Thursday, December 20, 2012

Culinary News

Fine cuisine is not dead in the United States.

I offer as proof, the following notice snapped in the grocery store yesterday.

Thats good to know with Christmas dinner coming up fast.

There are a couple of points regarding this one. 

Firstly an appreciation of the thoughfulness of that last, purely pictorial, line. Its good to know that none will miss out on this important news for reasons of limited literacy.

And secondly is a question. Are we sure the punctation is correct? Exclamation point or a question mark?




And no Brits that is not chicken and french fried potatoes. That is chicken and a bag of crisps.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Apparently Less Is Not More...MORE is More

We here at Chateau Banished don't go in for Xmas decorating in the yard as keenly as we indulge our halloween habit.

This is my feeble 2 penguins and a bush. Mine because it seems I am responsible for external decor where as Mrs B does the interior.

Banished Jr. though likes his yards a little on the gaudy side. We do a neighbourhood tour most evenings on the way back from school to see some of those 'enthusiastic' decorators. And Jr.'s favourite is the 'singing trees yard' named after the 3 lighted xmas trees at one end that flash on and off in time to the festive tunes from adjoining speakers.

This then is the 'singing trees yard'

The lights around the roof flash and morph through an array of festive shades and the big inflatable snowman 'shivers'

Tis the season to run up terrifying electricity bills it would seem.

I'm sorry to say that no useable photograph could be obtained of the other yard which contains only a inflatable snowman carrying a rifle and a gutted and bloody reindeer suspended head-down from a near by tree with a stream of red fairy lights 'trickleing' from its mouth

Shame I hear you all sounds delightful doesn't it?

This one sums up my general feeling on the whole yard wars thing.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Under Your Skin

Frank Sinatra would have been 97 years old today.

And so here is the finest popular vocalist of the 20th century singing  something from that century's finest popular composer Cole Porter.

What else is there to say?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Now We Are 10,000

Well, now we are 10,029 to be precise, as the actual moment of 10,000 page views slipped by in the night.


or should that be more of a

Monday, December 3, 2012

Blue Christmas


At the year-round 'Christmas Store' this weekend were these Christmas tree delights. I'm only sorry my phone couldn't capture all 25 plus variations on the E. Presley festive ornament.

All that was missing was the fat Elvis with a burger stuffed in his gob and looking like an over- stuffed rhine-stoned sausage.

Inexplicibly there was no similar range of seasonal Cornelius Cardews. I think they would be a huge seller.

Monday, November 19, 2012


Time to update the iPod last night. Christmas is coming with its excuse to put Handel’s Messiah back for the festive season. I don’t do carols and I abhor that which passes for Xmas music on the local ‘all xmas’ radio station.  How many hideous versions of the awful ‘Little Drummer Boy’ can anyone stand without wanting to drive headlong into on-coming traffic?  I don’t know how Mrs. B. does it.

But Messiah is a joy as ever and will belt out frequently in the next couple of months.

People have asked me why a lot of my favourite music is ‘religious’ when I’m not religious, Christian or otherwise, by any stretch of the imagination. Truth be told, no god inspires me in anything I do, but if one wants to hear music that is full of joy or awe or any other sort of real emotion then find one of those religious types be it Handel, Bach, Byrd or Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and there you go.   

It could be argued of course that certainly until the 19th century then the church, or the nobility were where the high dollar commissions came from. But there is more to it than that. The big bucks now come from being on Idol or X-factor and I don’t see a great deal of inspiration or ecstasy there.

And in the UK there has long been a tradition from the 19th through the 20th centuries of Choral Society Christmas productions of Messiah with the Huddersfield Choral being the most famous and its something to be encouraged here too. Now a radio station that played nothing but Messiah from Thanksgiving to Xmas would get my vote.

So here is ‘Ev’ry Valley Shall be Exalted’
Text from the  Book of Isaiah. King James version

Mark Padmore with the LSO conducted by Sir Colin Davis

Monday, November 12, 2012

Long May You Run

So Happy Birthday Neil Young an independent, creative and inspiring 67 years old today. 

He is one of my favourite Canadians of whom I have many.  It is an excellent way to endear ones self to a Canadian to know that Neil, Joni and others actually are from the land to the North.  

He sings his songs in a shaky voice that are real as the day is long and plays a guitar that will often, still, strip the paint from your walls. And lets not forget who gets invited to guest as a harmonica player. Is it Bob Dylan? No it certainly is not. Its Neil, oh yes it is.

