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June 25, 2017



When I lived in Wisconsin we had a lilac at the end of the front walk, just inside a brick wall that edged the small front yard. The lilac was more of a tree than a bush -- it had a bare trunk like a tree, maybe 6-8 inches in diameter; a top canopy sort of like a tree; and a thick, heavy branch that swung out right over the sidewalk, i.e. where anyone coming onto the property who was over five feet tall could bump their head if they weren't watching out for it.

My housemates wanted to cut the thing down because it was dangerous. I wanted to leave it right where it was because I was sure it was the oldest lilac in the midwest. Who ever saw a lilac that looked like a tree!

We didn't cut it, but Google Maps shows me that it's not there any more. Not surprisingly, since I moved away from there in 1985.


I am convinced that if you gave me a blindfold smell test, I could pick out the common lilacs from all the rest. Not that I could distinguish *amongst* the other kinds, just that the common lilac smells best. Similarly, I'm pretty sure purple hyacinths smell different (and better, to my taste) than pink or white ones.

russell has made me go look up the difference between bumble bees and honey bees. Apparently, to bee enthusiasts, the rest of the world is full of ignoramuses. I'll cop to that, at least as regards bees.

Oh yes, one more random factoid/observation. Milkweed blossoms smell vaguely like lilacs. Not as nice, though, except to butterflies.

The best non-chemical solution I have found for bugs in general is . . . ladybugs. Apparently they are predators when it comes to other bugs.

Hmmm. I found myself talking to the Italian pole beans. Very good company!

russell has made me go look up the difference between bumble bees and honey bees.

It is somewhat surprising when I learn that some people, who are extremely knowledgeable about some aspects of nature, can't spot a honeybee. A town near to where I live, Scottsville, VA, had a pollinator's festival yesterday. I was there for about an hour. The (tiny) town has a beekeeping equipment supplier on its main street, and a nearby brewery was featuring honey ale, which was delicious.

Of course, Michelle Obama had beehives near the White House garden, and Obama was supportive of honeybee research in light of the many problems honeybees face, and their importance as a pollinator.

The USDA seems now to be curtailing services to beekeepers who face disease problems because of staffing shortages.

Honeybees are fascinating. Factoid: They recognize faces.

People who aren't acquainted with honeybees are missing a lovely part of nature's community.

Lovely post, russell. I love lilacs too, and it's my impression that here they are often trees, though not super tall ones. I have no idea what chickadees are like - until a recent post here I sort of assumed they were fictional! I shall look them up tomorrow (currently in bed because, although like JanieM I prefer to keep rockstar hours, Mr GftNC does not so I compromise in the interests of marital harmony). Good night all.

My son's girlfriend wanted bees. My son now owns one of those spiffy white beekeeper's outfits (although she doesn't). One of the things I learned is that you buy bee colonies by the pound.

As for me, armorer duties for the Colorado Division of USA Fencing this weekend. All of the electric gear that the clubs managed to break this past season has been repaired.

chickadees are my favorite feeder bird. they're small passerines, songbirds. apparently the euro equivalent is the willow tit. they tolerate cold really well, and are the state bird of MA and ME.

what i like about them is they don't get involved in feeder pissing matches. they fly in, grab their seed, and then fly away to eat it. they're remarkably acrobatic fliers, and are amazingly fearless. they'll eat from your hand, if you hold still.

snappy plumage, too. all around, a cool little bird.

i miss lilacs. lovely scent. where i went to college, Rochester, had a lilac festival every spring/summer. i think they call themselves the lilac capital of the country. in any case, they don't grow in our part of NC.

after my 4 mile run this AM, i mowed what we call our "lawn". it's really just the basketball court-sized septic field that is still mostly weeds (i'm leaning the names of NC weeds - horse nettle is the worst). i saw a box turtle while i was out there, today. on one pass of the lawnmower, we exchanged glances. on the next, s/he was gone. you wouldn't think a turtle could vanish in 30 seconds, but you'd be wrong.

mild heat stroke. i can't take the heat like i used to.

there are a pair of red shouldered hawks that like to hang out around that field. i saw them digging underneath shrubs while it was raining the other day, catching something to snack on - didn't know hawks hunted on the ground, like crows. but they do.

my father just called me and agreed with me that Revolver and Abbey Road are the best Beatles records, and that Sgt Pepper is overhyped overall.

i will not dispute revolver and abbey road.

revolver is when the beatles moved on from being a pop band - no more just "the cheeky lads". abbey road is just a non-stop gift to the world, from the first note to the last.

