A Scattering of Light

Clouds break up the monotonous blue expanse above and the light, illuminating it all down to the last wispy puff, has yet to deal with the billions of serrated leaf edges awaiting its arrival down here in the thick of nature, whose every quality owes much to humanity’s rare neglect.

Did not see many birds on my walk yesterday. Ruby-crowned Kinglets are here for the winter and I caught sight of a Tennessee Warbler. Early morning light makes the myriad details of a Texas prairie erupt in a festival for the eyes. I walked the trails in silence, slipping my mask back up over my nose when I encountered other people.

I did see and photograph a mute Mockingbird contemplating something relating to life as birds would have it. She sat still for it, which is the only way I can grab a bird portrait at distance. (Idea for a camera feature: button that emits a silent signal heard only by wildlife that says, “stay still for a moment, it’s important.”)

Mocking-Bird                         
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Then from a neighboring thicket
    the mocking-bird, wildest of singers,
Swinging aloft on a willow spray
    that hung o’er the water,
Shook from his little throat
    such floods of delirious music,
That the whole air and the woods
    and the waves seemed silent to listen. 
Plaintive at first were the tones
    and sad: then soaring to madness
Seemed they to follow or guide
    the revel of frenzied Bacchantes.
Single notes were then heard,
    in sorrowful, low lamentation;
Till, having gathered them all,
    he flung them abroad in derision,
As when, after a storm, a gust of wind
    through the tree-tops
Shakes down the rattling rain
    in a crystal shower on the branches.

Bothered a little by some lower back pain, I cut my walk short and was soon racing along on Houston’s 610 Loop, in sync with the speeding hordes, light scattering off of pavement and chrome bumpers, and nature somehow accommodating it all. I feel like a voyeur, sneaking peeks at the beauty of the world from a little hiding spot not quite in it.

Zen Curious

The archer's faulted for its lack
Subgenius craves it—calls it slack

Potter shaping mound of clay
Seeks wabi-sabi, so they say

Outnumbered by the many foe
Kung Fu's the only way to go

The Koan reaches eager ears
Throws a wrench into the gears

Like pyramids, real power now
Though no one knows exactly how

An author knows this very well:
Slipped in the title, book will sell

That certain something thought of when
You don't know what to call it: Zen

Just for fun, search “Zen and the Art of” and see all the various suggestions offered by your search engine. (I recommend DuckDuckGo as a privacy oriented search alternative to the big guys. I do not use Google anymore.) Turns out that Robert Pirsig was riffing on another book’s title when he published Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: which was Zen in the Art of Archery, by German philosophy professor Eugen Herrigel, published in 1948.

Kyūdō: Bows are called Yumi (, lit. “Bow“)

Something striking to me about Western culture is that it’s thoroughly grounded in materialist orthodoxy but is endlessly fascinated with the ‘Mysteries of the East’ like Zen and martial arts. Everybody doesn’t like something, but nobody doesn’t like Kung Fu.

Four Seasons Total Satisfaction

The election results are now clear
And loser, you're out on your ear
We wish you the best
Just kidding, we jest
Now choke on this summons, you hear?

I am embarrassed by my own ill will here, but damn I’m tired and I don’t feel well. What should be a joyful win for decency is soiled by the fact that we are still a country with 70 million MAGAs who are not going anywhere. Who will be the next fascist fuck these grousing lack-wits glom onto? He’ll be a smart one next time, none of this keystone cop coup d’etat bullshit. He’ll have a major political party behind him again too, just like his predecessor.

Am I wrong? Please tell me I am wrong.

News of the World

So Tom Hanks is starring in the film adaptation of this Paulette Jiles novel, and I have to say the film will probably be good, though I’m practically begging you to read the book first.

It’s a first rate yarn set in post-Civil War Texas involving an old war veteran who’s agreed to return to her family a young girl who was raised captive by Kiowa warriors and remembers nothing of her previous life. This cross-cultural and cross-generational bonding angle could have been a cliched mess, the kind of thing Hollywood loves to cash in on, but the book is a clear eyed look at the harsh environs of a lawless Texas wilderness, rendered in gorgeous prose.

The title stems from the occupation of the old veteran, who gathers up recent newspapers from all over and travels to distant small towns and outposts, giving public readings at ten cents a head. If this setup sounds like your kind of thing you will be well served reading the book first, or instead.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

Full feature is available on YouTube. If you haven’t seen Stoppard’s witty side story calved from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, well, here she is. Tim Roth and Gary Oldman in the leads and Richard Dreyfuss as the lead player.

“Life is a gamble, at terrible odds. If it were a bet you wouldn’t take it.”

Lite Birding, Houston | Galveston

A few bird photos from here in Houston and down in Galveston, where the mosquitoes, as Shakespeare famously put it, “come not single spies, but in battalions.” I have rarely seen the watery lowlands of Galveston so swarmed with them. Must be the recent rains. This is a Great Blue Heron, unmistakable large wader seen commonly everywhere in this part of the country.

