What's It All About, eh?

Cape Breton evokes deep memories and strong emotions for me as well as a deep appreciation for the beauty of my adopted island. My hopes are that you too might find the photos evocative - maybe a view you've not enjoyed before, or an 'Oh I've been there', or if from away that you may be encouraged to visit this fair isle so that you might come to love and breathe Cape Breton as I do. One word about place names that I use - some are completely local usage while others are from maps of Cape Breton that I've purchased over the years. I frequently post travel and other photos that are of interest to me - and hopefully you.

On the right hand side bar find my take on Single Malt whiskey - from how to best enjoy this noble drink to reviews (in a most non-professional manner) of ones that I have tried and liked - or not. Also musings, mine and others, on life in general.

Photographs are roughly 98%+ my own and copy-righted. For the occasional photo that is borrowed, credit is given where possible - recently I have started posting unusual net photographs that seem unique. Feel free to borrow any of my photos for non-commercial use, otherwise contact me. Starting late in 2013 I have tried to be consistent in identifying my photographs using ©smck on all out of camera photos I personally captured - (I often do minor computer changes such as 'crop' or 'shadow' etc but usually nothing major), and using
©norvellhimself on all photos that I have played around with in case it might not be obvious. Lately I have dropped the ©smck and have watermarked them with the blog name.

COMMENTS are appreciated as feedback is the driving energy of blogging - And if you like this site please pass it along to a friend. Thanks!

NOTE: TO ENLARGE PHOTO, CLICK ON SAME - If using Firefox also click f11 - photos will fill the screen ...... ----------------------------------- ......TRANSLATION BUTTON AT TOP OF LEFT COLUMN!


More on Mosely - I just wish we were able to talk with one another from time to time

Novelist Walter Mosley Talks Luke Cage, Colorism, and Why Spider-Man Was the ‘First Black Superhero’

