a perversion.  Some claimed to believe it was specifically forbidden by the Bible, though in Bible days the concern was about intermarriage with people who looked and spoke very much like ancient Israelites, who belonged to the cults that "passed children through the fire"; when people actually wanted to join the Israelites, the book of Ruth tells us, they were accepted; Ethiopians, who looked different from the Israelites, were seen as exotic, and respected--Moses himself married an Ethiopian. In the United States there were several documented "triracial communities." Even outside those groups a lot of people in the Southern States have a biracial or triracial look. Some memorably bad fiction has been written exaggerating what happened when a White person ignored warnings that "that friend of yours may look White, but s/he's not White." In historical fact it seems not to have been very difficult for multiethnic people to pass as White, or as Black, depending on which side of town they wanted to move into. I know of no nineteenth century precedent for the song linked below, but in the early twentieth century such a thing could have happened.

How much has this to do with Bob Dylan's peculiar choice of a storyline for this song? Dylan wrote songs for a living and probably got the plots from novels or movies, and used the names of real historical characters in songs that were fiction, too. The historical question here is not whether this song is historical fact--it's not--but whether Dylan knew anything at all about Kingsport in the real world when he wrote it. I don't know. Maybe some reader knows.

New Book Review: If You See Them

NaNoWriMo poem? Why not?

If you see them, you might think they're
Dirty, lazy, sneaky kids,
And they certainly won't tell you
What the situation is--
Steal a cheap roll-on deodorant?
Sleep at friends' house for a week?
Wash their feet in library bathroom?
See the tips of icebergs peek...

I think this study of "them," the neediest kind of homeless teenagers, is one of a half-dozen books of which I received Advance Review Copies from publishers shortly before the storm damage forced me offline; all those books were then lost among the already published Booktober Blitz book, and all I can do about it is try to do better now. I am grateful to Spiegel & Grau for sharing this book with me, and wish I'd come to it sooner...

Title: If You See Them

Author: Vicki Sokolik

Date: 2024

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

ISBN: 978-1-954118-49-2

Quote: "These youth are like youth anywhere who aren't safe in their homes, or who have no homes, and have made difficult choices in order to survive."

That's what some readers will hate about this book. 

Because what I didn't like about this book is stated so clearly at the beginning, let me start praising it with the faint damns. I'm not doing this because I think the book deserves condemnation. I'm doing it because I think the book, and the local program it introduces to readers, are very valuable for some people and need just a bit of improvement to be more valuable for more people.

The characters in this book are generic, reduced to a lowest common denominator and a single storyline. Generic characters are boring. Writers might as well just make their general statements. While Sokolik tells us that these are the stories of real teenagers who worked with the program she runs, succeeded, came back to encourage others, have remained her friends, and gave permission for their real given names to be used, there's a flatness about the stories, as compared with stories about problem students in Jeff Hobbs' Children of the State

This is unfortunate. While unconsciously revealing the inadequacies of Sokolik and her program, this program promotion calls attention to a situation that really exists, and deserves attention. That I fell asleep three times while reading this book, even while knitting, calls my attention to a relatively simple shortcoming in a valuable document. It completely erases my kind of people.

Jeff Hobbs and the problem students who told him their stories in vivid, personal, though also blur-able detail, were introverts. Vicki Sokolik and the problem students she was able to help are extroverts. She does not merely show this in describing their conversations. She specifically celebrates their extroversion as if it were a virtue.

Maybe that's consistent with her discussion of a cringeworthy lecture about gender-confused youth, through which everyone apparently was required to sit. Sokolik brought in and apparently managed to listen to a lecturer who told her, her students, and other adult volunteers in her program, how calling people with normal, consistent sex characteristics "cisgender" supposedly "normalizes" gender-confusion and makes people who have it feel included...

Stop it, I think. This is so misguided. Does anybody not know how it feels to be "minoritized," even bullied, because of a medical condition we did nothing to choose or create? If the 9,999 of 10,000 people even in Ireland who happen not to be diagnosed celiacs started introducing themselves with "Hello, my name is Tracy Smith, and I'm gluten-tolerant," what would that do for celiacs? In the long run, probably nothing. In the short run, being told they needed to say that kind of thing might make people resent those who can't participate in food-sharing rituals more than they do. It may be something some of us thought we might want, it may be a kindly intentioned gesture, but it's not actually helping.

Despite the damage undiagnosed, misdiagnosed, or glyphosate-aggravated celiac disease does, the celiac trait has good as well as bad qualities. A majority of all celiacs are hardy, healthy people who can be stronger and live longer than average, simply by giving up social eating. Given, for the sake of argument, that gender confusion is also genetic (only some of it really is; never mind) and also has good qualities...gender confusion is, like the celiac trait, primarily a dysfunctional condition. Inability to reproduce is a dysfunctional trait. It doesn't need to have attention called to it--women reacting to the same physical influences in the way that appears first, across species, certainly don't go around proclaiming to the world "I'm barren and I'm proud! Other women need to self-identify as 'breeders' to show due respect to me!"--but, if attention is called to it, no benefit is gained by pretending that the dysfunctional trait is the norm.

But Sokolik subjected her whole organization to an hour or so of terribly trendy blather about how we should all try to pretend that gender confusion is so "normal" that it's natural to invent a special word for the majority and hateful to ask whether people are male or female. I might not mind this being discussed at the length it is, in the book, if it had been matched by equal sensitivity and "inclusiveness" toward introversion, which is a normal, functional, altogether desirable trait. It's not. 

The only specific reference to introverts in this book is mildly disparaging; someone's mother's introversion (as distinct from other people's prejudice against it) is blamed for her general lack of success in life. That by itself wouldn't ruin the book but there's a total lack of awareness that, while the problem students Sokolik found easiest to help may have found it difficult to sleep alone, other students' primary survival needs include at least a room and preferably a garden of their own. There's no mention of a student who has any special talent being helped by the program. There's no mention of how the yappy horde were sensitized to other people's valid, normal, natural needs for quiet, privacy, and personal space. There's no consideration of how the therapy-group exercises Sokolik's program offers teenagers as "classes" can harm some teenagers, or why they've been banned from the regular public school program as constituting Child Abuse in the Classroom.

