Sunday, 28 June 2009

Sunday meditation - Vive le Québec Libre!

Up, Down.

Red Eyed Tree Frog"Since then, complacency has taken hold."

        Nicholas D. Kristof, It’s Time to Learn From Frogs.

Kristof is wrong - the time was years ago to learn from frogs, but if you happen to be a frog, or even some other species, say, a human? a Homo sapiens? ('sapo' being portuguese for 'toad' ... close enough) Be afraid! Be very afraid! No Three Graces for you! (says The Endocrine Society in a recent report on Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals).

Samuel Langhorne Clemens 1835-1910 smoking on the porchand, let me note at the outset that there is no connection what-so-ever between frogs and La Belle Province de Québec, free or otherwise ... only that I do not have time or space to get into princesses kissing transcendent (and resplendent) tail-less amphibians deeply enough to make sense of it (at least I presume such kisses are 'deep and long')

BUT don't get your liver in a knot over frogs eh? here is one of the very best stories, about a frog named Dan'l Webster (a first-rate frog and a second-rate dictionary), to lighten up on: The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, by Mark Twain in 1867 (symmetry is everywhere :-).

ANYWAY ... Jazz Festival in Toronto, some shill from a radio station enthusiastically praising some bank for their country-wide 'dedication' to jazz, doh? everyone knows what banks are dedicated too, and it sure as hell (Buddhist hell or otherwise) ain't jazz, then riding a broken TTC homeward, listening to the bass notes of the neighbours TV, slept and woke to a Sunday morning dream (on Saturday yet!) that Quebec had separated, "At last!" I thought, did I leave the TV on? but ... I don't even own a TV? and alak, it was nothing but a dream ...

Camundongo, MouseAnd if you happen to be a mouse singing lovesongs, you have to get it right the first time (says Ambiente Brasil).

but we already knew that jazz is not an intellectual exercise

Sonny Rollins and his band Friday night, according to some hints in his biography Sonny may have intellectual and/or spiritual pretentions, good luck that he can play that tenor sax almost without thinking

the harmonic rapport that he established with trombone player Clifton Anderson was beautiful to behold, moving, and effective, but at one point I wondered if he was going to drive the guitarist, Bobby Broom, right off the stage! Broom was simply out-to-lunch, (though the Globe review has a different opinion) bass player, don't know his name, not much better, 'percussionist' had a little box of toys and should have been prevented - the first time he set one off I thought it was somebody's cell phone on MAX!

the best tunes (for my money) were two danceable feel-good calypso and almost-samba tunes, reminded me of St. Thomas (which he did not play), reminded me of Brasil, I will try to see what the names of those tunes are later on, maybe find a YouTube rendition, here's a couple of St. Thomas's in the meantime: looks like 59 or early 60's, and Tim Festival 2008.

80 years old, hobbling and hopping around like a frog, came to the mic once and told a little pun on Yonge Street, "Back when I was young," and a bit of spiritual advice, "Keep the faith. Do unto others what you would have them do to you," and that was it for verbiage, no encore and firmly communicated that the audience should stop asking for one, maybe it was the half-empty hall, maybe it was the guitar, maybe he is just too old for encores ... all in all, not bad for an old guy, better than that ... bowed but not bloodied ... or bloodied but not bowed ... or something like that

This social dimension of madness is, to put it mildly, still with us in the century of Fascism, Communism, and the parasites in the democracies who devote themselves to spreading hysteria.

        Northrop Frye, The Imaginative and the Imaginary, 1962, Fables of Identity.

stopped short at this line, I wondered if, addressing a crowd of shrinks, he was trying to score points? then I wondered if I am one of those parasites? ... the essay ends with a dream:

Wordsworth says that he often reverts to this dream, and that he has felt
A reverence for a Being thus employ'd;
And thought that in the blind and awful lair
Of such a madness, reason did lie couch'd.
Enow there are on earth to take in charge
Their Wives, their Children, and their virgin Loves,
Or whatsoever else the heart holds dear;
Enow to think of these; yea, will I say,
In sober contemplation of the approach
Of such great overthrow, made manifest
By certain evidence, that I, methinks,
Could share that Maniac's anxiousness, could go
Upon like errand.
Perhaps in the age of the useless bomb-shelter it may be easier for us than it was even for Wordsworth to understand that if the human race is to have any future at all, it can only obtain it through a concern for preserving its powers of creation which it will be difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish clearly from a "'Maniac's anxiousness."

