I know a guy who knows a guy

I found myself reading this piece by Jack Nicas in the Style section… because words, I guess. Anyway, I’m glad that I did, because I found this candidate for pull quote of the year:

There appear to be three main men behind Astoria Enterprises, and two of them are ex-convicts.

Mr. [Ralph] Frengel, the salesman, was convicted in 1992 for stealing a $100,000 pearl necklace from a jewelry store. “It’s not as bad as it sounds,” he said.

Mason Neck State Park

I had a quite pleasant out-and-back walk in Mason Neck State Park along the Dogue and Meadow View Trails: about 3 miles in 3:00. A little muggy, but ample shade in woods of beech and holly. I (mostly heard) detected 25 of our usual species, with visuals on Acadian Flycatcher (Empidonax virescens) and Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapilla) (seen but not heard?!). At the observation mini-tower at the (more or less recently) restored wet meadow, I heard (just once!) a King Rail (Rallus elegans).

I pulled a recording of what must be amphibian activity, but I can’t pin it down.

It’s always nice to stop for some cloud ears. The Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) in this woods is very white, showing not much pink at all. This is the first time I slowed down to look at the flowers of American Holly (Ilex opaca).

Some assembly required

A Fairfax Master Naturalists project that I could work from my desk: I cleaned up the automated transcription of a video presentation on climate change, presented by Rachel Licker to Master Naturalists in 2014. Dr. Licker speaks softly, and the AI performing the transcription often made a hash of things. My favorite machine blunder was pursue potations for precipitation, followed closely by 4 percent the patients for for precipitation.

Don’t worry

Yes, Asian Giant Hornets are big and scary, but they’re not here in the mid-Atlantic, and present no cause for alarm.

Toni Burnham, the president of the D.C. Bee Keepers Alliance, says that, actually, “everyone should chill the hell out.”

* * *

While the murder hornet concerns may be less irrational than calls over putting toxic chemicals into a human body, Burnham says bee experts and entomologists in Washington are on the case, and that there’s no reason for those in the region to worry.

“Let [Washington state] handle it, and everyone calm down,” Burnham says. “Have a beer.”


Voice actor Jan Johns nailed it:

Artists spend so much time alone to create. But then the goal is to collaborate and connect and to finally be in that room with the other artists and creators to be able to come up with something together. And that is the joy of it.

Pair bond

almost readyA pair of Carolina Wrens (Thryothorus ludovicianus) is building a nest in an overgrown plant container at the back of my house. They’ve been working on it since at least Friday, so I’m expecting eggs and incubation (14 days, according to Baicich and Harrison) any time now.


Or, how to confuse Spotify and YouTube’s algorithms (sorry, Molly!).

Well, a with a little extra time on my hands, I was able to complete Musicology Duck’s Listen Wider Challenge 2020 in only three months, much sooner than I expected. And two of the pieces I got to hear live (asterisks below).

The prompts:

