Thursday, June 22, 2006

Interesting lecture by Katherine Barber

Katherine Barber, editor of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary and often referred to as Canada's word lady, recently gave a half-hour lecture entitled Six Words You Never Knew Had Something to Do with Pigs for the TV Ontario series Big Ideas, a TV program dedicated to the art of the lecture. Fortunately, for those of us, me included, who do not live in Ontario, the program also offers the audio portion of its broadcasts as a podcast. Barber's lecture--the title of which is also the title of her new book--is a brief but fascinating trip through the history of the English language. She's funny in a geeky sort of way, and she provides some really interesting examples of how and why English is such a strange and wonderful language. You can download the audio file (about 13 MB) here. I highly recommend it.

I also recommend the Big Ideas podcast itself (subscribe in iTunes here or get the XML feed here). The program has featured a wide range of speakers (including such notables as Steven Pinker and Bill Clinton) on a variety of topics. It's almost always a worthwhile listen.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A couple of poetry sites well worth a visit.

The first is the Poem of the Week site of Canada's poet laureate (the position currently being filled by Pauline Michel). A wealth of fine Canadian poetry here for the reading. My only grip is that it doesn't seem to have an RSS feed. I sent a comment about that to the contact e-mail address. We'll see where that leads.

The second is the very cool Quickmuse site. Sure, it's poetry's answer to speed dating, think of that what you may. And though I suppose the process can be manipulated somewhat, it is undeniably cool to watch a poem come into being one second at a time.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The end of an era

robin nesting7.JPG

I go away for a few days fishing and stuff HAPPENS! Our cute little chick with a mohawk has turned into a bonafide gangly teenager. I knew they grew fast, but this is ridiculous.

I took this picture this morning, and by this afternoon, S. and I had become a couple of empty-nesters. Either the little guy fell out of the nest to his doom or he fledged successfully (I'm hoping the latter, of course) and is now trailing after his parents begging for food and possibly the keys to the car.

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Sunday, June 04, 2006

Gone fishing...

According to recent CBC story, Quebec's mosquito population is currently three times it's normal size and exceedingly hungry because of our cool spring thus far.

This unfortunate situation coincides with my annual spring fishing trip, which starts tomorrow morning at 6 a.m.

I write this to inform you that I won't be blogging for the next few days. If you don't hear anything for a week, you might possibly assume that I ended up as the main course of a black fly feast, but I hope to return triumphantly with a cooler full of trout. Last year will be hard to beat, when I caught a 5.5 lb speckled (I swear it's not photoshopped ;-)

In the meantime, I give you a recent poem, composed in happier times (i.e., before the black fly and mosquito larvae hatched).

Winter Wren

Perhaps jealous of the sound—a rivulet trickling
down to wash stones and fallen branches—
the winter wren sings its spring digs,
a tangled rising-and-falling in the brush.

I stop and listen, feeling every moment
the trill must soon stop—surely this
small brown creature cannot go on so,
drowning out the stream; it must be all lungs.

It does end, of course, and the sublime eternal
duet of water and earth emerges in the ensuing
quiet, seeming to pick up where the bird trails off,
dipping up and down over moss and twig.

The wren again inhales damp May air;
it cannot sing forever, though it will die trying.

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Friday, June 02, 2006


A couple of days ago, I peeked into the nest and was saddened to see only one chick left, plus the unhatched egg (which was finally booted out today on to our patio). The surviving chick's two siblings either died of the heat (we had some unusually warm weather for May), starved to death, or the biggest chick pushed the others out of the nest. In any case, yesterday I looked in the grass below the nest and sure enough found the two dead chicks, only slightly putrified (thank god!).

And then there was one... This little guy seems pretty vigorous though and is growing fast. So far, these tenants aren't as messy as I thought they would be, owing to the parent's disgusting habit of... well, if you saw the video, you know what I'm talking about. But hey, if it keeps the deck clean, who am I to complain?

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Sidewalk translation

In the comments to my previous post, meb kindly gave me permission to translate her ephemeral cinémotscope #3. We had some serious rain yesterday, so this piece is undoubtedly nothing more than random bits of chalk floating through the Montreal sewer system right now. Ironic how much crap gets published these days, but this little gem ends up--literally!--in the gutter.

As is usually the case, it sounds better (flip-flops and all) in its original version. If you haven't yet done so, I highly recommend watching the video, since that's all that's left (sniff).

--by meb

Write around the holes
Between the lines of others
While out for a walk
See in the letters
Proof of one’s
own fingers
A drawing of things

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