So, Sokolik has extroversion. That's not something she chose or could help; that's a valid reason why the problem students who bonded with her and were helped most by her all seem to suffer from extroversion too. Extroversion is at least a more common dysfunction than gender confusion, or celiac disease, or cleft palates. It's like cardiovascular disease, or clinical depression; not really part of the majority human experience, but widespread enough that everyone at least knows someone who has it. Most of us even know someone who doesn't have the actual condition but has been miseducated to think person has it. (People used to think that extroversion was the same thing as self-confidence in social situations. It's not.) People tend to bond with, and help, others who are like themselves. When lots of attention is directed to the differences, that may actually help people "reach across the gaps" between young and old, male and female, Black and White. When the differences are poorly understood, the gaps are less likely to be bridged.

Extroversion is a condition produced when the brain fails to develop a clear internal sense of right and wrong, usually also fails to develop a specific talent, may also fail to develop academic intelligence, and, even if academically intelligent, shows a hasty, shallow pattern of thinking and relating to others, which can also cause dysfunctional family life. Extroverts can be described as more or less affected; clearly they're not normal. Still, just as some of the most horrible genetic diseases are caused by inheriting two copies of a gene where one copy provides resistance to other fatal diseases, just as the celiac trait is associated with hardiness and gender-confused people don't overpopulate and people with Downs Syndrome are often described as loving and lovable, mild and well controlled extroversion can be considered an asset for some kinds of jobs. Extroverts don't know when they need to rest and clear their minds from external input, and while this can lead to breakdowns and is the most likely reason for their shorter life expectancy, it can also help them reach out to help one another. It works for the people whose stories are told in this book.

Sokolik presents herself in this book as Tampa's counterpart to Mildred Wolfe in Orlando: an oil-rich Texan who came to Florida, saw a local need, and set about using her money to meet the need. She adopted a homeless adult first and, after putting the young lady and her children in a nice house, had the reward of being told, "You've done so much for us...now go and help someone else." While she was still thinking about that, her teenaged son brought home a school friend who turned out to be homeless. 

The general category of "homeless teenagers" includes runaways who just aren't getting along with their families. Often the best help for them is encouragement to be reconciled with their families; they still have homes. However,  a minority of homeless teenagers fit into a subcategory the government currently calls "unaccompanied homeless youth." In government policy jargon this means that for all practical purposes these teenagers have no parents or homes to go back to. Their parents may be dead, in prisons or hospitals, insane, homeless, or just utterly unwilling to rear them. Sometimes a living parent is married to someone who doesn't want stepchildren. Sometimes a living parent is a drug addict who has used the child as a drug runner or dealer until the child runs to a different city to survive, or an abuser who has raped, prostituted, or violently attacked the child. In one family Sokolik met, the younger children had been placed in foster homes, but the teenager was apparently considered old enough to live on her own, possibly by a newbie social worker who didn't realize that the law considered teenagers differently. In another family the teenager had tried to protect the mother from an abusive stepfather, and the mother had thrown him out in the belief, which nobody else doubted, that the stepfather might kill him.

Even while her parents were losing their wealth, Sokolik tells us, she found her vocation in learning to "see" these teenagers who want very much not to be "seen." She had to warn one youth, "I don't have a money tree in my yard," but she and her husband were blessed with enough money to put the teenagers in apartments until they could renovate and organize a group house.

In the past, truly homeless teenagers could get legitimate part-time jobs and places to stay. As recently mentioned here, my own grandfather was one of those children whose parents wanted to marry people who didn't want stepchildren. Great-Grandfather simply loaded his first wife's children--boy and girl, ages ten and twelve--into the wagon, took them into town, stopped at a street where desperate unskilled laborers looked for jobs, males on one corner and females on another, and set them out on the appropriate corners with orders to find domestic work where they could get room and board as part of their wages. It was common in those days. Little girls sent "out to service" could expect, a hundred years ago, to be hired and supervised by women who spoke to them coldly but not usually unkindly, treated as social inferiors by their employers but free to marry up the ladder if they could; Great-Aunt married well. Grandfather was taken "out west," worked on ranches, qualified as a lawyer, chose to practice horse training rather than law, and had his own farm and family before age thirty. 

Now, thanks to increasing bureaucracy, teenagers in that kind of situation can't get work, may be unable to document their own identity even to get into school, and may be able to stay with friends for a while, but will very likely turn to theft, prostitution, or the illegal drug trade just to feed themselves. In Florida they can sleep outdoors, but they're likely to be robbed of whatever they have, including shoes and socks, and probably also raped. Some of them may feel lucky if they're able to trade sex for room and board...at least until the men who offer such arrangements get tired of them and throw them out. Some may feel successful in their criminal careers. Others feel shamed and defiled by what they've done, whether they've killed rival drug dealers or been caught the first time they stole a box of tampons. 

(Sokolik tells us that, until recently, government handout programs made no provision for personal hygiene supplies--not Kotex, not shaving kits, not even soap. She claims some of the credit for getting Florida public schools authorized to distribute free female hygiene supplies, though not, apparently, the gender-neutral kind. "Poor hygiene" remains at the top of the list she advises adults to look for when looking for "unaccompanied homeless youth." These teenagers go out for school sports teams, whether they're athletic or not, for the showers but a good laundry barter is harder to find than an invitation to sleep over with a school friend for a week.)