Frye would no doubt mock my dream last night of Quebec separating and the end of this northern myth of complacency, and my hopeful reaction to it, oh well

and Kungsleden, at one point the fellow is climbing a cliff, or a mountain, and gives up or is turned back somehow ... I will see if I can get a copy somewhere ... maybe this is what my friend meant about anger?

Tree June 22 2009Tree June 27 2009meanwhile, my tree, the tree out there, seems to be dying back on the western side, erm ... that is the right-hand side of the picture (figgured out how to turn the flash off, had to put my glasses on to do it :-)

I bought a coffee maker when I got here in January, six months to the day it packed in, I didn't want the hassle of taking it back without a bill so I went to Zellers and bought a 20$ special, only lasted several days ... now 75% of the water runs all over the counter leaving 25% to make coffee, it becomes a full-time job just making end-runs on incompetence of one kind and another, don't want to even think of taking it back this time, give up coffee I guess

at least the smoke alarm is gone, it went off once too often when I opened the bathroom door after a shower and I swatted it with the towel and it shattered on the floor, good riddance! only residual problem is that it leaves an unsightly hole in the ceiling, whatever, I'm happy to burn ... or at least happier, it's not just me of course, I will have to fix it ... later

the Americans passed their Bill to Address Threat of Climate Change by a whisker, 219 to 212 with numerous Democrats voting against it and only a handful of Rebublicans voting for it, anyway it won't do the job say the climate scientists (Climate Impacts of Waxman-Markey, the IPCC-based arithmetic of no gain, and some other references above and below that one), Gore says this bill is a step in the right direction, true enough ... but so what?

as I stood waiting for a streetcar after the concert Friday night I watched the cars go by all headed "straight into the heart of Saturday night," ok it was Friday but it's the same thing ... and then I had to wait again to take a bus because a hydro pole had fallen over somewhere on the route and I watched them again, rolling by, squeaking by, screeching by ... whatever, being one of the generation or two whose rites of passage involved cars and alcohol ...

Leni Riefenstahl Dance of LoveLeni Riefenstahl Dance of LoveLeni Riefenstahl Nuba GirlThree Graces RaphaelLeni Riefenstahl was a Nazi and she lived to be 100 or more, reminds me of that old Gospel Hymn, how does it go? "For we'll understand it better by and by," she may have had things in common with Margaret Mead too, the Nuba are all but gone now as a race or as a culture or as a ... what? as a way of running about naked in the sun covered with mud? I'm for running around naked in the sun and mud, instead they get semi-professional social workers to turn them into 'viable production units', or given that it is Sudan, outright exterminators, wtf

obviously obsessive though isn't it? Oh Oh, double O, ooo ooo, double U, so I threw in Raphael's three graces as colour counterpoint but it's lame in at least several senses eh? then got distracted reading up on Raphael at Wikipedia but he probably (apparently ... whatever) didn't even paint it from live models but from a statue in a museum of the time, Chastity, Beauty and Love ... all relative these days I guess and lamer than I first thought

a bit of a story too around Raphael's picture, a partner piece, The Knight's Vision, in which the Knight goes to sleep and dreams of the Graces, coming full circle, even Frye's essay which does touch upon our good Knight, Don Quixote, and his faithful squire Sancho Panza, and dreams ...

ok, obsessive, probably even obsessive-compulsive since I have these urges to just ditch this shit and go south, too complicated ...

