Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Chewing on my eye movements

If that isn't the strangest blog post title ever, I don't know what would be.

Around here eyes have been a big deal lately.
Bernie recently had fabulous results with some eye surgery which restored his failing vision.  The plus side is now he has perfect vision, the down side is that I really liked how he looked in glasses and he no longer has any need to wear them. 

Well now at least one of us can see at all times without any prescriptive eye wear. 

Now about the same time Bernie was undergoing eye surgery I came across an article that has been making me ponder for awhile.

The article concerned research that "proved" that brains are hard wired when presented with three photos of disgusting or revolting things and one photo of beautiful or charming things to either look at the disgusting or revolting things and stay on those images or to ignore those images in favor of looking at beautiful photo.

Now here is the kicker/sticker:
People who are conservative or hold conservative values have eye movements that stay focused on the disgusting while the eyes of people who hold liberal values stay on the charming or beautiful photos.

The article has an example of  such a four photo grid.
The "disgusting" photos are a picture of fresh dog poop, a festering wound and insects on food.
The one pleasant photo is of a sweet happy little girl facing the camera.
(Photo above and below: Spring time in Texas from when I lived in Houston.)

Now I staunchly profess to be conservative.
The point of the article was that perhaps political viewpoints are a genetically implanted element rather than a viewpoint arrived at by choice.
Perhaps it is as sensible to discuss/argue politics as it is to discuss/argue how tall one should be.
Nothing can be changed in either case because it (one's political views or height) is just what it is.
OK...that is possible.
But I have a few other questions about eye movement choices between beauty and grotesque.

I think I have demonstrated with my photographic choices that I enjoy looking through my camera lens at beauty.

And yet...when I looked at those four photos in the article I noted that my eyes indeed had a hard time not returning to look at the "yuck"photos after glancing at the happy child.

Apparently conservatives are more aware and responsive to "yuck" and respond with skin sweating and other heightened awareness/concern signals.
The liberals have no physical response to seeing insects on food or dog poop on grass.
They glance away from those scenes and never look back.

 I realize that I do tend to react to things that are not as I think they should be.
For me insects on food equals something that Needs To Be Dealt With.
Poop on the lawn: Needs shoveling or at the very least a warning given to avoid it and perhaps a request to the neighbor that the dog poop needs to be bagged during walks.
Festering wounds: My stomach turns and I wonder why the wound is not being treated and how the person is managing.
Apparently Liberals do a mental shrug about all of that and just mentally smile at the pretty child.

I think I understand why I as a conservative feel pretty good about my response.
I think my response is "responsible", that is, I tend to make a decision about "yuck", such as to clean it up, set up warnings, seek ways to avoid it happening again which I think leaves me and my world a cleaner safer better place.
The thought of a happy child being joyfully watched without regard to her food being covered with insects, her play space having dog poop or someone near her having a festering wound to me is irresponsible, and possibly self centered:  It feels good to see the pretty child but if the kid gets sick from bad food or disease it isn't my concern.

(Mount Olympus, as viewed from my deck on a day with a most unusual rainbow.)

Would I feel safe living with folks who only see beauty and never react to ugly?
Is it a good thing to have a few people in my life that only see the rainbows and never the mudslides from the rainstorm?
Um...probably, in small numbers to remind me to look up to see the rainbows some times when all I see is mud.

Now I am curious about what liberals chose to photograph.
I have a hunch after seeing art galleries and photography shows that liberals often photography.
I notice that they tend to paint or draw or  "edgy" stuff.
You probably know what I mean: 
Strung out druggies on the street.
Broken down houses with trash thrown about.
Creepy torture like scenes of people.

Am I right about that impression the liberals enjoy creating "ugly" art?
I know they scorn pretty flowers and cats and Thomas Kinkade type art.
So why do they create ugly art and yet prefer to see beauty?
And why do conservatives chose to create beauty and yet somehow tend to let their eyes linger on ugly?

Years ago we saw a series where a modern San Francisco family was moved to a 1870s Texas ranch to live as if it was still 1870, herding cows, growing kitchen gardens for food, and wearing the clothing of the era.
They decided to throw a party and invite the cowhand and farm workers.
Everyone had a great time for one night.
The next day it was hot, really hot, too hot to clean up the left overs or wash up the cooking pots and pans.
Two weeks later the plates, pots and pans and dishes were still sitting out in front of the ranch house.
Flies had swarmed and maggots now covered everything.
And by swarmed I mean when they filmed someone walking through the front area they were nearly blacked out by flies.
Bernie and I were both absolutely grossed out by how the family never dealt with the flies.
The family was later evaluated as to whether they would have survived one year on the ranch in the real 1870.
The verdict:
They would have starved and lost the land.
The family was really angry at this evaluation., even thought they had received good training on the need to tend the gardens and keep up with food prep and cleaning.
The article brought that horrific reality show scene back to mind.
I wondered:
Where did their eyes rest while the flies covered everything?
What "beauty" did they find to distract them from that ugliness?