So they need homes--not only beds, but people they can trust to reassure them that what's happened to them is not who they are. Of course, it would be too much to expect that Sokolik would be either willing or able to teach these kids about the many reasons to say no to "a thread or a shoe latchet" in federal handouts. She encourages them to take all the handouts they can take. If they could get into foster care and have money sent to someone regularly for offering them a home, she seems to believe, they ought to do that. But of course many of them turn out to have been foster or even adopted children for whom "it didn't work out" with their official parent-substitutes. 

Close to twenty years later, by the end of the book, several of Sokolik's first few rescues are now active "mentors" for other homeless youth in what's become her organization. They're off the streets, off the drugs, off the welfare, employed, married, some with children of their own. 

It's awesome, really. It's a heartwarming true story. You can look up the TV and newspaper stories right here on your computer. There's no shortage of other people publicly saying nicer things about Sokolik than she says about herself. Her message is not "See how wonderful I am" but "What we've done is working. Carry it on!" 

I only wish that, along with if not in place of the story about the teenager who overcame her prejudice against an ethical, monogamous lesbian "mentor," this book had included a story about a teenager who had learned to embrace per own introversion in a satisfactory relationship with an introvert "mentor." 

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Web Log for 4.9.24

Bible Studies 

People have all sorts of ideas about what Seventh-Day Adventists believe, often based in confusion between that denomination and some others. Accurate information about the teachings of that church:


Rome is seen as the home base of antichrist, and a united Europe is seen as a sign of "end times." An attack on the US by European powers is not specifically spelled out in the Adventist interpretation of "end time prophecies." However, if Europe attacks the US openly, the moral downfall of the US will begin with subduing Europe; if Europe or Rome subverts the US, our moral downfall will begin with alliance with Europe. That development is not seen as significant. Their interpretation of the prophecies is that the US remains the world's "super-power" but loses its lamblike innocence and virtue in doing so. The US ultimately becomes the base of global tyranny. Adventists have interpreted the prophecies of Daniel this way since the 1840s, long before anyone else imagined the US as a "super-power." 


Nostalgia, Fake 

Although 1970s prices may look like red-hot bargains today, in the 1970s nobody thought the price of anything was low, or even reasonable. Inflation was a very hot topic in the 1970s. In 1974 there was even a brief, tentative step in the direction of gas rationing.


Phenology 

Once again, the eclipse was a bust. It was a very dark afternoon, but a gentle steady rain was more noticeable than anything the sun was doing. Sometimes clouds make it possible to see the sun, and someone, somewhere, might have been able to look up and see the moon slide between the sun and them; it wasn't I.

Here's a video showing a total solar eclipse as seen through clouds:


Daffodils and Prunus have passed their peak. Violets are blooming steadily. I've seen redbuds in bloom at lower elevations, but the redbud at the Cat Sanctuary bloomed this morning. 

I found it interesting that people who've always lived inside the town below me were saying, last week, that they've never known redbuds and dogwoods to bloom at the same time. At this altitude, they always seem to do. The redbuds usually bloom just a day or two ahead of the dogwoods. Their blooming at the same time formed the basis for the teaching story about them--that redbuds' "blush" reminds us of Judas' shame, and dogwoods' cruciform blossoms with dark red at the tip of each petal remind us of Jesus' sacrifice. 

Book Review: The Billionaire's Repeat

Title: The Billionaire's Repeat

Author: Jenna Brandt

Date: 2019

Publisher: Jenna Brandt

Quote: "Besides, he enjoyed keeping himself busy--except when it involved running into his ex-co-star-and-girlfriend, Rachel."

The former TV series stars have gone on to succeed in business as they've grown up. When they're called together for a publicity "reunion" event, they get stuck in an elevator during a power outage that lasts just long enough for the romance to stay in the "sweet" category. If the power outage had lasted longer, it might have become a "steamy"...

This bit of fluff has floated around book promotion sites as part of the author's frantic campaign of self-promotion. It's a short story packaged together with three opening scenes of other short romances, which seems to me to defeat its purpose but fills up Amazon's suggested word count. The final "chapters" of the "book" consist of more self-promotion including an unfortunate photo of the author. 

If you like isolated scenes from the stories of fictional characters, this book s for you. You like having things left to your imagination and will probably enjoy making up stories to go with all the other titles Amazon's suggested marketing program has brought to the author's mind. Or, of course, you can buy lots more short-short romances from this author. I think she's invented more young, single billionaires than exist in the real world, but what is life without our dreams?

A Moment I Wish I Could Relive

This week's Long & Short Reviews prompt is pure self-indulgence. "A moment I wish I could relive"? Well, obviously...all middle-aged people have outlived people we loved. Pick a person. Pick a moment. Some say the biochemical reactions we have while reminiscing at length make it worth describing those moments of bliss to people who weren't part of them. Some say it's better to save them, recombine them, fictionalize them, and use them in novels.

Many of these blessed moments involve life's milestones, so they have counterparts for most readers and may be summarized in sentences.

"You passed the test."

"You're hired."

"I will."

"I do."

"Your student passed the test."

"It's working."

"No evidence of cancer."

"We would like to buy..."

"I feel ...well!"

"Mother and baby are doing well."

Hmm. Is that a Top Ten List or a free-verse poem?

Then every family has a few that are more specific.

"Your kid had the highest scores we've seen on the exam...since you took it."

"Should we keep the school small, or start looking for a bigger building and more teachers?"

"The Senate voted to pass that bill we've been working on."

"Vision is 20/20 in the donated eye."

And of course, at a Cat Sanctuary, sometimes...

"Meow!"

The moment when a cat who's been ill or anesthetized wakes up and looks alive is one to treasure.

Sometimes I think my mother wanted to raise a brood of memoirists. She believed that the ability to remember one's early childhood was a sign of intelligence or mental health, and encouraged all of her children to reminisce about everything. I could try your patience with thousands of words of fond memories from early, middle, and late childhood. It wouldn't be wishing I could relive, e.g., the summers, each of which was better than the one before up to the last one, which was not a good set of memories at all. I can relive them in memory...and then my heart with pleasure fills, and dances with the daffodils, but I'm not sure how much fun that would be for you. 