I got the porkchop, she got the pie.
She ain't no angel and neither am I.
Shame on your greed, shame on your wicked schemes.
I'll say this, I don't give a damn about your dreams.

        Bob Dylan, Thunder on the Mountain, 2006.

quite a great deal of creative energy has been inspired by these Graces eh? 45 examples worth looking at carefully I think, a mythic structure augmented by homoerotic & hipshot hints, arms akimbo, I have been collecting these for years ... I don't like the layout but it will have to do for now:

Three GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree GracesThree Graces

Jazz Mass at St. James Cathedral this morning ... maybe some Grace to be found there ... I wonder if they will manage to work their (magnificent) pipe organ into it?

oh well, this is one of the problems of language - as soon as you have said 'Jazz Mass' you have in a sense already done it and the energy drains away ... oil and water was the jazz at St. James, lounge lizard muzak for the wait in Communion line, versions of Joyful Joyful we Adore Thee and All Things Bright and Beautiful which took away from the standard and filled the resulting emptiness with nothing much ... but the good burghers think they have been to Jazz Mass so it's all good I guess

if it was me there would be some integration of the pipe organ, the (excellent) choir were up for it, but the Kyrie and Alleluia were accompanied by sax, bass and drum kit instead of anyone really getting high on it ... oh my, so negative ... people can see it I suppose, no one spoke to me ... but Grace? yes, there was Grace.

1. Camundongo canta para namorar, mas fêmea só responde primeira 'estrofe', Ambiente Brasil, domingo 27 de junho 2009.
2. House Passes Bill to Address Threat of Climate Change, John M. Broder, June 26 2009.
3. It’s Time to Learn From Frogs, Nicholas D. Kristof, June 27 2009.
4. The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, Mark Twain, 1867.
54. Rollins gets jazz fest rolling in fine style, J.D. Considine, Wednesday July 01 2009.
Ambiente Brasil - domingo 27 de junho 2009
Camundongo canta para namorar, mas fêmea só responde primeira 'estrofe'
 Ambiente Brasil - Sunday June 27 2009
Male mouse sings for love, but the female only responds to the first verse
Alguns anos atrás, pesquisadores determinaram que, quando um camundongo macho está cortejando, ele produz vocalizações ultrassônicas de uma elaborada estrutura, similar às canções dos pássaros. O que não se sabia era se os roedores cantavam por objetivos similares – marcar território e atrair fêmeas. A few years ago researchers discovered that when a male mouse is courting he produces ultrasonic vocalizations with an elaborate structure similar to the songs of birds. What was not known was if the rodents were singing with a similar objective - to mark territory and attract females.
Kurt Hammerschmidt, do Centro Primata Alemão em Goettingen, e colegas ofereceram uma resposta parcial a essa pergunta. Num artigo publicado na revista "Biology Letters", eles relatam que as canções de camundongos machos definitivamente geram interesse no sexo oposto. Kurt Hammerschmidt and his colleagues at the German Primate Centre in Goettingen have offered a partial answer to this question. In an article published in the periodical Biology Letters, they tell us that male mouse songs definitely generate interest in the opposite sex.
Os pesquisadores expuseram fêmeas a canções dos machos gravadas, a chamados feitos por filhotes recém-nascidos e a sons de controle. Descobriram que as fêmeas reagiam somente às canções dos machos, aproximando-se da fonte do som. Entretanto, Hammerschmidt disse haver algumas surpresas nos dados. As fêmeas se tornavam habituadas às canções muito rapidamente, e só reagiam na primeira vez em que ouviam os sons. The researchers exposed females to recorded male songs, to the calls of new-borns, and to control sounds. They discovered that females react only to male songs and move towards the source of the sound. However, Hammerschmidt said that there were a few surprises in the data. Females very quickly became accustomed to the songs, and only reacted the first time they heard the sounds.
Segundo Hammerschmidt, isso pode acontecer porque as canções são importantes apenas quando os machos estão próximos. Assim, se uma fêmea escuta a canção, mas não enxerga realmente um parceiro, ela pode perder o interesse. According to Hammerschmidt, this could happen because the songs are only important when the males are close. In this way, if a female hears the song but does not really know if she wants a partner, she can lose interest.

