Sunday, December 15, 2013

Look what I just bought !

Cost me $25 !  Has to be worth $100... If I can bear to part with it. In the box unopened but then the Americans never really appreciated Gerry Anderson. I AM open to outrageous offers

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Tree MVP

Tree is done. 8 feet of piney goodness. I like the new Grich globe. And of course the MVP of the Banished tree (and the 2013 World Series) David Ortiz.

Friday, December 13, 2013

More Or Less All The Time

From the Banished iPod today comes Slightly All The Time by Soft Machine, which is so old that even I was only 11 when it was recorded. But it was already a favourite by the time I was 15 and it remains so to this day. I listen to it every couple of days or so, as my title today says...More Or less All The Time. At 18 and a half minutes its the perfect accompaniment to my drive to work and takes me from my driveway to the parking lot in one perfectly timed run. So long as the traffics flowing freely of course.

Formed in 1966 by a right bunch of hippies including Daevid Allen and Kevin Ayers they were part of what was called the Canterbury Scene which also produced Gong, Hatfield And The North, National Health and caravan amongst others.

But while the first 2 albums, called with striking originality One and Two were full of songs of hippie whimsy amongst their more freeform instrumentals by the time 1971's Third arrived the band was reduced to a trio of Robert Wyatt on drums, Mike Ratledge on keyboards and Hugh Hopper on bass with the semi detached Elton Dean on saxophones. This double album had just 4 pieces each an entire side (about 18 minutes) in length. Hippie whimsy had largely departed (but for elements of Robert's Moon in June) and jazz-rock and experimentation were order of the day.

 Slightly All The Time is actually a suite  of tunes by Ratledge and Hopper viz. Slightly All the Time/Noisette/Backwards. Enjoy it anyway. I know I will.

I have been very lax this last month I know. But as always winter brings a dearth of bugs and its rained every weekend for the last 3 weeks. One day I WILL get outside in daylight and dry weather and photograph something.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Pselliopus barberi ...In Context

Putting halloween away for the the year on Saturday was still quite warm work (though the temperature is finally dropping today) and there were still  a few bugs about. There were still blasted mosquitoes damn them! But as I packed up on of this years new additions, the simulated, life-sized, hessian wrapped severed head:
I found one of the falls most distinctive bugs right where it ought to be. The 'halloween bug' as we call it chez Banished (Pselliopus barberi) on the halloween decoration.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Days Of Futurama Past

Listening to my Pandora 'Radio Oldfart Late 70's' today it suddenly struck me how many of the bands were here:

Futurama in Leeds in Septemmber 1979. 2 days of the 'Worlds First Science Fiction Music Festival'. It was promoted by John Keenan who ran the  F ( later Fan) Club in Leeds.

The 'Queens Hall' in Leeds was a former bus garage with all the style and atmosphere of...well... a bus garage. Not an especially salubrious bus garage at that..

But it was a big do, Public Image Ltd, Joy Division, The Fall, Echo and the Bunnymen (still with echo the drum machine), The Teardrop Explodes, Cabaret Voltaire, Scritti Politti, The Only Ones and even, apparently, Hawkwind (I missed them though...I think..the sci-fi bit?). Lots more too, most of them obscure even then and utterly lost now.

I wish I remembered more of the weekend. I went the next year too but it was already going downhill with U2. They pretty much cleared the place.  Blurt and ClockDVA were good though as I recall.

It wasn't cheap mind you. That first one cost 5 quid a day! Bloody robbery!  

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

20,000 Views (In Sing Sing)

Finally got to watch one of those big numbers happen.

20,000 hits

Last 5000 took 3 1/2 months

Monday, November 4, 2013

A Whiter Shade Of Pale

I actually got these pictures weekend before last at Hoffler Creek when we took Jr and friends to their Fall Festival. Lots of 'treasure hunts' through the woods and fun and games. Plus, spotted by Banished Jr. , these curious plants. It's another of those things read about before but not seen. This is the Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora).
 Totally lacking in chlorophyll this plant feeds on the roots of trees via fungi that live on its roots. Fascinating and oddly beautiful. This little clump is late in the season and has been fertilized and is well on the way to fruiting. While it has no green coloration it is still a flowering plant and is insect pollinated. As it ages it does develop these interesting pink and red shades. Really a fascinating find. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013


Our pumpkins are seriously old school this year! 







Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Imperfect Day

I posted my thoughts on Lou Reed on a much happier occassion last year.

But I can't let the sad day go by. We have lost a true original, one of the handful of individuals who really did change the face of popular music.

"Blink your eyes and I'll be gone"

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Incontinent Nostalgia

No I haven't lost control of that function, yet! Fear not! The title comes from an essay in neurologist Oliver Sacks' collection The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat. In the essay, a woman being treated with L-Dopa experiences an overwhelming unstoppable flood of memory of events some 40 years before brought on by some tiny seemingly insignificant trigger.

I'm not quite there yet, but I did have a flood of memories come back yesterday with not the hearing but the thought of a song. And the hearing again brought back even more. The song was "When An Old cricketer Leaves The Crease" by Roy Harper from 1975.  I don't think I can have heard it in at least 30 years. I love the song but oddly enough I have never owned a copy of it. But I remember it like yesterday being played in one of our 6th Form Common Rooms.

Back in Harrogate in my youth neither my own school, St Aidan's Church of England HS nor St John Fisher RC High School down the road had sufficient numbers to run a practical 6th form with a wide range of A-level subject options. And so we united the 2 small groups to make one decent sized body of pupils. I was one of the second year of this experiment, which incidently I learn still continues. So we had classes in both schools our own new concrete and glass late 60's monstrosity and Fisher's Victorian pile about 500 yards down Oatlands Drive. This made for much fun travelling between. Excellent for the smokers who could sneak a ciggy on the walk and much harmless tom-foolery and japes. Massed performances of Singing In The Rain come to mind as on wet days as we jumped in and out of the gutters giving crack throated voice to Arthur Freed's lyric though these were more in the style of Morecombe and Wise than Gene Kelly.

We also had a 6th Form Common Room in each school. Our home base at Aidans all chrome and formica and of its time. But the Common at Fishers was up at the top of the building pretty much the attic. It had nooks, crannies, oddly angled ceilings & skylights. It had a record player, it had beat-up, overstuffed  and disconcertingly stained  easy chairs and sofas of great antiquity. In short it was more like something out of another age, Geoffrey Willans' and  Ronald Searle's St. Custards comes to mind, looking back.

Follow the arrow...somewhere up there anyway.

 We came in one weekend before school started and painted the place ourselves.Painted it a ghastly 70s orange and brown combo as I recall, with the leftovers of someone's parents home beautification project.

Now this was a mixed 6th form yet somehow in my memories I don't recall any of the girls being around this space as they were back at St Aidan's with its cubic, scandinavian, pristine decor. If Bjorn Borg had been a sofa he'd have looked like St Aidans common room furnishings. No. the John Fisher common room was a scruffy, comfortable, blokish warren of hideyholes where we listened to prog-rock (and Roy Harper) and, as our 2 year residency drew to a close in mid 1977,  much heated debate accompanied the 'intrusion' of ever more punk and reggae.   The same went for staff 'intrusion' we didn't see female staff in there at all but I tink there was something comforting and familiar to the male staff who were to be found there fairly regularly. The fact that several of Fishers female staff were nuns might have had something to do with that too. 

The one really rather sad part of all this nostalgia is that I really can't remember so many of the people. Unlike Mrs B. who has to beat the old HS contact off with a stick on Facebook. I do recall a few odd names but my friends don't seem to have very high profiles on line. The only old St Aidan's hand I'm still in touch with at all is Outa_spaceman and we didnt really get to know each other until after we both left school. I shall have to make an effort. The buggers must be out there somewhere mustnt they? All those old cricketers can't have left the crease.               

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Not Roaring But Rorem

Today marks the 90th birthday of American composer Ned Rorem. I must admit that most of his orchestral and chamber output holds little or no interest for me being somewhat conservative for my taste even in my 'maturity'.

Rorem at Tanglewood 1946 studying with Aaron Copeland

He studied under Virgil Thompson and Aaron Copeland amongst others and I'd be interested to hear some of his operatic works, which have largely passed me by. He's almost as well known as a diarist as a composer. Much of his 'fame' as such came for his Parisian diaries published in the 1960s.As an openly gay man he wrote of his relationships with others who were much less open, at least until Ned outed them before outing was even invented. He also has a notoriously barbed pen when writing on such topics as serialism and atonality.