Putting memories into a proper poetic form feels like falsifying them, so here's a memory in free verse form...

Shopping trip to Bethesda on the Metro
with my adoptive sister, to buy presents
for her and my natural sister back home.
They were thirteen; I'd soon be twenty-three.
Both were taller and heavier than I was
and less baby-faced. I hated my baby face
but nobody we knew could ever hate anything
in that sister's company. It was her gift.
Had someone said something that suggested it?
"Let's see if we can act like natural sisters
and you're the older one!" Of course we could.
She carried the money and made final decisions.
We could confuse people about our ages
but not about our Spanish, learned at school
although her mother had learned it at home.

 

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

New Book Review: The Secret Language of Birds

Title: The Secret Language of Birds 

Author: Lynne Kelly

Date: 2024 (scheduled to hit the stores today!)

Publisher: Delacorte

ISBN: 978-1-5247-7027-3

Length: 240 pages (shows as 100 in PDF format)

Quote: "The mockingbird glanced up at me, hopped a few steps down the sidewalk, then turned back, like it wanted me to follow."

Yes, this is an Advance Reader Copy that had been lost in the pile in my Kindle, but randomly popped onto the top of the stack in time for me to get a review posted on the exact day the book is scheduled to reach your favorite store. What put it on the top of the stack (while I was trying to read another book that's been on my TBR list all winter) may have been the effect of Microsoft Not Playing Well With Others, but in this case it was a happy accident. 

The Secret Language of Birds is a wholesome, realistic story--not the kind of "science fiction" that speculates about the possible consequences of some scientific theory or development, but fiction that describes what's going on in real science today. Computers can't understand, but can digitize the sound, of the language of birds and a deaf child who's familiar with the ways computers digitize sound can help scientists who are studying endangered birds. The story is not told from the point of view of that child, but from a schoolmate who wants to be her friend.

Nina, who is just noticeably older than the "campers" (up to age ten) and too young to be even a junior "counselor," is invited to spend the summer with an aunt who runs a summer camp. Nina is a shy extrovert, prematurely sensitized to other people's feelings by having several older siblings. Her suburban yuppie parents aren't sure that Aunt Audrey's "weird" taste for nature over money is the influence they want Nina to have, but the house does feel awfully crowded in between school terms, so they let her go. Confidence bolstered by feeling able to "fit in" with cabin mates, Nina thinks about the girl in her neighborhood whom she wanted to claim as a friend at school but who transferred to another school instead. It wasn't Nina's fault, though Nina embarrassed herself while Iris was going to her school. Iris just likes the school with the deaf program better.

In the great summer camp tradition, the girls hear a story, fact-based in their fictive world, of an isolated cabin that was used as an infirmary, in the early twentieth century, for campers who went down with contagious diseases after arriving at camp. Such children couldn't be sent home and had to be kept in quarantine at camp. At their camp one of them was Josephine, who died of tuberculosis in the infirmary after writing home that she was enjoying the "company" of the wildlife around the isolated cabin. The girls sneak out--counselors hiding in the woods to make sure they're safe, but they think they're sneaking--to visit the old infirmary at night and see whether it's haunted. They see something white, as tall as they are! It screams! Nina knows it's not a ghost and starts making regular visits to the site, with binoculars, to find out what sort of bird it is. It's a whooping crane. Actually, there are two cranes. 

So the characters get the latest updated version of an experience exploring nature: When children can't be trained not to want to play outdoors, they can be allowed to spend a few weeks in strictly supervised groups, never a chance for solitary meditation. If, through an accidental oversight for which the adult responsible apologizes, they're able to see wildlife, they have to run back indoors and look up online all the rules and protocols for reporting it to the right government officials who will make sure they watch the wildlife only through binoculars...which does happen to be the best way to approach whooping cranes. 

It's instructive to compare this dreary story with other books about children and wildlife--even recent ones like Jean George's or some of Cynthia Voigt's. How my generation have, by simple overpopulation, shrunk the world for the young. No wonder young people no longer feel that they're even choosing "one child or none" because that's the right choice; that they're not able to mate and reproduce.

Nina wants to name a baby whooping crane after herself, but the egg onto which she projects her own identity isn't viable. That detail seems more significant than it may have been meant to be. After all, while an introvert child could be expected, given the cast of characters in this story, to want to name the crane after Iris (who exchanges e-mails with Nina and helps identify the whooping cranes) or possibly after Miss Odetta (the official government scientist who talks with the children about the cranes), an extrovert child would be likely to name anything after perself. The author could have used that detail simply by writing a fictionalized version of something that really happened. Still it seems like a metaphor for Generation Z, the children of the new millennium, which may yet see the collapse of our civilization. 

What makes whooping cranes too stupid to live without special help may be a metaphor for the way extroverts like Nina think. They lack an inner core of their own identity. We think of chickens as stupid birds but if a chicken is reared by humans, although it will be friendly and familiar with humans, it will still know how to mate with another chicken and rear baby chicks. A whooping crane will not. If baby whooping cranes observe other birds or animals while they're young, they'll want to be any other lifeform except whooping cranes when they grow up, will "identify as" the other species; they're likely to refuse to mate with other whooping cranes. They will not, in any case, know how to rear baby whooping cranes. They need to take their cues from other whooping cranes to survive...and that's likely not to be enough.

Fortunately for the species, humans have learned to back away from the few living whooping cranes who were reared by their own kind and are able to rear their own kind. At the same time that people who want to help the species avoid letting the cranes see what they really look like, they can bring food or water if necessary, or replace a non-viable egg with a viable one.