House Passes Bill to Address Threat of Climate Change, John M. Broder, June 26 2009.

WASHINGTON — The House passed legislation on Friday intended to address global warming and transform the way the nation produces and uses energy.
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The vote was the first time either house of Congress had approved a bill meant to curb the heat-trapping gases scientists have linked to climate change. The legislation, which passed despite deep divisions among Democrats, could lead to profound changes in many sectors of the economy, including electric power generation, agriculture, manufacturing and construction.

The bill’s passage, by 219 to 212, with 44 Democrats voting against it, also established a marker for the United States when international negotiations on a new climate change treaty begin later this year.

At the heart of the legislation is a cap-and-trade system that sets a limit on overall emissions of heat-trapping gases while allowing utilities, manufacturers and other emitters to trade pollution permits, or allowances, among themselves. The cap would grow tighter over the years, pushing up the price of emissions and presumably driving industry to find cleaner ways of making energy.

President Obama hailed the House passage of the bill as “a bold and necessary step.” He said in a statement that he looked forward to Senate action that would send a bill to his desk “so that we can say, at long last, that this was the moment when we decided to confront America’s energy challenge and reclaim America’s future.”

Mr. Obama had lobbied wavering lawmakers in recent days, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore had made personal appeals to dozens of fence-sitters.

As difficult as House passage proved, it is just the beginning of the energy and climate debate in Congress. The issue now moves to the Senate, where political divisions and regional differences are even more stark.

Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California, a co-sponsor of the bill, called the vote a “decisive and historic action” that would position the United States as a leader in energy efficiency and technology.

But the legislation, a patchwork of compromises, falls far short of what many European governments and environmentalists have said is needed to avert the worst effects of global warming. And it pitted liberal Democrats from the East and West Coasts against more conservative Democrats from areas dependent on coal for electricity and on heavy manufacturing for jobs.

While some environmentalists enthusiastically supported the legislation, others, including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, opposed it. Industry officials were split, with the United States Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers opposing the bill and some of the nation’s biggest corporations, including Dow Chemical and Ford, backing it.

Republican leaders called the legislation a national energy tax and predicted that those who voted for the measure would pay a heavy price at the polls next year.

“No matter how you doctor it or tailor it,” said Representative Joe Pitts, Republican of Pennsylvania, “it is a tax.”

Only eight Republicans voted for the bill, which runs to more than 1,300 pages.

Representative John Boehner of Ohio, the Republican leader, stalled the vote by using his privilege as a party leader to consume just over an hour by reading from a 300-page amendment added in the early hours of Friday.

Apart from its domestic implications, the legislation represents a first step toward measurable cuts in carbon dioxide emissions that administration officials can point to when the United States joins other nations in negotiating a new global climate change treaty later this year. For nearly 20 years, the United States has resisted mandatory limits on heat-trapping emissions.

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, who was in Washington on Friday to meet with Mr. Obama, strongly endorsed the bill even though it fell short of European goals for reducing the emissions of heat-trapping gases.

Mrs. Merkel, a longtime advocate of strong curbs on emissions, has been pushing the United States to take a leading role before the climate negotiations, set for December in Copenhagen.

After meeting with Mr. Obama, she said she had seen a “sea change” in the United States on climate policy that she could not have imagined a year ago when President George W. Bush was in office.

The House legislation reflects a series of concessions necessary to attract the support of Democrats from different regions and with different ideologies. In the months of horse-trading before the vote Friday, the bill’s targets for emissions of heat-trapping gases were weakened, its mandate for renewable electricity was scaled back, and incentives for industries were sweetened.

The bill’s sponsors were making deals on the House floor right up until the time of the vote. They set aside money for new energy research and a hurricane study center in Florida.

