Bloomsday

Middle-aged literature professor Robert returns to Dublin to explore a what-might-have-been romance: a chance encounter with a superstitious guide to a walking tour of the city of James Joyce’s Ulysses comes to an abrupt, unsatisfying end. The slippery nature of time, particularly as experienced by Cait, the tour guide, engenders a dialogue between past and present.

When the focus is on young Robbie (Josh Adams) and Caithleen (Danielle Scott), the energy picks up, especially in the key scene in Sweny’s.

But playwright Dietz makes Robert a teacher of literature for no particular reason, unless it is so that Robert can commit the apostasy of bashing the novel for the benefit of audience members who regret never having read the book.

  • Bloomsday, by Steven Dietz, directed by Kasi Campbell, Washington Stage Guild, Washington

The 39 Steps

The stars of this highly theatrical comedy-thriller are Christopher Walker and Gwen Grastorf, each playing “cast of dozens”—with the assistance of three backstage dressers. Grastorf is particularly effective as the self-effacing Mr. Memory and is just plain adorable as the innkeeper Mrs. McGarrigle, who dotes on Hannay and Pamela as the “runaway couple.” There are shards of Bernard Herrmann’s film scores from at least three Hitchcock movies in Gordon Nimmo-Smith’s sound design. And, yes, there are shadow puppets.

  • The 39 Steps, adapted by Patrick Barlow from the novel by John Buchan and the movie by Alfred Hitchcock, directed by Nick Olcott, Constellation Theatre Company, Washington

Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival 2020: 3

departingA couple of snaps from the road. I rode the Auto Train south to Florida and drove my car back, swinging wide to Charlotte to visit a colleague for dinner. As an added bonus, I got to ride Charlotte’s LYNX Blue Line in to Uptown for dinner.

MOTELBack in Titusville, I circled back to get a shot of this lovely MOTEL sign, calling out for Wade’s Motor Inn on Washington Ave. The M and the L have lost a few lights from their enclosing diamonds, but it’s still a cool sign.

Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival 2020: 2

I took a break from the birds to look at some specialties of Floridian flora with Jim Stahl. We walked the grounds of the Merritt Island NWR visitor center (some of the greatest hits had interpretive signs), as well as the oak hammock trail not far from there.

We learned some quick keys for distinguishing between two very common native palms: the shrubby Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens) and the tree-sized, covered with “boots,” Cabbage Palm (Sabal palmetto). Saw Palmetto has flat fronds and those prickles, while a Cabbage Palm leaf has a central vein that causes the leaf to form a V, and an older leaf will split along this vein. Cabbage Palm also shows brown stringy bits. On a Saw Palmetto, the fronts radiate from the distal end of the petiole, while a Cabbage Palm is costapalmate: the petiole extends farther into a midrib, forming sort of a teardrop shape.

terminalaxillaryJim pointed out two myrsine species, Marlberry at left and “Rapanea” at right.

We saw far too many examples of the non-native invasive Brazilian Pepper (Schinus terebinthifolia), one of six species on the refuge’s hit list. The tree was in bright red fruit in January.

upsideundersideThe heavy, ruddy streaks of sori on Swamp Fern (Blechnum serrulatum) are quite distinctive.

interpretedFlorida has a very large fern with pinnae that suggest our local Christmas Fern; it’s Acrostichum danaeifolium. Perhaps now I can remember the back half of the scientific name of our fern, Polystichum acrostichoides.

coastal plain willowAnd a specialty willow, Salix caroliniana.

Two ounces

High tech-low tech-biotech: Fitting albatrosses with radar detectors to catch stealth fishermen.

Albatrosses are ideal sentinels of the open ocean, said Henri Weimerskirch, a marine ecologist at a French National Center for Scientific Research in Chizé, France, and the lead author of the new study published on Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “They are large birds, they travel over huge distances and they are very attracted by fishing vessels.”

Standing

Too often too true: Chekhov’s Dramatic Principles for Community Theatre, by Ross Murray.

