Mom Mix

We will be celebrating Mom’s 80th birthday in a few weeks, and preparations for the big shindig already are underway.  My sister Cath, the consummate organizer, has decided that rather than a harpist (!), the “entertainment” should consist of a mix of songs I am to prepare on my Ipod.  (I must admit that I agree with this decision on Cath’s part, because I associate harps with angels, and you don’t want to be thinking about angels at a person’s 80th birthday party.)

I welcome this challenge.  I know that Mom likes ’40s music, and I already have a pretty good selection of “Big Band” stuff on the Ipod.  So, preparing a mix of those tunes will just involve creating a new playlist and moving some songs around.  I like Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, and similar artists of that era, and I also like ’40s-style singers such as Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, and Frank Sinatra.

When I asked Mom about what kind of music she would like to listen to at her party, she also mentioned “show tunes” and songs from movie musicals like South Pacific and The King and I.  I’ve never been much of a fan of musicals because the whole concept has always seemed incredibly awkward to me, with people who are living otherwise normal lives suddenly bursting into song at any moment.  Being the dutiful son, however, I want to make Mom happy, so I’ve gotten the CDs for those two musicals, plus The Sound of Music, Guys and Dolls, and West Side Story.

Because I really don’t know much about this genre, I would be happy to get any suggestions from our readers about good “show tunes” to include on the “Mom Mix.”  For now, however, I am pretty sure that There Is Nothin’ Like A Dame from South Pacific will make the cut.

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Say Hello To “Inuk”

An artist's depiction of "Inuk"

A study of 4,000-year-old remains has allowed scientists to sequence the genome of an individual trapped in the permafrost of Greenland.  From the remains and the genome sequencing, scientists have been able to determine that the man — called “Inuk,” which means “human” in the language of Greenland natives — likely was prone to baldness, had “shovel-shaped” front teeth, and had “dry earwax.”  Other than that, he undoubtedly would have been quite the stud at his tribe’s seal-slaughter festival.

What is interesting about this discovery is not that scientists have been able to make such determinations from 4,000-year-old remains, but rather that at the same time “Inuk” was noshing on seal blubber and huddled in a small dark tent, freezing and suffering through the endless winter nights, the Egyptian civilization was flowering thousands of miles away.  At about the same time Inuk met his maker in the Greenland permafrost, Cheops was erecting the Great Pyramid that continues to astonish modern tourists, and his contemporaries were establishing the literature and culture that marked one of the high points of Egyptian civilization.

What made humans develop relatively advanced civilizations in some areas, while in others they continued to live in primitive tribal conditions?  Of such questions is science made.