Guy Directions, Girl Directions and a Red Tabby Cat

spinning-lady-5693171On a blog I follow, we got into a discussion about the use of a compass and the lasting grief caused by forcing a left-hand-dominant person to be right handed.  (If you are right-dominant, the lady to the right will appear to be turning in a clockwise direction.  If you are left-dominant, she will appear to be turning in a counterclockwise direction.  If you stare at her, she may abruptly change direction.  How long and hard you have to stare at her before she changes direction indicates how dominant the dominant side of your brain is.  I have a left-handed father and a right handed mother.  I write right-handed, but I know I have cross-dominance — all I have to do is look away for a second and she’ll change direction just like that.)  In the course of the discussion, we also got into a discussion about giving driving directions and guy directions versus girl directions.

Yeah.  There’s a difference.  Guy directions include things like street names, number of miles, cardinal directions (north, south, etc).  They’re mapcentric. They require you to read street signs, do odometer math and count things.  They require a precise starting point.  Example:  “At the intersection of Street Name and Other Street, go east 2.6 miles.  Turn north onto Avenue Name and go 1.6 miles.  Turn north again on This Other Street.  The house number is 218.  It’s the fifth house on the east side of the street.”

Girl directions include landmarks, body directions (left, right, straight ahead), and relative directions (toward or away from relative to the direction of travel).  They’re landmark oriented and tied to real world features such as specific buildings and businesses, shopping centers, parks, playgrounds, bridges, etc.  They do not require you to read street signs or do math, but do require you to know where certain main streets are. They assume you are not color blind.  Their starting point is “where are you coming from?”  Example:  “Where are you coming from?  OK.  You’ll need to get on Street Name going toward downtown.  Stay in the inside lane.  Keep going until you come to the Big Drip Car Wash that’s next to the Burger Queen.  They’ll be on the left side of the street.  Turn left at the next light after the Burger Queen.  Get into the outside lane. You’ll go by a park on the right, and right past it is the McFreeble Public Library.  Turn right on the street just past the library.  Then take the next right.  It’s 218; it’ll be on your left about halfway down, a green house with a row of Catalpa trees along the street.”

The big red tabby cat was in the dream I awoke from today.  He was a classic tabby, and his fur was not your typical orange tabby fur, but flaming, carrot-top human red.  In the dream, I had brought him into the household, and out of jealousy,  the black cat started dumping piles of soiled cat litter (don’t ask me how) all over the house.  Yes.  Jealous black cat is jealous. For reals.  And obnoxious.  And a little thug.  Actually, I wouldn’t mind having my red dream tabby.  He was really a beautiful red cat.

In other news, there have been no more gecko sightings after that first one.  This is a brick house built on a concrete slab, but it’s a tiny little lizard, so no telling how, or where it got in, or where it has gone. I’m not too worried about it, though.  Now and again, the world throws you a curve just to keep you on your toes.

No, I’m Not Going to Call Him Gordon*

Hemidactylus frenatus, photo from Wikipedia Commons
Hemidactylus frenatus, photo from Wikipedia Commons

I have a lizard in my ensuite. It’s a house gecko (Hemidactylus) but I’m not sure if it’s a common house gecko (Hemidactylus frenatus) which is native to Southeast Asia, or a Mediterranean house gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus), which you differentiate by the nubbiness of the skin and the shape of the snout. They’re tiny — this one was less than 3 inches in length — and I didn’t get that good a look at it. It was right out on the floor by my laundry hamper.  I was in medias res when I spotted it and by the time I was able to give chase, it had scuttled under the piece of carpet I have fixed over the threshold of the door to the ensuite and I lost it.    I think I know where it’s been hiding, though.  There’s a crevice in between the shower stall and a built-in cabinet. The grey kitty kept nosing around in that area last night.  Now I know why.

Photo © 2006 E. Brown
Hemidactylus turcicus, Photo © 2006 E. Brown

Research indicates that both frenatus and turcicus are invasive species in the US, and are common in urban and suburban areas. Frenatus (common), has established populations in Arizona, Hawaii, Florida, Georgia, Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama, Tennessee, and California.  Turcicus (Mediterranean), has established populations in Florida and the Florida Keys and has also spread to other states including Arizona, California, Louisiana, and Alabama.  It has been reported throughout much of East and South Texas, although it is apparently absent from the panhandle, with the exception of Lubbock County. Guess which county I live in.