If in rehearsals an actor relentlessly points out the break with realism inherent in hanging a loaded pistol on the wall, then proceedings will grind to a halt until the director testily reminds the actors that this is not a democracy and that his sole compensation for this theatrical endeavor is two comp tickets for any performance.

Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival 2020: 1

I returned to Florida for the first time in far too many years for my first SCBWF. I twitched 120 species, give or take, including 10 new birds for me. Many of my lifers were Florida specialties, including Snail Kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis) and the introduced Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio). Compared to the similarly-colored Purple Gallinule, the swamphen is huge.

let's take a walkI did some pre-birding in Ocala NF before the festival opened, hoping to find a Florida Scrub-jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens) for myself. No bird, but I did walk the Florida National Scenic Trail for about 100 meters.

where are the birds?Many very early mornings, but absolutely worth the missed sleep. Here, sunrise on the St. Johns River.

they're out thereOn a special trip to St. Johns NWR, we heard Black Rail (Laterallus jamaicensis) responding to a recording (habitat photo at left). Then, a couple days later, a few of us at Merritt Island NWR got a fleeting visual of the bird!

VABSomewhat more conspicuous on Merritt Island was the Vehicle Assembly Building on the Kennedy Space Center campus.

Trip leader David Simpson likes to call Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga) the flying Cuban sandwich, because of its appressed body.

get on that birdChasing sharp-tailed sparrows in Shiloh Marsh, we had some extra company: a Canadian film crew collecting footage for a documentary. They were following Paul, seen here at the extreme left in the photo.

I was excited to see a few birds that weren’t new to me, but might as well have been, since I see them so rarely: Mottled Duck (Anas fulvigula), Orange-crowned Warbler (Vermivora celata), Sora (Porzana carolina), Stilt Sandpiper (Calidris himantopus), Black-bellied Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis). Over on iNaturalist, I have posted some observations of the easier-to-spot Limpkin (catching an apple snail) and Tricolored Heron, as well as a couple butterflies: White Peacock and Long-tailed Skipper (missing its long tails).

try netsOur pelagic trip results were somewhat subdued (it’s entirely possible that our bad luck was due to the banana that someone brought on the boat), but we had some fun scooting around the shrimp boats. The captain will drop small “try nets” to sample the waters, haul them in and count the shrimp that have been caught, then toss the bycatch back. That’s when our birdy friends swing into action. Here, the Miss Lynn is hauling in a try net.

On our return from the Gulf Stream, about 30 miles offshore, our chum attracted a couple of kleptoparasitic Magnificent Frigatebirds (Fregata magnificens), who put on quite the show harassing the terns, gulls, and pelicans just trying to catch an honest meal.

Every festival is a little different. Perhaps the most comfortable difference of Space Coast was the extra room in our buses for the longer trips. I had a double seat to myself for all three trips.

target speciesAnd after all that, I did get my scrub-jay.

indignation and disappointment

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Well, maybe “Mary” is more skillful at SEO than she is at English. I am not sure that I want to encounter her “immense master bunch.” It was “We could chop down that cost and not choose quality!” that won over my Grinchy cynical heart.

Check back in December

I’m going to try Musicology Duck’s Listen Wider Challenge 2020:

Listen to:

