PUBLIC SEX. PDA alert !! Dateline Puttenham, England -- this small village in county Surrey has become famous for its inclusion in lists of good places to go "dogging", i.e., "to have sex in public, sometimes with partners you have just met online, so that others can watch. So popular is the woodsy field below the ridge as a spot for gay sex (during the day) and heterosexual sex (during the night) that the police have designated it a 'public sex environment.' Public sex is a popular and quasi-legal activity in Britain, according to the authorities and to the large number of Web sites that promote it."
Here is the entire article for your enjoyment, outrage, or boredom. Residents of Puttenham have become concerned over the sheer numbers of enthused hedonists, and have made suggestions including police patrols on horseback, rousting doggers with actual dogs, and deploying bad-tempered bulls in the field in question. I was tickled by one County Council Cabinet member's response -- "If you close this site, there would be an increase in suicides because these people would have nowhere else to go." You gotta love British civility. Among the tales of woe, "The occasion when an unsuspecting motorist went for a bathroom break in the bushes, only to be surrounded by a crowd of eager men. 'It was the quickest pee he'd ever done in his life.'"
HAPPY BIRTHDAY. John Lennon would have turned 70 years old today. The world misses you, John. Imagine.
PICTURE BOOKS. According to a report by Julie Bosman in today's NYTimes online, sales of children's picture books have been declining markedly in recent years, as parents and schools have shifted their childrens reading to chapter books (books without illustrations). I find this a sad commentary on the pace at which we are pushing our young out of childhood. It is fine to introduce kids to academic subjects like math, spelling, reading and foreign languages at an early age -- in moderation. But it is also important to let them be kids, to explore the world on their own in an unstructured environment, and most importantly to allow them to develop their imaginations. Non-electronic game playing and picture books do just that. When my son was young, one of our greatest shared joys was the bedtime ritual of sitting together reading the stories in picture books. Repitition did not dim his delight, since each reading revealed fresh nuances in both the story and the illustrations, and how they fit together.
One of my favorites was a story with line drawing illustrations, called David and the Phoenix by Edward Ormondroyd. The eponymous hero is (who else?) a young boy who enters into a world of breathtaking adventure and mythical, guided by the sacred firebird which appears in appears in the myths of ancient Persia, Greece, Rome, Egypt, China and Phoenicia. Alas, the story's antagonist is the stereotypical evil scientist, and it is important to talk with young listeners about how scientists by and large are the good guys. Nevertheless, I highly recommend the book to the parents or grandparents of any young child.