March

 2021

The Newsletter of the U3A in Oliva

Issue 59

From our President.

The buds are starting to appear on the trees and flowers starting to bloom again. Spring is about to happen and as always there is a feeling of optimism for the year ahead.

With the current easing of the restrictions, it’s also good to see some U3A Oliva groups starting to meet again – always taking care to obey the current regulations. Those groups which have met via Zoom throughout the present situation are to be commended for their enterprise. The get together which about 8 of us had in February via Zoom was enjoyable and was very well received. We’ll have to plan another very soon so watch this space!

We are now coming to the end of the U3A Oliva year and some Committee members are resigning while others are seeking re-election. We will be looking for a Vice President and a Treasurer – positions which we must fill in order for the organization to be allowed to run. There are also other Committee member vacancies. Now would be a good opportunity to see what you can do to contribute to the future of the U3A Oliva. A form will be sent out to every member very soon inviting applications and I would ask that you put yourself forward.

Best wishes from myself and your Committee: Anja, Kelvin, Nancy, Diana, Steven, Anthony, Julie, Kathleen, Gail, Francoise and John

Barry

History and Appreciation of Art

”Art has the power to help economies thrive, to educate and enrich societies, and to create greater cultural understanding. We are reminded now more than ever of the power of the arts….We believe in the restorative power of the arts….”

Not a quotation from an artist, art critic or art zealot, but from an advertisement by the Bank of America. Clearly art touches us all, in every aspect of our lives – but you would expect me to say that wouldn’t you, after all being something of an art zealot myself….But consider – the chair you are sitting on, the table you eat your dinner off, the delightfully patterned breakfast bowl that sits nicely in your hand – all are the products of someone’s design decision. Take the chair: there are maybe about four basic sitting positions which it is required to accommodate: sitting at the table, a comfortable reclining position to watch the telly, a low backless stool to get down to your grandchildren’s level – or milk your cow; and a high one to sit at the bar. Why then so many thousands of variations on the design of a chair? Well it may be just to keep the designers and manufacturers in business, but there is more to it – it is fulfilling a need, the need for beauty? the need for an aesthetic aspect to our lives?

You may think that you were hopeless at art, and have little interest in who painted what or when, but consider…. every time we choose one chair to buy or just to sit on over another which would fulfil the same purpose, we are making an aesthetic (that is artistic) decision. If we walk into a large spacious room with a high ceiling, we will get a very different feeling than if we walk into a small one with a low ceiling. Come to that, why do large rooms usually have much higher ceilings than are practically necessary? If you have ever had the experience of walking into a vast space with a ceiling no higher than your your living room, such as a multi-story carpark perhaps, then you will have felt an uncomfortable sensation of oppression, as if it were about to press down on your head. This is your aesthetic sense of ‘rightness’ of appropriate design being offended. We all have artistic bones in our bodies.

Another anecdote if you are still with me: around fifteen and a half thousand years ago a man (or maybe a woman) crawled deep underground through a low natural tunnel, and having found a suitable sloping rock, fashioned from clay, by the light of a flickering wooden torch or oil lamp, two astonishingly lifelike bison. Why would he engage in this laborious and dangerous occupation, and who for? No one knows; he may have been the only person to see it until it was discovered in 1912. There are various theories: he may have been a shaman priest, he certainly wasn't an interior decorator. The modern concept of art for art's sake was probably unknown by our distant ancestors; but what it does indicate is that the urge to make, not just tools for a practical purpose, but images which we now call art is hardwired into the human brain.

A recent Scandinavian study took two groups of elderly people; one group went about their normal lifestyles while the other en-gaged in regular sessions studying art; that is looking at it, not doing it. After a month or so, the second group reported fewer moments of anxiety, fewer aches and pains and visits to the doctor, improved social relationships and generally increased levels of well being. Also looking at examples of modern art, such as colourful paintings by Matisse, had a more beneficial effect than older styles of art. So there we have it; follow the science: art is good for you.