  1. A composition of 60 minutes or more in length by a woman or non-binary composer
  2. A country song released in the last 6 months
  3. A chamber piece for 7-12 players written since 1980
  4. The cast recording of a musical featuring a queer character
  5. A miniature composition under 90 seconds long
  6. An opera with a libretto by an author of color
  7. A track by a Native/First Nations/Indigenous hip-hop artist
  8. A work by a student composer
  9. A work from a religious/spiritual tradition other than your own
  10. A composition that won a major award in 2018 or 2019
  11. A classic rock album from the 1960s or 1970s you feel like you should have listened to in its entirety by now, but never have
  12. A piece by a composer from Central or South America
  13. A campaign song for each of the opposing candidates in any election, current or historical
  14. A composition written when the composer was older than age 80
  15. A piece notated using graphic notation
  16. An instrumental work from before 1750 written by a woman
  17. A piece specifically for children by a composer or songwriter who usually writes for adults
  18. A top hit from the year you were born—from a country other than your own
  19. Two different tracks that sample the same song
  20. A song sung by two or more siblings
  21. The soundtrack for a film in a language other than English
  22. An art music composition (broadly defined) that received its premiere in an African country
  23. A classical recording from an independent label
  24. A record by a winning Eurovision Song Contest performer other than their competition song
  25. A protest song by a songwriter who identifies as LGBTQIA+
  26. A song or piece written to memorialize victims of a natural disaster
  27. A song by an artist currently atop Billboard’s “Social 50” chart
  28. A concerto for tuba, bassoon, or double bass
  29. A jazz album recorded since 2015
  30. A song written by or from the perspective of an immigrant

Some of these will be easier than others to find, among them #29, #11, and especially #19, if I count the Amen Break.

The year in review, 2019

A couple of short months, but some nice travelogue. And I made the 100th post under At the park (even if I lose count sometimes). The first sentence (more or less) of the first post for the last twelve months:

  • 1 January: “Jackson [Pollock] had said, ‘I am nature.'”
  • 8 February: Earlier this week, test trains began running on the section of track from Innovation Center to west of the airport, as reported by Max Smith.
  • 2 March: Aziza Barnes’ play is high energy, often played at farce tempos.
  • 2 April: A turn of phrase that has stayed with me over the years, from James Thurber, “The Topaz Cufflinks Mystery,” (23 July 1932).
  • 2 May: From my most recent report: Two boxes hatched (including 13 ducklings from little box #5) and one new nest is started.
  • 2 June: From my report on last Sunday’s monitoring work: Our birds continue to surprise.
  • 2 July: From my final weekly report from Huntley Meadows Park: A somewhat perplexing end to the season.
  • 6 August: Barring new hitches, MWAA has set 16 July 2020 as the opening date for Phase II, according to reporting by Max Smith.
  • 2 September: It’s Labor Day, so it’s time for a walk in the park.
  • 4 October: feather is to plumage as hair is to pelage as scale is to…?
  • 3 November: The most powerful moments in this production come from the no song, no dance passage told by Paul (Jeff Gorti), a honest confession of a story not captured by cast recording albums.
  • 10 December: “This book is the final chapter of, and the summation of, a work conceived and begun in 1925.”

The year in review:

My year in cities, 2019

Overnight stays in 2019:

  • New York, Manhattan County, New York
  • Shepherdstown, Jefferson County, West Virginia 1 2 3 4
  • Reykjavík, Iceland (2 stays) (and)
  • Brjánsstaðir, Iceland
  • Vík, Iceland
  • Höfn, Iceland
  • Egilsstaðir, Iceland
  • Mývatn, Iceland
  • Harrisonburg, Virginia
  • Martinsburg, Berkeley County, West Virginia (Thanks, as always, Charlie!)

My year in hikes and field trips, 2019

Here in the mid-Atlantic:

Plus several trips to my home park, Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Va.

And in Iceland:

My iNaturalist and Flickr maps look very unbalanced.

2018’s list. 2017’s list. 2016’s list. 2015’s list. 2014’s list. 2013’s list. 2012’s list. 2011’s list. 2010’s list. 2009’s list. 2008’s list.

New venues, 2019

I found some performance spaces around town that I hadn’t yet visited.

  • Anacostia Playhouse
  • Milkboy Arthouse, College Park, Md.
  • Mead Center Kogod Cradle
  • KC Jazz Club
  • Atlantis, Sterling, Va.
  • River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Bethesda, Md.
  • Slayton House, Wilde Lake Village, Columbia, Md.
  • St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, College Park, Md.

Bonus out-of-town space: The Village Vanguard, New York.

2018’s list. 2017’s list. 2016’s list. 2015’s list. 2014’s list. 2013’s list. 2012’s list. 2011’s list.