LtE in CMO #285

From Samuel Ray WHITBY

. . . . . . .Date: Fri, 19 Dec 2003 11:16:24 -0500

Subject: Merry Christmas


Dear Masatsugu,


I want to wish you a Merry Christmas. This is a time of year when we can at least dream of peace on earth and good will toward everyone.


Your CMO Gallery continues to show impressive images. I check it every day.


Even if I had a large telescope, I could probably not see much through our turbulent air. I have repeatedly gotten up early to try to observe Jupiter, with little success. I work most evenings now. At least I can look at your Gallery.


We are having light snow here today, with no accumulation expected.

On Dec. 9, we had a small earthquake, 4.5 on the Richter scale, the first earthquake I ever experienced. It shook our house and scared some neighbors, but it did no real damage.


I know this is your busy time, so I will bother you with no more than a wish for a happy new year and your continued success in observing Mars.




. . . . . . .Date: Tue, 23 Dec 2003 01:06:40 -0500

Subject: Re: tailless cat


Dear Masatsugu,


I have re-read the passage by Lowell and would like to give you my understanding of it.


You asked about "the old lady's peculiarity was personal; the cat's was not." Another way of saying the same thing might be more intelligible: the old lady had a disability that was due to the particular circumstances of her health, but the cat's lack of a tail is characteristic of cats in general in this part of Japan.


I think that by "discarded" Lowell meant that cat's had stopped growing tails, which he seemed to find useless anyway. This is using purposive language to describe a process that Lowell no doubt thought was due to evolution. Dogs wag their tails when excited in a friendly way, but cats do not. A cat is still a cat even without its tail, which is a continuation, a bit more of, the cat. That sentence is the wittiest, to me, in the passage. It reminds me of Thoreau, who wrote in Walden about having a cat that became a wild cat and got itself caught in a trap, when it became a dead cat at last. A dog without a tail could not express itself, but a cat would not express emotions with its tail anyway. A cat without a tail is no less a cat than it was with a tail, but a dog is very much diminished by the loss of its tail.


I do not think Lowell was unfriendly to the old lady. If anything, Lowell kept some distance between himself and the lady and between himself and his other companions as well. I gather, from several sources, that Lowell was a thinker more than builder of relationships with other people. He seems to have been rather aloof, already storing memories to be used when writing a book. He probably thought of people as part of the scene, rather than the center of the scene.


If the above comments have not helped to make the passage more understandable, please let me know, and I will try to do a better job of explaining my understanding of it.


On a different subject, you mentioned that I would probably not travel to Japan due to fear of earthquakes. I once had a girl friend whose mother came from California. Her mother said that she experienced almost daily earthquakes in California but never saw a thunderstorm until she moved to Virginia. (Whether or not that is true, I do not know.) Earthquakes did not scare her, but she was terrified at the sight of lightning. I suppose we are most frightened by the unfamiliar. As a country boy for whom an urban environment is more frightening than a thunderstorm or an earthquake, I doubt that I will ever travel to Japan, but perhaps one day....It's a nice thought that I have friends there.


Your quantity of observations is truly amazing. I hope you will soon have the time to report more on your own observations and to analyze the work of your contributors.


Take care of your health too. Do that first.



Sam WHITBY (Hopewell, VA, USA)


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