More on Mosely

Walter Mosley, comics geek. Photo: Desiree Navarro/WireImage
Whatever you think of Marvel’s Luke Cage, you can’t say it's not literate. A bevy of books are either seen or name-checked throughout the latest Netflix superhero series, and one that gets a particularly bright place in the spotlight is Little Green, a novel by one of the most prolific and acclaimed living crime-fiction writers, Walter Mosley. In the second episode, two of the leads debate the comparative merits of Mosley and fellow African-American crime novelist Donald Goines — and the one going to bat for Mosley is none other than the title character. As it turns out, the feeling of respect is mutual: Mosley is a longtime superhero-comics geek and grew up reading Luke’s initial comic-book adventures in the early 1970s. We caught up with the author to talk respectability politics, the thorny issue of colorism, and why he thinks Spider-Man was the first black superhero.
You were a big Marvel Comics fan growing up, right?Listen, I bought Luke Cage No. 1 in the store. So, yes. I also bought X-Men No. 1 and Conan No. 1. I didn't quite get Avengers No. 1 — but close.
X-Men No. 1 came out in 1963, so we’re talking the mid-’60s, here?
Way back. ’63, maybe ’62. I had been reading DC [Comics] before, but I gave up.
Why'd you give up on DC?
In DC, everybody looked alike. Everybody looked white. Marvel, way back in the beginning, had a black character, in Sgt. Fury, Gabe Jones. Everybody's powers were so funnily designed that it didn't feel real. Marvel had things I hadn't even thought of, like hero-villains. You had somebody like the Sub-Mariner, who is a hero to his people, but an enemy to ours. Or the Hulk, who’s a pure being, but his emotions make him a villain or a threat. And you kinda go, Damn, that's real.
The first black superhero is Spider-Man. He lives in a one-parent house — it's not even a parent, it's an aunt. He has all of this power, but every time he uses it, it turns against him. People are afraid of him; the police are after him. The only way he can get a job is by taking pictures of himself that are used against him in public. [Newspaper chief] J. Jonah Jameson says [to Spider-Man’s alter ego, Peter Parker], “Go out and take a picture that shows him with his hand in the cookie jar, that shows him stealing and being a villain.” That's a black hero right there. Of course, he's actually a white guy. But black people reading Spider-Man are like, Yeah, I get that. I identify with this character here. 
More generally, what was it about superhero comics that spoke to you in a way other literature didn't? 
The complexity of human nature is expressed in the violence of adolescents’ hearts. You know what I mean? You could read Shakespeare, which actually does that, too, but it becomes very complex and intellectualized. In comic books, characters are like, The surface dwellers have destroyed my people and I'm gonna make war against them!
When you picked up the first Luke Cage comic in 1972, what’d you make of it?
It was wonderful. He's a black man who's been to prison — which is not unusual — who has come back to his home, who wants to do the right thing, and he has a conflicted heart. And he's living in a black world.
Somewhat infamously, the series featured hokey and borderline-offensive replications of urban black patois. Did that stuff turn you off?
Let me put it this way. You're 19 years old and you're gonna go out on a date with somebody. And that person, regardless of gender, regardless of your gender, they're fun, they're beautiful. They might have buck teeth or bad breath, they might say things that you can't quite understand because they're mumbling. They might have all kinds of problems, but what you do is you surmount those problems. Because you're with this incredibly beautiful person. Right? I thought Marvel had taken a big step in doing Luke Cage. They were trying to open a door, and they did open a door. Over the years after that, a lot of black people went through that door. To write comics, to draw comics, to manage the comics. It was great. It was wonderful. So, no, I didn't have problems.
If you were into it, I’m assuming you were into the blaxploitation movies it was drawing from. Was that the case?
I'm gonna go a roundabout way of answering that question. When I was a kid, I used to watch Sgt. Bilko on TV. Every week. There are other things I could've watched. But I watched Sgt. Bilko because, in his barracks, there was one black soldier. That black soldier never spoke or did anything, certainly didn't have any writing around him. But whenever they all got together, he was there. I watched Sgt. Bilko just so I could see him. 'Cause here you are, a black person — almost everybody you ever see is black — but when you turn on the television, there are no black people. So just the idea of seeing that guy, you go, "Look! Look, look, Dad! It's a black man!" So, blaxploitation, I was a fan of it because I had no other choice. It wasn't like that kind of entertainment was gonna come from some other place. I could watch To Sir With Love or In the Heat of the Night, or whatever. But I'm a young man — I needed action. Blaxploitation was doing that. I think if I had a better choice, I might have liked something else more. But it wasn't there.
What did you think of the way Luke evolved? After a while, he became something of a joke; after that, he was revived in comics, but was much more of a calm, respectable guy.
Luke really disappeared for a while. And then they started bringing him back, and it was really hard for them to figure out, Well, how do we do this? The way comic books were drawn and written changed a lot: The story isn't as simple or basic, and there have to be these underlying psychological or identity revelations. I didn't hold it against anybody that it happened. I'm less interested in Luke Cage as a character [now]. Which is why I think [Luke Cage showrunner] Cheo [Hodari] Coker, in doing [his show], goes back to the original one. He's living in the 'hood. He's come out of prison. He has all this power.
Here's a guy who has not benefited from the American dream.
And the reason he has power was because they did illegal experimentation on him in prison.
Which is not that far off from things that have actually happened.