Any thoughts?
Any wonders from you?

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Flowers and Birds and even a Bug, and then some: Yeeahhh!

I say another big clue that winter has ended is finding a bug.
This tiny beetle was on my kitchen wall; I almost missed seeing it because it was about the size of a pin head.
Look at how beautifully colored it is.
Look at it sideways and squint a bit and you will see a face of a guy with sunglasses and a handle bar mustache!)
(I carefully swooped him onto a piece of paper and took him outside after I got this picture just in case "he" was a "she" and had intentions of raising a beetle brood somewhere near my pantry.)

A few days ago we had a snow shower and a pair of flickers showed up.
The more colorful male didn't hang around but the female seemed content to stay.

How is that for blending in?

A Downey woodpecker also hung out on the tree during the snowfall.

I would love, just once, to hold a downy woodpecker in my hand.
They look soooo soft.

The American goldfinch had his black cap dusted with snow.
Wintery moments, even with snow thunder and hail, don't last long here anymore.
Whatever snow does accumulate it is usually gone by noon or the next day.
Our lawns are snow free and ready to be mowed. Most years there is still snow lingering on the lawn in the shade until June.  I think this is going to be an early summer this year.

Well, it is definitely an early spring over at the Temple Square.
Temple Square gardens are always miraculously in full bloom by the first week in April.
I use the term "miraculously" loosely...the Latter Day Saint have their annual conference in SLC the first weekend in April and the miracle of the spring flowers is actually helped along with heated flower beds.
Shhh...don't tell!

The flowering trees blossoms...well, I don't think they were helped along as all the flowering trees in SLC are bursting in fluffy pink or white flower clouds right now.
Their petals are just barely beginning to drop as of today when we were up near 70 degrees.

I managed to dash over to Temple Square this morning to see it at its peak of perfection.

As marvelous as the blossom colors are, it is the fragrance in the garden right now that I was intent on catching.
Sorry I can't share it with you via blogdom.

Come along....I'll just chat away whenever I think a photo needs some explaining or commenting.

A visit to Temple Square: You will not be lonely.
A pair of early 20something girls, each as pretty as a picture and wearing badges with their name, title (Sister) and home country will soon come up to you, clutching their Bible and offering to give you a tour.
It takes just a few moments for me to wave them off by explaining that I live here, and that I visit the grounds regularly and I am taking pictures today.
Occasionally I am approached by a helpful other "Saint" who want to chat me up.
I repeat my 'wave off' credentials of being a local, and if that doesn't chase them off, I add solemnly that my great, great grandmother came to SLC in the late 1870s and that my grandfather was born here in the 1890s.
Usually the Saint realizes that I have more "cred" with that history than they do.
I don't complicate the truth with adding that no one in my family history except that great great grandmother ever cottoned to Mormonism.
Generally the LDS Elders (men) will not approach me.
One time I was in the square and needed to find out where the lady's room was and asked one of the elderly Elders where I could go to the bathroom.
He blushed and gestured to a building before shuffling away.
Since then I have avoided talking to the suit wearing Temple grounds guys.

The sun shining through the blossoming trees was so lovely.
The statue is of Jesus giving His physical blessing to two of the LDS original leaders.
(Bet you are as surprised as I was to learn Jesus snuck back to earth for that aren't you?)

The Temple Square is always a popular location for family photos.
This was a grandmother being photographed with her five or six grandkids.
The one in the bright red top wanted nothing to do with it and steadfastly turned her head to the camera.
There is always one kid like that, isn't there?

Another statue.
The plates below the statues explain who the people are and why they are noteworthy.
A "Sister" would be happy to fill you in too.
I have to be careful whenever I manage to drag Bernie along with me to the Square as he will stand next to the statues and talk loudly about False Prophets and the behind the scenes stories that the LDS are not fond of having discussed.
He is either doing that or making retching sounds...
(Bernie was raised LDS and found his Christian faith at age 19.  He has no respect for LDS theology after studying it both before and after he was saved.)

Almost the most darling picture ever except the little rebel in red!

The gold guy with the trumpet atop the temple is the Angel Moroni.
The LDS have no crosses in or on their churches, nor do they use wine or grape juice during their communion (they use water) as they condemn religious imagery.
Except of course for their 3.8 meter tall gold plated angel that Bernie refers to as a demon.
(Come visit us sometime and I'll see if you can enjoy visiting the Temple Square with Bernie as your guide!)
An old female LDS "saint" sidled up to me as I was walking around with my camera this visit.
She encourage me to get "the most wonderful picture", that of Moroni framed by the flowering tree branches.
I told her I had....
She pressed on with other photo ops that I had to get; I explained I lived here and visited the grounds frequently.
She continued to ask me if I had seen this or that so I unloaded the great grandma/1870s/grandpa born here spiel.
Get this: She asked me what was my grandfather's name.
I am pretty sure she wouldn't have met him as he left SLC in 1916 or so.
It was a quirky conversation to say the least.