And while Father Ted Criley said, quite correctly, that  ‘it’s  funny how much more right wing you get as you get older‘  that rule seems not to have touched Neil. He’s as active and involved as ever he was and age has only brought a degree of gravitas ‘to die for’ as the young people would say. He survived a brain aneurism a few years back and hasn’t let that or much else slow him down.

Here are a couple of performances from either end of his long, long career.

BBC 1971

 Farm Aid 2011

 So many happy returns Bernard Shakey (his movie directing alter ego). And long may you run. 

Oh yes and that guitar...

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Different Kinds of Scary

Well here we are, not blown away or drowned yet again. Hurricane Sandy hit the coast a couple of hundred miles north of us in the end. Sounds like a lot especially to Brits but remember that the thing was 650 miles across by the time it was level with us in Virginia. Happily at that time the centre was still well offshore. “All” we got were 4 days of non-stop rain totalling about 7 inches and winds often steady at 35 mph and gusting 65 plus on Monday and Tuesday. All the nasties were on the northside, the storm surge pushed ahead of the landfall point and so we likely got less of a hit than anyone between Cuba  and Maine.

Banished Jr. was devastated that we had to bring in all the graveyard décor before the weekend and never did manage to get it back out. But at least he got his Trick or Treat in which I wasn’t really expecting. So he was out in his award winning (Hunt Club Farm Fall Festival 5 and under costume contest 1st prize) scary scarecrow costume so all was well with his world.

Once again the blog view numbers have me scratching my head. The total page views for October, a month when I posted only twice thanks to computer glitches, were the second highest ever for Banished’s Bugs.  A lot higher, for example, than July where I was posting madly from our mountain vacation including brown bears and painfully cute Bambis. It makes not a jot of sense.

Thats actually the highest monthly hit count not the second best. Thats even more puzzling then.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Hanging On

Finally I had a chance to get out into the yard in the last few days. Its lovely not to have to cover myself in insect repellant to step outside, but the cooler weather also reduces the numbers of all bugs not just the nasties. So while this weather, 70F tops with a breeze, is nice to be out in then finding subjects is more work than usual.

But I did have a visit from our rarest regular visitor these last couple of days. The Long- Tailed Skipper isn’t to be mistaken for any other skipper around. Bigger, tailed (well obviously) and with a blue green iridescence in places totally lacking from any other of the orangey brown mass of the skippers. They don’t visit every year and only in ones and twos but they still turn up pretty regularly, usually later in the year like this.

Much smaller, but very striking in its tiny way is Ailanthus Webworm Moth (Atteva aurea).
These are around in large numbers now, many heads of goldenrod are covered in them. When I first saw them a few years ago I thought that they were beetles. With those colours, the tightly closed wings and habit of daytime feeding its an easy mistake to make at first.
But they are one of those beasts where my pictures never quite seem to capture their beauty. Interestingly its caterpillars food plant is Ailanthus altissima the Tree of Heaven. The interesting bit is that the moth is a native species while the host plant isn’t. The shrub is an introduction from Asia.  The question is what did the caterpillar eat before the Tree of Heaven turned up?
There are still plenty of grasshoppers and their relatives around as always in fall. Some of them large (an inch and a half long) like this as yet unidentified specimen.

UPDATE 10/17/12
This seems likely to be a Differential Grasshopper (Melanoplus differentialis ) 
Some are small and very fleeting like this Katydid (?) caught snacking before it hopped off again lost in the weeds.
All of these were taken during afternoons outside in the yard working on the Halloween graveyard.
Last year's new arrival Chucky (or Chunky) Baby

And his newly arrived brother Hungry Harold 


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

NOT Limping Still

Still struggling here to get a method of posting my pictures to my photography blog.  I might have to consider posting pictures at BugGuide and linking to them. What a pain in the arse.


I do have something of an update on the tree branch/deck story of September. We had people come in to quote for repairing the deck despite the cheap penny pinching insurers not providing nearly enough money to get this done. One of the first came in and quoted us $2500 to replace it entirely. That was out of the question. But he did ask the question…’Why do you need a deck rail on a deck that’s barely a foot off the grass’. A good point and one that we happily embraced.

The main problems resulting from the branch incident were:

  1. Sections of deck rail utterly smashed by said branch landing on them.
  2. One of the supporting joists running along the left hand edge being cracked clean through by the impact.

So not replacing the deck rail was an easy solution to the first problem. The second issue was the more serious structural issue. We were quoted around $500 to remove and replace this timber to put the deck back in good order. But looking at that it seemed all that was really involved was to remove the broken 12 foot 6x2 timber after removing the nails attaching it at the end of each of the 25 deck boards, replacing the timber with a new one, nailing it back in place to the other structural timbers and re-nailing the deck boards.