Nina accepts that her severely limited opportunity to watch birds is a best case situation for her. Will young readers accept this? Should they? Should adults giving this book to today's middle grade students introduce it with something like "This is the way those unfortunate children who have to live in town really have to live. We should feel sorry for them and be kind to them"? 

However regrettable the reality Lynne Kelly observed may be, her observations are keen and her story is well told. Perhaps in a few years readers can look forward to happier stories about a teenaged or grown-up Nina...working or volunteering in a nature park, studying ornithology at university, moving to the country and rearing children whose encounters with wildlife may be less constricted. Meanwhile, for those who live in whooping crane habitat (they migrate up the middle of North America between Texas and Louisiana and central Canada, and they're also a featured attraction at the Patuxent nature park in Maryland), this book is a delightful re-encounter with the big dimwits. For those who have never paid much attention to whooping cranes, this book will at least give a good sense of why so many people care about them. 

Another part of the reality Kelly observes well is the degree to which people like Nina's family have been recruited into unthinkingly advertising corporate brands. Nina's bird consciousness started when her big noisy family drove away and left her "alone," not at a truck stop, but at a Buc-ee's. (Buc-ee's is a Texas-based chain of Texas-sized truck stops, designed to make the big truck hubs of the twentieth century, like the one long-distance travellers know as Wytheville in Virginia, look small.) Peach cobbler is not topped with ice cream, or vanilla ice cream, but vanilla Blue Bell. And so on. Some readers may be turned off by product placements in a novel, so they rate a content warning. I tolerate a few placements of products that aren't positively harmful; in this book I think they're realistically used to build an atmosphere that suits the story and characters.

Petfinder Post: Thursday Is Pet Day

First the NaPoWriMo poem, then, in celebration of National Pet Day and of all the pets you readers have helped to liberate from shelters, the adoptable pets...

Humanity

In Marxist schemes the powers that be
Make of elections idle show.
They can't choose A who can't choose B;
They can't say Yes who can't say No.
The candidates one party has selected
Cannot in truth be said to be elected.

One thing is not another thing.
The contrast highlights each thing's features.
Humanity's the kind of thing
We learn from life with other creatures.
Part of the dog's role in the cosmic plan
Is teaching his boy how to be a man.

We're not the only kind that feel,
Nor yet the only kind that reason;
God's image in us, if it's real
(Although this sounds like species treason),
Seems more a matter of degree than kind.
Ours is the larger, not the only mind.

Some thing is missing from a man
Who doesn't claim some kind of pet;
He thinks too much of his own plan;
Others' perspectives he can't get;
He may say he likes human company best,
Projecting his own thoughts on all the rest.

God's image in us is a constant duty
To cultivate the garden God has given,
Perfecting harmony, enhancing beauty,
Preparing in this world to live in Heaven;
Responsibility for other creatures
Is part integral of our human natures.

And Now, About the Actual Pets... 

Most weeks we feature either cat or dog photos, but this week, since we've been reviewing last year's pets' pages for so long, why not one of each? The category for each species is "new web pages, featured on the front page of the Petfinder search for the species and zipcode." 

Zipcode 10101: Safira from St Thomas by Way of New Jersey 


Guess whose picture leaped out in the very first place on page one, and really came close to winning all over again? Our old friend Pippen, discussed last winter and again last week. We must move forward with these awards. The cutest cat photo on the front page for zipcode 10101, apart from Pippen and apart from an adorable long-haired FIV-positive fluffball, is Safira, who was found as a stray, begging on the street, on St Thomas island and brought to the mainland by someone who couldn't keep her. She and her daughter have had veterinary care, for which adopters will undoubtedly be paying. The shelter staff sound a bit control-freaky, demanding answers to questions about you before they answer your questions about the cat. I recommend never typing accurate personal information onto a computer. The technical name for trying to get information about you, online, before you've even agreed to pay for anything, is phishing. It should be reported if shelter staff can't be dissuaded from it by a simple reminder of how harmful it is. 

Suga from Korea via New York City  


On its face this sounds like a deal that can't be beaten. Some people in Korea eat dogs. Others argue that dogs are more valuable as pets. So they rescued this dog from a dog-meat farm and are looking for proof that he was eagerly snapped up as a pet. Maybe that's the only reason why they're in such a hurry to get him adopted. Suga's adoption fee has been sponsored and, if he likes you (they say he is, unreasonably, cautiously friendly to humans) enough that you adopt him, he comes with supplies and the first couple of lessons with a professional dog trainer. There are adoption events where you can meet this dog. He's a Spitz, not an oversized Pomeranian, and not the most popular breed in America, but Spitzen can be great pets too. Suga is recommended to people who like daily exercise and spending time outdoors. He is thought to have reached his full size, but is still young and full of energy. He's learned to walk at heel in town, though.

Zipcode 20202: Lux from D.C.
 


She sounds a bit like Serena--a companionable, friendly cat who'd rather bounce and pounce than be snuggled. Long before she was a leggy almost-one-year-old like the kitten shown here, Serena was a lively cat who really needed another bouncy-pouncy kitten to play with. Trying to keep up with a playful half-grown cat is like trying to keep up with a five-year-old child. Maybe her foster family have a companion in mind for her. Maybe you have. Lux looks as if she might be a bit more whimsical, less imperious, than Serena. Appearances can deceive. I wouldn't be too surprised if she wanted her cat buddy to be her friend not yours...control of the human is how some cats assert their status as ruling queen.

Iris from Texas via D.C.  


These German Shepherd types are too valuable to grow up in a shelter. The right person could train them to be police or service dogs. So their photo's been posted on Petfinder pages all over the US and Canada. Each little girl dog weighed a little over 40 pounds when photographed; Mama is obviously bigger. They had been pets but were abandoned with the house, in a hostile neighborhood where they learned to hide from people. Apparently it was a family bonding experience. They need a firm and friendly human leader. My feeling is that the $700 adoption fee should cover the whole pack, but this is the breed most often chosen to guide and rescue humans--Iris, the one in the middle, or her pale-colored sister Ines, or even their mother April, might be worth $700 or more per dog before their stories are over. Their foster humans describe Iris as "perfect." All cats and dogs do a perfect job of being themselves, but Iris has quite an impressive resume for a puppy. A Texan could probably cut the adoption fee considerably by driving out to meet her near her foster home.

