A Handy Perch

Grohmann statue with seagull

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Tic-Tac-Toe Office Windows

That’s what all the different light-fixture patterns inside all the window squares put me in mind of, anyway :)

Tic Tac Toe Office Windows

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Approaching “Lake Effect” Snow

Approaching "Lake Effect" Snow

Dark snow clouds forming over Lake Michigan and moving west toward Milwaukee

A high-pressure system to our north is causing a strong breeze to come in from the northeast. As the cold Canadian air crosses over the warmer water of Lake Michigan, it is picking up moisture, forming it into dark clouds and then dumping it as snow again once it hits shore. This is what they call “lake effect” snow.

Milwaukee’s weather usually moves in from the west, so lake-effect snow is not quite the issue here that it is on the  Michigan shore across the lake.

Buffalo, New York, is on the northeastern end of Lake Erie and a little southeast (and south and southwest, too!) of Lake Ontario, so those poor people have about triple the odds of winding up on the receiving end of the “lake effect,” which explains why they get such crazy-high annual snowfall totals.

Just today’s little weather tutorial, offered as a public service for everyone who doesn’t live next to a large body of water in a place that has cold winters and, thus, hasn’t had an opportunity to learn all of this the hard way😄

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Menomonee River, early morning January

I had an appointment that took me along the Menomonee River Parkway early this morning, and as the sight of morning winter sunlight on the snow beside the river is one rarely glimpsed in the normal course of my daily and weekly routine, I made a quick stop to take a few photos.

Menomonee River, early morning January [2]

Menomonee River, early morning January [3]

Below is a footbridge across the river that was built in the 1930s by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps), one of the Great Depression era’s “alphabet soup” New Deal public work relief programs.Menomonee River, early morning January, footbridge

And here: a row of picnic tables stacked together (looking like a conga line :) ) awaiting the spring thaw.picnic tables, stacked together, winter

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Crow amid empty branches, December 31

imageCrows are sometimes seen as bad omens, even signs of impending death. But they are also seen as omens of positive change and messengers from the gods.

I much prefer the latter interpretation, especially as catching sight of this one today would then augur well for positive changes in store for the new year. Happy 2016!

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12 Days of Christmas Songs (#5) – “Barbara Allen”

“Barbara Allen” is a real downer of a song; no question about it. And it isn’t really a Christmas song, but I have always associated it with this time of year, dating from my first viewing of A Christmas Carol with Alastair Sim as Scrooge.

Have a look/listen at this scene near the end of the film, when Scrooge goes to his nephew’s home to reconcile with his only living relation.

The harmony is lovely, and since the song is being sung at a Christmas Day gathering, you can see how I might have assumed it was an old carol. The Wikipedia entry on “Barbara Allen” says that the song’s earliest mention comes in a diary entry by Samuel Pepys, dated January 2, 1666, that talks about how it was sung at a New Years party.

Another holiday connection.

Which is odd because basically “Barbara Allen” is about a young man on his deathbed who sends for the girl he has a crush on. She comes, takes one look at him, and remarks, “Young man, I think you’re dying.” So then, his romantic hopes dashed, he turns his face to the wall and dies. Barbara Allen goes home and tells her mother that since her love died for her that day, she would die, in turn, the next.

How this song became associated with Christmas and New Years is beyond me.

Even stranger is the fact that this 17th-century tune became a darling of the folksinger set in the 1950s–1970s. Maybe because of the striking melody, but maybe because of the lyrics, too. In “For Dave Glover,” a poem that appeared in the program for the 1963 Newport Folk Festival, Bob Dylan said that

The folk songs showed me the way

They showed me that songs can say somethin human [sic]

Without “Barbara Allen” there’d be no “Girl From the North Country”

While looking up some basic info for this post, I was surprised to find video on YouTube of the song being performed by Joan Baez, Art Garfunkel, Emmylou Harris, and Pete Seeger. I’ve posted them below in case you’re interested in hearing any/all. (Sorry about any ads, if there are any.) Plus, because I just mentioned it (and happen to really like it myself :) ), I’ve also included “Girl from the North Country,” as sung by Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash.

 

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12 Days of Christmas Songs (#4) – “Silver Bells”

Christmas shopping when I was young meant pausing at magical window displays while trundling along snowy sidewalks in heavy coats and boots between the fancy department stores and the Woolworth’s and Kresge’s five-and-dime stores. Tinsel, pine boughs, and strands of multicolored lights strung across the streets. Santa seated on his throne in the sparkling toy department awaiting our visit.

And everywhere the sounds of Christmas music floated in the air.

“Silver Bells” was the first song I can remember noticing the harmonies in. Harmony would soon become what I liked most in music—hence, my enduring regard for groups like The Beatles, The Mamas & the Papas, ABBA, Duran Duran, etc. In “Silver Bells” the harmony reminds me of real bells, especially the way the chorus “rings” out and then reverberates—SILVER BELLS (silver bells), SILVER BELLS (silver bells). The strands of melody and harmony progress in lockstep on the “Silver Bells” lines, then split apart at “it’s Christmastime in the city,” where the melody rises and the harmony descends to slow the pace slightly in the same way a bell hangs in momentary suspension at the outer edge of its arc before swinging back.

The lyrics in “Silver Bells” also delighted me. Those “strings” of stoplights morphing into Christmas lights as they blinked bright red and green. Sidewalks “dressed” in holiday style. Shoppers rushing home with their treasures, snow crunching underfoot, children laughing, “and above all this bustle” the sound of bells. Even the “silver” gleam captivated me—no ordinary bells, these. The vivid images and onomatopoetic sounds perfectly captured the Christmas downtown shopping experiences of my childhood.

I’ve always associated “Silver Bells” with Bob Hope. Mostly, I assumed, because he sang it so often on his annual Christmas special. But just now, searching for video from those old shows, I discovered that “Silver Bells” was actually introduced to the world in one of his old movies, The Lemon Drop Kid (1951). Here is video of that original performance.

And here is Olivia Newton-John appearing with Hope in his 1977 Christmas special.

 

 

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