Tonight's stir fry, still in the wok - chicken tenders, sliced baby Portabella mushrooms, green and red bell peppers, onion, chopped fresh cilantro, broccoli, sliced carrots, snow peas, with garlic and homemade Indonesian-style chili sauce. Mmmmmmmm...
Playing with the camera taking macro shots of some of my antique bottle collection.
Here come the videos! First is my favorite "bottle" song - "Message in a Bottle" by The Police. I picked this particular video because of the great animation by Neil Irwin and Keith Franklin to illustrate the lyrics.
And then there's Jim Croce's "Time in a Bottle". I especially love this video, which incorporates home movie footage of Jim with his wife and son. Yeah, I'm a sentimental sap! Enjoy!
The weather stinks, so I did some indoor shots today, including these macro shots of speakers in my apartment. From top to bottom: the speakers I use for my computer system; my stereo system speakers; and the speaker on my portable radio.
Not much going on on the birding front. There are a lot of the same-old-same-olds - Robins, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Chickadees, etc. - but the less prolific birds seem to be hiding. I haven't seen any White-throated or American Tree Sparrows lately, and while we've been hearing Eastern Towhees giving out their "What? What?" from deep in the underbrush, I only know one person who has laid an eye on one.
Which is my long-winded way of saying that yesterday's bi-weekly bird walk was a bust. We sort of knew it would be; this time of year is traditionally the birding doldrums. So instead of heading out on an adventure, we stayed at the Norman Bird Sanctuary and wandered on some of the trails there. Aside from the usual Song Sparrows, Cardinals, and Blue Jays, the only notable birds we saw were a pair of Gold-crowned Kinglets. And no, I didn't get any pictures; Kinglets are tiny perpetual motion machines, and these were doing their flittering little dance well out of camera range.
So down at Ballard Park later, just like the previous Sunday I had a Tufted Titmouse actually hang out close by for a while, this time even staying in one tree rather than hopping back and forth between several. So for a second week in a row my sole Sunday birding subject is a Tufted Titmouse. Hey, at least they're cute!
This year's Illuminated Garden, part of Newport's annual Winter Festival, debuted last night, and I went down there to take pictures. This is the first year I've managed to make it down there in the dark, and I was suitably impressed! So without further ado, welcome to a Winter fairyland of light!
Bells have wide mouths and tongues, but are too weak, Have they not help, to sing, or talk or speak. But if you move them they will mak't appear, By speaking they'l make all the Town to hear.
When Ringers handle them with Art and Skill, They then the ears of their Observers fill, With such brave Notes, they ting and tang so well As to out strip all with their ding, dong, Bell.
These Bells are like the Powers of my Soul; Their Clappers to the Passions of my mind; The Ropes by which my Bells are made to tole, Are Promises (I by experience find.)
My body is the Steeple where they hang, My graces they which do ring ev'ry Bell: Nor is there any thing gives such a tang, When by these Ropes these Ringers ring them well.
Let not my Bells these Ringers want, nor Ropes; Yea let them have room for to swing and sway: To toss themselves deny them not their Scopes. Lord! in my Steeple give them room to play.
If they do tole, ring out, or chime all in, They drown the tempting tinckling Voice of Vice: Lord! when my Bells have gone, my Soul has bin As 'twere a tumbling in this Paradice!
Or if these Ringers do the Changes ring, Upon my Bells, they do such Musick make, My Soul then (Lord) cannot but bounce and sing, So greatly her they with their Musick take.
But Boys (my Lusts) into my Belfry go, And pull these Ropes, but do no Musick make They rather turn my Bells by what they do, Or by disorder make my Steeple shake.
Then, Lord! I pray thee keep my Belfry Key, Let none but Graces meddle with these Ropes: And when these naughty Boys come, say them Nay. From such Ringers of Musick there's no hopes.
O Lord! If thy poor Child might have his will, And might his meaning freely to thee tell; He never of this Musick has his fill, There's nothing to him like thy ding, dong, Bell.
– John Bunyan, 1628 - 1688
[Bell photos (all in Newport): top - St. Peter Lutheran; middle - the old Swedish Lutheran church on Corné St., now a private residence; bottom - the clock tower on the stables on Dixon St.]
This week's videos deal with change ringing, the uniquely British practice of ringing large bells in mathematical patterns rather than trying to play tunes on them. The theory is that the bells are too big and too resonant to move fast enough to play actual tunes, so in the 17th century a method of ringing a full complement of 6 to 8 bells in a moderately tuneful fashion. Bells rung by the change ringing system create a rippling, ever-changing cascade of sound and can be fascinating. The method has even been immortalized in popular literature; in 1934 Dorothy L. Sayers published The Nine Tailors, considered by many (including me) to be her best novel, a story written around change ringing. It seems that Lord Peter Wimsey was a veteran ringer, although, surprisingly, Bunter was not (probably the only thing the man couldn't do).
So here are some videos to introduce you to the fine art of change ringing. The first is sort of a general introduction to the art featuring the bells and ringers of the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.
And this video is of a change ringing practice in St. Sepulchre-without-Newgate in the City of London. I picked this because of the loveliness of the pattern created, and especially the cascading feel of the pattern.
Barry gets a full peal of Kent Treble Bob Major as he leaves the hospital today.
Yesterday, February 14, 2010, Doug Fieger passed away after a long battle with cancer; he was 57. He was the frontman and chief songwriter for the seminal New Wave power-pop band The Knack, known as "The Band That Killed Disco", and their 1979 #1 hit (for 6 consecutive weeks) "My Sharona", principally written by Fieger (guitar solos composed by Berton Averre), was known as "The Song That Killed Disco" (I've done a feature on the song on Citizen K's Just A Song blog here). The Knack were part of a movement back to straight-ahead Rock & Roll that happened on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, starting with Punk in the late '70s and moving on to New Wave. The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Ramones, Elvis Costello. Patty Smith, Bruce Springsteen, Blondie, Talking Heads... That was a great time in popular music, and Doug Fieger put The Knack firmly in that pantheon of gods who put Rock & Roll back at the top where it belonged.