Zipcode 30303: Hermes from Atlanta   


That's Hermes with an accent mark, as in French designer label, not merely in Greek mythology. He comes with a rather high price tag because he's thought to be a Russian Blue. (Reminding me of a long-ago shelter cat I thrust upon a friend who decided to keep her after another friend said "Is she what they call a Russian Blue?") 

Genetically Russian Blue cats are very similar to Siamese-American crossbreeds, so it's hard to be sure. The breed was developed by mixing Siamese and ordinary short-haired tabbies, originally at a monastery in Russia. They are slim, graceful cats, sometimes small, sometimes long and lean, often remembered by their humans as unusually clever and loyal pets. As they mature, especially if they spend time out in the sunshine, they tend to look like ordinary, skinny American grey tabbies, not much thinner or bluer-toned to the casual eye. But they're special. You know it, and they know it. They often have high squeaky voices, tend to squeak a lot when they're only "talking," and may cry like a human baby if they're unhappy. 

Hermes comes with quite the story about his early life, and is said to be friendly and "talky." They insist that he be adopted either by or with another cat. He's a bouncy-pouncy adolescent cat and needs a friend of his own kind to bounce with.

I should add that the Atlanta cat photo page is looking much better than it often did last year, with several appealing cat pictures. On the downside...the appealing pictures still include not only the Weird Sisters, whom I categorically refuse to feature again before July but somebody Out There has to want a social cat family, but also Mama Flo...whom we featured two years ago. Someone needs to adopt that Mama Flo. 

Briar from Atlanta 


Some guys like to joke about "breeding male" being the ideal job, and why is it not available to humans? Actually there were slavemasters in these United States who wanted to keep breed registries for slaves, who did advertise men and women as breeding stock. The less we think about that, probably, the better. Anyway this photogenic old dog was kept as breeding stock at a puppy mill, and though he probably enjoyed his job, he was neither petted nor adequately fed. He's said to soak up affection as if starved for it. His photo gallery shows how he's been mopping up food, too. He has some old puppy mill buddies who are looking for homes, too. Veterinary care has made sure that they won't have to produce any more puppies. They're not quite geriatric, for foxhounds, but they're not young dogs and have had enough puppies for this lifetime. They are for companionship only. Still, you can brag about their papers and pedigrees if you want to.

They had a photo for his pal Harper, but it's in a different format, probably taken with a phone camera; it loaded slowly on the Petfinder page and refused to upload here. If you visit the shelter's Petfinder page, by the time you get there they may have a photo for the hounds' other friend Camila. These dogs were not apparently allowed to hang out together, but probably recognize one another's scents and voices.

Monday, April 8, 2024

Web Log for 4.7.24

Economy, The 


Ganked from Theospark.net, the virtual home of a blogger who says he's homeless in England, living in "Chateau Citroen." Meh. He blogs with a distinct US accent but you may think his memes are funny enough to deserve payment. Some of them are definitely not family-friendly or safe for work, so make sure you're in a safe place before typing "Theospark.net" into the browser or using Lens to track the meme.

Politics (Election 2024)

Linked in the hope that someone will send me a copy of David Harsanyi's, or Hasanyi's, book:





Book Review: Wake Up Change Up Rise Up

Title: Wake Up Change Up Rise Up

Author: Lynn Lok-Payne

Date: 2021

Publisher: Well Minded Media

ISBN: 9781736459782
 
Quote: "I wanted to share what I’ve learned: how to find gratitude, accept change, and let go of old stories that are no longer of benefit.

Lynn Lok-Payne. Wake Up_ Change Up_ Rise Up__ Practical Tools for Personal Transformation - Lynn Lok-Payne (Kindle Location 65). Kindle Edition. "

This is another reiteration of the shallow psychological self-help books that were hugely popular in the 1970s and have remained somewhat popular ever since. After a mixed review of the genre, and of this book as a typical specimen, I'll discuss what makes this book special. Skip down if you already know what I have to say about self-help books and want to know what's different about this one.

In some ways the self-help books were all alike. Most were written specifically for people who were trying to reject the religious faith of their childhood, whether because that had been an affiliation with a tradition in which they didn't really have faith, or because they didn't want to live up to the moral teachings of their faith, or because they were mentally screaming "You don't exist and I hate You!" at God. The writers usually claimed some sort of background in psychology, usually not one of the "classical" schools of psychological thought that were relatively respectable at the time, certainly not neurological psychiatry, often a sales psychology course or therapy group in which they'd been effective "peer counsellors" (helping friends calm down, lose weight, quit smoking). Such writers were well qualified to describe how they got through their lives and pursued happiness. Most of them weren't particularly good writers, though Wayne Dyer, who's quoted in this book, did have talent. Many were awfully young to be writing guides to life, and have not grown up to be especially good role models for living good lives. In any case they were all focussed on the idea of fixing the emotional feelings they had, independently of fixing the facts. They all claimed to believe that anybody could feel good about anything, which is a pretty depressing idea if you think about it. Their pursuit of merely emotional happiness always took a lowest-common-denominator approach based in a claim that people could will themselves to feel good, usually having something to do with vaguely Buddhist-inspired meditation intended to help people control pain or anger. For as long as "feeling good" could be defined as "feeling less bad," it works.