The Victorian house we lived in when i was a small boy had once been graced with large formal gardens.
By the time my father bought it, nothing of that remained except nearly-tree lilacs all down two sides of the big back yard, with two more huge clumps just outside the back door, big enough that a small boy could clamber about in them, four or five feet off the ground. We had three colors : deep lilac, lavender, and white. The spring week on which they flowered was intensely perfumed.

I've always had a soft spot for Magical Mystery Tour, which gets no love. But c'mon. Side two is The Hits Just Keep Coming
"Hello, Goodbye"
"Strawberry Fields Forever"
"Penny Lane"
"Baby, You're a Rich Man"
"All You Need Is Love"

Abbey Road is a work of genius, but I can't be cornered into trying to identify a "best" Beatles album, as if it were possible to devise a one-dimensional scale of merit and rank them.

Phase one, in which Doris gets her oats

mild heat stroke

cheap cotton baseball cap.
fill it with water at the tap,
then put it on.

chickadees are my favorite feeder bird. they're small passerines, songbirds. apparently the euro equivalent is the willow tit.

and their call is: CHICK-a-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee CHICK-a-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee CHICK-a-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee!


If your wife speaks French in addition to loving lilacs, she might enjoy Les Lilas by Georges Brassens.


Chickadees in treetops have a two-note whistle, and will reliably reply if you can whistle it back at them.
See "typical song" at the bottom of the list.

Aldo Leopold on a particular chickadee :

"It seems likely that weather is the only killer so devoid of both humor and dimension as to kill a chickadee."

Refreshing thread.

I live in an apartment in the city now, but kept a vegetable garden for years when we had the house. We planted various species of perennial prairie and mountain wildflowers as well in places.

In July, I'm heading to higher elevations In Colorado, specifically the Crested Butte area, once the snow pack is gone to hike and camp among the riot of wildflowers. I may even join a tour to see the sweet spots, if I can't find them myself.

Last weekend I drove through the Pawnee National Grassland in northern Colorado out on the high plains. The wildflowers were pretty good there too.

Raptors too.

To the naked eye, the landscape at Pawnee seems kind of barren and unnaturally flat in places where the sod busters busted the sod, but I made pretend I was being trailed by a Pawnee hunting party on ponies and spent a good part of the ride as entertainment speaking out loud in in my version of the voice of the narrating old Indian scout, Jack Crabb, in "Little Big Man" played by Dustin Hoffman.

'Jack Crabb: General, you go down there.

General Custer: You're advising me to go into the Coulee?

Jack Crabb: Yes sir.

General Custer: There are no Indians there, I suppose.

Jack Crabb: I didn't say that. There are thousands of Indians down there. And when they get done with you, there won't be nothing left but a greasy spot. This ain't the Washite River, General, and them ain't helpless women and children waiting for you. They're Cheyenne brave, and Sioux. You go down there, General, if you've got the nerve.

General Custer: Still trying to outsmart me, aren't you, mule-skinner. You want me to think that you don't want me to go down there, but the subtle truth is you really *don't* want me to go down there!"

I did Custer as a trump impression, they shared vain hair, not to mention mass murder, and would switch off to McConnell and Ryan.

It was like driving with a carload of crazy people, but I was crazy alone.

On Saturday I went on a local garden tour (to benefit the public library). It could have been better: it was scheduled about 2-3 weeks after Peak Rose, so most of the gardens were in transition.

But always interesting to see what other gardeners do (or don't do). All six of the gardens had both Oak-Leaf Hydrangea and Climbing Hydrangea, which I plan to add next year.