No, not at all. With those, you don't get superpowers. You get cancer. But it's the same thing: Here I am, you're killing me, and when I fight back, you condemn me. I think that's true in the show. That sense is true. The inner turmoil and confusion is true. Later on [in the comics], it's less inner turmoil, especially when he gets to be in the Avengers. It's more, Well, I'm a superhero with conflicts, and I have this white girlfriend, and I'm going to fight the bad guys. That's like, You could live like we live. But the thing is, people are still living in the 'hood today. Know what I mean? There are millions of black bodies in prison. And so with that as a fact, the old Luke Cage speaks more to today than the new Luke Cage, I think.
How well do you know Coker?
Oh yeah, I know Cheo, I've talked to him before. I mean, I'm a Hollywood guy. I do things out there. I had no idea he was doing this for a series. It wasn't until it happened that I knew about it, but it's kind of wonderful for my book to be in the show.
When you heard about the show, did you call him up to talk about it?
No. There's so many shows, so many of the Marvel shows coming out on Netflix, I knew he was doing it, and I probably ran into him once and asked him how it was going. But the thing is, it's television — you wait to see it. You don't want to jinx it with anybody. So you say, “What are you working on?” “Oh, I'm working on the new Luke Cage.” “Well, that's great.” And then you just hope that it appears. I think Cheo did a wonderful job. He's a good choice. From the first moments, you think, Okay, here we are, we're in Harlem. It's black people and Hispanic people and a couple of white people, and some are criminals and some are lawyers and some are doctors and some are just nice guys. It went where I expected it to go, so I wasn't surprised, but I was happy.
When did you find out that you were going to get mentioned in Luke Cage?
Somebody told me before it was on the air, but not that long before it was on the air. [Laughs.] Somebody I knew in Hollywood had seen a premiere or a preview or something and they said, “Man, your book is in there.” I went, “Oh. That's good. That's great.” That made me happy. [Laughs.] And really, I can see where it would be there. I mean, I write about black male heroes. This show is about a black male hero. I can understand why Cheo made that choice.
But do you think the show fits into the genre of crime fiction, as the book they’re discussing does?
Not really. This is a superhero comic, based and oriented in an African-American world. Because he has superpowers, there's a thing about him being a hero that goes all the way back to Gilgamesh and Hercules. That kind of hero who has a lot of power but who needs incredible courage to use that power to succeed.
Something that’s been criticized is the show’s take on respectability politics. Morally compromised characters use the N-word, but Luke himself derides it as something to be ashamed of. What did you make of that?
The fact that they used it meant that they weren't being too prejudiced. [One of the villains, Cottonmouth] is like, “Listen, man, I'm a nigga, people underestimate a nigga.” That's real. This political-correctness thing, it's so interesting. Inside the black community, you have the fellas who've appropriated the word, but then you have people from another generation who think the word is terrible and it's awful and you should never use it. Cheo decided, “Well, I'm gonna be the one to use it.” I think it's great.
The show also takes on colorism within the black community: Alfre Woodard’s character, Mariah, gets furious with Cottonmouth when he insults her for having dark skin. Colorism is something that’s getting talked about in mainstream discourse as of late — for example, there was a lot of criticism lobbed at the casting of the relatively light-skinned Zoe Saldana as the dark-skinned Nina Simone. Do you see colorism as a major issue?
Huh. To begin, you have to understand that I don't really believe in the existence of white people. If you went to Europe before trips to the “New World,” they didn't call themselves white people. They were the Vikings, they were Greeks, they were Spaniards, they were Basques. If you compared one to the other, they would kill you. If you told a Viking that he was just like the Greeks, he'd cut off your head. It wasn't until they came to America and they were killing the so-called red man and enslaving the so-called black man that they needed their own identity. So they called themselves white people.
With the idea of white, it's like black — it doesn't mean anything. It just doesn’t. You look at somebody and they’re dark brown or light brown or light-skinned like me. Somebody'll say, “You're black.” Okay, I'm black, but I'm not literally black. It's just a word that you are fixing to me. Do I believe in colorism? Probably. But on a much larger palette than the context that you're asking in. My mother, that whole family is Jewish. When somebody's Jewish and they come to me and say they're white, I say, “Man, are you crazy? Do you know your history? You're going to call yourself white and they've been killing you for a thousand years in Europe?” Everybody, not just Hitler, called the Jews another race. But they’ll say, “I'm white.” I look at them and I go, Is that like when I say I'm black? You can look at me and you see I'm not black, right? I understand racism and I deal with it. I speak in those terms, but in an ideal world, we're all just people, right?
Have you been reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’s run on the Black Panther comic?
I haven't even seen Black Panther yet. I'm looking forward to seeing it. Ta-Nehisi’s father and I are, like, best friends. Paul Coates. Paul Coates was the head of the Black Panthers in Baltimore, back in the day, in the '60s. When people say, “Have you seen Black Panther?” I’m like, “No, but I know the original Black Panther, Ta-Nehisi's father.”
If you’ve known Ta-Nehisi that long, did you ever talk comics with him? Did he talk to you for advice about writing fiction when he got this assignment?
Never. No, we never talked about comic books. Now and then we run across each other. I look forward to seeing [Black Panther]. It's kind of like television shows: Some television shows I like, I wait until the first season is over, then I watch the whole thing all at once. It’ll be great. I know he really loves doing it.
Any closing thoughts about the show?
I think there are some really important things about Luke Cage. Some guy got out of prison and he's going to work in this barbershop and people are after him. You couldn't make that story without making it a comic-book story first. It's really brilliant of Cheo to figure that out.

