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David Mamet: The Redwing Excerpt
In Three War Stories, David Mamet explores redemption and forgiveness in the context of conflict. In The Redwing, excerpted here, a 19th Century Secret Service naval officer recounts his own transformations during the course of his service and imprisonment.
In Three War Stories, David Mamet explores redemption and forgiveness in the context of conflict. In "The Redwing," excerpted here, a 19th Century Secret Service naval officer recounts his own transformations during the course of his service and imprisonment.
Advanced age, accompanied by reasonable health, is generally accounted a blessing. I do not know that it is so, and I suspect that such proclamation is made solely by those ignorant of the actual nature of age. For though age awards, to most, both increased time and ability for reflection, such leisure allows or suggests the question "To what end?"
Youth, it is said, is wasted on the young, but it is not wasted. It is enjoyed, in all its terror, lust, and exhilaration. That it is spotted, that it contains periods of fear, of uncertainty, of loneliness, and of self-doubt, is only to say that it is a time of life; age, and that age possessing the much-vaunted time for reflection, is, in its essence, empty of these. That is the sum of this prized philosophic disposition. That such disposition might be employed in philosophy rather than rage is, arguably, not a societal invitation to share wisdom but rather to display a non-objectionable retirement, in the absence of any other usefulness.
I could, at one time, split a playing card, turned edge-on, with a pistol ball, at twenty-five yards. What merit has this recollection? Or that women once found me attractive. They seek protection, and thus, always, the armed man. I made money by writing. And supported many people by it. That I count as a major accomplishment, and as a gift that I enjoyed this endeavor. The fires of youth, long self-described as banked, have, in fact, long been cold, and gone is the thirst for new acquaintance, let alone adventure, whether in the flesh or in those fantasies by the transcription of which I supported myself during those many years. But, in spite of this dreary stoicism, I find and am happy to find in myself what I must describe as an enthusiasm to set the record straight, to, as we say in the Navy, "regularize the Log."
This process, here, as there, may be used not only to supply that information lost in the necessity of action, or rendered illegible by battle, or the Sea, but to reform the account, unconsciously or no, in light of an overriding conception.
I hope that such may not be found to be solely the author's self-love, or wish for approval. I do not think that this is the case, nor that he has employed the reader's time and patience to the end of that confession, which is finally but self-aggrandizement or boasting. I hope these corrections, written primarily to still the conscience, may, as an independent composition, have the capacity to divert or a muse.
* * *
They asked me did I want to go to sea, and I said, "No." For I saw no profit in it. But then I went to sea. I believe they were nonplussed by my lack of adventurousness, or took it for a want of spirit. And perhaps they were not wrong. For though I have done certain notable things, my great interest, then as now, was primarily to observe, by which, I believe, I must mean to consider. My travels, then, were, if I may, by way of being a goad to my consideration, which you may think strange, in light of the things it fell to my lot to do.
But as my exploits had to do almost exclusively with the preservation of life, and as the life was mine, I did them as a matter of course, as would you have done; while the products of my imagination always seemed to me the truer adventure.
For pirates are, after all, but criminals; and the ravenous shark, if one is its desired victim, merely the parish bull writ large.
My friends, on my return, I know, found or pretended to find this attitude preposterous, as have the various critics who, faced with the reality of the author to whom they have accorded that highest accolade, the confession of having been amused (in the odd case "enchanted"), rendered, or, indeed, performed, the silent verdict of having been, in my presence, bored.
But what matter, I asked them, as I ask you, if the incident of the whale were true? Would such truth make the chapter more enjoyable? I do not see how. It was my presence, then, or the illusion of the possibility of verification which made my presence, to them, onerous.
For they asked. And why should I have lied? At the first, upon the book's reception, I considered it my right to tell the truth. But which reader or reviewer, I found, would prefer the mottled or inconclusive truth to the "finely wrought tale"? None of them. And if the "truth" had been, in itself, conclusive, what would have driven me to write the book?
Curiously, a few bizarre or preternatural instances which I related as they occurred have been tagged by more than one reviewer as fantasies and a "blot on the verisimilitude" of the production.
On reflection, I concur. They are. And perhaps I included them out of a perverse desire to reassure myself that I am not, in toto, a fraud -- that I have both suffered and traveled, and that, though I now support myself by the pen, I was once, to earn my bread, a sailor.
