Amy, Amy, Amy

Amy Winehouse, before all the trouble started.

Amy Winehouse, before all the trouble started.

Today is the 26th birthday of the aptly named Amy Winehouse. This seems worth mentioning because there’s no guarantee she’s going to have a 27th, hell-bent as she is on self-destructing at an early age like her foremother Janis Joplin. This would secure her eternal street cred but would be a tremendous waste of talent. Amy not only possesses a freakish singing voice that had her sounding like the second coming of Dinah Washington at age 20 (despite the handicap of her Britishness), she can write songs, too. She is listed as the sole composer of stellar tunes like “Rehab” and “You Know I’m No Good.”

I recently bought Amy’s debut album, Frank, and was amazed to discover that she was actually pretty cute before she got heavily into drugs, tattoos, and excessive eye makeup. Truly, it’s a shame on many levels. Maybe it’s not too late. She could still pull out of it and end up living to a ripe old age, right? Right?

The Sex Lives of Primates

That is one sexy ape. (Image courtesy Cecil Vortex.)

That is one sexy ape. (Image courtesy Cecil Vortex.)

Following up on the theme of the last post, I’d like to share with you some things I learned recently from a book called Men and Apes, a 1966 bestseller by Desmond Morris (author of The Naked Ape) and his wife Ramona. In truth, though loaded with facts and excellent pictures, this is a bit of a dry read. The most compelling parts have to do with the sex lives of the different apes and monkeys, which vary quite a bit. The descriptions are alternately instructive, curious, horrifying, and downright steamy. Here are a few excerpts organized by species:

News Flash: Monkeys Like Metallica


Because I am interested in everything having to do with our cousins the monkeys and apes, I was fascinated by a recent piece on the Discovery News site entitled “Monkeys Appreciate Monkey Music and Metallica.” You can click the preceding link to read it for yourself, but allow me to excerpt the key parts here:

To create music with more monkey appeal, [cellist and author David] Teie composed pieces using specific features in the tamarin calls, manipulating rising or falling pitches and the duration of various sounds. The music was inspired by sounds the tamarins make to convey one of two messages: fear and friendly affiliation.

When the music was played to seven pairs of adult cotton-top tamarins housed at the University of Wisconsin, the monkeys became more anxious and jittery when they heard the fearful monkey music. They then calmed down, and sometimes even foraged, upon hearing the affiliation-based music.

Regular human music was also played to the monkeys, which predictably showed little response, except for a very surprising, calming response to the heavy metal band Metallica.

That last bit is perhaps the most surprising—not just that monkeys like Metallica, but that they find it relaxing. Perhaps another manifestation of the phenomenon that makes Ritalin calm down hyperactive kids? Some genius better get a grant to study this.

And here’s another news flash from the same site that just caught my eye:

Chimpanzees Empathize with Animated Apes

The Blue Soup


I was at the Red Cross today, feeling a little lightheaded as the blood ran out of my right arm, when I read the following passage in Kurt Vonnegut’s Happy Birthday, Wanda June:

HAROLD: America’s days of greatness are over. It has drunk the blue soup.

PENELOPE: Blue soup?

HAROLD: An Indian narcotic we were forced to drink. It put us in a haze — a honey-colored haze which was lavender around the edge. We laughed, we sang, we snoozed. When a bird called, we answered back. Every living thing was our brother or sister, we thought. Looseleaf stepped on a cockroach six inches long, and we cried. We had a funeral that went on for five days — for the cockroach. I sang “Oh Promise Me.” Can you imagine? Where the hell did I ever learn the words to “Oh Promise Me”? Looseleaf delivered a lecture on maintenance procedures for the hydraulic system of a B-36. All the time we were drinking more blue soup, more blue soup! Never stopped drinking blue soup. Blue soup all the time. We’d go out after food in that honey-colored haze, and everything that was edible had a penumbra of lavender.

PENELOPE: Sounds quite beautiful.

HAROLD: [Angered] Beautiful, you say? It wasn’t life, it wasn’t death, it wasn’t anything! Beautiful? Seven years gone — like that, like that! Seven years of silliness and random dreams! Seven years of nothingness, when there could have been so much!

And because one corner of my brain is devoted to the Beatles 24-7 these days, I thought immediately of Mr. Lennon:

Everybody seems to think I’m lazy
I don’t mind, I think they’re crazy
Running everywhere at such a speed
Till they find, there’s no need

Please don’t spoil my day
I’m miles away
And after all
I’m only sleeping

Yes, yes, the eternal question…drink the blue soup or face reality head-on. Lennon was a blue soup guy; Vonnegut’s character Harold Ryan is not, though it must be noted that he is more or less the villain of the piece. It’s a question most of us face every day, save those courageous few who have sworn off the stuff for good. The blue soup, mind you, isn’t necessarily a substance; it could be a comforting delusion or an unquestioned ideology. To see with clarity and deal with the consequences, this is no easy thing. In the future, I’d like to do more of it; at the moment, however, dreamland beckons.