THE INTERNET MONK SATURDAY BRUNCH
”It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.”
There was a big to-do in Washington, D.C. yesterday. We’ll do our best to block it out of our minds and conversation today. I’d like to avoid indigestion and/or food fights if possible.
Ah, I see our loyal servant is bringing the fruit tray and coffee now. It’s time to indulge in some of the news and notes from this past week outside of Washington. Enjoy!
When my son was little, he once told me when he grew up he wanted to be “an artist and a garbage man.” What else would you expect from a little boy who sat for hours by the picture window in the living room, drawing and coloring and watching the traffic on the street outside?
This week I heard the story of John Marboe. He is a Lutheran pastor who grew up admiring his local garbage collectors in Alexandria, Minn. And when times were lean for his family, he decided to take on some shifts hauling trash. What meaning does he find in this odd combination of trades?
I keep doing it because it’s, I don’t know if I want to say it’s more important but it’s differently important. You’re doing something for people, and I think especially I’m aware of that when it’s hot out, when it’s really smelly, when there are a lot of maggots. But as a garbage man, I probably know more about people on my route than their pastor does because their trash tells a story.
…it puts me in touch with that side of life which is about loss, that everything is temporary.
…And to do the trash, it’s sort of a reminder that every small thing that we ever do for other people is valuable, even though it might be really small and unnoticed.
Read or listen to “Trash Tells a Story” at NPR StoryCorps
The rate of abortions performed in the United States has fallen lower than during any year since 1973, when the Supreme Court legalized the procedure, according to a new report by the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.
The latest numbers, for 2014, continue a trend of declining abortion rates for most years since 1981.
In 2014, there were an estimated 926,200 abortions — a rate of 14.6 per 1,000 women of childbearing age (15 to 44) — compared with 1.06 million abortions in 2011, the year of the last Guttmacher report, or 16.9 per 1,000. In 1973, the year of the Roe v. Wade decision, the rate was 16.3. In 1981, the rate was 29.3.
Now for someone like me who does not support the practice of abortion (whether or not it should be legal and available is another question), this is both good news and bad. I have often expressed my opinion that those who are pro-life should focus first on reducing abortions by helping change certain conditions that cause people to choose the procedure. So, this continuing drop in the rate of abortions is unvarnished good news. On the other hand, I still find the idea of nearly a million abortions per year sad and unacceptable. It was not clear to me from reading the study how many of those abortions might have been considered medically necessary.
One of the biggest factors in the decline of abortions, the report suggests, was access to birth control.
Researchers suggested that increased use of long-term birth control, such as intrauterine devices and contraceptive implants, contributed to the most recent decline. In particular, the proportion of clients at federally funded family planning clinics who sought such methods increased to 11 percent in 2014 from 7 percent in 2011. Because women who rely on these clinics are disproportionately young and poor and account for a majority of unintended pregnancies, researchers said, even a moderate increase in reliance on these methods could have an effect on the abortion rate.
Read “Rate of U.S. Abortions Hits Lowest since Roe v. Wade” at the NY Times
According to geneticists, anywhere from 1-5% of the genome of modern Europeans and Asians may come from Neanderthal ancestors. It seems that around 50,000 years ago, when the ancestors of modern humans migrated out of Africa and into Eurasia, they encountered Neanderthals and, uh, took things to the next level. Those who stayed in Africa missed out on the Neanderthal tango (no Neanderthal DNA appears in present day Africans).
Dr. John Anthony Capra, an evolutionary genomics professor at Vanderbilt, has been trying to learn what a partial-Neanderthal heritage means for people today.
What we’ve been finding is that Neanderthal DNA has a subtle influence on risk for disease. It affects our immune system and how we respond to different immune challenges. It affects our skin. You’re slightly more prone to a condition where you can get scaly lesions after extreme sun exposure. There’s an increased risk for blood clots and tobacco addiction.
To our surprise, it appears that some Neanderthal DNA can increase the risk for depression; however, there are other Neanderthal bits that decrease the risk. Roughly 1 to 2 percent of one’s risk for depression is determined by Neanderthal DNA. It all depends on where on the genome it’s located.