The final bill has a goal of reducing greenhouse gases in the United States to 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and 83 percent by midcentury.

When the program is scheduled to begin, in 2012, the estimated price of a permit to emit a ton of carbon dioxide will be about $13. That is projected to rise steadily as emission limits come down, but the bill contains a provision to prevent costs from rising too quickly in any one year.

The bill would grant a majority of the permits free in the early years of the program, to keep costs low. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the average American household would pay an additional $175 a year in energy costs by 2020 as a result of the provision, while the poorest households would receive rebates that would lower their annual energy costs by $40.

Several House members expressed concern about the market to be created in carbon allowances, saying it posed the same risks as those in markets in other kinds of derivatives. Regulation of such markets would be divided among the Environmental Protection Agency, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The bill also sets a national standard of 20 percent for the production of renewable electricity by 2020, although a third of that could be met with efficiency measures rather than renewable energy sources like solar, wind and geothermal power.

It also devotes billions of dollars to new energy projects and subsidies for low-carbon agricultural practices, research on cleaner coal and electric vehicle development.

Mr. Gore, who shared a Nobel Peace Prize for his work on global warming, posted an appeal on his blog for passage of the legislation.

“This bill doesn’t solve every problem,” Mr. Gore said, “but passage today means that we build momentum for the debate coming up in the Senate and negotiations for the treaty talks in December which will put in place a global solution to the climate crisis. There is no backup plan.”

It’s Time to Learn From Frogs, Nicholas D. Kristof, June 27 2009.

Some of the first eerie signs of a potential health catastrophe came as bizarre deformities in water animals, often in their sexual organs.

Frogs, salamanders and other amphibians began to sprout extra legs. In heavily polluted Lake Apopka, one of the largest lakes in Florida, male alligators developed stunted genitals.

In the Potomac watershed near Washington, male smallmouth bass have rapidly transformed into “intersex fish” that display female characteristics. This was discovered only in 2003, but the latest survey found that more than 80 percent of the male smallmouth bass in the Potomac are producing eggs.

Now scientists are connecting the dots with evidence of increasing abnormalities among humans, particularly large increases in numbers of genital deformities among newborn boys. For example, up to 7 percent of boys are now born with undescended testicles, although this often self-corrects over time. And up to 1 percent of boys in the United States are now born with hypospadias, in which the urethra exits the penis improperly, such as at the base rather than the tip.

Apprehension is growing among many scientists that the cause of all this may be a class of chemicals called endocrine disruptors. They are very widely used in agriculture, industry and consumer products. Some also enter the water supply when estrogens in human urine — compounded when a woman is on the pill — pass through sewage systems and then through water treatment plants.

These endocrine disruptors have complex effects on the human body, particularly during fetal development of males.

“A lot of these compounds act as weak estrogen, so that’s why developing males — whether smallmouth bass or humans — tend to be more sensitive,” said Robert Lawrence, a professor of environmental health sciences at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “It’s scary, very scary.”

The scientific case is still far from proven, as chemical companies emphasize, and the uncertainties for humans are vast. But there is accumulating evidence that male sperm count is dropping and that genital abnormalities in newborn boys are increasing. Some studies show correlations between these abnormalities and mothers who have greater exposure to these chemicals during pregnancy, through everything from hair spray to the water they drink.

Endocrine disruptors also affect females. It is now well established that DES, a synthetic estrogen given to many pregnant women from the 1930s to the 1970s to prevent miscarriages, caused abnormalities in the children. They seemed fine at birth, but girls born to those women have been more likely to develop misshaped sexual organs and cancer.

There is also some evidence from both humans and monkeys that endometriosis, a gynecological disorder, is linked to exposure to endocrine disruptors. Researchers also suspect that the disruptors can cause early puberty in girls.

A rush of new research has also tied endocrine disruptors to obesity, insulin resistance and diabetes, in both animals and humans. For example, mice exposed in utero even to low doses of endocrine disruptors appear normal at first but develop excess abdominal body fat as adults.