Walter Mosley - author ot many books but in particular 'The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey' which is the most meaningful novel I have read in quite a while

Walter Mosley

in Los Angeles, California, The United States
January 12, 1952


Walter Mosley (b. 1952) is the author of the bestselling mystery series featuring Easy Rawlins, as well as numerous other works, from literary fiction and science fiction to a young adult novel and political monographs. His short fiction has been widely published, and his nonfiction has appeared in the New York Times Magazine and the Nation, among other publications. Mosley is the winner of numerous awards, including an O. Henry Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, a Grammy, and PEN America’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He lives in New York City.
"We have to recognize the failure of capitalism. We have to recognize the impossibility of socialism. We have to recognize what it is that we’re working for in the world, which is basically as good a life as we can get in this brief span that we have. And we have to recognize who we are in relation to these things – and not allow these incredible, large systems which govern us, but don’t care about us – to take over.” Author Walter Mosley explores the mysteries of life, labor and freedom in the 21st century – from the failures of global capitalism and the impossibility of socialism, to technology’s toll on humanity’s understanding of itself, its needs and its limitations – and explains why building a future that serves humankind starts with destroying the ideological frames that reduce people to servants of a system, not masters of their potential."

Painting by Charles Vickery

(not an advertisement - I just found it interesting)

Ocean Moonlight
24" x30" Oil on Canvas

Highly respected by other artists and revered by thousands of collectors, Charles Vickery awed us with his dramatic paintings and charmed us with his humble demeanor. Although he died in September of 1998 at the age of 85, we can look back with pride at the extraordinary career of an extraordinary man.

What Vickery is best known for and will be most remembered for is his ability to paint the infinite moods of water—to make it come to life. But what initially stumps everyone is how this talent and passion for the sea could come from a man who lived so far from it.

It turns out that he actually explored many different types of subjects early on. Born in Hinsdale, Illinois in 1913, his talent was obvious at an early age, and he worked hard at developing it.

But things took a decidedly different path when, just after high school, he discovered the work of some artists he would later refer to as “the old pros”—accomplished masters such as Winslow Homer, Montague Dawson, and Frederick Waugh.

According to Vickery, they were some of the first artists to break through the tyranny of the “brown gravy school” of marine art. He became captivated with their work, and he was determined to learn their techniques and study their use of color.

He later studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and the American Academy of Fine Art, but he often credited Lake Michigan as being his greatest instructor. The inspiration it provided and the lessons it taught him were far more meaningful to him than the study of tiresome fundamentals.

Vickery loved sketching at the Chicago Lakefront, the Indiana Dunes, and at a number of favorite haunts along the Eastern Seaboard. He believed constant observation of the subject is as essential for the experienced artist as it is for the beginner. “Going to the source” was absolutely critical. Capturing the elusive essence of the sea is not something you can do by looking at photographs.

“Movement is the thing,” said Vickery. “The wind can create sudden drama in as much time as it takes to blink your eyes. To him, the challenge was in respecting the constant interplay of nature—the sun, sky, wind and water all working together. With that in mind, he always considered himself a student.

There were some very lean years. When he opened his first art studio in Western Springs, IL in 1937, his work was highly experimental and paintings sold for as little as five dollars or, in some cases, a dish of ice cream. Early on, he supported himself as a surveyor’s assistant, a silkscreen operator, a mail clerk and a woodworker.

Vickery once said that the early years found him along the shores of Lake Michigan living in a tent and eating peanut butter sandwiches. “Many hours and many years were spent in all kinds of weather studying wave actions and the color of sky and water.”

But his painstaking effort did not go unnoticed. It was in 1951 that Eleanor Jewitt, a respected art critic for the Chicago Tribune, first discovered his ability. He was greatly encouraged by her reviews which referred to him as “one of the great painters of this age . . . a bright Winslow Homer.

Similar praise would follow, and before long, he was regarded as one of the finest seascape artists of our time. But it was never celebrity he was seeking. The two things he found most satisfying were pleasing those who collected his work and encouraging other artists to further develop their talents. Through his involvement with numerous art organizations, including charter memberships in the American Society of Marine Artists and the Oil Painters of America, he hoped to pass the torch that the “old pros” had given to him so many years earlier.

He certainly accomplished these goals, and he has left an indelible mark on the art world.

Up-river - on the walkway by The Upper Bay Museum

Phragmites - an invasive species of reed introduced to North America from England

The above photograph of the marsh across from the North East town park shows how much the invasive Phragmites have taken over the native cattail - the below article discusses this in some detail