Those books weren't on the reading lists at my church college, where we were taught to use Bible verses to do peer counselling when it seemed appropriate. I didn't consider psychology as a major field of study until I'd done some peer counselling that seemed effective. In addition to the psychological bromides that were floating around in pop culture and didn't need to be studied in the self-help books, and the Bible verses, I also discovered the emotional benefits of fixing two facts that had a lot to do with the emotional crises of college students: advising people to get a full night's sleep and a healthy meal before making major decisions such as dropping out of school or hitchhiking to California. "So, is that like a vocation to study health psychology? You know, that's taught at the church university in Michigan." So I transferred to the church university in Michigan, where students were required to have measles vaccinations even if we'd had measles, and people who had those jabs soon formed the Michigan Group of people with "chronic mononucleosis," one of the news stories of the 1980s. I was sick and tired, and apt to be among the people who told me there was nothing wrong with me if I'd only find a job and get up and do something, and apt to collapse on the job if I did, for most of two years after leaving Michigan. I read all the self-help books I could find. I did all the meditations and filled notebooks with all the writing exercises. It helped the long, slow, boring days pass. It had no effect whatsoever on the chronic fatigue, weakness, cramping, jaundice, or tendency to faint, and in fact, no, I was not happy about that. I didn't even think I wanted to be a person who was happy about it.

I did learn a lot about meditation, about "self-talk," and the other psychological techniques discussed in books like this one. They work...within their limits. They weren't enough for me and probably won't be enough for you to live a good life. They can help if you're feeling so bad, as it might be about the fact that your days have suddenly started alternating between days when you feel positively sick and days when you feel merely tired but in any case you're not getting even cerebral work done any more, that you feel interested in some way of ending your life--addiction or suicide or, in my case, joining the FBI and ratting out drug dealers, which I saw as an honorable way to end my life before my undiagnosed disease did. When that didn't work I tried joining the Army, and they at least gave me a thorough enough physical examination to yield a diagnosis that got me through the next year, by which time I was recovering enough energy to do a job. Well, actually, to start the typing and odd jobs service that became my first career, and the success story that I thought might even make the novel that would launch my writing career...Enough about me. Back to the book. 

I think it's a lightweight book in a lightweight genre. Lightweight is not necessarily bad, especially for sick patients reading in bed. In the long run, if you want to live a success story, the generic psychological self-help books that don't even include the Bible verses are not going to be all you need. But if the fact is that your physical recovery is likely to involve a lot of time reading in bed, then practicing mindful meditation and thinking about your emotions may be a better way to pass that time than reading romance novels, which can be depressing if they remind you that your current condition is asexual and also fairly repulsive even to people who found you attractive when you were fit to go to classes. This judgment comes from personal experience.

(I did not consciously plan to do a first-person review of a personal advice book in the week after a client complained about my lapsing into first person in calling attention to what I didn't like about a well written novel. It just happened. My Kindle lost track of the order in which I received Kindle versions of e-books and fouled up my plan of reviewing them in the order received. This is one of those synchronicities that some Jungian psychologists encourage people to notice as a source of wonderment and joy.)

One thing Lok-Payne mercifully passes over is the blather, often considered obligatory in self-help books, about trying to tell yourself you forgive everyone who's ever done you wrong. Lok-Payne takes the more realistic position that you should merely release the emotions associated with blaming, hating, or resenting those people. Releasing the emotions does not interfere with whatever may be necessary to stop those people doing further damage to you or others; that is best done from a position of emotional detachment that would, among other things, make it easier to testify against them in court. Since I've mentioned my personal connection to Michigan, this may interest regular readers. I think the State of Michigan was very much to blame for mandating any vaccinations, especially vaccinations against a mild disease like measles. Even the nasty cases of measles my elders remembered were the sort of risk that might be acceptable if the benefit were permanent immunity to "chronic mononucleosis," but reality is the other way round, and that's not acceptable to me at all. Any recommendation of any vaccine should come from a doctor and should be based on an individual's medical history, probability of exposure, and probable level of resistance. When a disease is really dangerous only to a fetus or infant that might be exposed, the recommendation should be that pregnant women choose to quarantine themselves rather than putting all students in danger. So yes, I did actively blame, and at least frivolously claim to hate, Michigan for twenty or thirty years after I left. I'm not much of a hater but I did at least joke that people should go to Hell, or maybe (insert randomly chosen name of some other town in Michigan). This lasted until, about ten years ago (you could look it up at this web site; I'm not going to take the time), Congressman Griffith's E-Newsletter urged people in the Point of Virginia to support the town of Flint, in whatever way we could, during their public water crisis. So, why not? I had fairly well worn out the wisecracks about "officially" hating Michigan. As a private person I like snarky wisecracks; as a writer I have some responsibility to give readers something to laugh at, but also suggestions in the direction of goodness. Reality was, and still is, that I hate attempts to mandate medical programs for groups of people, but I don't hate groups of people. The people of Michigan have some legislative reforms they need to work on. Maybe recovering some "take-care-of-our-own" pride would help them with that. So let them reclaim that kind of pride--I'm in favor of that. 

The "real" point of this story is that I don't think it's actually necessary, or even necessarily useful, to play Pollyanna Nicely-Nice and say you don't blame people. Of course you do. You should. People need to take responsibility for their actions. Buddhist-type meditation is a useful tool for releasing emotions that may be aggravating illness, but taking it too far would be harmful to the healthier, more successful level of civilization found in countries that blame, shame, and refuse to accept evildoing. So it's possible to detach from the emotions, maintain that things some people do are absolutely not okay, and no, not feel that after thirty years of blaming and opposing evil acts you've been "consumed by bitterness." There's a reason why, in the healthier religious traditions, at least one of the greatest women in the history of the tradition has a name that means "the bitterness of rebellion." A little bitterness is good in a healthy diet, and a little metaphoric bitterness is good for us...not enough that people who know us well think of us as mean, embittered people, but enough that we know right from wrong, and oppose wrong. I believe it's been good for me to remember, and remind people, that an unnecessary vaccine made me ill, that censorship caused the violence after the peaceful rally on January 6, 2021, or that glyphosate is still present in much of the US food supply and is likely to be to blame for the chronic disease condition that is interesting you in self-help books. It is good to think back through the day and, as the rulers of our internal universes, grant pardons to the people who annoyed us by being less than their Creator intends them to be. That does not mean calling evil good. Christians, Jews, and Muslims do blame and judge, both ideas and acts...and that's why we have historically been so much more successful, as nations, than Buddhists and Hindus. Race has nothing to do with that. Religion, as it affects everyday life, has everything to do with it. 