* * *
I will not dwell upon my first taking ship, nor on the trials and initiations, pertinent and merely customary, which befall any first voyager. The incident of "Crandall" is, of course, treated in the novel. That was neither his name nor his demeanor; nor can he be identified from reference to those characteristics I assigned to him for the express purpose of concealing his identity.
In life he was, and I use the word advisedly, evil; and he was intelligent enough not only to foresee the various ill results of his domination, but to work constantly to refine them.
It was not my lot in reality to have seen him actually among the castaways, for he died before the wreck, and never knew the trials of those months in the boat. Nor did I, as one reviewer has suggested, "give him a lift," a forecastle term meaning to help a miscreant over the side. Though I did fantasize his death in detail, after the flogging.
I berated myself then for my cowardice, as a better man, I felt, would have called him out and fought him there on the deck, though it meant death at the yardarm. But I considered the coward's way, which is to say a lift over the side, and mitigated, in my mind, the murder by grappling myself to and falling with him, through the air and into the deep, his eyes speaking that terror which was only increased by his vision of the triumph in my own.
The stripes heal. I have never considered the scars of the flogging a mark either of shame or honor. I have, of late, on accession, perhaps, of some distance or wisdom, or the understanding that they may be the same if one considers them so, begun to accept that, just as one is accorded honor on ship for the stoicism with which he may bear his whipping, one may acquire honor in allowing memory to heal, and in cessation of importuning either God for an explanation or the Devil for revenge.
It was Margaret who, as is her practice, in a characteristic aside, the tone of which might indicate equally a commonplace or a profound truth, prompted this suggestion of philosophy. "On ship," she asked, "after a man was beaten, was the sympathy with which the crew received him affected by their opinion of whether or not the flogging was deserved?"
For, of course, it was not. Their, I will not say "sympathy," for that is too commonplace a term, their verdict, rested not upon the justice of the punishment, but on the courage of its recipient.
For which of us, I understood to be the meaning of her seemingly offhand remark, does not suffer, to his mind, unjustly? And who is to say what any man deserves?
* * *
In the night watches, every sailor thinks about God.
He may, if it is his nature to name his thoughts, refer to the subject of his ruminations as The Universe, or The Nature of the World; but I am not reluctant to identify the subject of my inquiries as The Almighty.
Blake, in the novel called Simmons, went mad in the boat.
All of us saw its genesis, and it was not, as fictionalized, in the decision to eat the first of the dead.
Blake was mad long before then. But the cathartic event was not the onset of cannibalism (which, after all, was inevitable), but the appearance of a cloud. The cloud appeared on the horizon, which, from the water, lies at about eleven miles. Blake stirred in the boat, sufficiently to rouse us from our torpor, and we followed his gaze to the cloud, which, for the briefest of instances, could, in fact, have been mistaken for a sail. But only by a novice. And Blake had been at sea since a child.
So we looked back to him from the object of his interest, and saw, and wondered at the expression of hope, as clear as if he bore a placard to that effect upon his chest. And we stared at its persistence for the longest time, until we saw it vanish, and his mind devolve to that conclusion obvious to the rest of us at a cursory glance. And then he was mad.
Why should one write it one way rather than another?
Excerpted with permission from Argo-Navis, from Three War Stories: Novellas © 2013 by David Mamet.
David Mamet is a stage and film director as well as the author of numerous acclaimed plays, books, and screenplays. His play Glengarry Glen Ross won a Pulitzer Prize, and his screenplays for The Verdict and Wag the Dog were nominated for Academy Awards. He lives in Santa Monica, California.
For more information, please visit Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Three-War-Stories-David-Mamet/dp/0786755601 and iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/three-war-stories/
The COVID-19 pandemic is making health disparities in the United States crystal clear. It is a clarion call for health care systems to double their efforts in vulnerable communities.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated America's health disparities, widening the divide between the haves and have nots.
- Studies show disparities in wealth, race, and online access have disproportionately harmed underserved U.S. communities during the pandemic.
- To begin curing this social aliment, health systems like Northwell Health are establishing relationships of trust in these communities so that the post-COVID world looks different than the pre-COVID one.
