Monday, October 24, 2016

Counting Birds

My family and I have had a great time participating in the Aussie Backyard Bird Count 

I installed the app on my phone and have really enjoyed trying to squeeze as many species as I can into the 20 minutes allocated for each count session.

The total number of species I counted, just within the immediate vicinity of my house was:

Three species of finches we've sighted in our garden
(drawing courtesy of D. Baxstar 'Outside The Box'

Having taken the time to sit for 20 minutes each morning and just look at the birds around me, I know I am blessed! Australia has so much wildlife but for a capital city (OK a very small one) Darwin has a lot more species diversity than many people would realise. 
During my 20 minute bird counts spending most of my time sitting on a chair at my front porch I managed to count 26 species of birds! 

Screenshot of my stats... unfortunately I couldn't include the full list.

I have learned a few things during this bird count. Firstly, in the long period between now and my enthusiastic days of regular bird watching my ability to identify bird species has diminished monstrously! My eyesight isn't what it used to be so I am having to get the binoculars out in order to correctly identify birds I should know at a glance and I have found that I can hear the very distinctive calls and songs of birds all around me, just out of sight which I can't for the life of me identify! It's a disgrace!

So! That's it! I've decided to get serious! I'm reading up on all my local species and am looking for a good birdsong database to download, apparently they now make some pretty decent apps to put on your phone! Oh yeh and for inspiration the whole family is going to sit down and watch that awesome birding movie The Big Year. COOL!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

As it is

"...As strange as it is, someday I'll rot away and leave behind these bones that my mother made..."

(Prophetic words from the irrepressible Phat Bollard

"...Coz one of these days you're gonna wake up dead!"

However in the sagely words of Snoopy the dog:

"...but on all the other days, we will not." 


Thursday, October 06, 2016

Place Title: Here (with care)

So last week while I was out of the office my roaming vagabond one man theatre, vexatious litigant mate rocked up with another inside out shopping bag full of offerings... (I never know what he's going to bring, sometimes a flattened dead cane toad and some water damaged books, sometimes discarded electronic devices, leaves, some wire maybe some seeds?)
Well this time some very interesting books, He's well read, my mate and he usually knows what I like, through his hands I have received the better part of my education in classic literature! Including, Grapes of wrath, How to make Gravy, Concordance to the Bible, books on community organising and the odd poetry book. This time he brought to me a copy of :  

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

 (Translated by Edward FitzGerald)

The book had been given to someone as a gift in 1977, It is old, a little bit moldy and the pages are the thick rough kind, which had turned yellow and become fairly brittle. I have no idea when it was published, as I had learned in library studies, sometimes publishers left out all the important details like that...
I dived into the book reading the forward and then onto the oddly shapen four lined poems. 
I'm not big on reading poetry. I love and respect it and think in terms of poetic reason but I don't always like reading other peoples ramblings... I read several pages and found it awkward. Apparently a Rubaiyat will have the first two lines rhyming followed by a line which doesn't rhyme and ending with a line whose last word rhymes with the first two... Whatever! So I read a bunch of them and got used to the style but still felt a bit lost in the message of some of the poems, It felt a bit schitzoid, like there were two different messages or the poems held a shadow... then, Thick as a brick, it dawned on me. How can these be the poems of Omar Khayyam? He was Persian and wrote in Farsi (or the Persian Language) I am reading these poems in English!
So I did a google search basically asking "How the F-ck can a poem be translated into another language and still Rhyme?" As the spheres often collide in my world I was thrilled but not too shocked that the very first hit I got for my question turned directly to the very translation I am holding in my hand! RUB'AIY'AT OF OMAR KHAYY'AM. Wow.

After discovering that there's a lot of the 'Translator' embedded in any translation and to convey all that makes a poem great in a single translation quite a bit of liberty must be take with the original text... I realized what I'm reading can't strictly be called the writing of Omar Khayyam.

I remember finding a copy of 'The Arabian Nights' in the street shortly after having read a reference to it in a book written by a guy I know. I felt sure that finding the book was some kind of message... When I told my friend about the amazing find, he laughed and asked if it was the Richard Burton translation. "I don't flipping know! Who cares it's the same story right?"
"NO!" (Fool) "It's not the same story! They are not the same stories!"

What did I know, I thought having that title I had the same product, but I did not. Apparently there are numerous tales bound together into books called 'The Arabian Nights', they are not all the same, not the same stories, not the same quality of translation, not in or of the same Order. Oh well at least my find availed me of an education in the fine art of divining quality from crud. Of course having found a dud copy with that title, lying auspiciously in a gutter, I can't help equating it's mediocrity to the quality of my very self.. 

Which brings me to one of my favorite poems credited to Khayyam under pen of Fitzgerald
 "The Moving Finger writes: and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it."
Khayyam must be in there somewhere, maybe a nihilistic fatalist drunk but this poem I get.