Now, what makes this book special? It has playlists. Not only do the author's recommendations for feeling better include dancing...

(We are not talking about the kind of party or nightclub dancing some people have taken vows not to do. This is about privately moving your body in rhythm, in any way and to any extent that makes you feel more cheerful but not exhausted, or helps you find the point at which you can tell which way exercise is making you feel. For a lot of people who are into the Internet, "dancing" may mean wiggling the toes on the good foot.)

...but the author's recommendations for dancing include playlists, of a nice mix of different musical genres that are easy to find free of charge on the Internet. After reading each short chapter, and writing or typing your optional reactions to the self-help mental exercises, you can click over and pull up the recommended songs. The book suggests at least five tunes for each chapter. For many people who are actually reading self-help books in bed, this light physical exercise will help. So yes indeed, this may be the first self-help book you should get if you want to use self-help books to get through a long slow process of recovery, as it might be from a stroke or other major injury, or "Long COVID." The songs chosen have feel-good lyrics, infectious beats, and wide appeal to Americans who are currently under age 70, with a few references back to songs that appealed to the older generation. 

I like it. I think of how many books I've read beyond the point where this one leaves off. Others will want to read those books too; the best ones are medical and will be determined partly by your medical condition. But those playlists make this book a good choice for a first companion on the journey to emotional self-healing. I still say "Fix facts first: feelings follow," and probably always will, but people who pick up self-help books are likely to be people who have some time to think about their feelings while working on their facts--i.e. resting in bed, breathing for pain control, and doing enough exercise to prevent injuries from excessive bed rest. And those people might as well sing and dance, while doing that, such as they can. For most people, singing and dancing help.

Butterfly of the Week: Eurytides Bellerophon

"How dear's it, if it costs your life?
In your case, very cheap,"
They used to say, when any day
Loved ones were braced to weep.
Sometimes they used a butterfly
As symbol of mortality;
Six weeks to crawl, two weeks to fly,
In Nature's prodigality!
Yet, short as their lives be, it's my belief
The loss of butterflies would cause us grief.

This week's butterfly is another Brazilian specialty, Eurytides bellerophon, that has yet to be really studied by modern scientists. As one science site put it, no description or identification information, life cycle information, behavior information, host plant information, location information, or other information beyond a few snapshots, is available online for this species. 


Photo by Kbraitamaral, who snapped it in November in Campo Largo. 

Part of what makes our Zebra Swallowtails so eye-catching is their somewhat exotic look. They are native to North America, yet somehow they look as if they belonged in South America or on a Caribbean island. That's because so many butterflies that look a bit like them do belong in those places, like the Bellerophon, a whitish butterfly with blackish stripes that form a Y shape on both sides of its forewings. 

The original Bellerophon (bell-lair-o-fawn) was a legendary Greek prince. Tall, strong, and bold, he slew the original Chimera, a three-headed man-eating monster, and tamed the original Pegasus or winged horse. After these feats, the mythological version of his story says that he tried to ride the Pegasus to the heights of Mount Olympus and was cast down, while fragments of a dramatized version attributed to Euripides say that he doubted that the Greek gods were real. While many of the Bible stories deal in one way or another with a choice to obey God rather than men, many of the Greek stories deal in one way or another with the Deadly Sin of Pride. People were admired by other humans and sometimes even by the immortals because they did something very well, but then many people were punished because their success made them conceited. Bellerophon was one of many heroes and heroines whose stories are tragedies about the perils of pride. In addition to the butterfly species, a genus of shellfish have been named after him.

The butterflies are popular enough to have appeared on postage:

Image from Stampdata.

Abundant in the right times and places, this species is not considered threatened. Kite Swallowtails thrive where their food plants thrive. Their symbiotic relationships work for both species...unless the host plant, often a small tree in the family Annonaceae, is destroyed. Deforestation and pesticide spraying are their only known enemies. 

The first description of the species was in Latin:


That was Dalman in 1823. In 1824 Godart published a description of the same butterfly, probably written before Dalman's article was printed, calling it coresilaus. In 1833 Swainson published one calling it swainsonius, which was inexcusable. Fortunately naturalists are more forgiving than Greek gods, and Swainson was allowed to bequeathe his own name to a bird species that has received more attention from posterity than this butterfly has/

The host plant is Guatteria nigrescens, a small tree in the Annonaceae group that bears edible fruit. Several Kite Swallowtails eat the leaves of trees that humans can use for fruit or medicine, but they don't become pests.

Adult butterflies are pollinators, but many male Swallowtails are also composters. While females emerge from their cocoons ready to mate, males in many species have to spend hours or days slurping up mineral-rich liquids before they reach sexual maturity. They are attracted to puddles, where they seem to sense safety in numbers and sip water in mixed flocks along with other butterflies of many species. Females in several of these species  meet their dietary requirement for minerals just through contact with males. They flutter around the edges of the groups of males. A male who is ready to mate will fly up and chase or play-fight with a chosen female. Mating may begin after a few minutes or a few seconds of these games. Bellerophons are puddlers. Their drinking buddies include other Swallowtails and less similar species. 

By the standards of Brazil, the home of the enormous Morphos, Bellerophons aren't very big.


Photo by Pedroalvaro, in January, Itatiaia. 

Among mixed flocks of butterflies, however, they can look large.


Photo by Mockingbird12, October, Caraca.