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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Funny Animals

The finalists of the 2018 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards are out, and they’re a blast. Here’s a couple of my favourites:

© Achim Sterna/The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2018

 

© Mary McGowan/The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2018

 

© Roie Galitz/The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2018

 

© Kallol Mukherjee/The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2018

 

And lots more

Today’s piece of music is more of a dance showcase, in the theme of colourful animals. Below the fold because spiders.

[Read more…]

Not Quite Tree Tuesday

The trees are doing something odd out in northern Ontario:

In the forests of northern Ontario, a “strange phenomenon” of large natural rings occurs, where thousands of circles, as large as two kilometers in diameter, appear in the remote landscape.

Via this link: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Aerial-photograph-of-forest-rings-with-diameters-of-approximately-150-m-in-northern_fig1_292337890, which leads to a very scientific article on the phenomenon.

The article assures us that this is nothing unnatural or particularly mysterious:

Indeed, as geochemist Stew Hamilton suggested in 1998, the rings are most likely to be surface features caused by “reduced chimneys,” or “big centres of negative charge that frequently occur over metal deposits,” where a forest ring is simply “a special case of a reduced chimney.”

Reduced chimneys, meanwhile, are “giant electrochemical cells” in the ground that, as seen through the example of forest rings, can affect the way vegetation grows there.

I’ve been out there and it looked fine to me, but things get even weirder and weirder the more I read – but that just might be the full article going in all kinds of directions, especially at the end. But the tree rings are cool. And maybe it’s aliens…

The Teeth of a Lion

The dandelions are still out and about in the lawn, in various guises.

via iguanamouth.tumblr.com

(More here, the second illustration is lovely.)

I know they were some of Caine’s favourites, so of course I stopped to take a few photos (did not see any dandy lions, though – sadly).

Bright yellow and sneaking around in the grass!

 

Pretending to be a star.

And on the subject of vague nostalgia, here is song I meant to share a while ago, from a new folk/fusion/? group of singers called Tautumeitas (“The Folk Girls”, although the term ‘tautumeitas’ is generally used as a collective term for unmarried women who are not kin). They have a few I will be sharing (love their stuff), I know Caine herself shared one a while ago. This song is called Sadziedāmi, and the chorus, in essence, says: Let us sing together, sisters, while we are still in one place – who knows where each of us shall be other years?

 

Epics

There are many epic stories out there – it seems people throughout the ages have been entertained by stories of improbable heroism, impossible deeds, romance, tragedy, magic, friendship, betrayal and the binary battle between good and evil. Latvians are no different, except our own epic poem, Lāčplēsis (Bearslayer) dates not from centuries or millennia ago, but from the end of the 19th century. The author, Andrejs Pumpurs, took liberties with folk stories and expanded a typical hero’s tale into a mythical legend of the pagan fight against christianization. Lāčplēsis’ origins are a matter of slight debate, as in some versions, he was born of a bear with the ears of a bear, and his ears were where his strength resided – in other versions, he was merely adopted by a bear and raised in the woods until a local king found him and took him in, or he wore a hat of bears’ ears, where he hid his strength. In any case, he meets his tragic end tumbling over a cliff into the river Daugava while fighting the crusading Black Knight, and, as always, it is said he will come again at a time of greatest need (so far, no sign – I guess that’s a good thing?).

What’s very interesting is that Lāčplēsis is very much a national symbol – the highest military honour one can receive is the Bearslayer medal (Lāčplēša ordenis), and he is trotted out for all kinds of events and by the most nationalistic political parties – who are, the vast majority, very right-leaning christian. How they reconcile a supremely pagan hero with their beliefs, I don’t know – especially one who lived a rather non-traditional life-style during one portion of the epic (the author borrowed ideas, and I find interesting the possible connection between bears and the etymology of Arthur). But there it is.

Anyway. The story was put into musical form (a ‘rock opera’) in the 1980s, to great acclaim. Every now and then, a new performance is prepared, and the next one is due in early November. As it happens, it will be a full choir-and-orchestra version (the best kind!) and my choir will be among those performing. It’s a melodramatic piece of music, the best kind to perform, full of deep texts about freedom and bravery and time running through fingers like sand and other major themes, and lots of opportunity to sing your heart out together with the string and brass sections (and the cymbals!). I expect it will be a wonderful experience.

Here’s a small sample, a medley of some of the main songs, from the vocal-symphonic music concert from 2013 (I hope the video starts at the 1.43:08 mark). I’m not going to translate all the words, just the four lines of the final section so you can have a small idea of the drama of the words:

It is not water that flows in the Daugava, it is time

It is not blood that flows in your veins, it is time

It is not a wave that washes over us, it is time

It is not the whirlpool that twists into rings, it is time

25. Vispārējo latviešu dziesmusvētku Vokāli simfoniskās mūzikas koncerts Rīgas arēnā

The short guy on the left has one of my favourite voices ever.

(The video contains the entire vocal-symphonic concert, which I recommend if you like classical music. If you listen to the very end, the very last song is conducted by, in my opinion, one of the most talented conductors out there. Before taking over at the National Opera, he was artistic director of my choir, and his style and interpretation have biased me against many another worthy conductor.)

Alchemy

Friendship is a strange sort of alchemy of character.

In other words, two distinct people can randomly come together and discover an incredible compatibility. Alternatively, they can be as compatible as oil and water.

This short story is about the first situation, about someone I met at the beginning of summer through work. See, in the interests of improving Europe in general and participating globally, we have developed a partnership with Macedonia. The Macedonian team was visiting beginning of June, and I was invited to come along to a few social events due to my superior English (someone’s afraid to practice). Anyway, I met a new friend, quite unexpectedly. Me, the self-proclaimed pinnacle of anti-sociability. She was the interpreter, I was the language specialist, and we found strange but welcome common ground. During conversation, she discovered my art hobby, mostly through the series of small cat pictures I did for the lab going on two years ago (they hang on the walls in the new lab, I’m quite proud!) and was the first person to actually offer money for my art, specifically – for a reproduction of one of the pieces. She said the cat looked like an alchemist, and I like that naming. I had to overcome a few hang-ups about people paying for my art, as I’m used to creating randomly, as gifts, but she has insisted, and in this case I have come to the conclusion that it would be impolite to refuse, plus I’m very flattered. And from the alchemy theme, I altered the background and overall theme of the piece. Anyway, this is finished piece, slightly larger than the original (the wonders of technology!), and in a different colour scheme:

Alchemist cat!

I have titled it “The Alchemist”, and it is still small, about 15cm x 20cm. I rather like it. Next week I travel to Macedonia for the week and will have the opportunity to hand it over in person.

Anyway, as social as I can be (and it turns out I like putting on The Face and shmoozing at conferences, because there’s a lot of interesting people out there – minus a few creeps, but the biological sphere seems pretty balanced where I’ve hung out, so they are rather few), I am prone to bouts of something resembling depression and, as mentioned, being very anti-social. I like my alone time, a lot. I like dark music, I like melodrama, I like unhappy endings, never mind that I’ve managed rather well with my own life and situation. I’m always afraid that, once people discover what I’m really like, they won’t like me. So as contrast, here is Coheed and Cambria’s (we’ll be seeing more of this group) Dark Side of Me, a song that speaks to me on the unrevealed side of me. Oddly enough, it’s music like this that makes me feel better and can get me out of a funk.

(And check out dude’s hair, I went to their concert way back when and one of the distinctive things I remember is that mass of hair emerging out of the fog during the opening song.)

Turn of the Season

We went from 28 degrees on Saturday to single digits (and low 10s) since Sunday, plus accompanying heavy cloud cover, gusting winds and hail. I think it’s safe to say that autumn has arrived.

A few photos:

The same train station a couple of weeks later – note flaming reds and oranges right where the morning sun touches the leaves.

The walnut waving in the wind. Despite the light-coloured sky, it was quite dark when I got home, but I liked the melancholy feel.

So, here’s a song. Hawksley Workman is a Canadian artist with a nice feel for imagery. He only has the one major hit that I know of (<i>Anger as Beauty</i>), but I’ve always enjoyed his ode to autumn on an emotional level. Indeed, autumn is here.