Fieger came from the Detroit area, and was playing in bands starting in high school. In fact, in 1970 and 1971 Fieger played bass and sang lead in the group Sky, which was founded by producer Jimmy Miller (Rolling Stones, Traffic, Blind Faith) when Fieger was still in high school. He continued to play in bands and even did some producing before forming The Knack in 1978. He'd moved to California by that time, and The Knack was playing in LA area clubs like Whiskey A Go-Go and The Troubador when they were discovered and signed by Capitol Records.
Rather than go into a long retrospective of Doug's career, I just want to post some videos from the early days of The Knack, all live performances. This, more than anything else, shows who Doug Fieger was and what he was all about.
Of course, the first video has to be "My Sharona"; this performance looks to be from the mid '80s.
Next is "Good Girls Don't", a very Beatlesque tune.
"Let Me Out", a nice, hard-driving tune perfect for getting audiences all worked up!
And finally, "Frustrated". a perfect example of Doug's vocal theatrics.
Good-bye Doug. You'll be sorely missed, but at least you left us a legacy we can enjoy for a long, long time.
In my wanderings today I noticed that there was a lot of Tufted Titmouse activity around the entrance to the quarry in Ballard Park and on down Hazard Rd. The ones farther away from me were singing the "peter, peter, peter" song, while the ones who could see me were scolding me with their patented harsh, wheezy call (check here for the sounds). Unfortunately, Tufted Titmice are among those small birds who never sit still, so they're tough to get a shot of. Fortunately, my reflexes are getting better. Here are the best shots of the day.
I went to check out the pond situation again today. I got down to Easton's Pond only to find it was still mostly frozen over and only offering Gulls for bird watching activity. But while I was there my friend Matt showed up and said the entire upper end of Green End Pond was open and populated, so off I went. And he was right, it was populated. My count was (aside from the ubiquitous Canada Geese): 5 Ring-necked Ducks, 2 Canvasback Ducks, 3 Hooded Mergansers, and 2 Red-tailed Hawks cruising overhead.
These Mallards were hanging out by the drainage moat around Easton's Pond; I passed them on my way to Green End Pond.
A Hooded Merganser drake off Green End Ave. on the upper end of Green End Pond.
A Hooded Merganser hen off Green End Ave. on the upper end of Green End Pond.
I found this poor fella by the Gateway Center in the heart of the tourist district in Newport. Matt had told me about this. This is a Cooper's Hawk, and he's lying dead under some pine trees out in back of the bus station. He's dead because there's a Great Horned Owl living in those pine trees who has been chasing off, and sometimes killing, any other raptors who come into its territory. Matt said he also found a dead Short Eared Owl nearby. I need to go down there at night and see if I can get a view of the big bad boy who's taking on all comers!
Some photos taken yesterday (Thursday) of the snow in Ballard Park from Wednesday's storm. Alas, I wasn't the first one in! There were lots of footprints in the snow in some of the more accessible areas of the park. Oh well...
On today's biweekly Sunday bird walk we went chasing a King Eider. Thursday somebody reported seeing a male off Brenton Point to the RI birding network, so Friday I went looking. Apparently so did a bunch of other people, because that night's RI Birds newsletter had a bunch of us reporting sightings. When I saw him he was a good quarter mile (.4 km) offshore, and was just barely identifiable in the binoculars. So when my friend Mark and I turned up in the parking lot of the Norman Bird Sanctuary this morning we pretty much knew today's trip would be to Brenton Point. Jay, the walk leader, also suggested we head to Easton's Beach afterward as somebody reported seeing an immature Iceland Gull there.
Let me tell you, it was pretty chilly out there. It was in the teens slowly warming into the 20s while we were out there (-8º to -5º C), and a brisk wind that brought the wind chill down into the single digits (-16º to -13º C). Yeah, it was chilly. We never found the birds we were looking for, but I thought I'd take some shots of the ice down at Brenton Point to give you, my faithful readers, a chill and send you running for the hot chocolate! [Note: Those are some old iron stanchions out on one of the rocky points out on Brenton Point in that top photo, and yes, that's ice covering them. I did say it was cold out there!]
Usually I head for Ballard Park and Gooseneck Cove after the Sunday bird walks, but two hours out in that cold was as much as I was willing to subject myself to, so Mark dropped me off at my place on his way home. What to do, what to do with only a few ocean shots and home a good 3 or 4 hours earlier than usual. Well, how about some macro still lifes with some of my shell collection? Good idea! Staying in an oceanic theme but taken indoors on a cold day.
And of course you know with that title that I was gonna have to do this; my favorite version of Frank Loesser's "Baby, It's Cold Outside", Louis Armstrong and Velma Middleton doing a hilarious live take (I only wish I knew why the person who posted this kept using Louis and Ella album covers in the slide show!). Enjoy!
There was something formless and perfect before the universe was born. It is serene. Empty. Solitary. Unchanging. Infinite. Eternally present. It is the mother of the universe. For lack of a better name, I call it the Tao.
It flows through all things, inside and outside, and returns to the origin of all things.
The Tao is great. The universe is great. Earth is great. Man is great. These are the four great powers.
Man follows the earth. Earth follows the universe. The universe follows the Tao. The Tao follows only itself.
Tao Te Ching, Chapter 25 Translation by Stephen Mitchell