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So scientists discover that mice can sing.  Old hat.  We’ve known about this capacity for a long time:


I immediately thought of the ol’ mouse organ when I read this bit from the article:

When the scientists damaged brain cells in the motor cortex which appeared to be controlling the mice’s singing they lost their ability to sustain the same pitch and to consistently make the same noise. The same effect was noticed when the mice were made deaf.

Heh.  We knew that, too.   How does one say, “My braaaaaain hurts!” in Mouse Language?

Here’s a little article that amuses me:  How to choose hens for your garden.

Apparently, it’s not unlike selecting what flowers you’re going to plant:

These days, laying comes second to beauty. The more utility, harder-feathered strains lay better, but fluffier birds produce little after their first year. It takes a lot of feeding to maintain that bulk and lay, and the delicious, beige-tinted eggs are only average-sized.

Orpingtons do make great garden poultry. They are lazy and unlikely to roam; areas can easily be fenced from them; they spend hours preening in the sun, but if put to work on an overwintering vegetable bed they will scarify, gobble pests, eat leftovers and liberally manure, leaving soil better and ready for spring planting.

There is little more spectacular than the colour, movement and drama of a flock to liven up a garden, especially during winter.

This brings to mind an old Garrison Keillor routine about a home decoration store selling, among other things,  elderly, sedate cats to spruce up a room’s appearance.  He called them “accent cats”.

I smile at the accent chickens because it happens that Sistah is raising a brood of her own (of what variety I don’t know) up ta Maine.  I asked the Mothe the other day what the neighbors must think of a coop stuck out in the yard, and she replied that in fact it has become quite the fashion amongst the earthy-crunchy set, of which Sistah is a (recycled!) card-carrying member.  Indeed, the Mothe noted that Williams-Sonoma will sell you a de-luxe coop for north of a thousand jimmy o’goblins.   (Not that Sistah has one of these.  Rayther, I believe she’s kicking it old school with tar paper and cheap plywood and second-hand lobstah traps.)

In fact, Sistah’s original idea had been to let her little flock range free.  This idea was shelved when Mr. Bald Eagle started taking an unhealthy (to the chickens, at any rate) interest.  So it was the pen for them after all.  And just as well, because the report now is that Mr. Fox is also trying to figure out a way through the defenses – even in broad daylight.   At this rate, it seems that my nieces may get quite the Hobbesian education.  (Which, in all earnestness, I actually think better than the usual sugar-coated, bubble-wrapped nonsense served up by the current culchah.)

I mentioned a while back that I had stumbled across an old 1980 Beeb production of The Taming of the Shrew starring, of all people, John Cleese as Petruchio, and that, as it is Netflix-available, I popped it in the queue.

Well, I’ve had a chance to watch it now and it turns out to be really quite a good staging.  Indeed, the Shakespeare series that the Beeb did back then was a distinctly hit-or-miss biznay, but this was definitely one of the better if not best that I can recall off the top of my head.  (The worst one I can think of was The Tempest.  Despite the fact that poor old Michael Hordern did a pretty good job as Prospero, the director got the idea  to cast brother and sister actors as Ferdinand and Miranda, thus spiking the ick-factor to toxic levels.)

So how is Cleese?  Well, despite the fact that he throws in some looks and gestures recognizable from both Python and Fawlty Towers from time to time, I definitely think he fit the bill.  His Petruchio has a commanding, swaggering presence, with a bold eccentricity underscored by a latent ferocity:  Your first reaction is to think that here’s a man one doesn’t want to cross.  Your second is to think that if anyone can take down the headstrong Kate, it is he.

Katherine is played by somebody named Sarah Badel, of whom I’ve never heard.  All in all, I don’t think her character has all that much to do other than glaring and screeching at people and slamming doors, but she does this quite authentically, as I can attest from life at Port Swiller Manor.  And when her father Baptista started laughing and dancing a little jig at the thought of finally getting her off his hands, I had to laugh, too.

The rest of the cast seemed perfectly good and solid to me, as well.  Much of the blocking involved various characters huddled together in closeups of twos or threes and you really got the sense of a bunch of Renaissance Italian horse-traders dealing and plotting.  This blocking was set off very nicely by the set, which was fairly minimal and reminded me in its geometry of paintings by Vermeer and that lot.

Anyhoo, if you’re interested in this sort of thing, you might like to nip on over to Netflix and check it out.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

If you’ve been following the post-season, you’ll know that ol’ Robbo’s beloved Nationals face the possibility of elimination later this afternoon at the hands of the Cards.  While we managed to steal the first game of the series, we’ve been shellacked the past two, looking something more like the old Nat’nals than this year’s 98-game winning, first in the NL East club.   Personally, I put it down to inexperience and nerves – the guys simply seem to have forgotten the loose confidence that enabled them to play so well during the season and are instead pressing too hard.  Not being a professional manager, I’m not sure how one goes about getting a team in such a tight spot to just relax and have some fun with it, as my old crew coach used to say.

While I’m certainly not happy about the state of things, I must say that I’m even more unhappy about the reaction of some of the fans to it.  Flipping around various intertoob sites, I see an ever-growing mob armed with virtual torches and pitchforks and loudly demanding Davy Johnson’s head.   Most of the criticism seems to swirl around the decision to yank Strasburg (and memo to those critics in particular – he wouldn’t have won the game yesterday since we never managed to score), but once again the entire long-term strategy is also being torn apart.  Johnson is a dinosaur.  Rizzo is an idiot.  The Lerners are skinflints.  Yadda, yadda, yadda.

For Heaven’s sake, people, let’s keep some perspective here and stop being such summah soldiers, such sunshine patriots!  We’ve had an outstanding season, exceeding absolutely everybody’s expectations.  We’re a very young club with a fantastick skills set that can only get better as we mature.  If the Mayans are right and this is indeed the last season of Major League Baseball evah, then I can understand your last-chance-at-the-brass-ring mentality, but if not, then I don’t think it the slightest bit unreasonable to expect many return visits to the post season.  Jeesh!

And as for the now?  My next door colleague remarked this morning that it was sad that the season would end today in such a way.  I looked at him incredulously and said, “Who said anything about the season ending today?”



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October 2012