The Jekyll and Hyde of the Marsh

PhragmitesPhragmites, an invasive species of reed introduced to North America from England, is often seen as a monster because the grass stalks grow up to 18 feet tall and drive out native plants and wildlife.
But some scientists suggest the plant is more of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, because while it is bad for plant and wildlife diversity it may be good at protecting shorelines from erosion caused by rising sea levels and climate change.
Patrick Megonigal, Deputy Director of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, is studying the effects of rising carbon dioxide levels on marshland plants, including phragmites.
“On the one hand, phragmites is very poor habitat for a lot of animals –- birds, and even fish.  But on the other hand, it is a champion soil builder,” Megonigal said among the reeds and measuring equipment at his wetlands research site, outside Edgewater, Maryland.  “And so we find places where the plant is dominant that the soil elevation rises very rapidly, and that could be a good thing from the point of view of preventing these marshes from drowning due to sea level rise.”
This is not to say that Megonigal or anyone else is advocating the intentional spreading of phragmites for erosion control purposes –- first, because the rapidly-growing grasses don’t need any help spreading; and second, because their roots emit a toxin (trihydroxybenzoic acid) that kills other plants nearby, according to research by the Delaware Technology Institute. Phragmites also crowds out wild rice, cattails, goldenrod, and other native plants that wildfowl, muskrats, and other marsh dwellers need to survive.
Phrag headsThe reeds, thought to have been brought to the Americas in the ballast of ships by English colonists, have proliferated across the Chesapeake Bay region and elsewhere in recent decades, because they thrive in disturbed soil caused by development.
Over the last three decades, the invasive plant has multiplied perhaps 10 fold to cover roughly 100,000 acres or about 10 percent of Maryland marshes, according to an estimate by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. It has also spread widely across Virginia, Pennsylvania and other states.
Jonathan McKnight,  a biologist at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, said that phragmites roots form thick masses that hold soil together.  But he said that it would be wrong to plant phragmites to protect shorelines, because the plant  does not play well with other forms of life.
“It would be great to find a silver lining in our phragmites infestation,” McKnight said. “But it would be a lot better for us to find a way to preserve marshes or maintain marshes with the native material.  Because even if you are protecting a phragmites marsh, a phragmites marsh is not as good as the real native Maryland marsh.”
SprayingThe Maryland Department of Natural Resources, with help from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, spends about $30,000 a year spraying an herbicide (glyphosate, the active ingredient in Round Up) from helicopters onto selected stands of phragmites that are monopolizing the landscape in important wildlife areas.  Other states also conduct similar spraying.
Webster said glyphosate, which is used widely on farms and elsewhere, dissipates quickly and does not pose a threat to fish or wildlife.
On a recent morning, Webster directed a helicopter with a tank full of glyphosate as it launched from the top of a truck beside the Nanticoke River.  The helicopter swooped over green and gold marshlands, then released the herbicides when over a stand of phragmites, which are very tall reeds with fluffy seed heads.
Helicopter“A lot of homeowners on the Bay simply do not like phragmites just because they do not have a view of the water” when the reeds are in the way, Webster said. “But typically that’s not what we are out here to achieve.  We are doing this (spraying) to help  wildlife.”
Webster said the state’s spraying of the weed from helicopters is limited and not intended to totally eradicate the invasive species, which he said would be impossible. Webster said Maryland is simply trying to keep the phragmites in check in a few selected feeding grounds for migrating waterfowl.
Dr. J. Court Stevenson, a professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science who studies marshes, said in an email that he is not opposed to spraying phragmites with Round-Up, as long as it is done carefully, so the herbicide does not drift into other areas and kill endangered plants.
Dr. Stevenson added, however, that over-use of Round-Up is creating herbicide-resistant weeds that make farming more difficult.  And he also noted that spraying phragmites in some waterfront areas can increase erosion, because of the reeds’ ability to hold shorelines together with their dense roots.
“An example of where helicopter use appears to have been a problem is at the Cove Point (Liquid Natural Gas) plant property on the Western Shore, where the Phragmites rhizomes were holding the beach and protecting it from excessive erosion,” Dr. Stevenson wrote. “After extensive spraying over several years, the beach was breached causing many the freshwater marsh plant populations behind the beach strand to suffer.”
Officials with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources say they try to be careful about where they spray phragmites, to avoid erosion problems like this.
But the big picture is that sometimes it may be bad to kill the monstrous Mr. Hyde of the marshes, because you will also lose the good Dr. Jekyll. 
By Tom Pelton
Chesapeake Bay Foundation

What Bird Is This - II

It pays to have access to more than one or two bird books when trying to identify a bird that may not conform to the books description, especially when looking at a bird like the Dark-eyed Junco. 

