Thursday, December 30, 2004

What’s Next?

There were two major earthquakes two days apart. The first occurred at about 2 AM Christmas eve about 6 miles under the ocean floor between remote Macquarie Island and Tasmania. One senior New Zealand police officer was awakened but thought it no big deal. The scientists on much nearer Macquarie Island were unaware of the 8.1 magnitude quake some 255 miles away. Not much ado about anything there.

The whole world is all too painfully aware of the 9.0 magnitude quake that devastated nearby Banda Aceh while triggering a killer tsunami which took scores of thousands of lives in 11 countries. At this writing (December 30, 2004) nearly 120,000 are known dead.

Are the Macquarie and Banda Aceh quakes related? Hard to tell just yet. They were some 5,700 miles apart on the verges of the same plates. I’m sure the seismologists are chasing that down at the time of this writing.

What’s really a big deal is the now decomposing biomass that is the remains of humans, animals, and uprooted plants. Emergency crews are going as fast as they can, but it is a daunting task and will take a long time. At the same time, 5,000,000 people crowded into the few remaining habitable spots in that same area are without shelter, sanitary facilities, clean drinking water, or sufficient food. One must also keep in mind that the affected region is tropical; pleasantly warm to downright hot. It is a situation that is ripe for developing multiple epidemics. Cholera, malaria, dysentery; take your pick or name your own. To add to this already grim situation Avian Flu, the long feared monstro flu pandemic, is on the rise and in nearby Vietnam.

In his very excellent novel, The Third Pandemic, Pierre Ouellette leads the reader through the development of a notional disease for which spreads with a speed that outstrips public health officials’ ability to cope. His vectors were a handful of individual humans, a few common insects, and one infected parrot. Avian Flu was thought to be in that category before Banda Aceh. But with this newly available fertile ground for all sorts of killer disease who knows what’s next?

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Son Seals
August 13, 1942 – December 20, 2004

I attended the 2004 Central Valley Blues Festival in Merced, California this past October. It was a helluva party, and I am given to understand that it was also Son Seals’ last public performance.

His entrance is the most unusual of any performer I ever saw. Two big guys carried him up the ramp in an armless office chair, and once on stage they lifted him out of it and placed him in a more comfortable padded chair. Once he was in a position he approved of, the roadie handed him his guitar and set the strap.

He wore a golden hued single breasted suit, cowboy boots, and the obligatory large, color-coordinated hat. His music and vocals were that of the gifted blues man.

During his breaks, the show’s producer, John Moffatt, and I exchanged comments back and forth. I asked John howcome there were so many EMTs at the foot of the performers. He allowed as how he really didn’t want his festival to become famous for having performers die on stage. He then filled me in on Son’s debilitating diabetes and told me that the musician had rather shorten his life than give up the Blues lifestyle.

Son was a man true to his dream. Never rich and often broke, shot by an ex-wife, and a premature passing from overdoses of Vitamin W. He was in a class of his own and we will miss him.

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