Showing posts from 2016

This week in birds - #237

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : Red-tailed Hawk (Krider) photographed at Big Bend National Park. *~*~*~* President Obama designated two more new national monument sites for protection this week: Bear Ears National Monument in Utah and the Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada. Here is a video of the Bear Ears site. *~*~*~* The Union of Concerned Scientists have more than ever to be concerned about with the incoming administration in Washington. They are especially concerned about the selection of climate change denier Ryan Zinke as Secretary of the Interior. Meanwhile, as an anti-science, anti-environment administration takes control of the federal government, it will be up to local officials in states to take a more aggressive stance in protecting the environment and public health.  *~*~*~* John Platt of Scientific American's  "Extinction Countdown" has a review of the best wildlife conservation stori

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James: A review

What an ordeal this book was to read! Many times while perusing its 700-plus pages, I asked myself why I was bothering. But, true to my code of finishing what I start, I persevered and, in the end, felt somewhat vindicated, although I can't pretend that the rewards were really commensurate with the effort required.   Jamaican writer Marlon James' book was the 2015 winner of the prestigious Man Booker Prize. It was also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. At the time that it came out, I read many glowing reviews of the work. Intrigued, I added it to my reading queue and, finally, here at the end of 2016, its turn came up. Even though I knew the broad outlines of the story and the author's method, I was clearly not prepared for what I was undertaking. A Brief History of Seven Killings begins with the run-up to the attempted assassination of Bob Marley (referred to as the Singer throughout the book) in January, 1976. It continues through the politic

My favorite books of 2016

It is the solemn duty of every blogger who writes about books to compile a year-end list of the best books read that year. Since I am nothing if not a dutiful blogger, I have been agonizing for days over my list. As of today, I have read 88 books this year and the majority of them were terrific reads. Those who follow the blog know that I rate my books on a scale of one to five stars, using the Goodreads definitions ; one-star meaning "not good" and five-stars meaning "exceptional." I had a few one- and two-star reads this year, but most of them were three stars or higher. In compiling my list, I narrowed the 88 books down to four- and five-star reads, because often there's very little daylight between four and five stars. But that list proved much too unwieldy. I couldn't give you a list with more than forty books on it! So, in the end I selected just the five-star reads. Even that list had nineteen books on it, but I simply couldn't choose among th

Poetry Sunday: Christmas Bells

1863 was a troubled year in our country's history. It was a time when it was not at all certain that the country would continue as constituted. Civil war raged, splitting families and friends as well as the nation. In the midst of all this, the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow suffered his own family tragedies. His wife was tragically burned and in November of that year, his oldest son who had joined the Union Army to fight for the country, was seriously wounded. Longfellow was near despair. On Christmas Day of that year, he wrote this poem which gives voice to his despair and yet ends on a positive and hopeful note.  2016 has been a time for despair for many of us and at this point it does not appear that 2017 will be any brighter. Indeed, it seems our darkest days may be ahead. But let us remember that there have been dark times before but that hope still lives; hope that "the Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail." Let us work to make it so. Christmas Bells  b


"This week in birds" is taking a day off while I prepare to receive holiday visitors. It will return next week. Happy holidays to all!

Swing Time by Zadie Smith: A review

Two young girls growing up in poverty in North London in the '80s and '90s meet at a Saturday dance class. One of them has natural talent as a dancer. Both of them love music and rhythm.  They become friends and remain close, with only occasional adolescent fallings-out, through all the years of growing up, sharing a love of old musicals and of dancers like Fred Astaire and Bojangles. They watch those movies over and over again, learning and copying the moves of the dancers. Swing Time is the story of those two girls as they make the passage through adolescence and into young adulthood and increased responsibilities. The girls grow apart, but their friendship will always be the major influence and touchstone of their lives. The talented young dancer is Tracey, friend of the narrator of this book. The narrator is never given a name. Both girls are biracial; Tracey has a white mother and black (Jamaican) father and the narrator has a black (Jamaican) mother and a white

Wordless Wednesday: Monarch


Welcome to the post-truth world

Hat tip to cartoonist Tom Tomorrow and Daily Kos . Click on the image for easier viewing.

