Migration

The other night I paused the TV to listen to the cries of migrating birds outside in the dark. There’s something very haunting about that song, so much distance and weather and effort ahead. And yet they fly, obeying a biological imperative. After all, it’s getting cold.

Moving on.
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I was introduced to Jānis Ivanovs, Latvian composer, through choir, where we sang his Gājputni (“migratory birds”) one of the first years I was a member. It’s a very moody piece in minor key, and we performed it with great effect during our surprise performance in competition. Since then, his vocalizations (tone poems?) for choir appeal to me most simply due to emotional attachment, despite the fact that he has many symphonic works to his name.

Unfortunately, the migratory birds are too seldom performed to have video available online, so instead, here is my second choice, Rudens dziesma (“autumn song”). (You can always visit the National Library, they have all the vocalizations in archive!)

Macedonia 5 – Stillness

One impression that I was left with after my trip was a sense of… unfinished? The opposite of stillness. It’s hard to explain. The city of Skopje was such a mix of modern, ancient, renovated and decrepit, and through it all it was clear that Things were Happening, but… there was also a sense of organized chaos? I have a lot of question marks in my thoughts about the city, and the best I’ve been able to tell people is It was interesting. I think the one conclusion I will come away with is that there is no need for conclusions.

In any case, Skopje is full of statues – hollow statues – so many figures standing or sitting around or holding epic poses, it’s quite grand. And many of them are large! Immense! Makes you feel a bit small, to be honest. And the sort of grandiosity that puts me a bit on edge. Here’s a very, very, very tiny sample:

Alexander the Great, of course.
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The view from under the arches of a medieval bridge… not even the oldest object around.
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Upskirt photography at its finest.
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The other side of the bottom of the previous statue – sitting around for ages!
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A paeon to motherhood, I assumed – I might add that nobody was looking particularly thrilled.
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I am frighteningly ignorant when it comes to good music from the region, though, so here’s Loreena McKennitt instead. I intend to work on my musical diversity.

They Make Their Own Music.

The spheres, that is – the planets. It’s nothing new, but I recently came across: Spooky Space ‘Sounds’.

Juno Captures the ‘Roar’ of Jupiter: NASA’s Juno spacecraft has crossed the boundary of Jupiter’s immense magnetic field. Juno’s Waves instrument recorded the encounter with the bow shock over the course of about two hours on June 24, 2016.

Plasma Waves: Plasma waves, like the roaring ocean surf, create a rhythmic cacophony that — with the EMFISIS instrument aboard NASA’s Van Allen Probes — we can hear across space.

Saturn’s Radio Emissions: Saturn is a source of intense radio emissions, which were monitored by the Cassini spacecraft. The radio waves are closely related to the auroras near the poles of the planet. These auroras are similar to Earth’s northern and southern lights. More of Saturn’s eerie-sounding radio emissions.

Check it out. Creepy and amazing all at once.

Macedonia 4 – Terrible Butterflies

Terrible picture butterflies, that is – the butterflies themselves were amazing, and everywhere! Very few of them were ready to co-operate and pose for me, so I was lucky to get these three at all – and from a distance, playing around with the zoom. There were at least two more varieties that I didn’t even try for, else I would get stuck in the burrs.

Blue butterfly
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Orange butterfly
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Yellow butterfly
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Inevitable

A fixture of my childhood has passed away suddenly. The sister of my godfather, actually. I went to Latvian school with her children, and she was certainly an unstoppable force – abrasive yet good-natured, she didn’t stand much for politeness where undeserved, or properness where a bit of liveliness would do; she had opinions and wasn’t afraid to let them out. She laughed loudly, sang loudly in church, and wore flamboyant hats in loud colours.

We weren’t close, but I’m going to miss her.

Macedonia 3 – Husks

Macedonia is also heading towards autumn, and while it was warm hot while I was there (I mean mid-20s in October? Sheesh!), getting out of the city proved that summer was, indeed, coming to an end. Previously, we have already met a spider and two lizards from the local famous mountain. In this chapter, I present to you the golden glory of dried out plants, all sharp edges and pointy ends – except, of course, the ones with fluff. Most photos below the fold, because uncontrollable camera finger.