Dark-eyed juncos are unique sparrows that nest on or near the ground in forests. In winter, they typically form flocks and often associate with other species, including chipping sparrows, pine and palm warblers (in the southeastern United States.), and bluebirds. When disturbed the entire flock suddenly flies up to a tree, usually perching in the open and calling in aggravation at the intrusion. Polytypic. Length 6.3" (16 cm).
Identification A fairly lean sparrow with a long notched tail and a small pinkish or horn-colored bill (bicolored in dorsalis). Two prominent white outer tail feathers in most subspecies; 3 outer­most in the “white-winged.” Most subspecies have a gray or brown head and breast sharply set off from a white belly. Otherwise highly variable. Male: typically darker with sharper markings. Female: typically browner with more indistinct markings. Juvenile: heavily streaked, often with a trace of  adult pattern.
Geographic Variation The 12 subspecies show marked variation and fall into 5 major groups: “white-winged” (1 ssp.), “Slate-colored” (2 subtle ssp., plus cismontanus), “Oregon” (5 subtle ssp.), “pink-sided” (1 ssp.), and “gray-headed” (2 distinctive ssp.). The groups have at times been considered separate species. The “white-winged” junco is the most local, breeding exclusively in the Black Hills region and wintering along the eastern edge of the Rockies; it is casual to accidental in western Texas, Arizona, and southern California. The “slate-colored” is the most widespread and the only form found regularly in the East. It breeds throughout the species’ range east of the Rockies and in the northern region; it winters mainly in the East and is uncommon to rare in the West. The “Oregon” junco breeds in the West Coast states north to southern Alaska and east to central Nevada and western Montana; it winters throughout the West and Great Plains and is casual to the East. The “pink-sided” breeds in the northern Rockies, centered on Yellowstone and ranging from northern Utah to southernmost Alberta and Saskat­chewan; it winters in the southern Rockies, Southwest, and western Great Plains, rarely to the West Coast, and is accidental to the East. The “gray-headed” is the subspecies of the southern Rockies, breeding through much of Nevada, Utah, and Colorado south to central Arizona and western Texas; it winters in the southwest and southern Rockies states and is rare to the West Coast and accidental to the East.
The distinctive “white-winged junco,” aikeni, is mostly pale gray above, usually with 2 thin white wing bars; it is also larger, with more white on its tail. It is most similar to the “Slate-colored” (which can rarely have narrow wingbars) but is larger and paler, with contrasting blackish lores and more extensive white in the tail. The male “slate-colored junco” has a white belly contrasting sharply with a dark gray hood and upperparts, usually with very little contrast between the hood and back; immatures can have some brown wash on the back and crown. In the female, the amount of brown on the head and at the center of the back varies; it’s more extensive in immatures. The “slate-colored junco” comprises 2 subspecies: the widespread nominate and the larger, bluer-billed carolinensis, which is resident in the Appalachians from Pennsylvania to northern Georgia. An additional subspecies, cismontanus, is often grouped with the “slate-colored.” It breeds from the Yukon to central British Columbia and Alberta and may winter throughout the West; it is casual to the East. Cismontanus is intermediate between the “slate-colored” and the “Oregon,” with males showing a blackish hood that contrasts with a usually grayish back (occasionally with some brown). Females and immatures are very similar to the “Oregon” juncos, but are less distinctly hooded. The male “Oregon” junco has a slaty to blackish hood, contrasting sharply with its rufous-brown to buffy-brown back and sides; the female has duller hood color. Of the 5 “Oregon” subspecies, the more southerly subspecies are paler. The “pink-sided” junco, mearnsi, has broad, bright pinkish cinnamon sides, a blue-gray hood, a poorly defined reddish brown back and wings that do not contrast markedly with the flanks, and blackish lores. Females duller, but retain basic pattern; they can resemble “Oregon” females closely. In the “gray-headed” junco, the pale gray head and dark lores resemble the head pattern of the “pink-sided,” but the flanks are gray rather than pinkish, and the back is marked by a very well-defined patch of reddish hue that does not extend to the wings and that contrasts sharply with the rest of the body. A distinctive subspecies, dorsalis, is sometimes known as the “red-backed” junco and is resident from northwestern Arizona through New Mexico to the Guadalupe Mountains of western Texas. It differs from the more widespread, migratory, northerly breeding caniceps in having an even paler throat and a larger, bicolored bill that is black above and bluish below. Intergrades between some subspecies are frequent. Common intergrades are: “pink-sided” x “oregon” and “pink-sided” x “gray-headed.” Cis­mon­tanus may be a broad intergrade population of “Ore­gon” x “slate-colored” juncos. Identification to subspecies group thus requires caution to eliminate the possibility of an intergrade; for intergrades, look for intermediate characteristics: For example, a darker, more contrasting hood on a “pink-sided” indicates the influence of “Oregon” genes; reduced pink sides and a well-defined reddish back on a “pink-sided” indicate “gray-headed” parentage.
Similar Species Yellow-eyed junco.
Voice Songs and calls among the subspecies are generally simi­lar, but songs and calls of the “gray-headed” dorsalis are more suggestive of the yellow-eyed junco. Call: sharp dit. Flight note: a rapid twittering. Song: a musical trill on 1 pitch; often heard in winter.
Status and Distribution Common. Breeds south to northern Baja California; winters south to northern Mexico. Breeding: breeds in coniferous or mixed woodlands. Winter: found in a wide variety of habitats, the dark-eyed junco tends to avoid areas of denser brush; it especially favors feeders, parks, and open forest without an understory. Migration: withdraws from wintering areas during April, typically early–mid-April. Fall arrivals first appear in late September, peaking in late October. Vagrant: southern Florida and Europe.
Population Stable.
—From the National Geographic book Complete Birds of North America, 2006
whooping cranes are there? Not enough. See photos of these birds in action.

