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Music and Thought

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Edited by Richard Walker, Wednesday, 3 Jun 2015, 02:16

 A minute ago on the radio.

" Maurice Ravel's music is transparent, it reminds you of the veins beneath the skin."

Then some music followed.

The comment was one those ideas that is not exactly right - what is? - but which changes your way of listening in just a small way.

 

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Black Cat Wind

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Edited by Richard Walker, Wednesday, 3 Jun 2015, 01:11

The wind dropped and the cat and I

Ran in the cornfield.

Not ripe yet though.

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Night Wind Haiku

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Edited by Richard Walker, Tuesday, 2 Jun 2015, 01:40

Tonight I stopped at the gate.

Every leaf was singing, every bough was dancing.

In that gale.

Further off I heard a deeper and an older roar.

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An Anglo-Saxon Riddle

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Edited by Richard Walker, Monday, 1 Jun 2015, 00:55

My transliteration of an Anglo-Saxon riddle.

 

Green and growing.

Tugged suddenly from bed.

Making her cry on the chopping board.

Pleasing her when cooked.

 

What am I?

 

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Spring Cloud Haiku

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Spring clouds,

I reached up to grab you.

But you ran away laughing.

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'A most gallant herb of the Sun'

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Edited by Richard Walker, Sunday, 31 May 2015, 02:41

I found this rather showy (indeed gallant) flower on a roadside near where I live.

It is viper's bugloss.

The bugloss part comes from its rough stem and leaves - bugloss means ox-tongue from Greek bous + glossa. The viper component is because the plant was once thought to be sovereign against snakebite.

Culpeper's Herbal of 1653 says

"It is an especial remedy against the biting of the Viper, and all other venomous beasts, or serpents."

Why did people believe this? Had it been found, by accidental trial and error that the plant worked against snakebite and so its use for this purpose became part of local tradition? Does in fact save people from death by snakebite?

No, the reason seems to come from the Doctrine of Signatures. According to this concept, which goes back to antiquity, plants with medicinal uses bore signs that indicated what they were good for.

So for example the leaves of lungwort were thought to look like diseased lung tissue, showing that it would be good for lung ailments.

This notion seems odd to modern thought, but it's based on a belief in providence: these plants had been put there by a creator, or perhaps just by nature, but for a purpose - to help humankind  - and so the plants should be labelled - as the products in a supermarket aisle should be. For me the hardest bit is imagining that the world was created solely for us. That seems so unlikely and species-centered. But we are using modern thought and it's fairly easy to at least empathize with a different mindset.

So following the DOS, the stems of viper's bugloss are speckled, something considered characteristic of snakes (think of the Sherlock Holmes' tale The Speckled Band) and so the herb is marked as a snakebite remedy.

Culpeper offers several other uses for viper's bugloss, for example as a cheery pick-me-up.

"There is a syrup made hereof very effectual for the comforting the heart, and expelling sadness and melancholy."

I could do with some of that but I'll wait for proper testing!

 

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Lost Thoughts Haiku

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Edited by Richard Walker, Thursday, 28 May 2015, 00:25

I'll keep my hair long

To feel the wind blow through it.

So many lost thoughts.

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Neandertal Calculus (No Maths Involved)

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Edited by Richard Walker, Wednesday, 27 May 2015, 02:23

When I went to the dentists they told me the real name for plaque is "calculus".

'Oh, I said brightly, "that's the Latin for 'pebble'". They seemed unimpressed by my erudition.

It seems that plaque is not necessarily a disease of modern living though, and it has been found on 50,000 year old Neandertal teeth. So it's persistent stuff.

Traces of plants were found in the plaque. Read more here or see a gruesome image (plus some good information from a volunteer science writer) here.

Other primates also suffer.

 

 

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The Love Song of J.Alfred Wolfspider

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Edited by Richard Walker, Wednesday, 27 May 2015, 02:01

Some kinds of spider can communicate with others of their species (for threat or courtship) by vibrations, as I've tried to sketch in Fig 1 below.

However they can't, as far as I know, hear sound that is carried through the air, in the way many land dwelling animals do.

But research suggests one spider does use sound indirectly, in a way that reminds me a bit of the "baked bean tin telephone'.

You may know this, but if not, the idea of this improvised communication device is you get two empty tin cans, punch a small hole through the base of each, and then use a string knotted at both ends to connect the cans. The cans are held so the string is tight and then one person holds their can to their mouth, the person at the other end holds their can to their ear. When the first person speaks quietly, the listener can hear them, even over some distance.

This works because sound at one end is converted into vibrations in the string and at the receiving end the tin can resonates, and the vibration becomes audible sound again.

The "purring wolf spider" reverses the baked bean tin trick. One spider stands on a leaf (I think it needs to be dead so it will rustle) and generates vibrations, and vibrating the dry leaf produces sound (which is audible to humans).

The sound causes nearby leaves to resonate in sympathy, and a spider standing on one will feel the vibrations, Fig 2.

Where does Prufrock come in? Well it seems the female spiders on their leaves are the most responsive to the sound and so it may be a courtship song.

Learn more here.

 

 

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New blog post

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Edited by Richard Walker, Monday, 25 May 2015, 03:53

Beetle you're a neon sign.

Why show off so much?

Spring happiness. 

 

 

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Summer Memory

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Edited by Richard Walker, Monday, 25 May 2015, 03:00

Toward home I paused.