I loved this woman's long pink coat!
She was waiting patiently just outside the actual temple.
I suspect that she was waiting for a family member who was being married inside.
Only "Temple Worthy" people, with "Temple Recommends" may venture inside the temple.
If you don't have the paperwork, you will not be allowed to witness any Temple marriage, even if it is your own child being married.

I really did get that most marvelous shot...

I am very, very fond of this sculpture that needs no explanation.

The tall tower is (I think) condominiums built by the Church of LDS.
Since each condo overlooks the most famous Temple all the condos were sold out before it was even built.

Seeing the fountain blasting away again is a sure sign that winter is over for good.

Families visiting the grounds with the little ones is a common sight.
Often the little one's mommy and daddy were married here too.

Another "no explanation needed" sculpture that I also love, love, love.

I have photographed it in all four seasons.
I like the winter and spring seasons at their feet the best.

Try to imagine how fragrant this area was!

An impromptu family photo.
LDS families often had seven kids when I was having my kids; my LDS sister in law had seven and so did many of her friends.
Now it seems like LDS families are more likely to be about five kids.
The LDS family size has to do with their theology that unborn souls are assigned to couples and if the souls don't get a body then they won't be able to reach eternity with their intended family.
I have read stories told by LDS women of being visited by a phantom child while they were awake and then the child just vanished.
Later they see that exact child in the next baby that they have.
Some of the stories are quite dramatic.
It is an interesting topic within the faith.

Bernie will love this photo.
Don't ask...

The gardens are maintained by church volunteers and the bulbs are ripped out and discarded after they have finished blooming.
Then the beds are completely replanted with the next seasonal kind of flower.
I wish I could catch them ripping up the bulbs so I could ask if I could have some.
Don't know what they would say.

I will say that I think the SLC temple is pretty.
Each of the around 130 temples world wide are slightly different.
Each temple is an imposing structure situated in a location that is visible from quite a distance.
Not all of them have gardens.
The older temples dictated the street numbering systems in the towns where they were built.
The temple is bound by streets named East Temple, West Temple and South Temple.
Then each street that ripples out from the Temple is numbered in its relationship to the Temple.
3900 South Street is 39 blocks south away from the Temple.
The trouble with that numbering is remembering that a "South" street runs east west.
And that each address has either North or South PLUS an East or West part so one can figure out where it is in relationship to the temple.
Don't worry...if you move here or an other old temple town you will catch on right away!

I usually manage to be polite about the LDS artwork.
This sculpture is the only one that I have a hard time stomaching.
It is Joseph and Emma Smith, pictured with him accepting some coins from Emma representing her work in the Relief Society.
I have not problem with the Relief Society, in fact I think every religion would do well to raise money to care for the widowed and orphaned.
My queasy feeling comes from knowing that Emma was Joseph's only wife for over 20 years when he "suddenly" got a prophesy that LDS men should marry many wives.
She didn't get the same memo from God or Moroni either.
Nearing middle age, Emma wrote furiously in her diary about how sick and aggrieved she was that Joseph was marrying other women, both openly and in secret.
Talk about a mid-life crisis!
Joseph said he had been told by God that women could only get to heaven if they were married to an LDS man.
At that time, some women came to believe this as truth and would secretly marry Joseph and his fellow prophets even though they were at the time married to a "gentile" or non-LDS husband as well.
One such woman later gave birth about 9 months after her LDS marriage consummation.
She declared she had no idea if the baby's father was Joseph Smith or her non-LDS long time husband.
Emma...oh Emma.
The polygamy nightmare you and other women of your faith were put through at that time was just awful.
I doubt that she would have thought the emotions portrayed in the sculpture of the two of them was an apt likeness.
Water runs through the gardens and trickles down stair step walls.

Makes me want to grab some children and dance too!

I enjoy watching little boys scramble up fountain walls, so colorful in the their own right that they are fitting competition to the flowers in bloom.

LDS men wear suits.
Older LDS couples tend to walk together and the women tend to wear sensible shoes and carry big purses.
It is a little surprising that this woman is wearing slacks; I bet there is a story as to why that is.

One can see the state Capitol from the Square.
The state legislature is not totally LDS anymore but they are still in the majority.
SLC is less than 50% LDS now, but outlying areas are still of a LDS majority.
It can be difficult to work here because the LDS businesses generally will not hire non-LDS.
 Job advertisement in the paper will sometimes include a line about needing to have a "Temple Recommend", even for a job like a plumber!
Sometimes you will hear non-LDS complaining about how being LDS is like being in a club and if you are not in the club or interested in joining the club then you get ignored.
It is true.
But at least the club for the most part are pretty mannerly people.

Well there's your peek at Temple Square for Spring 2014.
The biggest surprise of my visit?
I didn't see a single bride in the garden!
Sometimes we see dozens of brides on a nice day!