Month: April 2005

Extending yourself

Cameron Picton as McMurphy 2Last night I went to a local school (Taft) production of Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I don’t go to many of the local school plays anymore, it can be painful to sit through them feeling the anxiety of young people in front of an audience of cringing parents and relatives.

In a dream (or, more accurately a nightmare) I’m up there myself and in front of a packed house I forget my lines, my part, and then as the self-conscious implosion continues, where I am and even who I am save that I am in the middle of a personal disaster. I run off stage and can’t get that feeling out of my head. I even wake up with the feeling. Good thing I don’t have this dream often.

Cameron Picton as McMurphy 1I went to this play for a number of reasons: the lead (McMurphy) was played by Cameron Picton, a friend of mine through drumming who’s mother and grandmother are part of the drum group I’m in. Any time someone I know extends him or herself like this: acts, sings, performs in front of people, I try to be there to cheer them on. It’s both a personal loyalty thing but it also comes from the fact that I am fascinated with the idea of extending yourself beyond where you thought you could go and I want to witness it in people I know and if they’re young people, watch their relatives witness it. I certainly witnessed it in Cameron and the rest of this fine cast last night. They gave it their all and it showed. It’s risky business doing this but anything short of it shows too.

Rick DoyleClose to twenty years ago when I was teaching at The Forman School, a school for high school kids with learning disabilities, I was impressed with the drama teacher, Rick Doyle, because he got kids who could hardly read, let alone memorize complex dialogs, to go above and beyond where anyone, including themselves, thought they could go. Rick and I both moved on from Forman at about the same time, he went to Taft School and I started consulting and traveling but I tried to follow his career because I knew he was special. He produced and directed numerous plays and musicals at the local community theater and I went to a few of these productions when I was home, usually because I knew someone in the cast. However, I always acknowledged Rick and of course he tried to reciprocate (as he did last night) by telling me I taught him how to double click a mouse in 1986 (it’s true).

So last night I got to see Rick at it again and it was exciting as always to be part of his scene and witness these students extending themselves.

Turkey hen back, pecking, scratching, and posing

Turkey hen back, posingOur resident lone turkey hen was back under the feeder pecking, kicking, and scratching to get her fill of seed. We think all the birds communicate because the bluejays come and toss seed out of the feeder for ground feeding birds (like the turkey), emptying the feeder rather quickly.

Turkey hen mug shotI pulled the 1.4 extender out to get the shot above but wish I had it for this “mug shot” so I’d have been closer. Turkey’s certainly have a lot in common with turkey vultures (and the names prove it, deep ‘eh?): both are pretty weird looking creatures.

Turkey hen feet or ET’s feet? You decide.

Turkey hen feetFor the past few days there’s been a lone turkey hen wandering around our place. I shot her back feathers a week or so ago but she’s shy and hasn’t come within range often enough to get good pictures of.

This morning when I looked out my office windows there she was, eating bird seed under the feeder right by the house. I got the 200mm and extender on the camera and got it on the tripod trying to stay out of her peripheral vision. I started shooting although she was moving (pecking) fast and it was actually impossible to get her in the frame as I had too much reach on the camera (now that’s a change).

Turkey hen foot closeupI shot a few and then my dang camera gave me an error 99 which could be any number of things but is essentially a system hang. Rebooting the camera is fast: turn it off and then on and you lose whatever was being written. I did this and kept shooting. It hung a few more times but I was able to get a few good shots. But, of course, in my haste I’d not played enough with depth of field so the only thing on the good shots in focus was her feet. Go figure. However, they are mighty interesting and even though turkeys are not aggressive, I would not want these toes ripping into me. Not to mention that her legs are jointed opposite of ours (like herons, egrets, flamingos, and many big birds so she could easily lift a leg up and give you a rip. As it was, she was scratching at the seed to uncover tastier stuff or maybe worms. Not sure if turkeys are herbivores or omnivore or, maybe, some other kind of “vore” if they really are related to ET.

Bird’s brains reveal source of songs

MIT neuroscientists have localized the place in bird’s brains that produce songs: Bird’s brains reveal source of songs.

Source: Justin Blanton

This reminds me of a piece I read in The New Yorker many years ago on the work of Fernando Nottebohm, a renowned researcher into the functional evolution of bird songs, bird brain lateralization, and gender differentiation.