The History and Appreciation of Art group has been continuing via monthly zoom meetings. After a few teething problems learning this new technology we have so far had four, quite well received and enjoyed by all. It is great to keep in touch, further our understanding of the wonderful and varied story of art; and perhaps to steal glimpses of each others tastes in furniture! And it is quite straightforward for participants; you don't need to download the zoom app, just a suitable device – laptop, ipad etc. – and a spare finger to click on the link when you receive an invitation, then you are in. In the several years in which we have been running we have chronologically traced the development of art from the cave to the beginning of the twentieth century and the birth of modernism. So if you want to know more about those puzzling pictures and strange statues of the last century, or just engage with a group of art enthusiasts for the benefit of your well being, then join up via the web site, where details of the next meeting (and fully illustrated notes of all our previous meetings) will be found; or just send an e mail to

robertsedgley@hotmail.com

Robert Sedgley

Perseverance on Mars and the Spring Goddess

The successful landing of Perseverance rover on Mars has given astronomers an extremely useful platform from which we can explore the geology of Mars, understand its structure and hopefully discover how it has evolved into the dry cold inhospitable world it now is. There is much compelling evidence that Mars once had large amounts of water on its surface and possibly some lifeforms existed. The hunt for life has spurred NASA and other organisations to spend huge amounts of money in the search for any evidence of life which would demonstrate that we are not the only planet in our Solar System to have lifeforms. Water is essential for life and of course we have it in all its forms on our incredible planet, liquid, solid and vapour. The water on Mars has mostly evaporated leaving much evidence of its presence in the minerals on its surface. Orbiters see deep channels carved out by flowing torrents, occasional flows of a very briny liquid from escarpments and pebbles which are rounded as if they were washed over by running water for aeons. There are now Chinese, UAE and other countries investigating the incredible Martian surface and we await the first manned mission which will hopefully allow us to fully understand the mystery of Mars distant past.
It is still possible to see Mars, it is located in the constellation Taurus which can be seen setting in the West and it is currently located between the “Horns” of the Bull. The Moon will be close to Mars on March 17th making it easy to find.
There are no other planets which are easy to see in the night sky this month but there is a meteor shower, the Lyrids which can be seen to be active in the East late in the night. Dress up warm and use a sunbed or similar to lie on and gaze at the sky and you should see a good number of “shooting stars”.
The constellation Virgo, which represents the Greek Goddess of the crops, Demeter, is well placed for viewing this month. Finding Virgo is quite easy if you follow the arc of stars from the “Handle” of the Plough. The first bright star following this arc is Arcturus, a bright orange coloured giant star, the 4th brightest in the sky. Extend the line from Arcturus in a straight line and it points to Spica, the brightest star in Virgo. Astronomers remember the directions as “Arc to Arcturus and spike to Spica”. The Moon will be above and close to Spica on the evening of April 25th making it an easy target. The star marking to top of the “bowl” is aptly named Vindemiatrix, its rise at dawn with the Sun marked the beginning of the grape harvest for wine making in ancient Greece. Although most of Virgo’s stars are quite dim, they have names from various cultures and they form the outline of a bowl at its eastern upper end. Within this area are a large number of galaxies, some of which are able to be seen in a modest sized amateur telescope. Studies of these galaxies by Edwin Hubble and others allowed astronomers to conclude that there is an evolution of galaxies as they age and that there are countless millions of galaxies like ours and other forms in the Universe. Virgo’s galaxies provided crucial evidence that we may not be alone in the vastness of space.
Enjoy stargazing and if you would like more information please contact james.ince1@tiscali.co.uk

At the rear of the Municipal Market, on the Paseo, there is a large cardboard box, set up to collect your bottle tops. They will be melted to form a bench in the town – what a great way to get rid of odd bits of plastic, being ‘green’ AND providing support for weary bones!

An ex-pat Brit, by the name of Jim Taylor, has written a number of guides to living in Spain, from Brexit to the Padron.

A link to this very valuable resource is here.

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