Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Too Soon Old

An article in today's New York Times says old people might be wiser, according to an experiment. That's what we need, an experiment.

The researchers put distracting words into some reading materials, and the old people read them while the young people blocked out the distractions. This supposedly is why young people can remember where they left their keys. Later, both groups had to pass a test whose answers had been embedded in the distracting material.

So wisdom according to the testers consists of the ability to be distracted by answers to questions that haven't been asked yet.

So this is the meaning of the saying, "Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart."


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Old News

Yesterday I leafed through a very good book that contains selected copies of New York Times front pages for several decades.

I saw Eisenhower win the 1952 election and speak of peace. Soon Gary Powers' plane went down. Shakeup after shakeup happened in the Soviet Union, each accompanied by photos of three blurry old men--until Gorbachev came on and spoke of arms reduction. I saw the little Soviet dog lifted into space in "hermetically sealed" air conditioning--until it wasn't and she burned up.

The four horsemen galloped throughout: Kennedy put advisers into Vietnam, and years later the Times (after a court argument) published the Pentagon papers. The US, the papers said, was trying by limited means to get an "excessive result." We got unintended exessive consequences, as Seymour Hersh won a Pulitzer for Songmy Massacre. The Times showed assassinations (Kennedy, King, Kennedy, Ghandi, Aquino), earthquakes, famines, and tornadoes. The Warren Commission published its conclusions based on "modern scientific technology" (what a quaint little phrase). The bombing of Marines in Beirut left American boys in rubble crying "Don't leave us!"

The FBI unearthed the bodies of Schwerner, Chaney (sp?), and Goodman while the local Mississippi sheriff was "away on vacation." Troops were called out to allow James Meredith to attend classes. Martin Luther King's "I have a Dream" speech made the front page in August 1963. Cities burned and students died at Kent State.

The UN was much more front-page news back then from Dag Hammerskold to U Thant. The UN tried to settle the Arab-Israeli conflict (Israel agreeable, U.A.R. opposed just like now). In one a post-war photo, Israeli soldiers prayed at the wailing wall, having just won back Jerusalem in a battle. I couldn't keep the Middle East wars straight, but Egypt was chased back over their own borders. Then later came the Munich Olympics.

A small paragraph on the bottom of page one from 2 decades ago said efforts to develop gasohol were being abandoned.

So that was the news of fifty-six years in review.