A Christmas Snocking

Well, it’s the time of year, ain’t it? Solstice has come and gone, so the dark times are moving out and more daylight will be our reward. Chanukah has come and gone. Kwanza ain’t too far away (Dec. 26, if you don’t know). And, yep, Xmas arrives tomorrow.

One good thing about Xmas is that you can catch a lot of great cartoons: There’s the “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” You can try “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” where they all get down. Or, my personal fav, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Or, it was my fav. Then I saw Judy Garland, the poster child for all things theatrical and tragical (can you believe that’s a word?). Here she is in 1968, on The Tonight Show,” with Johnny Carson, singing, “After the Holidays.” Frankly, she looks a wreck. Seeing her, I actually got teary. It makes you wonder if Johnny helped her after the show. And whether he did or not, it probably matters little: She died some 6 months later, on June 22, 1969, and the Stonewall riots began, and well, allthe rest…

Enjoy this sad, but kinda wonderful, little stocking stuffer. And have a Merry…

Giving thanks… for beauty

Well, here it is: Gobble-gobble day. Though I like to think of it as a Day of Gratitude. And, you know, the world’s a place that can instill gratitude.

I’ve been thinking about this recently because I just watched this BBC/National Geographic Channel special called “Earth: A Biography.”  When I saw it at the library I thought, ‘Why not, it’s free,’ and picked it up. I’m glad I did.

Our host is a man named Dr. Iain Stewart, who has just about the best Scottish accent I’ve heard in a while. Like all intrepid TV nature special people, he dons wetsuits and parkas and khaki pants to present the world in five segments: volcanoes, atmosphere, ice, oceans and rare planet. You can even learn about how little water there actually is on earth, in relation to the entire planet.

There’s a lot of beauty to behold in these specials, though one of my favorite moments is when Dr. Stewart — or Stew, as I took to calling him — went snorkeling in Southeast Asia in this colony of non-poisonous jellyfish. The scene is so surreal: hundreds upon hundreds of these pulsing, near-diaphanous creatures, a man and the ocean’s great blue. It was stunning.

And so are these pix from the NY Times, from its science page. It starts off with pix of jellyfish, then moves on, to crocodiles and a tiger. There great shots. And they’re a great invitation to help you feel thankful for this fantastic place we call home.

Beagle eagles

Here in Seattle, we’re in what I call “The Season of the Longtime Rain.” Every day, it seems, the clouds hang low and the rains descend. Welcome to late autumn.

But earlier this year, I read a great book: “Summer World: A Season of Bounty,” by Bernd Heinrich. It’s a lovely little book wherein Heinrich, a nature writer living in Vermont, tells stories about — and draws pictures of — the flora and fauna nearby. Wasps parastizing other insects, frogs overcome with passion, woodpeckers looking for love: he writes about it beautifully.

One thing I learned from him that I never knew was that some deciduous trees, once they’ve leafed out in the summer, create a second set of buds. These buds stay on the tree all summer, throughout the fall and in winter, and then, when the spring rolls around, the buds leaf out. This allows the plant to produce buds when it has the most reserves. And the earlier the buds unfurl their leaves, the sooner it can hop aboard the photosynthesis train.

At least, that’s what Heinrich said. I wasn’t sure I believed him. But then, with the leaves gone from the lilac bush next to the house during this “Longtime Rain” season, I saw the buds he spoke of, already formed, waiting for spring. Then I noticed them on the horse chestnut tree. I couldn’t believe, all these years I’ve been looking at trees, I’d missed it. I ate several slices of humble-berry pie.

But the tree-show got me thinking about evolution and how the world’s living creatures, over millennia, have created ways for themselves that help perpetuate their long-term survival. Lucky for me, I found images that spoke to this: pix from the “Darwin Photo Competition.” Here, you can see frogs and lichens and spiders and a tulip and more, all beautifully rendered, all fantastically glorious in their representations of our ever-continual season of discovery.


You know, I love me some clothes. Ever since childhood, I did my best to look, as the peeps say, good. Houndstooth poly suits, silk “Qiana” shirts, Polo sweater, Benetton rugbies, Dr. Martens—all of it and more filled more closets. Or, more accurately, lay on the floor, which is where I always dropped my clothes.

But sometimes, there’s stuff that nobody should wear (including “Qiana” shirts). Here’s a case in point, brought to you by Alexander McQueen.

What’s that: You say you don’t know him? He’s a high-end fashion designer, for the haute couture set. Frankly, if you don’t go to Fashion Week in NYC or Paris or Rome, you probably don’t know him. And once you see this, you might wonder how he keeps a job.

What’s more interesting to me aren’t so much the clothes — which are hard on the eyes, to be honest — but what people say about clothes. One woman makes a comment about “Little” Edie Beale, from the doc “Grey Gardens,” and her penchant for recycling clothes. But I work with homeless people, and they recycle clothes, though I doubt that they’d ever make it on the runway, even when some of them have real style. More than I’ll ever have. And definitely more than this…


Look, up in the sky

In 1999, I went to Uganda, in East Africa. It’s difficult to describe how wonderful that place was. The utter chaos of Kampala, the capitol: the Ankole cattle walking through the streets; the crowded matatas, or minivans used as transport; the beautiful, smiling faces of Ugandan people. There’s so much to say, it makes it hard to choose one thing. But here’s one: the stars.

I’d never been to a place where I saw so many stars before. It was humbling, how small the great expanse of the pin-pricked heavens made you feel. I realized that light pollution, it’s done a number on most of us here in the U.S., in urban environs. But out in rural Uganda, it was you and the sky. And your imagination.

This recollection is an intro to the heavens — the stars, the dust, the planets, the infinitude — that are easy to forget, even though they’re above us. Luckily, I get a reminder every 24 hours: Astronomy Picture of the Day provides you with a pic of some stellar/astral phenom. And it comes with a great explanation (honestly: sometimes, there read like poetry,) Today’s shot: Blue Sun Bristling. (And don’t forget to sign up, for daily alerts.)