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
©rq, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Pointy dry grass
©rq, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

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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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Equus

One thing people may or may not know about me: I luuuuuurrrrve horses. Sorry not sorry, I do. And while some of us have had very varied experiences with them, I would like to share something that tends more towards the wondrous grace and amazing beauty of this magnificent animal.

Mari Lwyd by Rhyn Williams, at DeviantArt

Okay, okay, that’s not the subject of this post, but seeing as Halloween season is approaching fast, here’s more info via HyperAllergic on the Mari Lwyd phenomenon. (Very pagan, and I love to see these spooky traditions still maintained today.)

Anyway.

So, in short, I am both happy and sad: I recently discovered a new documentary series on HORSES! on the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, ha) website.

Here’s the trailer:

And oh my gosh, it’s horses, and wild scenery, and people, and dramatic music and slo-mos, and wow! I thought it was a four-part, but it’s a three-part mini-series (part one, part two, part three). Why so sad? Because the videos are only available in Canada (as anyone not in Canada might have already discovered by clicking those links). The CBC does have a youtube channel, but it’s been no more helpful, because from what I can tell, this hasn’t been posted yet (or maybe it’s because I haven’t subscribed).

The article that led me to this find is here, unfortunately for some reason I cannot find the actual article on my computer so you have to settle for the mobile version.

Our ancestors settled every corner of the planet on foot. But when we harnessed horsepower — roughly 6,000 years ago — the human story changed forever. For clever-but-slow Homo sapiens, the strength and speed of horses was a perfect complement. Horses transported us, pulled our loads, plowed out fields, herded our livestock, and carried us into battle (or sped us away from danger). In ways no other animal could, horses were our constant and irreplaceable companion.

In the age of machines, we still talk about “horsepower.” But horses have lost their central place in human life; we now keep them as pets and companions.

But while their importance in the human world is fading, there are some horse cultures that survive today. In Equus: Story of the Horse, we meet some of them.

The documentary visits Kazakh nomads, the Yakuts of Northern Siberia, the Blackfoot of the Western Plains, and the Bedouin. Some of those horses (the northern ones) are seriously cute.

In honour of all horses who inspire us (in one way or another), here’s a fusion of Mongolian throat singing and traditional Latvian folk music. It is quite something. Don’t forget to enjoy the gorgeous scenery, too!

Stop, Thief!

The first thought of the morning is about the wondrous harvest of walnuts I expect to be collecting today. After hot coffee and a very satisfying breakfast, I walk out into the backyard and see…

WHAT KIND OF A MONSTER?? ©rq, all rights reserved.

To be fair, I also suspect two bird species of participating in this massacre, but I have the evidence of my eyes that this is, in fact, the work of a large rodent-like animal. Evidence:

Not shy at all. ©rq, all rights reserved.

But will you look at that pretty face?

Who, moi? ©rq, all rights reserved.

Weeelll… Jury’s still out, I guess. There’s crows and jays around, and I have seen real squirrels creeping around the walnut tree.

In other words, I think this is a conspiracy of animals dividing the spoils without consulting us humans. How dare they!

Here a Nut, There a Nut…

Everywhere a nut, nut!! This year has been extremely generous in the nut department, but knowing the distribution schedule, we’ll be out by christmas.

And also, as mentioned previously, the world’s giantest squirrel diligently seeking out those nuts causes a certain percentage loss per windy day. More on that later… Have some nuts!

The first nuts! They are now about two weeks old. Or would be, if we hadn’t et them. ©rq, all rights reserved.

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