Saturday, January 20, 2018

Won't you spread your tail

I never expected to hear this again. It was on Captain Kangaroo back in about 1962. My brother and I made relentless fun of it, singing it over and over. What it is, is Mr. Green Jeans trying to get the resident peacock (it was white, as I recall) to spread its tail by singing this ridiculous song. Someone (oh, who knows who?) used it as the sound track for a clip from an old exercise show, and it ended up on one of those "1950s TV blooper reel" things. 

Sunset through a fence in Port Coquitlam

We so seldom get a red sunset where we live, I had to go racing out to the back yard to try to capture this one. It wasn't easy. Our whole neighborhood is densely treed, which I love, but which gets in the way of natural phenomena. I was also shooting through the wooden lattice of the back fence. 

One evening I trotted all over the neighborhood looking for a harvest moon. I wasn't even sure what I was looking for, but I sure didn't find it, and felt like an idiot. At one point I was sure I had found it and went racing toward it with a camera, only to find it was a street light. And don't get me started on the eclipse (though that was my fault, not the sun's).

This is a pretty long video for me. Originally it had a lot of jabbering in the background, but I substituted music. For the most part it's unedited, so there are dark stretches. In fact, I appear in parts of it, but am apparently invisible. At the end I was trying to show how we have green grass all year round here, but I'm not sure it showed up. At any rate, this was pinker and lasted longer than any sunset I can remember around here.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Maui meows and birds on twitter

I captured some video here (around the 2:30 mark) which gives you an idea of the Maui lovebird "problem" - an invasive, non-native bird species capable of wreaking havoc on the environment, which is also cute as a green-feathered, peach-faced button. I adore birds and have made a hobby of observing them (one of the benefits of slowing down in retirement - it's hard for me to believe now that they were there all the time, right in my back yard, and I was oblivious to them.) These guys captivated me because they, unexpectedly, seemed attracted to me, but it was a love-hate thing. A meowing cat on the ground below the lanai added some excitement, though the birds were smart enough to keep well out of its way. 

One little guy kept coming around - I could tell it was him because he looked like he had an injury under his beak - scolding and blatting at me, then suddenly falling asleep in that adorable puffy, winky-eyed bird way. I kept wondering where this strange ragtag flock had come from, and why some of them were obvious hybrids or mutations - colors that would never result from random wild breeding. Were people just opening the cage door, or what? 

This may be our last vacation, which is why I'm posting so much on it. I've had to make the best of it. I am not a natural globe-trotter, we have very little money, and my health, while better than it was 15 years ago, is maintained with the benefit of multiple prescriptions. If I ever got separated from them for any length of time, I am not sure what would happen. Time zone shifts I can't handle (though it only bothered me this time after I got home and had to do Christmas). My mate's knees are awful, and he hates planes. So I am left to make the best of this one last glorious holiday. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Wild Lovebirds of Maui: the rest of the story

It’s a Love Hate Relationship when it comes to lovebirds

SEP 8, 2013

The wild lovebird population in South and East Maui has “gotten out of control” in the last couple of years, according to wildlife officials and conservationists.

“They (lovebirds) are loud and cheery to some, shrill and awful to others,” state wildlife biologist and bird specialist Fern Duvall said. “There are people who love to see them and feed them, but others are losing mangos, papayas and fruits of all kinds to these birds.”

Additionally, Duvall said, the little parrots chew into homes and bore holes under and along the eaves, which may destroy the integrity of a house.

The largest known lovebird population is in the Wailea-Makena area, where a recent study by the Maui Invasive Species Committee counted “well over 100 free-flying lovebirds.” Many perch in the Maui Meadows area.

“When I do see them (lovebirds), it’s a pleasant thing to see, they give the place a tropical jungle feel,” said Drew Huey, who has lived in Maui Meadows for the past 10 years. He said that he started noticing significantly more wild lovebirds within the past year, with flocks of at least 15 birds usually perched in trees during morning hours.

“They don’t bother me, but I could see that if they were eating all my fruits, I’m probably not going to love the lovebirds as much,” Huey said.

The rate at which the wild lovebird population has grown is “definitely alarming” to some local habitat conservationists.

“A lot of times what happens with an invasive species (like the lovebird) is that they start out as a nuisance, and then all of a sudden you get this population explosion, and it hits a threshold where suddenly people are really aware of the problem and you end up with a situation where it may be beyond control,” said Maui Invasive Species Committee Manager Teya Penniman.

She added that while the South Maui colony may be a nuisance for residents living in the area, it is a colony in the tropical forests of East Maui – around Nahiku – that is most alarming.

“Parrot species in the wild can damage fruits of native plants, which are already under tremendous pressure as it is,” Penniman said.