COVID-19 deepens U.S. health disparities<p>Communities on the pernicious side of America's health disparities have their unique histories, environments, and social structures. They are spread across the United States, but they all have one thing in common.</p><p>"There is one common divide in American communities, and that is poverty," said <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/about/leadership/debbie-salas-lopez" target="_blank">Debbie Salas-Lopez, MD, MPH</a>, senior vice president of community and population health at Northwell Health. "That is the undercurrent that manifests poor health, poor health outcomes, or poor health prognoses for future wellbeing."</p><p>Social determinants have far-reaching effects on health, and poor communities have unfavorable social determinants. To pick one of many examples, <a href="https://www.npr.org/2020/09/27/913612554/a-crisis-within-a-crisis-food-insecurity-and-covid-19" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">food insecurity</a> reduces access to quality food, leading to poor health and communal endemics of chronic medical conditions. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified some of these conditions, such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes, as increasing the risk of developing a severe case of coronavirus.</p><p>The pandemic didn't create poverty or food insecurity, but it exacerbated both, and the results have been catastrophic. A study published this summer in the <em><a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-020-05971-3" target="_blank">Journal of General Internal Medicine</a></em> suggested that "social factors such as income inequality may explain why some parts of the USA are hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic than others."</p><p>That's not to say better-off families in the U.S. weren't harmed. A <a href="https://voxeu.org/article/poverty-inequality-and-covid-19-us" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">paper from the Centre for Economic Policy Research</a> noted that families in counties with a higher median income experienced adjustment costs associated with the pandemic—for example, lowering income-earning interactions to align with social distancing policies. However, the paper found that the costs of social distancing were much greater for poorer families, who cannot easily alter their living circumstances, which often include more individuals living in one home and a reliance on mass transit to reach work and grocery stores. They are also disproportionately represented in essential jobs, such as retail, transportation, and health care, where maintaining physical distance can be all but impossible.</p><p>The paper also cited a positive correlation between higher income inequality and higher rates of coronavirus infection. "Our interpretation is that poorer people are less able to protect themselves, which leads them to different choices—they face a steeper trade-off between their health and their economic welfare in the context of the threats posed by COVID-19," the authors wrote.</p><p>"There are so many pandemics that this pandemic has exacerbated," Dr. Salas-Lopez noted.</p><p>One example is the health-wealth gap. The mental stressors of maintaining a low socioeconomic status, especially in the face of extreme affluence, can have a physically degrading impact on health. <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/index.cfm/_api/render/file/?method=inline&fileID=123ECD96-EF81-46F6-983D2AE9A45FA354" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Writing on this gap</a>, Robert Sapolsky, professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University, notes that socioeconomic stressors can increase blood pressure, reduce insulin response, increase chronic inflammation, and impair the prefrontal cortex and other brain functions through anxiety, depression, and cognitive load. </p><p>"Thus, from the macro level of entire body systems to the micro level of individual chromosomes, poverty finds a way to produce wear and tear," Sapolsky writes. "It is outrageous that if children are born into the wrong family, they will be predisposed toward poor health by the time they start to learn the alphabet."</p>Research on the economic and mental health fallout of COVID-19 is showing two things: That unemployment is hitting <a href="https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2020/09/24/economic-fallout-from-covid-19-continues-to-hit-lower-income-americans-the-hardest/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">low-income and young Americans</a> most during the pandemic, potentially widening the health-wealth gap further; and that the pandemic not only exacerbates mental health stressors, but is doing so at clinically relevant levels. As <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7413844/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the authors of one review</a> wrote, the pandemic's effects on mental health is itself an international public health priority.
Working to close the health gap<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDc5MDk1MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTYyMzQzMn0.KSFpXH7yHYrfVPtfgcxZqAHHYzCnC2bFxwSrJqBbH4I/img.jpg?width=980" id="b40e2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1b9035370ab7b02a0dc00758e494412b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Northwell Health coronavirus testing center at Greater Springfield Community Church.