Smelling lilac.

Everyone has a last summer.

 

 

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Daybreak Forest

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Edited by Richard Walker, Sunday, 24 May 2015, 05:08

I'd like to die

In a forest at daybreak.

But I don't want to be cold.

So please give me a blanket.

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Stone tools

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Stone tools seem to go back further than we realised. There's a BBC post about it here but personally I think the Nature abstract puts the facts very well.

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Cat Haiku

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Edited by Richard Walker, Friday, 22 May 2015, 02:53

Issa wrote many verses about cats. Here's one I like, a blog post from 1815, as you might consider it. His diary was like a kind of blog.

The kitten catches one
now and then...
fallen leaves.

See here for more,

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Spring Guardian

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Now it's Spring

That old cat is out again.

Guarding his lane.

 

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Phillip Sparrow and His Mates

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Edited by Richard Walker, Wednesday, 20 May 2015, 01:44

More on birds

In English some common birds seem to have first names. Jenny Wren for example. Or Tom Tit.

In times past there were others. Some have become part of the modern name for the bird.

Jack Daw = Jackdaw

Mag Pie = Magpie

Some have replaced the original.

Robin = Robin Redbreast

Some survive amongst people interested in wildfowl.

Jack Snipe (I heard my father use this)

Some are archaic but once common.

Phillip Sparrow

Some may have been contrived in the early 19c. We can't tell.

Ralph Raven

And what's a parrot called?

There's some linguistic archeology here [1], with a few more examples. (Don't forget Dicky = Richard!)

Poet Script

Skelton [2] is a poet I have stubbornly tried to like for decades - and he from centuries back stubbornly tried not to be liked. See what you think of Phillip Sparrow.

 

[1] Archaeologia: Or Miscellaneous Tracts Relating to Antiquity, Volume 19.

[2] http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/174438

 

 

 

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Spiegel Im Spiegel

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Edited by Richard Walker, Tuesday, 19 May 2015, 02:32

About five years ago, when traveling, I first heard "Spiegel im Spieigel". Perhaps you will know it but I didn't then.

Back home I learned it is by Arvo Pärt, a composer from Estonia. It is a minimalist piece, for solo piano and violin. Its peace and tranquility have made it famous. I listen to it most days.

It was featured in BBC 4 Radio program "Download this audio clip.Audio player: p02qhsdc.mp3

". I find the episode very moving.

 

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Twenty years

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Twenty years had gone by.

She saw at once

I'd lost a tooth.

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New blog post

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Edited by Richard Walker, Wednesday, 20 May 2015, 01:53

I've lost so many things

But got that scarf back.

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Night Haiku

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Edited by Richard Walker, Tuesday, 2 Jun 2015, 01:18

Daisy

I feel tired now.

You've already closed, bless you.

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Mice Also Sing

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Edited by Richard Walker, Saturday, 16 May 2015, 02:53

Writing that fish can sing reminded me that mice also sing.

Reprised from this blog 2 April 2010 here is a clip of a mouse singing. This is a serenade to a female mouse.

Click hereAudio player: audioS1.mp3

It was at a much higher pitch originally and has been adjusted down to a range suitable for human ears.

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The Underwater Chorus

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Edited by Richard Walker, Friday, 15 May 2015, 02:24

Discussing the Shakespeare sonnet "That time of year" naturally made me think about the dawn chorus (of birds) and that led me on to something I'd forgotten about, the evening chorus (of fishes).

Fish can vocalize and on some coral reefs vast numbers of certain species "sing" at the same time of day. It's usually near nighttime and forms an underwater evening chorus. It may be related to feeding or reproduction, depending on the species.

Birds (and humans) sing according to the time of day (and year) but the singing behavior of some fishes is also affected by the phase of the moon.

More information is here.

Isn't that surprising? I wish I had been able to find a sound clip of fish singing but sadly not.

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A Haiku for Rest

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Edited by Richard Walker, Tuesday, 12 May 2015, 21:48

Go to bed old man.

Who cares anyway?

All this blah blah blah about winter.

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Unnamed Haiku

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Thinking and loving are not different.

When we look up we see a falling star.

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"That Time of Year" re-examined

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Edited by Richard Walker, Friday, 8 May 2015, 01:22

I wrote before about Shakespeare's sonnet 73

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
 
In me thou see'st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
 
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire,
Consum'd with that which it was nourish'd by.
 
This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
 
But I don't think I did it justice. I've liked this sonnet for half a century, and now I am literally at the time of life it describes, I find I can warm my hands at it.
 
The way it asks us to look up, then lower our eyes to sunset, then gaze down to reflect on the last embers of a fire is a vivid picture.
 
Shakespeare was not the first person to think of this metaphor, but borrowed it from the poetry of antiquity. What it so marvelous is his skill in expressing it in the words and rhythms of English. The second line
 
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang

 

is an example. In nine words (and 10 syllables) we are carried from "yellow leaves" (the poet lets us know it's autumn, a time of decay) through "or none" (everything is gone) to "or few" (not quite none, but going).

This economy is extraordinary, as is the whole poem with its metaphor of the seasons, the time of day, and the stages of a human life, all rolled into one, and the final plea to hold on tightly against the flickering light.

So my earlier and inadequate attempt to capture the sonnet in a Haiku needs some more work.

 

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