Because Nahiku is in a more remote and unpopulated area, conservationists have not been able to secure an estimate of how many wild lovebirds are nesting in East Maui.

The little birds were originally brought to Hawaii from Africa as domestic pets, but eventually may have escaped their cages or owners may have set them free intentionally, not realizing detrimental effects to the environment, Duvall said. Because Maui’s tropical climate and abundance of fruit are reminiscent of their homeland, it is easy for lovebirds to survive and breed in the wild.

“I remember seeing a special on TV about the Mitred conures in East Maui, so I know they (non-native birds in the wild) can become a pest,” said John Guard, who owns The Pet Shop in Kahului.

A few years ago, a large colony of Mitred conures (a large parrot species native to South America) in Haiku threatened to displace native seabirds and spread invasive plant seeds. Efforts to remove the invasive parrots have been ongoing, Penniman said.

The Maui Pet Shop sells, on average, six to eight lovebirds every month and carries a handful of varieties, including petrie, black-mas

ked and blue-masked lovebirds. Each bird is priced between $50 and $100.

“They’re a highly intelligent bird, very noisy and destructive, but they can also be very charming and generally cute,” Guard said.

Because community feelings toward the birds are so conflicted, it is hard to set any plan of action at this point, wildlife officials said.

“We have no plans to take any kind of control action,” Penniman said. “Our plate is quite full and 

we don’t have the staff or the resources to take on something like this (especially when) there are divergent opinions about them (wild lovebirds).”

If the population did continue to grow to a point where the birds posed an immediate threat to their surrounding environment, there are options other than capturing and destroying the birds.

The ideal and most humane solution, Penniman said, would be to facilitate an aviary for the lovebirds, but the committee currently lacks the means to start one.

Individuals who wish to report a wild lovebird problem may request a wildlife control permit by calling the Maui Invasive Species Committee at 573-6472.

* Eileen Chao can be reached at

Wild lovebirds of Maui

I was astonished, though maybe I shouldn't have been, to see flocks of wild lovebirds on Maui, screeching and dive-bombing and doing all the things lovebirds do. I had two of them, you see - the second one died before I could even get to know her, and it broke my heart (though as a result, we ended up with a cat who is my dear companion and familiar). When I got home I looked it up (I don't have a phone attached to my arm/brain, unlike 95% of the human race), and apparently these are former pets who escaped, were abandoned, or got loose during tropical storms. A lot of people keep open-air aviaries in Hawaii, so such a thing is quite possible. Lovebirds, like most birds, are survivors and quickly find their niche. With year-round warm weather, food aplenty, no natural enemies, and lots of nooks for nesting (mostly under the eves of tourist condos), they're thriving and multiplying like mad.

This has caused problems: their screeching is not particularly pleasing, unlike the exotic jungle calls that fascinate tourists. What I noticed is that they're not quite wild: if I whistled or chirped, they would approach, shrieking irritably, and sometimes they sat on the railing of the lanai observing me. There was an air conditioner nearby, and they'd sit on it and scold me from a safe distance. The guano these things produce is prodigious, one of the reasons the locals don't like them. It splatters all over the place, down walls, on sidewalks, hardens like cement. But as with the burgeoning wild chicken population, animal lovers won't allow a cull, and you can't live-trap these babies, believe me - they move like peach-and-green lightning. 

So, unexpectedly, I had many lovebird encounters while on holiday, and captured some of it on video. In particular I noticed a pearl-grey specimen which could only have been bred in captivity. It's a mutation that wouldn't happen in the wild. That bird must have a story.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Maui, my island home (for 9 days!)

(I HATE it when people post their boastful deluxe vacation photos for the sole purpose of making everyone else jealous and depressed at the shabbiness of their own uneventful lives. I do this only as an act of vengeance. Not that they'll notice.) 


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Hawaiian Cable Guy (raw footage)

I guess I could call this raw footage. And while I usually try to put more care and effort into my YouTube videos, sometimes I get so fed up with all the unedited dreck that gets literally millions of views that I want to just throw it up there, which is what I did here.

Our TVs didn't work in Maui - well, who cares, except that our phone didn't either! - so we told the main desk, and they sent up the Cable Guy, an all-purpose maintenance man whom I later saw supervising the trimming of the hedges around the condo. I couldn't get a shot of him (this isn't him in the thumbnail) because that wouldn't be fair, and he'd hate it and think he was being "surveilled", which he wasn't. But he said so many cool things, and in such a unique voice, I had to try to capture some of the audio. So I wore a wire.