Like many invasive species, both species of house geckos hitched a ride on ships.  However, the Mediterranean is also quite common in the pet trade, and their invasion has, no doubt,  been helped along by irresponsible pet owners.

I hope I’m the one who catches our reptilian visitor because I’ll release it outside.  I cannot vouch for its chances at the paws of any of the other three residents.  I feel constrained to point out that a gecko is not on the list of usual suspects, although it’s not as unusual as the earthworms. (How the earthworms got in remains an unsolved mystery.)

*Gordon Gekko.

Night Thoughts

In the dark of the yard
Under an emptying moon,
The fretful wind
Strums the power lines
Like a bored child.

A brilliant madness
To lug the wet clothes
To the yard harp
Along the back fence
And hang them up to dry
By the light of the emptying moon
As the midsummer darkness
Slips silently past midnight
And the mercury
Falls, finally, past eighty.

The Goldilocks wind
Loiters through the trees
Like a child unwilling
To go back inside to bath and bed
Now that the games
have been called on account of darkness.

There’s a method to this madness:
Stand facing the house
Where the back porch light
Gives light enough
To set the clothes pins.
The socks and undies
Go on the line next to the fence
Too short
To get caught in the climbing roses.
Tees and towels go in the middle.
Pants go on the front line
Where legs have room to skip and run
In the restless, dawdling wind
Under the emptying moon.

Sing a song of clothespins
A pitcher full of tea,
Hanging wash at midnight
Bring them in at three.
Sheets and towels to follow
Flapping in the breeze.
Bring them in at sunrise
Dry and fresh and clean.

Yes. This.

You can read.

Which is to say, you can glance at a piece of paper (or a glowing screen) and immediately, effortlessly take in the thoughts of someone else. The greatest philosophers, poets, scientists, novelists, artists, and world leaders in history have left the contents of their thoughts just lying around in a form that you can access instantly.

We take it for granted, but it’s really magical.

—Redditor FerdinandoFalkland

Was Ist Los, Y’all?

Listening to My Polka Playlist on Rhapsody,which is very short, because there’s not a lot of polka music on Rhapsody to begin with (oddly enough) and I only like the ones that have a tuba playing bass.  I’m sorry.  An electric bass guitar, or even a slap string bass just doesn’t cut it with me.  I’m not particular about the other instruments involved — clarinet, accordion, trumpet, macht nichtsbut I insist on a tuba.  And that “macht nichts” I just snuck in on you is a good clue.

My maternal grandmother’s people are descended from German imigrants who settled in central Texas.  The Méxican government wanted settlers of any kind (including Americans) to occupy this vast territory they called Tejas, and the Germans were certainly interested.  The Texas climate was milder and more temperate than Germany’s, the land was fertile, cheap and there was lots of it. They came in droves.  At first, they settled mostly in the Hill Country, but they continued to come after Texas became a republic in 1836, and a state in 1845.  The tide was briefly stemmed by the Union blockade during the Civil War, but picked right back up again after 1865.  By the end of the 19th century, there were German settlements all over Texas.  In 1880, a third of the population of San Antonio was German.  Even today, individuals who identify as being of either full or partial German ethnicity now account for over 17% of the population, making up the third largest ethnic group in Texas, with Anglos being the largest, and Hispanic second largest.

So, it’s really no surprise that I keep getting this weird El Lorenzo Welko* vibe about how close this is to this and this (note the tuba) is to this,  a  type of “Texican” music called “conjunto” (cone-HOON-toe) that arose out of the Hispanic culture of South Texas following the introduction of the button accordion by the German settlers in the late 1800’s.  Although the rhythm pattern is basically the same, where the Germans would dance a polka to it, Hispanics typically do a variation of the Texas two-step.  (Apparently, it’s not conjunto verdadero** unless the bajo sexto or the bajo quinto is slightly out of tune.  Both types of guitars were introduced onto the mix from the same source at the same time as the button accordion).  Conjunto which was born and raised in Texas has now been exported into Mexico and further south, where it is known as Tejano or Norteño.