Credit: Northwell Health<p>Novel coronavirus may spread and infect indiscriminately, but pre-existing conditions, environmental stressors, and a lack of access to care and resources increase the risk of infection. These social determinants make the pandemic more dangerous, and erode communities' and families' abilities to heal from health crises that pre-date the pandemic.</p><p>How do we eliminate these divides? Dr. Salas-Lopez says the first step is recognition. "We have to open our eyes to see the suffering around us," she said. "Northwell has not shied away from that."</p><p>"We are steadfast in improving health outcomes for our vulnerable and underrepresented communities that have suffered because of the prevalence of chronic disease, a problem that led to the disproportionately higher death rate among African-Americans and Latinos during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Michael Dowling, Northwell's president and CEO. "We are committed to using every tool at our disposal—as a provider of health care, employer, purchaser and investor—to combat disparities and ensure the <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/education-and-resources/community-engagement/center-for-equity-of-care" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">equity of care</a> that everyone deserves." </p><p>With the need recognized, Dr. Salas-Lopez calls for health care systems to travel upstream and be proactive in those hard-hit communities. This requires health care systems to play a strong role, but not a unilateral one. They must build <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/news/insights/faith-based-leaders-are-the-key-to-improving-community-health" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">partnerships with leaders in those communities</a> and utilize those to ensure relationships last beyond the current crisis. </p><p>"We must meet with community leaders and talk to them to get their perspective on what they believe the community needs are and should be for the future. Together, we can co-create a plan to measurably improve [community] health and also to be ready for whatever comes next," she said.</p><p>Northwell has built relationships with local faith-based and community organizations in underserved communities of color. Those partnerships enabled Northwell to test more than 65,000 people across the metro New York region. The health system also offered education on coronavirus and precautions to curb its spread.</p><p>These initiatives began the process of building trust—trust that Northwell has counted on to return to these communities to administer flu vaccines to prepare for what experts fear may be a difficult flu season.</p><p>While Northwell has begun building bridges across the divides of the New York area, much will still need to be done to cure U.S. health care overall. There is hope that the COVID pandemic will awaken us to the deep disparities in the US.</p><p>"COVID has changed our world. We have to seize this opportunity, this pandemic, this crisis to do better," Dr. Salas-Lopez said. "Provide better care. Provide better health. Be better partners. Be better community citizens. And treat each other with respect and dignity.</p><p>"We need to find ways to unify this country because we're all human beings. We're all created equal, and we believe that health is one of those important rights."</p>
A study by UK archaeologists finds that longbows caused horrific injuries similar to modern gunshot wounds.
- UK archaeologists discover medieval longbows caused injuries similar to modern gunshot wounds.
- The damage was caused by the arrows spinning clockwise.
- No longbows from medieval times survived until our times.
Battle of Agincourt.
The angle of entry into a cranium found during the excavation at a medieval Dominican friary in Exeter, England.
Credit: Oliver Creighton/University of Exeter
Can passenger airships make a triumphantly 'green' comeback?
Large airships were too sensitive to wind gusts and too sluggish to win against aeroplanes. But today, they have a chance to make a spectacular return.
Vegans and vegetarians often have nutrient deficiencies and lower BMI, which can increase the risk of fractures.
- The study found that vegans were 43% more likely to suffer fractures than meat eaters.
- Similar results were observed for vegetarians and fish eaters, though to a lesser extent.
- It's possible to be healthy on a vegan diet, though it takes some strategic planning to compensate for the nutrients that a plant-based diet can't easily provide.
Comparison of fracture cases by diet group
Credit: Tong et al.<p>The results showed that vegans were especially vulnerable to hip fractures, suffering 2.3 times more cases than meat-eaters. Vegetarians and pescatarians were also more likely to suffer hip fractures, though to a lesser extent.</p><p>One explanation may be that non-meat eaters consume less calcium and protein. Calcium helps the body build strong bones, particularly before age 30, after which the body begins to lose bone mineral density (though consuming enough calcium through diet or supplement can <a href="https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-Consumer/" target="_blank">help offset losses</a>). Lower bone mineral density means higher risk of fracture.</p><p>Protein seems to help the body absorb calcium, <a href="https://www.bonejoint.net/blog/did-you-know-that-certain-foods-block-calcium-absorption/#:~:text=Historically%2C%20nutritionists%20have%20warned%20that,may%20increase%20intestinal%20calcium%20absorption." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">when consumed in normal levels</a>. The recent study, along with past research, shows that people who don't eat meat tend to have lower levels of both protein and calcium. When the researchers accounted for non-meat eaters who supplemented their diets with calcium and protein, fracture risk decreased, but still remained significant.</p>
Credit: Pixabay<p>Another explanation is body mass index (BMI). Non-meat eaters tend to have a lower BMI, which is associated with higher fracture risk, particularly hip fractures. In the new study, vegans with a low BMI were especially likely to suffer hip fractures. That might be because having more body mass provides a cushioning effect when people fall.</p><p>Still, the study has some limitations. For one, White European women were overrepresented in the sample. The researchers also didn't collect precise data on the type of calcium or protein supplementation, diet quality or causes of fractures.</p><p>Another complicating factor: Producers of vegan products, such as plant-based milk, are increasingly fortifying foods with nutrients like calcium and protein, so modern vegans are potentially at lower risk of deficiency.</p><p>The researchers wrote that their findings "suggest that bone health in vegans requires further research."</p>