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1. Why is it that the mockingbird, which is capable of imitating the calls of other melodius birds (the cardinal and the chickadee, to name two that I can reliably identify), has, as its own call, a sound that is reminiscent of nothing so much as a squeaky garden-gate hinge? (Tim Powers once noted that their call sounds like they are saying "cheeseburger, cheeseburger", and cadence-wise, this is also true.) The inescapable conclusion is that they want it that way. I suppose that's not impossible. David Attenborough (my hero) tells of a Bird of Paradise that is imitative, some of which live close enough to civilization that they have incorporated into their repetoire things like car-alarms, and chainsaws. (I've heard the audio; it's uncanny. A very tiny bird, emitting the unmistakable sound of a chainsaw.) So I guess that mockingbirds might imitate squeaky hinges on purpose. Who knows?

2. It is Wolf Spider Season. Baby wolf-spiders keep turning up in unexpected places, like the end table, or the kitchen counter. Unaccountably, I find baby wolf-spiders kind of cute. Lucky thing, because in the old offices that Sardis used to occupy, back in the day, they particularly favored the windowsills above my desk, in the spring. They're odd-looking spiders -- their legs are very short in relation to their bodies -- and to the best of my knowledge, they don't spin webs. (They just scuttle around stalking their prey; they jump, which is another reason I ought to detest them.) Apparently somewhere deep in my brain, they fall on the correct side of the insect/crustacean divide. (Insects = loathsome; crustaceans = cute; also, delicious.) This doubly makes no sense, because when you get right down to it, wolf-spiders basically look like scorpions without the tails. And I loathe scorpions as I loathe no other arthropods, except for earwigs. Often, I don't really understand my brain.

3. Why have they not released "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep" the series on DVD? Why? I caught the 93-minute pilot as a movie on the History Channel today. Gosh, I loved that show. "Oooh, Corsairs!" I said, as my dormant inner WWII Aircraft Geek was reawakened. *sigh*

ETA: SQUEE! They have! The first ten eps! *runs to Amazon*

ETA.2: Also? 4. Bought an indoor/outdoor thermometer at Radio Shack, in part because I had store credit I had to use up. Got it home only to find that to install batteries in the outdoor unit, it requires THE WORLD'S TINIEST PHILIPS' HEAD SCREWDRIVER. V. annoyed. The packaging couldn't say this along with advising it wanted two AA batteries? Where am I going to get a Philips' Head screwdriver that tiny? Grrr.
eregyrn: (Default)
What I hate: delivery men. Delivery men who do not allow me to schedule a delivery time, nay, even a preferred delivery half-day. Delivery men who INFORM me that they will be here to deliver my (memory foam) mattress "sometime between 11:30am and 2:30pm" -- which as many of you might agree, is a SUCKY window for anybody who is trying to put in a half-day of work. Delivery men who then call at 11:40am, to INFORM me that "it's gonna be a little later, maybe 3pm, or after", and to whom I can only reply, "I'll be here". Because what the hell else am I supposed to do? Even as I watch any hope of their making the delivery early in their window and me actually getting in for a REAL half-day of work spiral down the drain. *SIGH*

What rocks: when you TiVo a Discovery Channel special on killer whales, and you start watching it, and it turns out that it is narrated by DAVID ATTENBOROUGH. Bonus!
eregyrn: (Default)
But I really, really wanted to. Sir David Attenborough rocks.

Tina and I and, at conservative estimate, 75% of the population of Cambridge, MA, all squeezed into Sanders Theatre at Harvard on Sunday to see him awarded the Roger Tory Peterson medal (for, um, being an influential naturalist, I think), and more importantly, to hear him speak.

Some of you may at this point be saying "David Attenborough?" I have had a deeply reverential regard for David Attenborough for years and years and years. For one thing, all of his programs that used to play on PBS when I was in my teens had about the same effect on me that, say, Carl Sagan and "Cosmos" had on a lot of people I know. For another, I did a mean David Attenborough impression when I was in college, and even enjoyed a brief notoriety doing cartoons of myself as David Attenborough lampooning the "natural history" of Life on Campus, at least two of which, if I remember correctly, were actually published in the BMC newspaper at the time. (Go me.) So my relationship (if you will) with David Attenborough goes strangely beyond "fondness for" or "influence", and all the way into the murky realms of "identity".

Little does he know. Alas.

At any rate, it was thanks to Tina that I found out that he was coming to speak at Harvard, and was thus able to pounce on a pair of free general admission tickets.

While there are no bad seats in Sanders Theatre, unless you are behind one of the posts (and bearing in mind that all the seats are technically "bad" because of the awful things they do to your knees and back), it wound up that we got to watch what looked like a 4"-high blurry simulacrum of David Attenborough, although his distinctive, dulcet narrative tones came through loud and clear (I said at the outset, and I meant it, that I would pay to hear David Attenborough read the Tax Code). We had an excellent view of the multimedia screen, though.

The advantage of going to a live event such is this, of course, is the spontaneity. The speaker looks "just like himself", but more so because everything is unscripted. (raqs laughed at me when I tried to explain the squealy joy to be found in witnessing the Exalted Personage making some characteristic gesture that one has seen him make many times on TV, but I can't explain it in any other way except to say that it is somehow more real when you see him doing it outside the vaguely unreal confines of television.) In fact, one of the highlights of the event for me was: David Attenborough's shins. I kid you not. He came out in a nice enough grey suit, and sat on the stage during the introductory speeches in a familiar-from-TV listening pose (one arm crossed over chest, other arm resting on it and chin propped on hand), and whenever he crossed his legs, you could see that either his socks were too short, or else they were falling down, because each time we were treated to a distinct glimpse of The Great Naturalist's Shins.

His presentation itself was actually wonderful, fascinating, beautifully illustrated with a multimedia presentation that included slides and video clips, and hilarious. Built around his own lifelong obsession with Birds of Paradise, he gave a lecture about artistic interpretations of birds, and birds as artists. Particularly, elaborating on the fact that up through the 19th century, most of the Birds of Paradise were known only from skins that were brought back to Europe, which posed certain obvious problems for naturalists and artists who were trying to conjecture how the birds looked in real life, and how their extravagant plumes were actually used. And, of course, often getting it wrong. But the lecture was all the more compelling for the fact that it was only fairly recently that he had fulfilled his ambition to record on film for the first time ever the behaviors of these birds. And he shared the film. And lo, but some of those mating dances were hysterically funny. (Which is something I have always liked about Attenborough -- he is earnest, but he is also not without appreciation for some of the absurdities of what he observes, and of the situations in which he finds himself.)

If I'd thought there would have been a chance in hell of actually worming my way through the throngs to his side, I would have shelled out the $50 on the reception that followed -- but I know what these things are like, particularly in Cambridge, and the Very Important Personage is usually swamped by people. I would have liked to have shaken his hand, though, and been able to express, "Dude, you *rock*", or, you know, words to that effect. I'm not usually someone who particularly cares about encounters with celebrities, but there are some people who have so enriched my life that I feel as if I'd like simply to thank them, in a quiet but sincere way. And David Attenborough is one of those people.

I need to go and find out whether my library has any of his past programs for rental, so that I can revisit past glories and catch up on the new stuff.

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