Bajo Quinto
Bajo Quinto

The bajo sexto (BAH-hoe SEX-toe, literally “six [pairs of strings] bass”) or the more traditional bajo quinto (BAH-hoe KEEN-toe “five [pairs of strings] bass”) is strung with the strings in octave pairs in the same manner as a standard twelve string guitar, but uses a fourth tuning.  It is played using a “walking bass” style of flatpicking in which the bass note(s) of a chord is picked, then the rest of the chord is strummed in a pick-strum pick-strum rhythm guitar pattern that is also common to blue grass and western/cowboy music.  The picked notes shadow the bass line that in polka would be played by the tuba or string bass.  The strum of this pattern occurs on the “and” beat the snare drum plays in the polka (which is the beat where it does the skip step.) A conjunto band very often includes a bass instrument as well as the bajo quinto, either an electric bass guitar or string bass.  You’ll notice the accordion style is different too. Differences in style not withstanding,  a button accordion is technically more difficult to play than those  iron lungs with a keyboard like the late, great Myron Floren played.

Of course, the German polka belongs in that mixed bag of beer hall music, where the band may or may not have an accordion and the other instruments in the group are brass instruments.  You can march to polkas, too, if you must, and military bands, with the exception of the percussion section, are practically all brass — trumpets, trombones, flutes, picolos, the tuba and it’s little brother, the euphonium.  (There are clarinets as well, but they’re technically woodwinds.)  If you play in a military band, it’s not too difficult for such a group of trained musicians to put together a pickup band and moonlight for Bier und Trinkgeld (beer and tips) in the local Bierhalle oder Biergarten (I don’t think you need those translated, do you?). If you’ve ever been in a bierhalle of any size, by about 9 o’clock of a weekend evening, the joint be jumping.  In the days before microphones, brass instruments were loud enough to carry over the din.  If you’re intent on dancing, because the polka steps on the beat, as long as you can hear the tuba (and can stand up!), you’re got it covered.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  You can polka to conjunto but they do it a little differently than a German/European polka. For one thing, their style of footwork is different. They don’t get up on their toes as much, but then this style has likely been influenced by other Mexican dances such as this one and this one and, of course, this one.

It’s funny how things have a way of wandering from culture to culture, turning up in unexpected places, mixing and remixing in new and unexpected ways.  The German-Texans don’t have the market cornered when it comes to Gemütlichkeit.  Once the Dos Equis and Coronas start to flow and the bajo quintos and accordions come out to play, su cantina próxima can get muy alegre.

Now, we Texans have a tendency to draw lines in the sand, but this time, I’m going to smudge out the line.  Which is the conjunto band? Click the link then minimize your browser and see if you can tell:  is it  “This one” or “This one?”

*Lawrence Welk is decended from Alsace Germans who settled in North Dakota.
**True conjunto.

We Are Going to St. Ninian’s Isle

mapWe are going to St. Ninian’s Isle.
We’re battened down in cabled woolen jumpers,
Shod sensibly in woolen socks, and sturdy shoes
For an afternoon of striding over wind-combed swards
Of brilliant grass, well-manicured by sheep.
We’ll let the impudent salt-smelling wind
Play fast and loose with our unleashed hair.

We are going to St. Ninian’s Isle
To slog across the wave-licked ayre of sand
Out to that closely outcropped nubbin of an island
Surrounded (almost) by the rushing shushing sea.
We’ll spend the fortunate and sunny afternoon
At the sufferance of swarms of seabirds
And be spied upon covertly by the nosey rabbits.

We are going to St. Ninian’s Isle
To watch the hackling of the wild, tow-headed waves
Through the ragged, jagged, glistening skerries,
While the dancing skirts of steel blue water
Flounce and flourish lacy petticoats of spume,
To shout above the hiss and whisper of the sea
And be flapped like flags by the spanking breeze.

We are going to St. Ninian’s Isle
To follow end to end the interdicting drystaine wall
Of pachydermous, rough and tumble grey,
To wander in the footsteps of the restless saints and sheep,
And eavesdrop on incessant cliff-side squabbles
Between the white waves whispering, “Oh, yes, you will,”
And the stony stubborn land replying, “No, I won’t.”

st-ninians-isle2We are going to St. Ninian’s Isle
Packing packages of tartaned shortbread,
Tea in thermoses of steel, dried dates in waxed paper,
To sit within the roofless walls, share out a sacrament
Of shortbread, thermos cups of tea and suppositions
About who it was and why they buried all the silver
And what sort of life a person might have led here.