And so it came to pass that I, Mr. Cack-handed took it upon myself to tackle this $500 project. And do you know, I did it. I did it in one morning. Single handedly but for 5 minutes of assistance from Mrs. B with holding stuff.  I removed the old deck rails, cut them up for disposal, unnailed the boards and removed the broken joist. There followed a quick trip to Lowes for the new timber and a box of nails. On my return I cut it to length and cut one end to an angle to fit with the old (both with my little electric chain saw…most unnerving) and put it back in place. The last half hour was just tough on the knees, up and down hammering 60 odd nails.

Yes I did it! I fixed the deck! And best of all it cost…. a little under $18.00 for the treated timber and the nails. That’s it, $18.00. Woohoo and hurrah for me. I’m turning into an American and falling in love with my chain saw.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

'Normal' Service Is Resumed

Bet you thought you were rid of me eh?

No such luck I’m afraid. Some computer issues (thank you Microsoft update) and a heap of householder/money pit stuff have kept me away for a couple of weeks. Hopefully I can now get back to business.

I got to see an 80 plus ft pine tree felled in my back yard last week; which was fascinating. The chap who climbed up it with a waist loop and spikes, cutting branches with his chainsaw as he went certainly has my admiration. I could never do it.  I hate to cut down trees but it was struck by lightening AGAIN back in the spring and then on August 26th a freak wind gust blew a 25 foot branch off and dropped it on the deck narrowly missing the house. Narrowly missing meaning by about a foot but only after smashing the deck rail and all the deck furniture.
So it really had to go. You might think our homeowners insurance company would think this was a good idea and chip in to prevent any further damage. No, so long as it isn’t in immediate danger of falling on the house they can wait... until it does. Not that the insurance business has anything at all in common with betting.

So not a penny from them to help with that one. Add to that the ‘depreciation’ taken from the cost of repairs to the deck and replacement of deck furniture “because it had been outside in the weather”.  All of which will spell a new home insurer ASAP. The assessor was quick to inform us that he knew what he was doing , it was his job and he’d been doing it for years. Well yes and that job appeared to be penny pinching and worming.
We still need to get the deck fixed. But the tree at least is gone.

The tree guys in total contrast were splendid. They came in, did an assessment and quote that detailed everything that was involved, were back inside 2 weeks with 9 men and a selection of pretty heavy if dinky machinery, moved a piece of fence, Jr.’s swing set, took the tree down, put everything back the way it was and even ground the stump down to mulch which they put on the garden. In and out in 4 hours and the 80feet of trunk was picked up before 9 the next morning. 

I will add exciting action sequence pictures of the felling tomorrow now I know the Blog is working again.

Nearly 3 weeks later it IS working and so here is the update.

I’ve also got some fun native species caterpillars from a trip to the Botanical Gardens last weekend. I do need to improve my range of food plants to pull in more Swallowtails.
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillar - Papilio glaucus

Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillar - Battus philenor

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Combative Sound Art

Another old recording dredged up today thanks to the cassette to digital converter. I was having a discussion with Mr Key, proprietor of Hooting Yard, regarding  Soviet era radio stations and recordings thereof. I used many such recordings in performance and collage in the distant (80s) past. And I was looking for some of those old recordings to share with Frank, with whom I share an interest in such political arcana. I was particularly looking for recordings from Radio Tirana out of Albania as these were especially doctrinaire, remind us of Cornelius Cardew and for some weird reason seemed to be delivered with an Australian accent.
Well no such luck but I did trawl my cassette archive/dusty cardboard box and find a sound collage from sometime in the 1980s entitled Camouflage which features, amongst many many other sources, a recording from Radio Prague. It is made up of 4 tracks of tape collage, guitar improvisation and 'electronics'.
My memory is a feeble thing these days but I do have the vague idea that the whole thing might have been 'engineered' by my old mate Outaspaceman.
A 1940's wire recorder
Not quite the technology we used to assemble Camouflage but it feels close when seen from a  21st century perspective.
Oh yes and my Cthulu 'fish' decal arrived and as soon as the torrenial rain stops I will go out and apply it to the Banishedmobile.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Evolution of Fish

Once upon a time, Christians were a secretive sect who hid themselves away and revealed their presence to one another by means of secret symbols like the Ichthys.

According to the Wikipedia this derives from ΙΧΘΥΣ (Ichthys) an acronym for "Ίησοῦς Χριστός, Θεοῦ Υἱός, Σωτήρ", (Iēsous Christos, Theou Yios, Sōtēr), which translates into English as "Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior".