I’ve misidentified this one as Solitary Sandpiper before, but it’s a Spotted Sandpiper in non-breeding form.

Cormorants down on White Oak Bayou. It looks like the cops have ordered them to raise their wings and don’t move. Well, they are black, and they weren’t doing anything but existing which is what passes for probable cause these days. A couple of Snowy Egrets in there too, both abiding by the law as far as anyone can tell. I could take this racial angle here and run with it, but I think I’ll just spare you and let it drop. I trust you get it. Black Lives Matter.

Low angle of morning sunshine at the bayou. There’s a busy paved trail for walkers, runners, and bikers not shown in the foreground. I literally had to wait for a gap in traffic to get this exposure.

Brother Rabbit is not like these other birds, indeed, what is he even doing here? Unlike country rabbits, this city boy could not have cared less about the people passing by a few yards away.

Not much bird action down in Galveston, which was the main reason I drove down, but I did get some banking done and had breakfast at Mi Abuelita’s so I can’t complain. A Black-bellied Whistling Duck and a White Ibis are #BFF at Lafitte’s Cove.

Some Mottled Ducks, same locale.

Caught this Reddish Egret at East Beach, fishing a big puddle remaining from our recent brush with the downgraded TS Beta. At the ship channel I noticed a large bird diving for fish and registered pelican but then I saw it had a forked tail. (Warning: this vehicle brakes suddenly for bird sightings.) It was a Magnificent Frigatebird that I was able to observe a few minutes at a range too distant for a photo attempt. At Corps Woods I found an unusually gregarious Brown Thrasher that repeatedly perched out in the open just long enough to almost get a photo, but no longer.

US Cognitive Test

I hope we ace our cognitive test coming up this fall. It’s just five words. Bone up!

PERSON
WOMAN
MAN
VOTE
BIDEN

(Note: I am excited about a Biden presidency in the same way I’d be excited to learn my prison cell mate was to be a hedge fund manager rather than a serial killer. More relieved than enthused, in other words. In this most critical moment in the history of this democracy, the one thing we can do to maybe keep the DNC from fucking this up (again) is to vote. VOTE.)

While the cynicism of the Democratic Party leadership forever shocks and disappoints me, the venality and depravity of the GOP is cut from a whole other bolt of cloth. These people, there can no longer be any doubt, hate democracy. They hate it because democracy means everyone gets to vote and that boils down to pretty much letting a Black Man tell a White Man what to do. It is the time-spanning tentacles of the social order of the Antebellum South manifest as a party that is no longer distinguishable from a cult. Democracy represents a concern for the common good and is antithetical to an unbridled greed for luxury and power. The perfidy, it takes the breath away.

To the left, this demonstrably criminal president is like a Frankenstein monster pieced together with parts disinterred from the Moral Turpitude Graveyard. Over and over on social media I see it asked, how can they support such a man? Here’s how: The right has traded in morals for strategy and the cult of Trump is a mere tool for gaining control of the US government once and for all. To put down, once and for all, the supposed horror that is the Liberal Agenda. The fact that full-time golfer drives smart people crazy is just icing on the cake, a punitive response, a ‘right back atcha’ for the crime of our placing an Uppity Negro (sorry) in the White House.

There’s plenty of Obama voters like myself who spent those eight years furious with the way he floundered around in the face of GOP opposition while actively increasing the inappropriate powers of that office instead of curtailing them, (as he had promised to do) and murdering people with drones, and utterly failing to apply his oratorical gifts in the service of educating the American people about the goodness upon which the progressive agenda is based. Am I a knee jerk liberal? Fuck no. I simply desire the functional, representative government that our founding documents seem to promise, but that nobody can find the resolve to deliver.

Mark my words, if the Flaming Orange Hemorrhoid keeps its seat in the White House, the GOP will take hold of this government in a way very difficult correct. There will be no more meaningful elections. (If in fact that is something we still have.) It will be dictatorship. This is what the 1% at the top desires, so they can keep control over the application of government authority, what the evangelical Right has prayed for, so that they can unleash without real resistance their own moral agenda (theocracy essentially), what the GOP ranks at every level support to shore up their own tenuous grasp on local power, and what the GOP voters think will relieve them of what they’ve been trained to believe is their ‘libtard’ and ‘colored folk’ problem.

God bless humanity. What a clusterfuck.

If you despise Democrats like we all sometimes do, please just hold your nose and vote for one this time. There is an awful lot on the line.

Creativity is Vital

Really struck by this little talk from Ethan Hawke on creativity and being willing to be the fool. He’s done a lot of fine work in film, but my favorite has to be his thoroughly modernized Hamlet, a thing full of daring and flaws, but when it hits the right notes, really does nail it.

Here he mentions Allen Ginsberg going on Firing Line with William F. Buckley and singing a Krishna song, which exasperated all his friends who told him the entire nation was laughing at him and thinks he’s an idiot. To which Ginsberg responds: “That’s my job.”