We liked this guy a lot, but because he had to come back several times (our door lock failed and had to be replaced; the phone, a push-button with a cord, STILL didn't work; the ancient old-style TV in our bedroom had to be carried out like a dead body), he sort of fell out of love with us. We felt kind of bad about this, but not enough to NOT post this. It's long and lumpy and about as bad as 90% of what I see on YouTube, only I don't make any money from it.

May I say, before I hang up, that I think YouTube has been ruined by gamers and beauty experts and blah, blah, blah,when it used to be quirky and interesting and fun. But that's over now. Why do human beings always ruin everything that's good? It's choked with commercial stuff that "comes at you", most of it really obnoxious. With few exceptions, my videos get 2 or 3 views, or sometimes no views at all. I make them for myself, to keep them in an accessible place, and so that I can make playlists, which is fun. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the saga of the Hawaiian Cable Guy, taken by hidden camera. 

William Shatner: 'The horse is a free spirit'

Two of my favorite forces of nature. I find it amazing he is nearly 87.
Two hours of riding a day!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Dark times in the farmyard

I almost want to apologize for this. Almost. But not quite. I have a love for old recordings that borders on the obsessive, so much so that I wrote a whole novel around it (Bus People! You can read the whole thing here. Just click on the pink link.)

But never mind that. Now that I have YouTube, I don't have to wait for these bizarre old things to come on the radio or appear on a recording. NO! Here they are, millions of them, thick with dust and outmoded thinking, things you never wanted to hear but are going to hear anyway. 

The first two are - strange - novelty recordings, I guess, with a lot of barnyard stuff on them. But partway through the Farmyard Medley is a shock so unexpected that it literally registered in my gut. You'll know when you get to it.

That leads to the third recording. It's the same song I heard on an old record - so old it had grooves on only one side, and was about 1/2" thick - which I listened to with my friend Nancy, one day in the musty attic when it was raining too hard to do anything else. We found a trove of ancient records that probably hadn't been played since the 1920s, and some of them were far older than that. Cornfield Medley is shocking because of the language, and in particular the casual use of one of the worst words that exists, but the version we heard was even uglier because it involved a "Massa" ordering his slaves around.

Old and horrible, but how far have we come? Things are dark, these days, and the only way around it is to keep going. We're still fighting battles around ugly words, even uglier racism, the ruthlessness of it, the way it diminishes humanity. Back then, it was simply called entertainment.

(Never mind what's on this one. I don't know myself. But there IS a connection to Bus People, in that nobody is quite sure who this is.)

Why Shatner is sheer poetry


Though I have always loved Le Chat (originally known as William Schattner), I find I'm becoming more of a fan all the time. I can't watch that awful Old Man's Adventure Hour thing that he's in, because it's too raucous (I'd have preferred a saner, more Michael Palin-esque travel and adventure show, which would still be fun no matter what), but I have seen bits of it, and though he's at least 15 years older than the other 3 guys (whoever they are - who cares??), he looks a good 15 years younger.

He's going to be 87 in a few months. Eighty-seven. Let that sink in. One critic described him as "eerily ageless", and this seems to support my long-held theory that he made a deal with the devil long ago. He's like that Star Trek character who was a whole lot of famous guys like Brahms and Galileo while on earth, and who faced the bizarre dilemma of not being able to die.

When you see him in his early stuff, you seldom see the histrionics that made Captain Kirk such a hit (and which saved the show from the dullness of the first Kirk, Jeffrey Hunter, who nearly sank the whole series before it even launched).  One of the two Twilight Zones he was in had him making a deal with a devilish machine which would answer all his questions about the future - about HIS future - if he put a penny in the slot. He quickly became obsessed with it,  craving knowledge of his fate and equally dreading it. THAT Shatner was incredibly good-looking, what they used to call a matinee idol, brooding, sizzling with barely-disguised panic (not to mention knock-the-camera-dead beauty). In other words, a lot of stuff was going on at the same time. Watch this man - he is far more subtle than you think.

And the biceps. Don't get me started.

I've seen him do Shakespeare convincingly, because that's what he started off doing. He can make those antiquated phrases sound like something he just thought up. It's called acting. The man is everywhere still, doing this and that, making appearances and doing one-man shows. Since he can't stand for 2 straight hours (and who can?), he uses a rolling office-chair as a prop that he can do all sorts of business with. It seems so natural that no one notices it's a "device", something to allow him short pit-stops. His energy is so hyper that I doubt if I could keep up with him, but I know there is a thoughtful, even tender side to him. 