Among some scientists, there is real apprehension at the new findings — nothing is more terrifying than reading The Journal of Pediatric Urology — but there hasn’t been much public notice or government action.

This month, the Endocrine Society, an organization of scientists specializing in this field, issued a landmark 50-page statement. It should be a wake-up call.

“We present the evidence that endocrine disruptors have effects on male and female reproduction, breast development and cancer, prostate cancer, neuroendocrinology, thyroid, metabolism and obesity, and cardiovascular endocrinology,” the society declared.

“The rise in the incidence in obesity,” it added, “matches the rise in the use and distribution of industrial chemicals that may be playing a role in generation of obesity.”

The Environmental Protection Agency is moving toward screening endocrine disrupting chemicals, but at a glacial pace. For now, these chemicals continue to be widely used in agricultural pesticides and industrial compounds. Everybody is exposed.

“We should be concerned,” said Dr. Ted Schettler of the Science and Environmental Health Network. “This can influence brain development, sperm counts or susceptibility to cancer, even where the animal at birth seems perfectly normal.”

The most notorious example of water pollution occurred in 1969, when the Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught fire and helped shock America into adopting the Clean Water Act. Since then, complacency has taken hold.

Those deformed frogs and intersex fish — not to mention the growing number of deformities in newborn boys — should jolt us once again.

The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, Mark Twain, 1867.

Alt (in HTML): The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.

In compliance with the request of a friend of mine, who wrote me from the East, I called on good-natured, garrulous old Simon Wheeler, and inquired after my friend's friend, Leonidas W. Smiley, as requested to do, and I hereunto append the result. I have a lurking suspicion that Leonidas W. Smiley is a myth; that my friend never knew such a personage; and that he only conjectured that, if I asked old Wheeler albout him, it would remind him of his infamous Jim Smiley, and he would go to work and "bore me nearly to death with some infernal reminiscence of him as long and tedious as it should "be useless to me. If that was the design, it certainly succeeded.

I found Simon Wheeler dozing comfortably by the bar-room stove of the old, dilapidated tavern in the ancient mining camp of Angel's, and I noticed that he was fat and bald-headed, and had an expression of winning gentleness and simplicity upon his tranquil countenance. He roused up and gave me good-day. I told him a friend of mine had commissioned me to make some inquiries about a cherished companion of his boyhood named Leonidas W. Smiley -- Rev. Leonidas W. Smiley -- a young minister of the Gospel, who he had heard was at one time a resident of Angel' s Camp. I added that, if Mr. Wheeler could tell me any thing about this Rev. Leonidas W. Smiley, I would feel under many obligations to him.

Simon Wheeler backed me into a corner and blockaded me there with his chair, and then sat me down and reeled off the monotonous narrative which follows this paragraph. He never smiled, he never frowned, he never changed his voice from the gentle-flowing key to which he tuned the initial sentence, he never betrayed
the slightest suspicion of enthusiasm; but all through the interminable narrative there ran a vein of impressive earnestness and sincerity, which showed me plainly that, so far from his imagining that there was any thing ridiculous or funny about his story, he regarded it as a really important matter, and admired its two heroes as men of transcendent genius in finesse. To me, the spectacle of a man drifting serenely along through such a queer yarn without ever smiling, was exquisitely absurd. As I said before, I asked him to tell me what he knew of Rev. Leonidas W. Smiley, and he replied as follows. I let him go on in his own way, and
never interrupted him once:

