July 22, 2017 by libroshombre
Sweet-voiced Clyde McPhatter was “broke and despondent over a mismanaged career that made him a legend but hardly a success” when he died in 1972 at age 39. Chronic depression and alcoholism ruined his success, but not before he recorded his big hit, “A Lover’s Question,” in 1958 and became an R&B legend. Earlier McPhatter sang backup with the Dominoes on “Sixty Minute Man” and other fabled naughty songs of the Fifties before forming his own group, “The Drifters.” In Bill Millar’s book, “The Drifters,” he described how “McPhatter took hold of the Ink Spots’ simple major chord harmonies, drenched them in call-and-response patterns and sang as if he were back in church. In doing so he created a revolutionary musical style from which – thankfully – popular music will never recover.”
It began with a question: “Does she love me, as she pretends? Is this a game, and will I win? It’s a lover’s question; I wanna know!” Questionsof all sorts abound in life. A recent foray to Seattle led to the Wing Luke Museum in the International District where I was astounded by their exhibit on megastar martial artist Bruce Lee, who lived . an amazingly structured existence. The exhibit included displays of his jam-packed daily schedules, training regimens, and the famous video of Lee using only nunchucks, the short sticks connected by a chain, to soundly trounce a two-man team of excellent ping pong players.
This compelled me to drop by the museum’s store to acquire a copy of “Striking Thoughts: Bruce Lee’s Wisdom for Daily Living.” Among many things, Bruce thought about questions, saying “A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.” Keep that in mind, for there are questions begging for answers: do dogs prefer treats over endearments?, do plants scream when cut?, and what the heck are tree diapers?
“TreeDiaper” is the trademark of a “collar-shaped device” made from the same absorptive polymers used in disposable diapers. TreeDiapers absorb runoff rainwater and keep plants, especially young trees, hydrated for months, even in arid climates. There’s even “a version of the product made from unused, industrially rejected diapers.”
Less pleasant for human tree-huggers was a HowStuffWorks.com article by Laurie Dove titled “Do Plants Feel Pain?” that cited a study of a forest showing that “mature trees ‘communicated’ to the network to share nutrients through their root systems to feed nearby seedlings until they were tall enough to take in light for themselves.” More disquieting was Dove’s description of slaughtered lawns: “The smell we associate with freshly cut grass is actually a chemical distress call, one used by plants to beg nearby critters to save them from attack … To protect themselves, plants employ a volley of molecular responses” that can “poison an enemy, alert surrounding plants to potential dangers, or attract helpful insects.”
“Can they feel pain?” Dove asks and then cites research from the University of Bonn that found that “plants release gases that are the equivalent of crying out in pain. Using a laser-powered microphone, scientists have picked up sound waves produced by plants releasing gases when cut or injured. Although not audible to the human ear, the secret voices of plants have revealed that cucumbers scream when they are sick, and flowers whine when their leaves are cut. There’s also evidence that plants can hear themselves being eaten.”
A happier study from “Social, Cognitive, and Affective Neuroscience” was reported in WashingtonPost.com in an article by Karin Brulliard titled “What Does a Dog Want More – ‘Good Boy” or Treats?” While offering praise and treats the Emory University scientists used MRIs to scan dogs’ brains, which required patient animals that could sit still for ten minutes; “high-energy canines didn’t make the cut; couch potatoes did.” Of that limited population, “for 13 out of the 15 dogs, their brains were stimulated by the praise just as much, if not more than, the food.”
Whether whimsical or deadly serious, our library’s an unsurpassed
question-answering tool that we all own. And remember, “No one is dumb who is curious,” noted scientist-philosopher Neil deGrasse Tyson. “The people who don’t ask questions remain clueless throughout their lives.”