He even thinks that Neanderthal DNA can make a person more prone to nicotine addiction.
Sorry if these words are hurtful to any of you.
Read “What Did Neanderthals Leave to Modern Humans?” at the NY Times
QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK
Babies born dependent on opioids, tiny victims of an epidemic across our nation, are often born facing having to deal with symptoms of withdrawal — twitching and tremors, trouble with feeding, and difficulty sleeping.
Boston Medical Center has developed a program to help these little ones. They call it CALM, an incomplete but apt acronym for Cuddling Assists in Lowering Maternal and infant stress. This program revives a definitely old-school approach, putting an emphasis on non-pharmacologic care. Often, that starts with skin-to-skin cuddling.
Programs like CALM are being developed across the country, recruiting volunteer cuddlers for those babies whose parents are unavailable because they are in residential treatment programs or otherwise unable to be as present as needed. The CALM program itself has 100 volunteers who take two-hour shifts, holding, rocking, singing, and providing soothing presence to the little ones.
STATNews reports on the results so far:
- A 40% drop in medication treatment rates
- Saving the hospitals money. It costs $2100 per day for the medical center to house one of these babies and huge cost savings is realized with shortened stays.
And all it takes is someone who will devote himself or herself to cuddling a baby.
Read “Call in the Cuddlers” at STATNews
For my money, the greatest cover song of all time began to be recorded on this day in music history. On January 21, 1968, Jimi Hendrix started to lay down his version of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” at Olympic Studios in London.
Recording the song was a long process that eventually moved to New York’s Record Plant studio, where the majority of the Electric Ladyland album was cut. There Hendrix had access to a 12-track and then later a 16-track recording machine that enabled him to obsessively overdub guitar and bass tracks repeatedly until he got what he wanted.
I’ll let Ray Padgett in his “Cover Me” article take it from here:
After the endless overdubs and re-recordings of guitars, vocals, and bass, it came time to mix the record. By this point Chandler, who had produced the original London sessions, was long gone. His original mix had been relatively subdued, focusing heavily on the acoustic guitars and giving even the loud solos plenty of room to breathe.
The new version Hendrix mixed with Eddie Kramer went in the opposite direction. “It was a case of Jimi and I doing it together and just making it sound as commercial as we possibly could,” Kramer said. With 16 tracks at their disposable, they had plenty of room to add compression, reverb, chorusing, and other studio tricks to make the entire thing louder and more in-your-face. With many other tracks too long or too far out to ever take off, the goal for “Watchtower” was becoming clear: hit single.
It worked. Release as a single in the US on September 21, 1968, and backed with “Burning of the Midnight Lamp,” “All Along the Watchtower” became Hendrix’s first and only Top 40 single on the Billboard charts, climbing from #66 on its debut to a peak of #20 (it made #5 in the UK, where Hendrix had more of a track record). It in fact sold more than the group’s previous four singles combined – and that includes “Purple Haze” and “Foxy Lady.”
It resonated particularly with troops in Vietnam. The army’s official radio broadcasts were tightly controlled, but GIs overseas had made a regular practice of setting up pirate radio stations in the field, and “Watchtower” began to get heavy airplay. One veteran recalled in Stephen Roby’s Black Gold, “I just spun the dials…lo and behold there’s Midnight Jack broadcasting: ‘Midnight Jack, man, I’m deep in the jungle… What can I play for you, man?’ He’s gone for about 30 seconds and I imagine he’s putting a reel-to-reel tape on and here comes Jimi Hendrix…”
Perhaps most importantly to him, Bob Dylan loved it too – though it’s not clear whether or not Hendrix ever knew, as all Dylan’s public comments occurred after Hendrix’s death. “It overwhelmed me, really,” Dylan told the Florida Sun-Sentinel in 1995. “He had such talent, he could find things inside a song and vigorously develop them. He found things that other people wouldn’t think of finding in there. He probably improved upon it by the spaces he was using. I took license with the song from his version, actually, and continue to do it to this day.”
One cool thing about article linked and quoted above is that it contains audio samples of various takes captured in the process of recording “All Along the Watchtower.” Check it out. And here’s the finished single, a classic, and in my view as I said, the best cover song of all time.