But I'm celebrating Rorem for what he does best. He is a superb composer of song settings, one of the finest since Ives. Not as adventurous of course but who is...or ever will be?

Here are 4 tiny gems of Walt Whitman set in 1957 and performed here by Susan Graham and Malcolm Martineau.


Monday, October 21, 2013

...And The Garden of Horrors

With the final departure of last weeks rain we were able to get into the yard on Sunday and do our Halloween graveyard.
Nothing huge and new this year but more graves, and a grave zombie to replace the late lamented Marcus The Carcass who fell victim to a falling branch last year. Lets hope the weather is kinder this year and everything makes it through to the actual festivities.

The Handsomest Zombie...

Banished Jr. trying out his halloween look for a party Saturday.

Come October 31st he'll be joined by the rest of the family.

We're a Zombie family
We're a Zombie family.....

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Wanderer

When we were last at the  Norfolk Botanical Gardens in July one of the stars of  the butterfly house was the Gulf Fritillary.

We were back there yesterday and one of the things we found pretty quickly was this caterpillar.

And I had to check with BugGuide but yes it is the caterpillar of the Gulf Fritillary. Now the butterfly does find its way as far north as southern Virginia but it is right at the edge of its range. So was this the child of a wanderer from the South or were its parents escapees from the butterfly house? Either way it was a surprise find.

Lots of other nice finds yesterday too in the unseasonable warmth. Its October , it shouldnt be 86f...not even here.

It being fall here, in theory at least, grasshoppers are everywhere. I found some bean plants positively alive with Obscure Bird Grasshoppers (Schistocerca obscura ) not as big as some I've found here, where they can look like locustseasily 3 inches long. But hese more than made up for size with sheer numbers. The back legs are especially striking, black with black tipped yellow spines.
 Wasps here are many and varied but happily most of the time they have much better things to do than bother passing folks. Things like building mud nests like this Black and Yellow Mud Dauber (Sceliphron caementarium)
Surprised to find a lot of frogs in shady spots around the small ponds and streams. Not surpised that they were there but surprised how laid back they all seemed. Around our own pond you get within 6 feet of most frogs and all you'll know is a "Peep!" and a splash as they disappear. But the gardens there were Green Frogs (Lithobates clamitans.)
Southern Leopard Frogs (Lithobates sphenocephalus) 
And these little dark beasts I'm not sure of the identity of.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

One Of Those Days

Some days you can look at the birth and death anniversaries list and see not a name that means much. But today seems to have been a huge date for musicians birthdays. At least for musicians I've heard of... for good or ill.

Don McLean 1945 (Ok, before my time and not my thing but I know who he is)
Richard Hell 1949 ( Television, Voidiods, Heartbreakers)
Mike Rutherford 1950 (Genesis before and after)
Sting 1951
Phil Oakey 1955 (The Human League)
Django Bates 1960 (Loose Tubes and lots more)
Sigtryggur Baldursson 1962 (Sugarcubes)
Gillian Welch 1967 ( Country/Folk/Bluegrass singer/songwriter)
Badly Drawn Boy 1969 (One of Mrs. B's faves)

And a few others yet who are far too young for me to have possibly heard of.

 So I'm going with Gillian Welch.

Her material is just so varied and almost always marvellous. Here is Time (The Revelator) , which was my introduction to her music courtesy of BBC Radio 3's Late Junction. That was about a dozen years ago which makes her a fairly recent addition to my musical universe.
 And on a 'lighter' note Look At Miss Ohio. Lets not forget guitarist  David Rawlings. Its difficult to imagine these songs without him.