As of 28 October 2016 - a listing of countries perusing my blog - from most visitors to least

there are more countries in each list but the 'summation' by Google only lists the top ten


United States
United States
United States
United Kingdom


How Those Heads-In-The-Sand Americans Feel

(courtesy The New Yorker)

You Want It Darker - this canadian is the song writer that should have got the Nobel

You want it darker? Is that a question or a dare? Perhaps it’s both. The titles of Leonard Cohen’s albums have always offered a pared-down glimpse into the essential nature of his work. Shaved and stripped of any unnecessary adornment, they have a tendency to be bleak, cold and often more than a little funny. Who but Cohen would have called the flawed portrait of an artist grappling with the failure of idealism and the disappointments of middle age I’m Your Man? Maybe the only thing that has saved Leonard Cohen from skating any nearer to the abyss has been his deadpan sense of humor. It’s an uncomfortable sense of humor to be sure, and the laughter Cohen’s work encourages often leaves a person with the feeling of having stifled a giggle in church.
Furthermore, Cohen’s album titles have often had the effect of minimizing not just his status as an iconic poet, but also the situations he describes in his work. If the titles of recent albums like Old Ideas and Popular Problems hinted at the fact that Cohen’s suffering is nothing special and that at best he’s just a finger pointing at the moon, with You Want It Darker he appears willing to enter the fray, deal with his audience’s expectations and lay things out as he sees them. No one really expects easy listening music when Leonard Cohen releases a record, but by saddling his new collection with such an ominous album title, you have to wonder whether he has “had it” and is simply taking the piss out of all of the suppositions that have been made about him over the years. You know, how almost everything he’s created this side of “Hallelujah” has been slotted under “poetry of despair” while the humor and gentle, forgiving humanity that is so central to his poetry and music has been almost entirely overlooked. How the deep, spacious resignation he’s cultivated allows for clear perception that has often been simply labeled as “depressing.” How much of Cohen’s audience has failed to understand that if you write about a razor blade, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to harm yourself.
The nine new songs that make up You Want It Darker explore very similar territory as he did on 1992’s The Future, but Cohen’s perspective appears to have shifted slightly since then. On that album, he predicted a future far worse than anything we could imagine, and sadly, events of the past two decades have shown him to be very prescient. “Anthem,” one of the songs on The Future, offered a counterpoint: “there is a crack in everything. That’s where the light gets in.” It’s hard to find those cracks on any of the songs on You Want It Darker. It’s not that Cohen is in an unusually depressed, sad or accusatory mood. There’s a much deeper sense of abandonment than what’s expressed in these songs. As he intones at the end of the title track, which castigates politicians and opportunists of all stripes who use religion to start wars instead of heal, “I’m Ready My Lord.”
The suggestion running through all of the songs on the album is that everybody should be getting ready for whatever fate is waiting for them. In that respect, You Want It Darker could be viewed as a summing up or an accounting of how an individual has lived his life. And, even though Leonard Cohen often uses levity and humor to offset the seriousness of his work, saying recently in print that, at best, he’s only ever “limped his way” through trying to live a spiritual life, his new songs are clearly no joke. In the same way that an old Zen priest is expected to leave a “death poem” for his followers to dissemble and at a certain point in life a Tibetan is expected to meditate on the Bardos (or stages of existence), Cohen appears to be in preparation for something—even if his threat to live to 120 proves to be true.
Making peace with the world and oneself is a theme that runs throughout You Want It Darker. Tracks like “Treaty,” “Leaving The Table,” “On The Level” and “Traveling Light” each examine the duties and pitfalls of mortal life. The narrator of each of the songs is as stripped naked before an unnamed power—that may be internal or external—as he weighs contributions in the light of damage done and how to reconcile the need for retribution with the power of forgiveness. As with all of Cohen’s later poetry, these new lyrics are pared down and polished, shaved and selected for their truth as much as their beauty. The songwriting is masterful, with some new compositions like “It’s Better That Way” in every way equal to the best work he has ever recorded.
Sounded like the truth/seemed a better way
Sounded like the truth/but it’s not the truth today
Better hold my tongue, better take my place
Lift this glass of blood/try to say the grace