Dry grasses
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Pointy dry grass
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Was There a Mosh Pit, Too?

Classical music has long been associated with heightened emotions, violent premieres, and composers escaping from disappointed audiences through windows and the like. But I thought those days were over, at least for classical music, until this headline caught my eye: Malmö performance of Mahler’s Fifth ends in brawl.

I leave you with the tension of the introductory paragraphs:

The conflict began shortly after the renowned Latvian conductor Andris Nelsons brought the bombastic introduction to the fourth movement to a shuddering halt, leading his Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra deftly into the movement’s slow, atmospheric adagietto, wrote the Sydsvenskan newspaper.
At this point that the rustling on the second balcony became apparent, ruining the effect of the gently soaring strings and softly plucked harp for all sitting nearby.

 

Macedonia 2 – A Glorious Three-fer

I present a triune of lizards for your eyes. For some of you, a lizard may be no big deal, but I come from a land where lizards are rare, and the only ones we have are tiny and brown (but very cute!).

Lizard number 1 was hiding out in bright sunlight on some flat rocks, when I nearly stepped on it.

See if you can spot it:

I am invisible…

The dramatic reveal below the fold…

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Wheat Kings

Sometimes my head has too many thoughts.

Today’s song holds more than just a nice melody for me. In a lot of ways, what it is about is a reminder of why I do the work that I do, and why it is important to do it well. If you google “David Milgaard” (the inspiration – what a terrible designation – behind the song), you can probably divine more than a hint of what I do. The why is a complicated mix of ‘I like it’ and higher values and the feeling that I can do something to make the world a little… better, I suppose. Or something that makes me feel useful on a daily basis. Anyway, here’s your music:

The Tragically Hip is a strange kind of band, they’ve been around since the 1980s and they really sunk deep into the Canadian consciousness. They were certainly a fixture of the music world in the 1990s and early 2000s. I don’t know if they ever tried (too hard), but they never made it big outside of Canada. Within Canada, though, hoo boy. Everyone knows them, but that doesn’t mean they necessarily like them. They have a very unique style that doesn’t always feel accessible. It’s taken me years to grow into my appreciation of their music, and they certainly have a rich collection of Canadiana that touches on stereotypes and themes and very specifically Canadian subjects, even though their songs that I do like are definitely among my favourites. Their lead singer, Gord Downie, is a whole other kettle of fish. He did their farewell tour 2 years ago (he was diagnosed with a brain tumour and was given about a year, he walked on later that same year) and it was one of the biggest things to happen in recent Canadian cultural history. Not least because in his final months he addressed the subject of residential schools (I’m a bit out on a white dude saying so much without hearing about him giving First Nations people a voice of their own, but I can’t say he did wrong). We’ll be hearing more from the Tragically Hip in the future.

In any case, enjoy the music. I have a very social weekend ahead of me and it’s tangling with new stuff at work that makes me feel out-of-step but has many possibilities for personal and professional development. I hope to recover soon. :)

A Soviet Heritage

So this happened. And yes, snowflake that I am, I find it offensive. Deeply so.

“We are disappointed that the largest retailer in the world and in the U.S., Walmart, does not acknowledge or respect the millions of victims of various nationalities, who suffered under the Soviet regime – those deported, including the elderly, infants and children, political prisoners, dissidents, members of resistance movements and all those who lost their lives, health or family in the Gulag or other repressions of the Soviet totalitarianism,” a letter to Walmart, signed by the chairman of the Estonian Pro Patria party, Helir-Valdor Seeder, Estonia’s minister of justice, Urmas Reinsalu, and the Estonian member of the European Parliament, Tunne Kelam, said.

It’s like some symbols of authoritarian regimes are verboten, while others… are hip and trendy? By virtue of being labelled differently? (And yes, the term ‘communist’ as applied to the Soviet Union bears little resemblance to its application to the underlying philosophy, but this is not that discussion.)

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