And there are the horses. The horses! But that is for another post.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Ghost birds of Maui

We remember these graceful birds (which at first we thought were herons) from other trips to Maui. They're cattle egrets, semi-tame birds which hang around condo developments waiting for the maintenance person to trim hedges and stir up the best-tasting bugs. I was sad to hear that islanders dislike these birds, which were imported to eat some sort of specific pest, with the usual results (eating all the wrong things: nobody handed them the menu when they arrived). But I think they're lovely, graceful ghosts. They can come and eat in my back yard any time.

Dr. Phil's spazz attack

Black snowflakes

Friday, January 12, 2018

How to describe a toothache

The only time in my life I ever had a severe toothache, the pain was so bad I wanted to die and was already planning my suicide. This was an unrelenting agony which was ruthlessly, relentlessly eating all the nerves in my face. Day and night it continued. I barely slept, and those rare times I did, awakening brought the pitiless, demonic force roaring back. My dentist was "away", with no date for coming back, so I had to have an emergency root canal (at a time when I barely knew what a root canal WAS), all done in one very long session with a dentist I didn't know. When you're in that kind of pain, your deliverer becomes a shining figure, and I think I fell in love as the novocaine took effect. During this very long session, I had to pee so badly I thought I was going to burst, but my mouth was so frozen and full of rubber dams and clamps and cold metal implements that I could only gesticulate wildly: FIRST LETTER! P???

I survived it, but I remember that only several belts of whiskey would even take the edge off it. I no longer indulge in whiskey, and I hated it even then. But it made me realize why dentists in the Westerns used to give cowboys a bottle for anaesthesia. The followup to this was almost as awful as the toothache, for I developed facial neuralgia from having my jaw cranked wide open for five hours. 

The following are just a few words I found to describe dental pain. Click on each word for a definition:

severe, bad, violent, terrible, acute, painful, dull,excruciating, dreadful, slight, chronic, awful, neuralgic,sudden, nagging, worst, maxillary, rheumatic, constant,mild, spontaneous, real, persistent, horrible, intense,simple, ordinary, agonizing, unbearable, unconscious,nervous, frightful, sharp, non, perpetual, mental,intermittent, prolonged, eternal, grievous, horrid, frequent,inflammatory, hunger, occasional, neuritic, mandibular,spiritual, comic, continuous, incessant, agonising, fearful,permanent, irish, beastly, intolerable, miserable, incipient,genuine, appalling, terrific, impromptu, menstrual,diplomatic, giant, royal, odontogenous, continual,continued, nasty, unprovoked, wretched, mysterious,called, unendurable, incurable, unremitting, inveterate

How W. C. Fields got away with this scene in his infamous short The Dentist is anyone's guess. In fact, the Hays office vetoed its release, but like a stag reel it still did the rounds and survives to this day. The myth is that Fields didn't do sexual comedy, but it's plain that he did. His morals weren't exactly pure. He had Carlotta Monti stashed away, for God's sake, and refused to marry her even after fifteen years of service, and when he died she was completely left out of his will. Didn't get a penny. It was sort of like she didn't exist. That's not funny, but it was common behaviour back then to pretend there was no mistress. I even saw her briefly a few nights ago in a Fields movie called Never Give a Sucker an Even Break. Was she paid for this cameo, a tiny taste of an acting career she longed for and never had? Well, what do you think?

"Why I Hate My Pillow" (Amazon review)

(Below is one of the best reviews I've ever seen, of any product, in any medium. I just had to dedicate a whole post to it. My Pillow ads are the most irritating things on the face of the planet, especially that inane little jingle that sounds like it should have been on the Jack Benny radio program in 1940. Even more surprising is the fact that nobody seems to like My Pillow. But this negative review was the best negative review I have ever seen, so I quote it here in its entirety.)

As Seen on TV My Pillow Maximum comfort and support (2)
by As Seen On TV

Price:$119.99+ Free shipping

Top rated

1.0 out of 5 stars Hated this pillow.
By Kindle Customer on December 15, 2017
Verified Purchase

REVIEW. Hated this pillow. Just like all loose filled pillows, I woke up with a large dent and my head on the actress.

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CONSUMER REPORT.  I was somewhat taken aback, especially in light of the fact that the ads for this thing run about fifty times a day on KVOS (the oldies TV station), to learn from my hero James White (the Freakin' Review guy) that My Pillow, the corporation, found itself in serious legal hot water last year. 

Though this seems standard with As Seen on TV products, they made all sorts of outlandish claims that this pillow could do everything but cure cancer. These fell under the heading of "unsubstantiated claims". They also perpetrated some minor fraud on the public by not making good on their two-for-one deals. I found an alarming number of one-star reviews on Amazon, mostly of the "this-is-a-terrible-pillow" variety, but this one was one of the most delicious things I've ever read. This might actually HELP a product's sales if it actually happened.