A composition of 60 minutes or more in length by a woman or non-binary composer
*Kate Soper, Here Be Sirens (2014)
A country song released in the last 6 months
Ashley McBryde, “One Night Standards” (2019): I like this one a lot
A chamber piece for 7-12 players written since 1980
*George Lewis, Mnemosis (2012)
The cast recording of a musical featuring a queer character
Tim Acito and Alexander Dinelaris, Zanna, Don’t! (2003): “Fast” is a fun patter song
A miniature composition under 90 seconds long
Marc Shaiman and Scott Scott Wittman, “Twenty Seconds” (2020)
An opera with a libretto by an author of color
John Adams, June Jordan, I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky (1995): I am an Adams fanboy, but this work is not successful. Tin-eared libretto, thin orchestration.
A track by a Native/First Nations/Indigenous hip-hop artist
Eekwol & T-Rhyme, “For Women By Women” (2018)
A work by a student composer
Tiara Tanka, “Bennu” (2015) for 3 flutes and cello: Tanka is a student in the Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music, Northwestern University
A work from a religious/spiritual tradition other than your own
“Allah Hoo Allah Hoo,” Al-Haaj Muhammad Owais Raza Qadri
A composition that won a major award in 2018 or 2019
Kendrick Lamar, DAMN. (2017): “FEEL.” has whiffs of Bob Dylan, Gil Scott-Heron
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
Traffic, Traffic (1968): left me unsatisfied; its two big songs do better as covers. After Blind Faith, Blind Faith (1969), I realized that a little Steve Winwood goes a long way. So I enjoyed Eric Clapton playing the blues on Cream, Disraeli Gears (1967).
A piece by a composer from Central or South America
Roque Cordero, “Sonatina Rítmica” (date?) and “Soliloquio” No.6 (1992)
A campaign song for each of the opposing candidates in any election, current or historical
Milton Ager and Jack Yellen, “Happy Days Are Here Again” (1929) vs. “Thank God! We’ve Found the Man” (1940): FDR vs. Willkie
A composition written when the composer was older than age 80
Milton Babbitt, “A Gloss on ‘Round Midnight” (2002): which sent me down the rabbit hole of Emanuele Arciuli, ‘Round Midnight: Homage to Thelonious Monk (2011)
A piece notated using graphic notation
Hans-Christoph Steiner, “Solitude” (2004)
An instrumental work from before 1750 written by a woman
Élisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre, Les pièces de clavessin, “Suite in D minor” (1687); and Elisabetta de Gambarini, Lessons for the Harpsichord, op. 2 (1748)
A piece specifically for children by a composer or songwriter who usually writes for adults
Imogen Heap, “The Happy Song” (2019)
A top hit from the year you were born—from a country other than your own
Peter Alexander, “Der Mond hält seine Wacht” (1956): wacky backing vocals. Also popular in Germany that year was “Sie heiß Mary Ann,” to the tune of Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Sixteen Tons,” but nothing to do with coal mining.
Two different tracks that sample the same song
Run-D.M.C., “Run’s House”; and LL Cool J, “The Boomin’ System”: I did not know about James Brown’s “The Funky Drummer.”
A song sung by two or more siblings
Fred and Adele Astaire, “Fascinating Rhythm” (1924)
The soundtrack for a film in a language other than English
Yann Tiersen, Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain (2001)
An art music composition (broadly defined) that received its premiere in an African country
Bongani Ndodana-Breen, Three Orchestral Songs on poems by Ingrid Jonker (2015)
A classical recording from an independent label
Aheym (2013) ANTI187296-2, Kronos Quartet plays music of Bryce Dessner
A record by a winning Eurovision Song Contest performer other than their competition song
Netta, “BEG” and “Nana Banana”
A protest song by a songwriter who identifies as LGBTQIA+
“We Stand United” (2016)
A song or piece written to memorialize victims of a natural disaster
Tom Rush, “Galveston Flood” (1966)
A song by an artist currently atop Billboard’s “Social 50” chart
BTS, “Black Swan” (2020)
A concerto for tuba, bassoon, or double bass
Johann Nepomuk Hummel, concerto in F for bassoon (ca. 1805), Mathis Kaspar Stier (bassoon)
A jazz album recorded since 2015
Ezra Weiss Big Band, We Limit Not the Truth of God (2019)
A song written by or from the perspective of an immigrant
Alexis Torres Machado, “For My Immigrants” (2016)

Mind you, I came by a couple of the recordings via the CD giveaway shelf at work.

Pafko at the wall

Gerald Howard says that Don DeLillo should receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. I agree.

By every metric that we use to measure literary greatness—including overall achievement, scope and variety of subject matter, striking and fully realized style, duration of career, originality and formal innovation, widespread influence here and abroad, production of masterpieces, consistency of excellence, pertinence of themes, density of critical commentary, and dignity in the conduct of a literary career—Don DeLillo, now eighty-three, scores in the highest possible percentile.

Sky Meadows State Park

Virginia state parks are still open for day use! A staffer directed me to a spot in the overflow parking area at 10:30 on a pleasant, gusty Saturday morning.

I made a loop with the North and South Ridge Trails, about 3 miles in 3:15. That 700-foot (or so) climb just gets harder every year, but I can still do it, a few minutes at a time. Not too busy on the trails, mostly couples and small groups.

Among the butterflies, Eastern Tailed-blues were out, along with a few Zebra Swallowtails. A quick glimpse of an anglewing. Trees had not leafed out, so there were some spring ephemerals: Spring Beauty on the warmer, lower slopes; Bloodroot at higher elevations; a bit of Early Saxifrage; Cut-leaved Toothwort was fairly common; Rue Anemone always confuses me the first time I see it for the year.

Field Sparrows and Eastern Meadowlarks singing in the pastures.

I may have missed it the last time I was in the park: the American Chestnut Foundation has a baby orchard planted along the Boston Mill Road.