Very few Daylily varieties, to my surprise, and not much Monarda (Bee Balm). I've put in some wild-type Monarda, but it's already getting powdery mildew -- I think I'm going to look for a really resistant variety or two instead.

It was very nice overall, though, and filled my head with garden design ideas! Though most of the gardens were in a built-up part of town where deer aren't really a problem, so they had lots of Hostas. As another person said as we were discussing it, "Hostas are like ice cream for deer". I'm putting in a lot of Heuchera varieties, and hope to get on the Helleborus Give-Away list one of the gardeners has, because her patch went from full shade to mostly sun after Sandy took out three trees.

Did I hear some Beatle talk?

First, my impression of the worst to best Beatle song list Marty provided a few days ago, and thank you.

I gave up on Beatle song lists long ago. It's like the Mays, Mantle, Snider debate when I was a kid. My question was always, "How do I get all three of them on my team, without trading Clemente?"

The thing to know is that on nearly every Beatles album, the seventh best song was one any band at the time would kill to release as a #1 single.

The list elevated a few songs, like Lovely Rita, which have need elevating on lists, not that Rita is anywhere close to top drawer Beatle stuff, but the relegation of absolutely wonderful pop songs from their middle acoustic period .... I'll talking "Beatles For Sale", especially "I'll Be Back" ** and "No Reply" (these were Lennon-originated) and also "I'm A Loser" .... down among the rubble just north of #200 would be a scandal if anyone cared.

I could go on. "She's Leaving Home" has its detractors, but to this day ask Brian Wilson his favorite song. Paul was in LA at the time and played it for Brian on the piano, and then poked the rivalry good-naturedly by telling Brian, "See if you catch up with that." *

As far as Sargent Pepper, I shelled out mucho bucks to purchase the newly remastered Pepper by Giles Martin, George Martin's son and am not sorry. The early demos of these songs are worth the money, plus I got the Pepper badge cutouts I lost somewhere along the way as a teenager when I spent nearly every day lifting the record arm to the best cuts on Pepper.

Yes, I prefer Revolver if I'm forced to prefer, and Abbey Road is sonically fresh to this day. "You Never Give Me Your Money" is a vastly underrated, mostly McCartney song, which I saw him do solo in full voice on his dayglo painted upright piano in concert a number of years ago.

The song is about business, but it's really about the kind of bluesy heartbreak that occurs when business horseshit stabs lovers and art through the heart.

"Pick up the bags, get in the limousine. Soon we'll be away from here. Step on the gas, and wipe that tear away."

With the exception of the limo, who hasn't done that.

But back to Pepper, and Joel Hanes' affection for Magical Mystery Tour, which I share as well.

The first song the Beatles recorded during the Pepper session was "Strawberry Fields Forever". The third was "Penny Lane".

Think if those two songs were folded into the tracks on Sargent Pepper, which they weren't because the rule was at the time that they didn't include their singles on albums. Without subtracting anything else.

Now, it is true (and I've spent hours talking with my Beatles buddy about this and he's much more musically savvy that I am, but we share nearly identical sensibilities) that if you pick up a guitar and strip down the songs on the album (excepting Day In the Life ... every time I listen to the first take of that song, the hair on my neck stands up and I get the chills ... and several others) they are not as musically inventive in their chord progressions (Dylan, a three-chord master, would listen to early Beatles and ask "WTF are those chords and what are they doing where they put them in those songs?).

Answer: Genius.

The magic of Pepper is the packaging and production, and I don't use the words disparagingly. First, the lyrics are on the back cover. Many of you youngsters (as Ed Sullivan called us) have no idea how fucking cool that was, and more, reading them as a 14-15 year old at the time was realizing that we're aren't dealing any longer with Bobby Vinton, but W.B. Yeats just reared his head (or Paul Simon, the poet.)

There were fictional characters with lives (and I don't mean Donna or Peggy Sue, though I'd be happy to meet them too).

