Friday, December 20, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 12/19/19: Setting the Record Straight, The Old and New, Terps Fall to Seton Hall

1. Yes, I enjoy how Lucy Cooke zeroes in on quirky animal behaviors -- for example, sloths spend much of their time hanging from branches. But, when it comes time for one of their infrequent bowel movements, sloths s-l-o-w-l-y descend to the forest floor, dig a small hole, and deposit their waste bricks in it. Their dung serves as a kind of Tinder app, communicating information about their readiness to make whoopee. Speaking of whoopee, sloths might have been David Bowie's inspiration when he wrote the famous "Ohhh wham bam thank you ma'am" line in his song "Suffragette City". It seems that while in all other things, the sloth moves unhurriedly, when it comes to coupling, the sloth, according to Lucy Cooke, is remarkably hasty.

So, yes, I enjoy learning such oddball facts about eels, sloths, hyenas, vultures, beavers, and bats. But, even more, I enjoy Lucy Cooke's efforts to save the reputations of these creatures. She has dug deep into writings from past centuries about animals, in publications called bestiaries. Often, these bestiaries had a moral purpose -- they were often written by Christians -- and that purpose was to demonstrate how the behavior of the "lesser" creatures of God's creation could be seen as providing us humans with moral instruction. Quite famously, the sloth was so ill thought of that its name was synonymous with the fourth of the seven cardinal/deadly/capital sins. (By the way, these bestiaries tended to write exaggerated praise of the industrious beaver and just flat made up stuff to inflate the beaver's reputation.)

Lucy Cooke's book is titled The Truth About Animals because she sets out to set the record straight, to help us see not only the oddities of these animals, but their contributions to the well being of the world around them. For example, by preying on carrion and with their skill to efficiently pick the bones of the dead clean with great speed, vultures help stop the spread of disease.

On the one hand, as Lucy Cooke wittily discusses that the genitals of the female hyena look like a penis, her humorous treatment of such eccentricities in the animal kingdom makes me laugh; on the other, as she unfolds each animal's place in and positive contribution to the larger reality of interconnectedness in nature, her insights excite me.

2. I watched and enjoyed a couple more episodes of The Crown today. As the story examines Queen Elizabeth II's coronation and tells the story of Princess Margaret's romance and hopes to marry the divorcee Peter Townsend, a "commoner", Season 1 is becoming more and more defined by the conflict between royal tradition and modernity. The Queen herself often finds herself wedged between, on the one hand, the formidable forces within Buckingham Palace committed to maintaining the long standing traditions of royal life and conduct and, on the other hand, other forces, like her husband and her sister, who are urging the Queen toward changing things up a bit. I'll leave it at that, except to say that, for me, this conflict between the old and new is at the heart of what, so far, gives The Crown its gravity.

3. I like to think of the University of Maryland's basketball teams as "my old home teams"; I say this mostly in jest since I lived such a short time in Maryland and never ventured the twenty minutes away from Greenbelt down to College Park to watch either team play in person.

Nonetheless, I tune in, whenever I can, to watch one "of my old home teams" play. Late this afternoon, the men's team played Seton Hall.

I didn't expect it to be much of a game. Maryland had only lost one game this season and Seton Hall looked to be in a tailspin, having lost its two leading scorers to injury: Myles Powell (concussion) and Sandro Mamukelashvili (broken wrist).

Now, some of you reading this blog post might remember that a while back I wrote that I thought Myles Powell would help Seton Hall by trusting his teammates more and not putting so much of the Pirates' scoring burden on his own back.

Tonight, against Maryland, Seton Hall demonstrated that, for at least this game, they have some excellent talent beyond Myles Powell and Sandro Mamukelashvili. Tonight, Seton Hall played tight and fierce defense and discovered that Quincy McKnight, Anthony Nelson, and Jared Rhoden have some scoring capability.

Heavy underdogs, Seton Hall outhustled Maryland and eeked out a gritty 52-48 win over the Terps.

No one on this hobbled Seton Hall team is equal to Myles Powell. But, when Powell returns, I hope he'll look to McKnight, Nelson, and Rhoden for more support, help them gain confidence; I might be dead wrong, but I think Seton Hall will be a stronger team if this happens.

So, what about my old home team? They looked discombobulated against Seton Hall. The Pirates' variety of defenses seemed to confuse them. They never found a rhythm on offense. They had over a dozen shots blocked and turned the ball over nearly twenty times.

The Terps looked lost to me, out of synch, unsure of themselves.

They have a talented team, but it's in a slump right now and the Terps have some work to do to get themselves in sych, better organized, and believing in themselves.

They did not look confident against Seton Hall.

I found that both surprising and disconcerting.

No comments: