Friday, February 09, 2007

quaint vignettes from my charming rural idyll

Yesterday I went out and played a little game. I would birdwatch without going over one mile away from my front step. I took my digital with me, but birds are small, so the only images that showed up were of the larger birds. Fortunately there were metric shitpiles of them.
So bear in mind, now...every single one of these pictures was taken within a ONE MILE RADIUS of my front door.
They are not fantastic pictures, but they ARE pictures of giant carniverous birds. And some cows, and a car. And a couple of nests.
Nests the size of ATV's.

(Remember, you can click on these to enlarge them. In most cases you'll have to.)

Seven town blocks from my front door, headed south, we see this young lady up a hawthorne tree on the road shoulder.

...on the lookout for Al Qaida

This isn't some backroad, either; it's the newly enlarged freight crossing. Here; I'll prove it...

I'm standing right under this Huge Killer Bird with my back to her, facing north now. There is my new tiny shitty car, beyond it a picturesque dairy farm and beyond that, Canadialand.'s a leaker.

This is three blocks straight off my front porch, on Hovel.
There were three eagles. Now only dad is left, and he is not real pleased with me. I was standing on the side of the road, making 'kiss-whistles' to try and make them turn their heads towards me. Mom and daughter got disgusted and flew off to another tree where they sat and called me really dirty eagle names at the top of their lungs.

...use the flash you ignorant peasant.

Now 'kiss-whistles' didn't impress the eagles, but they worked really well on cows, I discovered. There was not cow one in sight when I pulled over. I looked down and theres this big pile of them close enough to lick me. I never heard a thing.

...disturbingly silent. unsettlingly watchful.

That was beginning to feel like a well-rehearsed mugging set-up so I booked.

Seven blocks north of my house, on Gough. Inside city limits. This nest is about five years old now and you could park an ATV on it. One of the owners is in the background. That tiny tiny dot. That's an eagle. Yeah.

...missing any children?

Seven blocks west of my house. This nest is two blocks off Main (called Cherry Street.) The site is at least eight years old, but it blows down every winter and so it doesn't accumulate layers like most eagle nests do. The birds build it back up in the same tree every year.

...we like the neiborhood and the schools are excellent.

The nest site is less than 100 feet from this thing... asphalt shingle plant.The largest enclosed space in Whatcom County. There are a constant stream of rednecks, semi trucks, trains, and forklifts running around right underneath the nest. I know this for a fact because my husband used to be the redneck in the forklift.

Almost exactly one mile from my house, heading northeast on Hillview. I am parked right beneath this young man. It's a crappy picture and a dark day, but he still wouldn't have shown up real good because he is still in his dark-brown juvenile plumage. His distinctive profile, as well as the yellow beak and feet give him away.

His mate (also wearing brown feathers) sits out in the field beyond him, waiting. Waiting for....

...A nice duck dinner.
These mallard ducks decided not to migrate and as a consequence are living pretty thin. The eagles will wait and see who takes off last, or not at all. Eagles aren't total scavengers; they'll take live prey very neatly. I've been out fishing on Silver Lake and had them come skim right across the bow of my little rowboat and pluck a trout out of the water like music.)

In addition to the ducks, different fish are starting to run now. Every little creek, ditch and river around here is full of bright new fish and the eagles are here to take advantage.

The fact is, though, that dairy farmers around here have their milk cows bred in August so they freshen right around now. In addition to the usual giant heap of guck produced by a normal calving, the harsh weather tends to cull out the weak calfs naturally. All that goes to the eagles. I live in dairy country, and so that explains why in a one mile radius I saw OVER FIFTY BALD EAGLES. Today, in Sumas, Washington. February 9, 2007.

Supposedly Eagles only take a mate once they're out of juvenile plumage. This is not true at all; I've watched juvenile pairs in full mating display, seen them breeding, watched them engaged in nest building. This young couple have a nest back at the base of the foothills there in the background.

I've heard it said that the farmers who leave out culls are disrupting the natural breeding cycles of the eagles. Could this be an example? No. It's a case of plentiful food resources impacting the breeding cycle, but there isn't anything unnatural about it.
An eagle is primarily a scavenger. The most popular aquila nesting place in this end of the county is in Cedarville...not on the river, but in the firs that surround the dump. In wilderness areas their habit is to nest around the mouths of rivers, the bases of waterfalls and the headwaters high up in the mountains...not for the live fish so much as the bounty of dead, spawned-out salmon, and the scavenging to be had from the leavings of other predatory activity around these places. And so, in accordance with their natural tendancy, they nest here, in the alders that line the creeks, near the dairy farms. They clean up the dead calfs and birthing waste, which they do in the wild, too. What in the hell do people think happens around here when a moose or an elk births? Or dies, for that matter? Or gets hit by a logging truck?
What do they think happened to beached whales and other sealife carcasses?

Another fact that folks tend to try to ignore is that before the settlers came the local NA performed 'sky burial'(if they liked you. If not they slung you into the brush.) The dead could be seen on platforms in the trees around Ferndale, on the land my husbands' family homesteaded up until at least the 1920's. My father-in-law remembers seeing them, or at least what was left by then. And the local NA created lots of dead people. We were not nice indians. We were mean, head-taking, slave killing, settler shooting, liver eating Indians. Thanks to us, back in those days the eagles probably took cabs everywhere because they were too damn fat to fly.

It was co-existing then, and it's co-existing now.

A She-Devil?? Peach Armadillo

Ok. Miss Pink Drama decided me. I was going to throw up this depressing thing about prejudice but instead I'll throw up a lighthearted thing about prejudice and regional accents. 'K? 'K!!

The thing that clinched it was an 'Are you a Yankee' test I took over at someones place last week. (Was It yours? Do come forward and accept your Rice a Roni!)
Judged by my speech patterns, I am not. Although I live almost as far north as it is humanly possible to live and still be in the contiguous U.S. I am a damn mushmouth.

Now let's do that as if I were to speak aloud.

So like th thingit clinchtit wuh zis 'Are youwwa Yankee' tesdai tuk overda summons place lass week. (Wuzzitchores? Do cm ford n ukseptcher Rysa Roni!)
Judge by my speech patrns, like, nuparntlee umnodda yankee. Ulthowai live almoziz far fuckin north azitz humunlee possible n stull be in th c'ntijis U.S. I'm a fuckin mushmouth. Uh mean, Dude.

Now Miss Pink makes the assertion that Yankees still portray folks with a Southern accent as a bunch of tards. Truth be told, she's right. For example, on television lately the only positively portrayed character with a distinguishable southern accent is that blonde weapons expert lady on CSI Miami. Otherwise, if they're women, they're fat, slutty and stupid. If they're men, they're stupid inbred thugs who run around assraping people. I bet everyone south of the Mason Dixon line still wants to wring the neck of the guy who wrote 'Deliverance'.

But where did I learn to speak lke a cracker? Well, from my father, for one. In fact he twanged. This was a man who spoke Finnish until he was in second grade! And remember, he was born and raised in Oregon. So where did he learn? I figure it had to be from all the little cracker children he grew up with.

Think about it. During the Civil war, there was a huge influx of southerners who wanted no part of that mess and came out to homestead (up until 1972, in fact, there was still lots of free land in Oregon yours for the homesteading. All you had to do was prove up $200.00 and they gave you 2 years to do it.)Another huge wave came West around the time of the late 20's and early 30's, when corporate logging and shipbuilding were booming in Oregon.

Now, I think what proves my case here is that a few companies from further north up here in Washington did the same thing. To this day there is a pocket of twangin fools up in around Alger, five miles away from Bellingham. Also Clear Lake, Big Rock, Newhalem and so on. Different timber companies would go out, buy a giant chunk of land, build a town in the middle of it and then sen recruiters south with busses. But unlike Oregon, which was already crossed by crude roadways and being logged off pretty intensively, these communities stayed isolated. The woods in Washington were another thing all over again. There were dinosaurs and pterodactyls still running around lost in these woods from back in the stone age, practically. It was still virgin rainforest here.* Even the bracken grew six feet tall. You dump a bunch of poor people into the middle of primeval fucking forest like that, almost inpenetrable and largely trackless (parts still are) , and you get small communities in the middle of north Yankeeland where everyone still sounds like Minnie Pearl and Jethro Clampett. In fact, the NA up around Alger run around 'y'allin' too. That's how pervasive that syrup southern accent is.

Another peculiarity of the Oregon-West Coast accent is that everything sounds like a question. Bike builder Jesse James is a perfect example of that. There is no such thing as a statement in his conversation; his tone of voice lilts up and down the 'duh' range from clueless to kinda uncertain. He sounds like everyone I ever got baked with back in high school.

Pure blue-collar Oregonspeak is also lousy with the word 'like' used as a thought pause and general way to make yourself sound like a dumbshit. Like, people will, you know, like, say it every fuckin other word, like all the time, so, like you can barely just even understand them, dude.

And that's the word of doom right there. Dude. If you hear a grown person running around saying 'dude' a whole bunch, then that person is from Oregon. Dude! Like, they say it all the fuckin time, dude; it's crazy! Like you know, they're walking along and they're like 'Dude! how's it going!' like.

I still do this, and it never fails to crack my husband up. Then I have to listen to him saying 'Dude! Like, doooooooood!' for another half-hour. Which doesn't help any.

Basically, I am doomed. It's a wonder anyone can understand my spoken conversation now. By the time they pull out all my teeth it's gonna be really ugly.

And EVERYONE from the West Coast is going to deny this and say I'm totally insane, now. Watch and see.

*There were Douglas Fir and redcedar here as big around as my garage, and that's a fact. Hell; there still are, but back then MOST of them were like that. I can walk you up to the stumps of them; they're still out there. The marks remain where the guys had to chop steps into them and set planks into the notches to stand on, all to get up to a place on the trunk that their saws would reach across to cut. Deal with having to saw a monster like that down, twelve feet up off the forest floor, BY HAND with a crosscut saw, a beer bottle full of kerosene to grease the blade and that's it. My granddad did it.

Monday, February 05, 2007

CSA. which Kevin Wilmot made. Not Spike Lee.

Confederate States of America
Spike Lee
KEVIN WILMOT, BY GOD! NOT SPIKE LEE! I WAS LIED TO! just read the goddamn thing anyway.

Or wait, don't read this. Just go out and buy the dvd NOW, is how good it is. They ought to show this in schools, is how good it is. Starting in fourth grade and every year thereafter.
Attendance should be mandatory. Grades should count on it.

This movie answers the question ' What if the South had won the Civil War?' and explores the subsequent journey of a Confederate America up to the present day, one which functions with all the original Confederate institutions and policies in place. In particular, slavery. It is presented as a made-for-television 'documentary', complete with lead-in graphics and cheesy music. The backstory: Produced by the 'BBS' (BBC) and banned in America at the time it was originally released, it is being re-broadcast at a later date on American television, with American commercials interspersing the acts, and updated American 'expert commentary' spliced in.

A lot of people my age in the U. S. probably remember a regrettable television comedy series called 'McHails Navy' that aired back in the late 'Sixties...'CSA' is harder to watch than McHails' syncophantic P.O.W. Fuji Kobiaji was.

Remember Hop Sing? The cook at the Ponderosa? This is WAY harder to watch than Hop Sing was, scuttling around the ranch blustering in Cantonese with his queue and a frying pan. (I'm not going to include any of the NA from F Troop because I thought they were awesome. They controlled the stereotype. Or they'd get bored and tell one of the other 'braves' in 'Indian lingo' to 'find out what this fuckin' blanco wants; I'm going to go check my investments' kind of a thing. Plus their 'Indian lingo' was Yiddish.)*

The craft quality of the piece is definitely 'film school project with moderate funding'. I wonder if that was something (WILMOT, not Lee) used consciously, in order to throw the irony into higher relief, or if it really was produced on the cheap with a bunch of interns. In any event it doesn't particularly detract from the experience, unless you were expecting something on the order of 'Mo Betta Blues' visual dexterity. Because this is by Kevin Wilmot, who didn't do Mo Betta Blues, not Spike Lee, who did. Which is why.
Um, yeah.

One one level CSA is played straight. The research is accurate. Racism is the issue under attack, but revisionism is the enemy being exposed here.
On another, it's made to entertain. ( WILMOT, not Spike) has no problem with admitting that some of this shit is funny. He's laughing too. It isn't 50 minutes of undiluted rage.
Fucking A, Spike, how many years has it been? You finally got it right!

Or, uh, no, Wilmot got it right. KEVIN WILMOT.

Now Lee has to sit at his feet and take notes because he still doesn't get it. Here's why.
In the past Spike has been content to send his audience home in a state of guilty despair. At 8$ the theatre Quite frankly if I wanted to pay for that kind of treatment I'd still be a practicing Catholic. Bitterness, guilt and contempt are valid emotions, but they work better as a goad, not as an end in themselves. (big edit here.)
Now, while CSA entertains, it isn't 50 minutes of har de har har, either. The same thing you're laughing at (so hard that tears are running down your face and you're spitting chunks of biscuit at the screen) is usually something that is eliciting outrage and shame.
It pisses you off, then it hands you a weapon.

That's what raises it above the crowd of 'new conscience' movies.
That's what makes it GREAT instead of merely clever or cool.
That's probably why I never heard about this when it was first released.

Did you?

* This is why so many Americans my age have a love affair with British television from the 'Sixties-'Seventies period. Those are only two examples of the type of shit we had to grow up with. Put it this way: Britain made stuff like The Prisoner, the single most excellent television show ever made ever in the whole world, and the whole universe and Mars and all the asteroids and Haleys' Comet, AND the whole universe AND infinity.
We had Lost In Space.

God bless public television. Public television snuck us the good stuff. Public television brought to our shores the blessings of Monty Python's Flying Circus, Doctor in the House, Masterpiece Theatre, The Six Wives of Henry VIII and all the rest. And while you may argue with my taste, you can't argue with the evidence. Compared to cathode offal like My Mother the Car, Father Knows Best, and The Patty Duke Show, Benny Hill slapping a little bald guy on the head is still nuclear science.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Note To all My Darlings:

The Yummy Biker has had the last three days in a row off.
I have been BUSY.
See you on Monday!

Pray for me.