Wednesday, August 13, 2008

After the Rain

This is not a record. It's simply a mushroom.

It isn't similar to Roz Savage rowing across the Pacific.
She's already conquered the Atlantic and what's left?

It won't appear in the Guinness Book of World Records—where records are verified and then listed.

"The largest tea bag was made by Celestial Seasonings Tea weighing 48 kg (106 lb) and was displayed at the Celestial Seasonings Tea Party, Toronto, Canada on 15 December 2007."

So this non-record acknowledges my 500th posting on my photo blog. This may indicate an obsessive reduction of the world into digital images; a posturing as a photographer or a fascination with numerology.

A year of daily postings and then a more laid back approach. Is this how pitchers feel when in the seventh inning they smell a no-hitter? What happens at 500? Does this indicate that I am prolific? Not as prolific as the journalist who posted his 500th article and wrote a piece celebrating his accomplishment.

He even gave thanks to a wrist that didn't succumb to carpel tunnel syndrome.

Did you know that the square bracket either has recently or will soon celebrate its 500th anniversary?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Seeking a Record

The year I entered the seventh grade, the year I learned how to do Round the World and Walk the Dog with my hardwood maple yoyo propelled with Slick 6 Cotton Poly Yoyo String, the year my best friend Ellen and I vowed to read only books with more than 300 pages, the year no one beat me at Pick-Up-Sticks, Ellen, Annie, Nina and I decided to do something astounding —set a world record. We all went to the library and poured over the Guinness Book of World Records.

Sir Hugh Beaver, who managed the Guinness beer brewery came up with the idea for the book while playing a trivia game at a pub. Did he foresee people vying for the chance to set a record, break a record?

How could he possibly know that on November 5, 2007 Jackie Bibby, aka The Texas Snake Man, sat in a bathtub with eighty-seven snakes — for forty-five minutes?

Or that on August 2, 2008 the people of Almeria province in Spain broke a record. Forty people sliced—tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onion, and hundreds of garlic cloves and using mammoth blenders blended everything. (An aside— they used vegetables untainted by pesticides). Five grueling hours later, when they poured the contents into a container the Guinness representative “confirmed that the container held 4520 litres of gazpacho— a new record.”

We read of feats. World records. Death defying stunts.
But we needed to attempt a simple record—no money, or nothing beyond our scant savings— and few props.

Ellen suggested ingesting insects. “There’s even a word, “ she said, “for the study of eating bugs—Entomophagy.” Ellen loved the dictionary.

Annie suggested wearing one colour for a year. We found no one claiming that record.

Nina suggested only speaking Pig Latin at home.
“Do it for a year and we’ll have a record.”
Seize the Day or Carpe Diem in Latin becomes arpe-Cay iem-Day in Pig Latin.

I suggested writing a journal entry every day—mirror image.

We never set any records, but we did speak Pig Latin at home for a week, wear the colour black for one week, and write mirror image journal entries for a week. Ellen ate four insects while we watched and gagged.

I am still fascinated with records. I follow the exploits of women who row across the ocean—like Roz Savage who rowed across the Atlantic. She’s now rowing across the Pacific.

“… I’d always intended to row the Pacific Ocean,” explains Roz. “I believe that if you don’t keep pushing the boundaries, your comfort zone will become smaller and smaller until you’re effectively shrink-wrapped…”

I missed out when on July 6, 2008 “Taiwan set a World Record by arranging for 1,008 people to have a foot massage simultaneously.”

Before I’m shrink-wrapped I need to think about records again.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Embedded Roots

My father's family lost their roots at Ellis Island when expediency and the difficulty of understanding a heavy Russian accent sliced the ending off the family name, altered the vowels, and hampered chances of finding ancestors. My mother's family lost their roots in a Polish shtetl. Was it Kolbuszowa, maybe Zelav, perhaps Frysztak? No one spoke of the past—of the losses.

Our roots began on the Lower East Side where Max drove a meat truck for a living and David painted tenement apartments. Their wives, Yette and Cecile, both sat at treadle sewing machines for eight hours a day.

They belonged to the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, or the Teamsters, or attended Workman's Circle meetings. Everyone read the Forward —the primary voice of Jewish immigrant Socialism. Instead of family roots found in genealogical records my family tree included a branch that reminded me to never cross a picket line.

The Danish monarchy can trace an unbroken line back to 950 A.D. Deep roots.

I read that someone calculated Noah's age and determined he succumbed at the age of 950. Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth, to whom sons were born after the flood. It keeps going: descendants of Japheth: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras.., and on and an until you read “These are the groupings of Noah's sons, according to their origins and by their nations. From these the other nations of the earth branched out after the flood.”

How many people create their family trees?

“The greatest reported depth to which roots have penetrated has been calculated at 120 m (393.7 ft) for a wild fig tree at Echo Caves, near Ohrigstad, Mpumalanga, South Africa.” This is a record. Is there a record for the largest family tree? The world's longest root system is the single winter rye plant— also called Secale cereale. It can grow roots measuring up to 387 miles.

Root vegetables: My grandmother made borscht soup from fresh beets. We ate it cold with a tablespoon of sour cream floating on top. Her recipe traveled from Eastern Europe—an immigrant soup with roots in a small village. She had married a man named Klein who organized meat drivers. U.S. Immigration records: 72, 284 Kleins immigrated from the 1500s to 1900s. Over 8,000 Kleins are listed in the Ellis Island records.

“The surname Klein is one of the first ever recorded anywhere, and early examples taken from the authentic German charters and registers of the period, confirm its popularity. These include Walthem der Kleine of Kassel in the year 1209, Kounrad Claineman of Oberschwaben in 1283, Conrad Klainer of Friedingen in 1424, and Johan Klainhain of Konstanz in 1469. The first known recording of the surname anywhere in the world is probably that of Herolt der Kleine from Wurzburg, Germany, in the charters of that city for the year 1185.” These aren't our roots.

Roots of Botanical Names: phil—loving, desirous of
Philodendron = tree loving because they often grow around trees.

My grandmother kept a philodendron on the window ledge overlooking an alleyway. When it withered and only two leaves remained she refused to throw it out.
“It's living,” she said, “It still has a chance.” Four weeks later a new leaf unfurled.

My family tree—
Never cross a picket line.
Don't give up on any living thing.