If Cohen has been self-deprecatory about the way he sings in the past, there’s no room for teasing in any of his new performances. In truth, that’s because he doesn’t do a lot of singing on You Want It Darker, as he delivers his new lyrics as incantations rather than as melodies. And it’s true that the bare-bone rattle of Cohen’s voice is so intimate and vulnerable that at times it’s painful to listen to. Yet, like Dylan on an inspired night, it’s also worth noting that he’s also never demonstrated as much command as he does on all of these new recordings. For a guy with limited time at his disposal, Leonard Cohen doesn’t ever sound like he’s in a hurry. The phrasing is precise and blunt. Time hangs, and like the uncomfortable silence you feel when waiting too long for an old person to get up from a chair, the listener can feel a crackling in the air between notes and phrases.
Nothing is hurried. Each lyric and melody is direct, in the here and now. Nothing is arm’s length. At other times in his career, Cohen has sung to his audience as if from afar, with a slight removal as if he was a fly on the wall, a bird on a wire. The new songs have no distance, and the singer is not observing from any kind of tower—lonely, wooden or of song. They are too naked and spare, and leave nowhere to run. To experience this music properly requires a kind of surrender and a permission to immerse oneself fully.
If Cohen has occasionally suggested political solutions in his music, the solutions or approaches sung of on You Want It Darker are all solitary, internal and spiritual. Even if we’re all in the same boat together, what we do with what life has taught us is a private matter. There are no specific issues or campaigns being waged in any of Cohen’s new songs. The romantic, political and personal have all congealed into one. Pain is universal; its experience and expression are singular and absorbing. “You’ve got to walk that lonesome valley all by yourself,” as the old song goes. There is no solution offered other than surrender and the search for grace. It’s a state that Cohen realizes none of us sail immaculately into.
If thine is the glory/Then mine must be the shame
You want it darker/We kill the flame
It’s written in the scriptures/It’s not some idle claim
You want it darker/We kill the flame.
You can imagine Cohen shaking his head in disbelief as he delivers the lyric. Whoever the “you” is directed at in “You Want It Darker,” can’t possibly imagine what they’re asking for.
Adam Cohen, Leonard’s son, was brought on to produce You Want It Darker after the singer was sidelined by back pain earlier in the year. It turned out to be a smart move that allowed the record to be completed as comfortably as possible without a time frame. More than that, Adam Cohen obviously thought a lot about how to capture his father’s lyrics in song, and has produced the warmest sounding music that Leonard Cohen has offered since Recent Songs came out in 1979. The natural acoustic sounds that grace the songs offer the perfect counterpoint to Cohen senior’s bare lyrics and intonation. His battered old Cassio synthesizer, long the subject of onstage jokes and the dominant sound in his later recordings, has gone by the wayside. In its place are intricate string sections and the reverberating sound of a real bass. Musically, the songs embody the lovely old-world aesthetics of his touring band—a sound that has elevated and unified all of his output when presented in concert. The presence of a gypsy violin tells the listener that the stories we are hearing are as old as time, and it’s easy to imagine the songs being shared around a campfire near a caravan in the woods.
One of the most discussed features of You Want It Darker is that, in many cases, the female backing singers who have long been a feature in Cohen’s music have been replaced by male voices, provided by Montreal’s Shaar Hasomayim Synagogue Choir. It’s a small but significant change that almost completely alters the intimacy of what Cohen sings of. It’s as if the women, the sisters of mercy who have always been healing figures who offer protection, have flown the coop. The presence of the cantor singers suggests that ultimately there are no arms to lie in and no safe haven. Their male voices suggest a shift from outer to inner concerns and intensify the sense of going deep within where there is no distraction and no one to commend or blame but oneself. It’s a subtle difference, to be sure, but is one of many instances in which Adam Cohen as the producer suggests the profound within his father’s work without any unnecessary flashes or undue attention.
Leonard Cohen’s fans have been spoiled with a wealth of very good new material in the last decade, so it’s become easy to take his continued ability to produce a seemingly endless stream of songs for granted. For, as understated as they were, his last two albums, Old Ideas and Popular Problems, were very solid additions to his discography. Whatever they lacked in the way of musical innovation, they were still as good as many of Cohen’s recordings from the past. You Want It Darker is better than either of those records, and may contain the best music he has created since Various Positions came out in 1984.
Much has been written recently about how Leonard Cohen is putting his house in order and that he’s said he’s “ready to die.” There are, of course, many ironies implied by this: If a part of dying is letting go, Cohen has certainly given his fans a lot to hold onto in the past few years. Or, that well past the age of respectable retirement when one could be expected to withdraw from worldly things, he toured and recorded more than at any other time in his life. There might be a lesson or a punchline in this somewhere, but one thing’s for certain: for a Zen minimalist, Leonard Cohen is leaving a hell of a big vapor trail.