And finally Elvis Presley Blues

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Worth The Wait

Some beasts live with you long before you ever actually see one. I've seen strange spiky, spiny Orb Weavers in books and on BugGuide ever since I came to the USA. And today at last I got to see my first. I was in the front garden weeding and putting down some mulch when I saw a web with an odd shape at the centre. Not so big and I thought, likely just a wrapped up old meal with legs sticking out. But I moved around to catch it with the light falling the right way. And just for once it turned out to be just what I was hoping for.
This is the Spinybacked Orb Weaver  (Gasteracantha cancriformis) Its one of 3 or 4 spiny Orb Weaver species all a little differently shaped and coloured and for that matter different within species according to where they live. This gorgeous little beast also comes in bright yellow and black in which form it looks like a smiley face on 8 legs.
There is a touch of yellow in this one too at the base of the spines and particularly on the underside as below.
Florida specimens have this colouration but the 6 spines are red! But I'll settle, very happily, for my  black and white version. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Tasty Leftovers

UPDATED 09/17/13             

 I really need to find out what this is. Feeding on the Milkweed in the National Park. All the Milkweed was done flowering so late in the season but there were plenty of newly hatched Monarch Caterpillars feeding on it and this interesting moth. Now would you look at that, feeding on milkweed and largely orange and black. Who'd have guessed?
It looked a bit like a Tussock Moth of some lived on Milkweed
It couldn't be a Milkweed Tussock Moth could it?
Euchaetes egle !
Sometimes the simplest solution is the best.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Finally back and back online after someone in the neighbourhood apparently dug up something they shouldnt have and cut all our DSL services off.
I didnt really get to post the last couple of days up there either but I was out taking pictures.
One of the really nice things the Town Of Luray did in the last few years was to turn their creek, which was a typical stream running through a small town and rather icky, into something clean and interesting and a real feature.
The Hawksbill Creek, which incidently starts at the falls in the mountains that  we visited a few days ago, is now the centre of the Hawksbill Greenway
We took a walk around the one circuit the first rather damp day and 2 evening stolls along the whole length later in the week. Its now a Class A trout stream amongst other things, right in the middle of town. And lots of fish means lots of fish eaters. Any evening here you can see three species of Heron hunting.
Theres the regular old Blue Heron that we have on our own pond and all over the area.
Then theres the much smaller Green Heron (Butorides virescens ) which also visits our pond but I've never got a decent picture of at home. These are very striking with a dark glossy green back and a russett breast.
Alas it was getting a little dark when I snapped this one and the colours could show up better.
And then there is the Black Crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax ) It is, apparently, the most widespread heron on the planet spanning 5 continents. But I'd not seen one before. And up here on the Greenway they were everywhere. In the stream side trees,
Or perching on the bridge footings as the sun went down.
I still went the whole week without a decent dragonfly picture due to the high river levels and without much in the way of moths thanks to the damp rainy or foggy nights which kept them largely out of the air.
I did get a pic of one of my favourite bugs though. The Nut Weevil Curculio caryae is apparently a serious pest of Pecan trees over here but sorry, its just too funny to be taken seriously by non-nut farmers.
Look at the schnozz on that!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Here Be Monsters


 Yes here be monster millipedes. Just everywhere as we hiked through the forest from Big Meadows down to Lewis Falls.
Something from the genus Narceus. Likely N. americanus, we saw literally dozens of these along the couple of miles up and down the hill to the falls. Difficult to miss really being as they are about 3 1/2 inches long.
 Apparently the millipede man at BugGuide yawns when he sees these and pastes in his comment
"Narceus americanus (Beauvois, 1817) (Spirobolida: Spirobolidae) again, the most common millipede species in eastern North America."
Oh God not another of those 3 1/2 inch N. americanus. They are soooooooooo passe.
Well some of us are still impressed you jaded old bugger. 
Oh yes and here also be Black Bears by the side of the road but I still had the macro bug lens on.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

More From The Mountains

Its rained at least a little every day so far and we are waiting for warm fog to clear this morning but there are things to see up here even when the suns not shining. I must say the evening rain and lack of a porch at this cabin is wrecking havoc with my early morning moth surveys.

A Round Headed Katydid of the genus Amblycorypha
A Scorpion Fly probably Panorpa nuptialis but really not showing off the 'scorpion tail' from this angle.
Caterpillar of the Orange Tipped Oakworm Moth (Anisota senatoria) . The moth looks nice too if I ever get to see one.
Black Stink Bug (Proxys punctulatus)
And a much better upper wing shot of the Hackberry Emperor than I managed to get last year.
We really havent got out and about too much yet so really not such a bad haul. But it will be nice to get up into the Park and especially into Big Meadows on Wednesday I hope.
But, not one single dragonfly on this stretch of the river yet. The river is a lot highter than last year and its not so easy to find basking spots.