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Taking programmatic musick to a new, um, level:

A piece of music that was composed by waiting for bird droppings to fall onto giant sheets of manuscript paper has received its premiere.

Artist Kerry Morrison laid manuscript sheets on the ground in Liverpool parks and let birds deposit their droppings.

Composer Jon Hering has transformed the bum notes into a full musical score.

Why?  Why on earth?  Well, it’s a message, you see:

Morrison said the 20-minute Bird Sheet Music, which was performed at the Tate Liverpool art gallery, represented the role birds play in the environment.

“They play a massive part in the ecosystem of the city through their droppings – they disperse seeds, also their droppings help the enrichment of the soil, so we get fertiliser,” she said.

 “It’s something people don’t often think about.  The whole thing about looking at detritus and waste tends to be quite negative.  People think it’s mucky or horrible, but of course it’s critical to life on earth.”

And people actually sat through twenty minutes of this?  It reminds me of a joke the Old Gentleman used to tell about Johnny and the magic rabbit pellets.

In case you’re wondering what Bird Sheet Music actually, you know, sounds like, you’re welcome to follow the linky over to the Beeb.  Personally, I couldn’t get the recorder thingie to work on two tries and I’m not going to bother  anymore.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A while back, Mrs. R asked me to order up from Netflix a movie entitled Disney’s African Cats.

For some reason, these film requests of hers always get lost in the sawdust of my cranial cavity, usually never to be seen again.   This one, originally made some time last fall, recently came back to the surface, however, prompting me to act.

Last evening, the flick appearing in the Port Swiller mailbox, I proudly brought it in to Mrs. R.

“Oh, we got it somewhere else and watched it weeks ago,” she said.

So much for good intentions.

Since I had it in hand, I watched the film myself.   As I say, it’s Disney, which means that even if it wasn’t deliberately aimed at a kiddie audience, it assumes that anybody watching it would have the intelligence of one.  The photography is fabulous but the story, mostly about a three-way turf battle between two prides of lions and a cheetah and her cubs, is long on anthropomorphism and thin on actual zoology.  And while Nature may be red in tooth and claw, here She discretely keeps most of her mess off screen.  Also, although I may have started dozing and missed it, we were not treated to the usual obligatory hectoring about poachers and developers driving the subject animals to the brink of extinction.   The narration is by Samuel L. Jackson.  He’s no Marlin “I’ll stand downstream while Jim wrestles the tiger to the ground” Perkins, but then again, who is?

All in all, though, not a bad way to blow an hour and a half.

The film got me wondering:  Has anyone come up with an explanation of why lions buck the feline trend by being such social animals (social in a nasty, feline, back-stabbing way, but social nonetheless)?   Every other cat, from tigers and cheetahs down to our own Fat Bella, is essentially a loner.   Where did the lion deviate from this and start clubbing up?  I’m sure somebody has figured this out, but I don’t recall reading up on it myself.

But then again, cats as a whole are mysterious creatures, which is probably one of the reasons I don’t much like them.  I’ve read all sorts of fascinating accounts of the history of their relationship with humans, none of which endear them to me any more.  They were never “domesticated” in the same sense as dogs or, say, horses.  They simply found that hanging about people was beneficial to their own self interest.  And that’s pretty much all they still do.  Dogs and horses provide all sorts of vital services in return for our protection, affection and care.  On the other hand, there’s no such thing as a working cat.  (And don’t argue about mousing: They do that on their own time for their own amusement.)  We are, indeed, simply their staff.

I also recently saw an article claiming that the whole meowing biznay is not natural cat language, but instead was developed specifically to communicate with human beings.  “Meow” translates into English as, “Feed me, damn you.”  Of course, the vocabulary has expanded somewhat over time:

cat3-1Anyhoo, I assume this air of mystery, coupled with their general superciliousness, is why the Ancient Egyptians thought it best to go ahead and worship them as gods.  “Better safe than sorry,” they no doubt thought to themselves.  “No point in getting on their bad side, just in case they really can call down thunderbolts or suck spirits out of people’s bodies.”   I’m sure this is the same sense that long prompted people to associate cats with witchcraft and the occult.   Of course, we like to poo-poo ye olde superstitions nowadays, but in this case modern science and technology have only gone on to prove that cats are, indeed, capable of all kinds of things when they think nobody is looking that they don’t generally let on about when under scrutiny:

In fact, although I’m well aware that cats possess hidden talents and capabilities, I don’t personally believe they have any magical or supernatural powers for one simple reason:  I haven’t been targeted.   Fat Bella has been getting more and more impatient for me to open up her daily can of food in the morning and the looks she has been giving me while I finish my morning routine before sauntering down to the kitchen have been becoming increasingly dirty.  I don’t doubt that if she had the ability to possess or hypnotize me, or simply turn me into a can of food, she’d have done it by now.

Speaking of dirty looks, I had to laugh at this article I spotted on Drudge this morning about some New Zealand enviroweenie proposing to de-cat the entire country:

Gareth Morgan has a simple dream: a New Zealand free of pet cats that threaten native birds. But the environmental advocate has triggered a claws-out backlash with his new anti-feline campaign.

Morgan called on his countrymen Tuesday to make their current cat their last in order to save the nation’s unique bird species. He set up a website, called Cats To Go, depicting a tiny kitten with red devil’s horns. The opening line: “That little ball of fluff you own is a natural born killer.”

He doesn’t recommended people euthanize their current cats — “Not necessarily but that is an option” are the site’s exact words — but rather neuter them and not replace them when they die. Morgan, an economist and well-known businessman, also suggests people keep cats indoors and that local governments make registration mandatory.

The backlash is very amusing, too:

“I say to Gareth Morgan, butt out of our lives,” Bob Kerridge, the president of the Royal New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, told the current affairs television show Campbell Live. “Don’t deprive us of the beautiful companionship that a cat can provide individually and as a family.”

When the RSPCA tells you to stuff your eco-idea where the sun don’t shine, it’s time to move on.


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January 2013