Scary! The TPP Fast Track! Please Sign Naomi Klein’s Petition

The senate has just given President Obama the power to take  America into the dreaded Trans-Pacific Partnership, described as “NAFTA on Steroids” because it probably includes provisions enabling Corporations to sue governments for laws they enact to protect the environment – as NAFTA’s Chapter  11 now does.

Congress is next to vote to give the President similar, draconian, totally undemocratic powers.

Please read up (if you need to) on the TPP and quickly sign Naomi Klein’s petition against it HERE!

PLEASE.

IT’S URGENT…

Birding Done For Now

Five of about thirty cormorants who rested in Our Woods

Five of about thirty cormorants who rested in Our Woods in April

Time to tidy up our spring birding. This year, for the first time, about 55 double-crested cormorants rested in the two little “lakes” near our house. First time I’ve ever seen cormorants in this neck of Our Woods. We took flight before they did – left May 2 on a tour of 6 major cities that were formerly behind the “iron curtain.” Came back – with my head spinning – to find a pair of these distinguished looking divers  still with us. They are apparently in numbers too great to be appreciated in the fine Ontario cottage country of Muskoka. And I finally got a decent photo of the yellow-rumped warbler before we flew away. We missed the peak of the  spring warbler migration, and saw only one species yesterday.  It was a female American redstart. Didn’t get a decent photo of it due to the lush May foliage. Saw two red-tailed hawks soaring high above us – a treat to see them enjoying 25 km air currents. Today the blue heron was still fishing, harassed by our plentiful red-winged blackbirds protecting their nests near the shore. So here are a few more photos before this blog moves on to the arts and architecture of Austria, Hungary, Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic.

Brown Creeper – Humble and Unassuming

Brown Creeper lands

Brown Creeper lands

Even the humble brown creeper is a handsome bird

Even the humble brown creeper is a handsome bird

This dapper little specimen scampers up the trunk of a tree, consuming insects. It arrives early in Our Woods with the kinglets, and goes about its business pretty quietly. Not until I photographed it this year did I realize how well marked and attractive it is. So, here, a small shout-out to the Brown Creeper. The above photos were taken in April.

We’ve been away on a very busy trip, and missed the best time for viewing the warbler procession in the park system behind our house. I don’t often post or comment on others’ posts while away. Apologies.

 

 

 

Lili Marlen 1915-2015

Photo Credit - Corey Padgett

Photo Credit – Corley Padgett

This video, Lili Marlen 1915-2015,  is my new, and lyrically different, English version of the hugely iconic song, originally recorded in German by Lale Andersen in 1939. Her recording was much loved by soldiers from both sides in World War II and became the sign-off song for Radio Belgrade in German-occupied Yugoslavia.

The song was originally a 1915 poem written by Hans Leip, a teacher who was conscripted into the German Imperial Army. It was set to music in 1938 by Norbert Schultze. It was so loved by soldiers from both sides that Andersen recorded it in English in 1942.  Soldiers relate deeply to this wistful, iconic song.

The version I offer here tries to be faithful to the original German lyric, though I have modified it slightly for poetic and other reasons. It is quite different from Vera Lynn’s English version and, I think, has a better resonance with what Hans Leip originally wrote 100 years ago. This version also tries to completely express a broader set of the subtle complexities associated with precarious, long-distance, wartime relationships.

I didn’t start out to write yet another version of this piece, already done by stars like Vera Lynn and Marlene Dietrich. It just happened. Here’s how…

I sing songs in different languages and just wanted to know the meaning of the German words. A patient in a local hospital sang it for me in German while I accompanied her on the guitar… M’s performance moved me very much and I wanted somehow to honour what she had felt. I had trouble finding a literal translation, and entering it whole left Google Translate, and me, thoroughly confused. After a long time “parsing” each individual word the stuff started to make sense and making it rhyme accidentally became part of the process. Listening to the German performance by Marlene Dietrich was very helpful, as I had not yet found Lale Anderson. Happy with the result, I recorded it and asked Corley Padgett (Flicker: hornedfrog4life) if she would let me use her superb, copyrighted photo as background for the lyrics. Corley immediately agreed to help, and the rest, as they say, is history.

And, speaking of history, 2015 is the 100th Anniversary of the writing of the poem.

Digital Distraction, Dilution and Disinformation

Decades ago (I’m guessing ca. 1980) an adult family conversation occurred in my parents apartment. My cousin’s husband was very successful, having studied computers and accounting at university before the digital age took off. He traveled the world setting up distribution systems for a major door-to-door cosmetic firm.

He had recently participated in a think-tank session on the future, in which young, forward-looking minds from Canadian industry, government, media and trade unions had been asked to participate. He had a piece of inside information to share:

Industry and government were, way back then, looking at the potential problems that would occur when the typical 40-hour work week shrunk due to information technology and the great unwashed found ourselves with time on our hands and an increased feeling of alienation from the sense that we were contributing to society through work that could be thought of as useful and worthwhile.

One major conclusion:

Ways must be found to keep the masses occupied and entertained.

Continue reading

A Little Birdy

You calling me LITTLE ???

You calling me LITTLE ???

OK… not you. It’s kinglet time in “Our Woods” and this year we’ve been out looking for kinglets – the first little guys to pass through on their way to their summer place in Muskoka. They are usually plentiful for a few weeks and then, too quickly, nada. The earliest we’ve seen them is March 31 and the latest April 28. Yesterday and this morning my mission was to identify and photograph the ruby-crowned kinglet particularly, just because they, and their golden-crowned cousins, are tricky to capture on film. Fast little folk, flitting all over, eating bugs, never resting long enough to look at the camera and smile. Nevertheless I tend to picture their energetic mealtime as joyful rather than desperate. The photographer surely qualifies as desperate – tracking the tiny beasts with the naked eye and aiming the camera’s 300 mm zoom only to find them – if she/he’s lucky – somewhere close enough to where they just were. Forget auto-focus! The cedar branches all around will confuse the heck out of that mechanism. No. You’ve gotta focus manually and hope they’re not gone. Kinglets give you a lot of blurry action shots – and fits. Patience. The kinglet quest would, at one time, have been called a “film gobbler.” This morning I lucked out. Anita, so sad…, stayed in bed and missed quite a show: a Northern Oriole perched momentarily high above whistling “C’mon!” to some sexy follower – then one more treetop and gone northward. A female yellow-rumped (Myrtle) warbler feeding almost as fast as the kinglets showed my camera just enough identifiable plumage and the slightest blurry hint of shoulder yellow.  Yep! Myrtle! Check! And lots of ruby-crowneds in the cedars and, bravely following bugs, even on bare branches of deciduous trees only just beginning to bud. The photos that follow are the best I could do. I was so busy and happily hyper that I gobbled my very tasty breakfast of left-over Peking Mallard Duck when I got home. Just kidding. Had Peking duck in Peking (Beijing, whatever…) in 2008 and, trust me, there never are any left-overs. They don’t taste that great, but they are sooo skinny!

***

Anywaaayy, first, the softly-blurred ruby-crowneds:

“What rubies?”, you say. Well, the female isn’t ruby-crowned and the male doesn’t show off all the time, but you can tell they’re ruby-crowned because of the white eye-ring. The golden-crowned have a stong b&w streaking through the eye and no eye ring. Continue reading