Poetry Sunday: Winter Trees

The deciduous trees have mostly shed their leaves by now and, bare-limbed, they stand prepared for a long winter nap.  Winter arrives for real, according to the calendar, on Wednesday, but it is already present in cold spirit in much of the country.  We don't get much winter here in the subtropical south in most years, but still our trees shed their leaves and prepare. Just in case. Winter Trees by William Carlos Williams All the complicated details of the attiring and  the disattiring are completed! A liquid moon moves gently among the long branches. Thus having prepared their buds  against a sure winter the wise trees stand sleeping in the cold.

This week in birds - #236

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : Golden-crowned Kinglet photographed at Big Bend National Park in West Texas. The Ruby-crowned variety is more common here. I've never seen a Golden-crowned in my neighborhood. *~*~*~* Few of the 20,000 Earth scientists meeting in San Francisco this week had much to say about the takeover of the government by climate science deniers in 2017, but the shadow of the incoming administration loomed over the conference. Some viewed the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union , the largest Earth and space science gathering in the world, as a call to action, and on Wednesday, they heard that call loud and clear from Gov. Jerry Brown who told them "It's up to you as truth tellers, truth seekers, to mobilize all your efforts to fight back." *~*~*~* Winter is the time when birders really learn to appreciate the small birds who are with us year-round. In my area, that would include birds l

Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer: A review

The Bloch family of Washington, D.C., are very annoying people. They embody the worst of all the traits that "flyover states" right-wingers mean when they scathingly refer to "East Coast liberals." On a personal level, they are all wise-cracking, fast-talking smart-asses, except for five-year-old Benjy who still manages to retain an aura of sweetness. Jacob and Julia Bloch are an enlightened liberal Jewish couple. Jacob is a novelist turned writer for a successful television series. Julia is a frustrated architect, with big ideas for structures that she never gets to build. They have been married for sixteen years and live with their three sons (Sam, who is on the brink of becoming bar mitzvah; Max, who is nearly eleven; and the aforementioned Benjy)  in a posh townhouse in a posh neighborhood in Washington.  They see themselves as special people. They are essentially living in a bubble. A bubble that encompasses Washington and Israel. But there are plenty of

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - December 2016

Blooms are sparse in December, but there is still plenty of color in my zone 9a garden. The ornamental pepper looks like a Christmas tree all lit up with multi-colored lights. Never let it be said that we don't get any autumn leaf color here, for we do have crape myrtles and, although some have already lost all their leaves, others are now at their peak of color.  The Meyer lemon tree is weighted down with bright yellow balls. The Mandarin orange tree is similarly weighted but with bright orange balls. The Duranta erecta is full of the flashy yellow berries that give it its common name - golden dewdrop. But wait! The duranta is also still carrying loads of these pretty blooms that are so attractive to butterflies. The weird little shrimp plant carries its blooms for weeks, months even, before they fade. The orange flame justicia is still burning brightly. Yellow cestrum is virtually a year-round bloomer here. Convolvu

Wordless Wednesday: Common Buckeye


Poetry Sunday: A Copywriter's Christmas

'Tis the season, and here is a rather acerbic - but not inaccurate - comment on the commercial exploitation of that season. A Copywriter's Christmas by Margaret Fishback The Twenty-fifth is imminent And every known expedient Designed for making Christmas pay is getting swiftly under way. Observe the people swarming to And fro, somnambulating through The stores in search of ties and shirts And gloves to give until it hurts. They're eyeing gifts in Saks' and Hearn's And Macy's, not to mention Stern's, While earnest copywriters are Hitching their copy to the star Of Bethlehem quite shamelessly, For they are duty bound to see That Peace On Earth Good Will To Men Gets adequate results again.