Ya hadda be there. Yes, for many of the same reasons, Pepper has not aged as well as their single song hits.

Second, the full musical resources of George Martin were plumbed unlike any time before, which gave a mood and a wash to Pepper that hadn't been encountered before in pop music, though I expect to be told differently.

The sounds were amazing. "Did you hear that? What is that?" we'd ask each other. "A tamboura, you say?"

Third, the album gave the illusion, as Lennon was quick to point out, of being "of a piece", thanks to McCartney's original concept of "let's be a band, but not the Beatles", which petered out halfway thru due to McCartney's one musical drawback among his genius: laziness and not finishing a song sometimes.

Now, John Lennon, a highly unreliable and insecure narrator, put down George Martin's contributions, especially on Pepper, as "jiggerypokery" (they made up one month before Lennon took an American bullet). But here is the thing. While Martin always said Paul was very specific about what he wanted out of Martin and Emerick and the rest of the truly professional and lab-coated technicians at EMI/Abbey Road and off they would run to find that specific instrument, or sound, or prop, Lennon was incredibly vague and impressionistic about what he wanted and was hearing in that amazing mind of his.

He heard songs in colors, almost. Paul wanted a piccolo trumpet and said so. John said "I want it to sound purple," or "put the two takes together despite the fact that they are different tempos and keys, or whatever you college boys call it" and George Martin and his engineers would literally invent technology and methods to get Lennon there.

So, yeah, jiggerypokery, John. What, you think Phil Spector could do what Martin and company did for your native genius?

The place we were taken down to and the news today, oh boy, would not have been as heart-stopping and spellbinding as they turned out to be after the absolute synchronicity and destiny of the Beatles meeting George Martin and telling him that they didn't like his tie.

*Which Brian did:



To be fair, Paul will tell you to this day that Wilson's "God Only Knows" is the most perfect pop song ever composed.


** cover of "I'll Be Back", tempo slowed down from the orig:


As far as Sargent Pepper, I shelled out mucho bucks to purchase the newly remastered Pepper by Giles Martin, George Martin's son and am not sorry.

and how.

i was just A/Bing the new release with the 2009 remaster. usually 'remasters' seem like little more than additional compression (makes everything sound louder) and some high frequency emphasis (makes everything sizzle a bit). and there's some of that here. the new one is definitely louder. but this is more than a remaster, this is an actual remix.

all the instruments in the title track have moved. in the 2009 remaster, George's and Paul's guitars, and Paul's lead vocals, are squished together right of center. that leaves a big hole on the left of your head until the horns come in - and they're panned hard-left, on the right, you just get their reverb.

in the new remix, Paul's vocals are dead center, his guitar is still on the right but George's guitar has moved to the left. the guitars are louder and don't have to share space with Paul's vocals so you can hear all three much better. and when the horns come in now, they're on the right.

and "Lucy..." is notably slower now. you can hear the pitch change immediately - from the first note of George's tambura intro. and, in the 2009 mix, the tambura is fixed hard left; in the new mix, the low notes are on the left and the higher notes are on the right and its sound shimmers.

they did a great job of it. nothing was added to increase the psychedelia or whatever. they just made it sound better.

good thing it wasn't a George Lucas effort, he would've added new instruments and changed the words.

Thanks, cleek.

And Ringo's drums cut through, too.

I forgot to mention in the other comment one of the signature new things that Sargent Pepper brought to pop music:

Ringo's drumming with those exquisite air-fills that play against the spaces in the songs.

Beatles? What? This thread isn't about (grateful) deadheads?

I grew up in The Lilac City. The flowers are stunningly gorgeous, and they smell nice. Alas the blooms are too short lived, and dead heading is a pain in the ass.

That's why I left. ;)

Actually, if you are looking for a place where the cost of living is fairly reasonable with a quasi small town atmosphere and 4 (count 'em) 4 distinct and stunning seasons (winters are bit tough), and great outdoor venues within easy driving distance, you could do worse.

The politics are, however, execrable (K. McMorris Rogers, ugh).

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