AMAZING YOU AND ME.

Afternoons can be rather slow times in my house even to the extent of involving an after lunch nap, on the other hand I can invite the cleverest people into my sitting room to talk to me. This afternoon David Eagleman came to explain his theories on how the brain works, alas not in the flesh but through the digital wonder of television. He is a neuroscientist with great skill in presenting revolutionary ideas in a way that any non-scientist can understand. He is presenting a series of programmes on BBC 4 on how your brain produces you and my brain produces me.

    The graphics were superb a brain flashing and twinkling to show the thousands of connections the neurons make so we can make sense of our world.  Of course children’s brains are developing the fastest and there was tragic sequence about Romanian children neglected in orphanages during the Nicolae Ceausescu dictatorship in the 1970s and 1980s. In order to deal with the low birth rate, family planning and abortion were banned, resulting in many abandoned children. Human babies are helpless at birth but they develop very quickly in the early years with the right stimulation and care. Eagleman showed a family who had adopted four of these children after they were four years old.  The loving care  they received could not make up for the deprivation of those first four years. Although now adults they were still mentally disabled. Fortunately they are still part of a loving family who adopted them.

    Human beings are such amazing animals and we can be so careless of the care and nourishment these precious babies need. History is what we were yesterday and ignorance may mean we will return to our past tomorrow.

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SONG AND DANCE AND POETRY.

JUST when I thought there was nothing but Olympic Championships on television, searching through the programme listings I saw on BBC4, the BBC Proms 2017, reading further I spied the word Oklahoma.  My knowledge of music is somewhat limited but this show has been part of my best musical memories for a long time, not quite as far back as 1943 when it was first produced on Broadway, but probably back to the film in 1955, in that year I had a job and the money to go to the cinema ( at the time I would have said the pictures ). The musical was based on the play “Green Grow The Lilacs” by Lynn Riggs, the music by the composer Richard Rodgers and the librettist Oscar Hammerstein II. this is one of those rare occasions when every aspect of the production was superb and woven together; the poetry in the words, the amazingly memorable tunes,  and the vigorous masculinity of the ensemble dancing, sheer perfection.

   In the dark days of 1943 it was exactly what so many people in America and Britain needed. The show was awarded a special Pulitzer prize in 1944, it was a Box Office smash. Of course the main story concerns romantic love between Laurey and Curly, beginning with misunderstandings but all ends happily. They marry when they can admit that they love each other. I confess that I like romantic stories to end ‘happy ever after’, after all it happened to me and I can’t even sing.

The BBC Proms produced a first class show I enjoyed it hugely. Do I have a criticism, no absolutely not. If I pick out anything it would be the dancing, I think it was a little bit tongue in check, the cowboys all dressed in chaps. The women’s ensemble dancing was very dainty and expressive but the men’s ensemble was a whole lot of fun.

DIGITAL REFERENCE LIBRARY.

How technology works is a mystery to me, the thing I do understands that radio, television and the internet are like having a huge library at the touch of a button. I read the programme notes and a word or two catches my eye, well maybe more than two words. The words in question are: John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Lyndon Baines Johnson  both Presidents of the United States of America. This is recent history, the 1960s, I was a young adult, so in the wider sense it is the history of my time. I was pretty much involved in the job I had, I was teaching in a junior school and discovering day by day that I had a great deal to learn about teaching and life. I was aware of President Kennedy, the leader of the free world, I watched television  and read the Observer, but honestly the dramas of daily life in the classroom loomed large in my mental energy.

The programme on PBS America explained in some detail how the Civil Rights Acts were passed in 1964 and 1965, it was not a simple process, many senators in the South were very hostile to African Americans being considered  an essential part of the democratic process, L.B.J. was the President who understood that this inclusion would be best for all Americans: for a peaceful, prosperous and civilised USA.

I would like to see an analytical and clearly expressed programme on the BBC which explained the British parliamentary system as clearly as this PBS programme. Democracy always needs a strong, informed defence as we can clearly see with the situation in Venezuela . 

OLD AND YOUNG.

Yesterday I watched the Documentary Of The Week and it really cheered me up. (Its not often that you can say that about a documentary.) It was ‘Old People’s Home for Four-Year-Olds. It was full of charming children relating to old people, most of them in their eighties. This age group is of particular interest to me as with luck on my side I will soon be one of them. The narrator mentioned that many of these senior citizens suffered from varying degrees of depression, also that they spent many hours sitting in a chair,( has someone been spying on me?) The narrator went on to say that the less a body moves, the less it is able to move, of course absolutely true and the second plain statement the less one engages with life, the more depressing and lonely an individual will feel.

    A group of young extremely alert people had the brilliant idea of putting together two groups of people at opposite ends of the age spectrum. The children were then given simple tasks to do and encouraged to find a partner amongst the older age group, very few adults could resist the smiling face and polite request of a small boy or girl. Even the most reluctant adult was after awhile persuaded to join in. There is hope for us yet.

I give it 5  *****.