These days they are not nearly so secretive mores the pity but the symbol has hung around. It's shiny chrome presence seems to 'grace' the backend of every other car in Virginia. It looks like this;
Or sometimes like this;
Or in some cases, where the driver thinks their subtle symbolism might be lost on we ignorant heathens  or where, perhaps, they don't understand the derivation of their own symbol, like this;

Now I don't object to anyones religion (or sexuality) so long as they keep it largely to themselves and especially keep it out of politics. But the blasted fish whatever the form,  serves to remind me every day that the  Romans had a point. I'd be on the front row these days rooting for the lions.

Now some efforts have been made to subvert this over the years and I do see a handful of cars sporting something like this;
 or much more rarely like this;
But while some of these alternatives were amusing I was never tempted. But today I was at a stoplight behind a young lady of the 'goth' persuasion whos 'Republicans for Voldemort' bumpersticker had already made me smile when I saw her 'fish'.
I ordered one online as soon as I got home. Who could possibly resist?

Go on, you know you want one.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


Well I should have been photographing and posting more but I just havent seen so much out in the yard to excite me since vacation. Plus its been tending to rain in the late afternoon by the time I'm home and... the mosquitoes are pure hell.  I came back from 10 days vacation where I saw not a single one and went out into the yard in shorts. In 2 minutes my legs were covered with the little swine. I retired to the house and have stayed there largely the last 2 weeks until something exciting drags me back out.

I did spot this spider on the garage as I came home the other day.

Its an orb weaver thats new to me called Araneus pegnia. Smaller than many of the Orb Weavers but those markings are  nice and rather attractive.

The other distraction has been Mrs B deciding that we should subscribe to Netflix. She gets to watch lots of her favorite Brit cop shows and find lots of new ones. And I've been looking at too many 'old' movies I havent seen in ages. Tonight its been Nicholas Roeg's The Man Who Fell To Earth with David Bowie, How did Nic Roeg fall to earth so hard himself? For a while in the 70's and early 80's he could do little wrong or so it seemed. Now with the exception of Performance (Co-directed with Don Cammell) it seems to have slipped into obscurity and seems likely to be as 'fondly' remembered as Ken Russell . I don't see any sudden second wind a la Werner Herzog alas.

The Man Who Fell To Earth is a future seen from the 70's and I don't think any other future has dated quite so badly. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Tidying Up

I'm still trawling through the haul from vacation despite having been back almost a week. And so here is a largely random selection of goodies.

Leaving the porch light on brought a couple of non-moth visitors on the last couple of evenings. There was this longhorn beetle Elytrimitatrix undata about an inch or so long, well an inch or so without the other inch worth of antennae. I was hoping to see more longhorns being in the woods as we were but this is a nice one.

And then this astonishing thing that rested, briefly, on the rocking chair. Alas it didnt stay long enough to get a really good picture but you can see how beautiful and delicate it was. It is an Antlion (Glenurus gratus), The Antlion larva likes in a little sandpit in the ground waiting for ants and other passing prey to tumble into the pit in a trickle of sand into its huge mandibles.  This adult doesn't feed at all just live a brief spell to mate and then dies. B ut what an amazing thing while it lasts.

Daytime exploration brought the Juniper Hairstreak on our first day,the only one I saw on the whole trip and still my only one ever. And the thistles along the road provided some new if there weren't enough to fret over identifying already. These next two are actually one. The Zebulon Skipper (Poanes zabulon) This first is the male.
And this is the hugely different, beautifully frosted female.

This is a Checked Skipper. Im still unsure of the exact species but likey the Common (Pyrgus communis) Rotten picture, tiny twitchy butterfly, breezy day. Sorry. 

Amongst the Clubtail dragonflies on the river there were also plenty of Widow Skimmers including this mating pair. The male has the blue and black wings and the female the black and clear, rather tatty ones in this case.

I hvent seen any decent sized mantis at home yet but this one on the roses in front of the
cabin was a beauty over 2 inches long already and not mature yet (see the small wing buds). This isn't our usual Carolina mantis (Stagmomantis carolina ) I don't think. Still not sure which though.
It turns out to be the non-native Chinese Mantis (Tenodera aridifolia)

There are creatures out there that aren't bugs of any sort. Theyre generally regarded as cuter than bugs but thats a matter of opinion. For you none bug fans here is the Pickerel frog (Lithobates palustris) in the National Park sitting very still on the pathside rock.

And for the cuteness junkies, here is Bambi.