We are going to St. Ninian’s Isle
To stand like Picts upon a precipice, armed to the teeth with history,
And scan the sea for sails and seals and black-finned whales.
We’ll squint into the past and try to glimpse the mind medieval
Well nigh impossible to see from here as frosted Greenland is,
And wonder at a life so cold, so wet and windswept,
Sealed off hermitically save for an umbilical of sand.

We are going to St. Ninian’s Isle.
And as the sun rolls down the sky into the wild Atlantic,
We will unfurl a polyphonic nunc dimittis servum tuum,
Trail it like a silken scarf, drape it on the wind and let it go,
Place a stone of memory upon the lonely long-forsaken graves,
Then silently like Moses make our way between the waves
And press this flower of an afternoon between the diary’s pages.

You Gotta See This …

These are the amazing kinetic “wind sculptures” created by Anthony Howe.  Visit his website and check out his stuff.  Click on the sculpture to see it up close and watch a video of what it does.  The amount of work that must go into even one of these sculptures is mind boggling.

I think if you had one of these out here in the flatlands, you’d have to keep it inside and put a fan on it, because if you had it outside, the wind would just beat it to pieces.  I mean, our definition of “breeze” is “air moving slower than 20 mph,” and winds of 50-60 mph winds are not infrequent.

Dark Visions

His name is Michal Karcz. He was born in Warsaw, Poland. He manipulates photographs on the computer into moody and sometimes surreal images, most of which are inspired by pieces of music. (“Inspirations“) If some of these pieces look familiar, it may be that you’ve seen them before.  He has done a number of album covers as well as album art and book covers. (“Artwork“)  His musical tastes are surprisingly close to my own, so I guess it’s not surprising that I find his pieces interesting in general and particular ones fascinating.  If you like the ones I’m going to show you, then visit his website here to see many more.  Please notice that all images are copyrighted by the artist, and prints are available.

inspired by ABOVE ALL v2 - Jon Jenkins & David Helpling Artwork © 2006-2011 Michal Karcz
inspired by ABOVE ALL v2 – Jon Jenkins & David Helpling
Artwork © 2006-2011 by Michal Karcz
inspired by BLEXEN - Hemisphere Artwork © 2006-2011 Michal Karcz
inspired by BLEXEN – Hemisphere
Artwork © 2006-2011 by Michal Karcz
inspired by CALM BEFORE THE STORM II - Steve Roach Artwork © 2006-2011 by Michal Karcz
inspired by CALM BEFORE THE STORM II – Steve Roach
Artwork © 2006-2011 by Michal Karcz
inspired by DEEPER WITHIN THE CORE - Chad Kettering Artwork © 2006-2011 by Michal Karcz
inspired by DEEPER WITHIN THE CORE – Chad Kettering
Artwork © 2006-2011 by Michal Karcz
inspired by EARTH ISLAND - Suspended Memories Artwork © 2006-2011 by Michal Karcz
inspired by EARTH ISLAND – Suspended Memories
Artwork © 2006-2011 by Michal Karcz
inspired by THE ULTIMATE CHALLENGE - Symbian Artwork © 2006-2011 by Michal Karcz
inspired by THE ULTIMATE CHALLENGE – Symbian
Artwork © 2006-2011 by Michal Karcz
inspired by LA PETITE FILLE DE LA MER - Vangelis (cooperation with TragicStock) Artwork © 2006-2011 by Michal Karcz
inspired by LA PETITE FILLE DE LA MER – Vangelis (cooperation with TragicStock)
Artwork © 2006-2011 by Michal Karcz
inspired by LITANIA V - Konrad Kucz Artwork © 2006-2011 by Michal Karcz
inspired by LITANIA V – Konrad Kucz
Artwork © 2006-2011 by Michal Karcz
inspired by XANTHE TERRA - Numina Artwork © 2006-2011 by Michal Karcz
inspired by XANTHE TERRA – Numina
Artwork © 2006-2011 by Michal Karcz
inspired by IN THE FOREST OF ANCIENT LIGHT - Steve Roach & Elmar Schulte Artwork © 2006-2011 by Michal Karcz
inspired by IN THE FOREST OF ANCIENT LIGHT – Steve Roach & Elmar Schulte
Artwork © 2006-2011 by Michal Karcz
inspired by CANCAO DO MAR - Dulce Pontes Artwork © 2006-2011 by Michal Karcz
inspired by CANCAO DO MAR – Dulce Pontes
Artwork © 2006-2011 by Michal Karcz