The death whistle.

There are a number of tendencies in society as I know it that I attempt to individually overcome on a daily basis. As the top predator in the food chain, we don’t look up. I try to find whatever I can above me: tree branches, clouds, stars, and endless white ceiling tiles. As humans we neglect various senses at various times. Our offices, hospitals, and museums are typically wastelands of soundless air (or worse, echoing with sounds of elevator music, bad radio, and improper and impolite phone use). We rarely smell or touch anything. I’m not advising anyone to rub money and then lick their hands, but still, there’s something we’re missing by not really touching the world around us. I like to walk through the library and let my fingertips skim across the bindings of old books. I like to pat the bark of trees as I pass. I tear off leaves and smell them. I bend over flowers to chance a whiff. We need this. In our daily lives we allow ourselves to go without it.

This desolation of the senses is not true of all cultures, however.  The minstrels of the Middle Ages were post officers, newscasters, entertainers, and societal commentators all through sound.  Priests and monks from a variety of religions use scent to make a space sacred to this day.  The blind in China are often trained as masseuses and masseurs to take advantage of their heightened fingertip sensitivity.  Finally, new research is hinting that the Aztecs, the Maya, and other people in that region may have used a variety of whistles and sound instruments to accent daily life.  While I am quick to discount suggestions of certain sounds numbing people to stupor to help with healing, time and further research could easily prove me wrong.  Even more intriguing is the idea of the death whistle, a whistle that may have been blown by sacrificial victims as they were put to the knife and may have been heard by invading Spaniards. It sends a delicious tingle down the spine, doesn’t it?  After all, like the banshee of Ireland, death should be embodied by a shrill note, a rending of soul from this world to the next.  The idea of a little flute that can audibly symbolize that feeling of loss – who wouldn’t find it powerful, even in our sound-deficient times?

Breakup a la Facebook

Some of you must be aware that I recently changed my status on Facebook from “In a Relationship” to “Single”.  It may be a trite way to inform my friends of the change, but it beats the alternatives.  It’s hard enough to go through a breakup without having to tell every single person who know you as a ‘good couple’ just why this happened and how.  Especially when you are the breakee rather than the breaker, It’s hard enough to accept the loss of your relationship, even without friends you trust discussing and questioning the decision that wasn’t even your decision.  And who wants to stand around lamenting the past?

Of course, some people would take the usefulness of this feature to the extreme.  Just like middle school, it eliminates the need to directly tell someone else your intentions.  In middle school, you could always have a friend do the actual ‘breaking’ for you.  Or, my personal favorite, there’s the phone breakup in which you curse the breakee for being a ‘dog’ and other various things just to show how serious you are about breaking all ties.  Some people might even use Facebook to avoid those delicate conversations about moving from casual dating to a full-fledged relationship.  Someday, somewhere, people might actually be proposing marriage on Facebook.  Creepy.

Still, it was pretty surprising to see the results.  People I hadn’t spoken to in months called or messaged to offer support and condolences.  Three of Mike’s friends he hadn’t told about the breakup yet only found out about it through my status change (his profile still was listed as ‘in a relationship’ at that point cause he’s a bum who doesn’t update his status).  And it was an easy way to shout out to my friends, “I need immediate and serious distraction from my own thoughts,” without having to say much of anything.  But the best part of it all is that I can still laugh at the gossipy quality to this useful little tool.  It’s still a little prideful to proclaim my new single status so quickly, and a little cheesy to feel sad about the poor broken heart pieces I showed to the world through online emoticons.  But if I can still laugh, I must be doing pretty good.

Slow news day

There are many reasons why a newspaper might include a quaint story or anecdote as a part of their regular press.  It can increase readership.  It gives people a pleasant feeling rather than blasting them with the less positive aspect of newsworthy events.  It allows for newspapers to address big issues like ‘local color’ and ‘regional pride’.  But most of all, it fills space when more ‘hard’ news is lacking.

Take the story of a recent escape of zoo animals in the Netherlands.  Sure, I would agree that “It must have been a funny sight, waking up in the morning and looking out the window to see those animals walk through the streets,” just like the police spokesperson said.  Still, that doesn’t make it newsworthy.  It was a funny sight in the Netherlands.  It wasn’t a funny sight in Nebraska, or even in London.  I doubt somehow that the escapist giraffe is ever going to affect me.  Sure, it’s amusing, but for amusing I normally have other outlets.  They’re called books.  Sometimes, they aren’t even complete fact, but are still enjoyable.  That’s hardly what I expect from the news.

And now I’m using the same story to lengthen my own shrift of blog material.  Why?  ‘Cause it’s a slow news day.