There was a feller here once by the name of Jim Smiley, in the winter of '49 -- or may be it was the spring of '50 -- I don't recollect exactly, somehow, though what makes me think it was one or the other is because I remember the big flume wasn't finished when he first came to the camp; but any way, he was the curiosest man about always betting on any thing that turned up you ever see, if he could get any body to bet on the other side; and if he couldn't, he'd change sides. Any way that suited the other man would suit him -- any way just so's he got a "bet, he was satisfied. But still he was lucky, uncommon lucky; he most always come out winner. He was always ready and laying for a chance; there couldn't be no solit'ry thing mentioned but that feller'd offer to bet on it, and take any side you please, as I was just telling you. If there was a horse race, you'd find him flush, or you'd find him busted at the end of it; if there was a dogfight, he'd bet on it; if there was a cat-fight, he'd bet on it; if there was a chicken-fight, he'd bet on it; why, if there was two birds setting on a fence, he would bet you which one would fly first; or if there was a camp meeting, he would be there reg'lar, to bet on Parson Walker, which he judged to be the best exhorter about here, and so he was, too, and a good man. If he even seen a straddlebug start to go anywheres, he would bet you how long it would take him to get wherever he was going to, and if you took him up, he would foller that straddlebug to Mexico but what he would find out where he was bound for and how long he was on the road. Lots of the boys here has seen that Smiley, and can tell you about him. Why, it never made no difference to him -— he would bet on anything -— the dangdest feller. Parson Walker's wife laid very sick once, for a good while, and it seemed as if they warn't going to save her; but one morning he come in, and Smiley asked how she was, and he said she was considerable better -- thank the Lord for his inf'nit mercy -- and coming on so smart that, with the blessing of Prov'dence, she'd get well yet; and Smiley, before he thought, says, "Well, I'll risk two-and-a-half that she don't, anyway."

Thish-yer Smiley had a mare -- the boys called her the fifteen-minute nag, but that was only in fun, you know, because, of course, she was faster than that -- and he used to win money on that horse, for all she was so slow and always had the asthma, or the distemper, or the consumption, or something of that kind. They used to give her two or three hundred yards start, and then pass her under way; but always at the fag end of the race she'd get excited and desperate-like, and come cavorting and straddling up, and scattering her legs around limber, sometimes in the air, and sometimes out to one side amongst the fences, and kicking up m-o-r-e dust, and raising m-o-r-e racket with her coughing and sneezing and blowing her nose—and always fetch up at the stand just about a neck ahead, as near as you could cipher it down.

And he had a little small bull pup, that to look at him you'd think he wan't worth a cent, but to set around and look ornery, and lay for a chance to steal something. But as soon as money was up on him, he was a different dog; his underjaw'd begin to stick out like the fo-castle of a steamboat, and his teeth would uncover, and shine savage like the furnaces. And a dog might tackle him, and bullyrag him, and bite him, and throw him over his shoulder two or three times, and Andrew Jackson—which was the name of the pup—Andrew Jackson would never let on but what he was satisfied, and hadn't expected nothing else—and the bets being doubled and doubled on the other side all the time, till the money was all up; and then all of a sudden he would grab that other dog jest by the j'int of his hind leg and freeze to it—not chaw, you understand, but only jest grip and hang on till they throwed up the sponge, if it was a year. Smiley always come out winner on that pup, till he harnessed a dog once that didn't have no hind legs, because they'd been sawed off by a circular saw, and when the thing had gone along far enough, and the money was all up, and he come to make a snatch for his pet holt, he saw in a minute how he'd been imposed on, and how the other dog had him in the door, so to speak, and he 'peared surprised, and then he looked sorter discouraged-like, and didn't try no more to win the fight, and so he got shucked out bad. He give Smiley a look, as much as to say his heart was broke, and it was his fault for putting up a dog that hadn't no hind legs for him to take holt of, which was his main dependence in a fight, and then he limped off a piece and laid down and died. It was a good pup, was that Andrew Jackson, and would have made a name for hisself if he'd lived, for the stuff was in him, and he had genius—I know it, because he hadn't had no opportunities to speak of, and it don't stand to reason that a dog could make such a fight as he could under them circumstances, if he hadn't no talent. It always makes me feel sorry when I think of that last fight of his'n, and the way it turned out.

Well, thish-yer Smiley had rat-tarriers, and chicken cocks, and tomcats, and all them kind of things, till you couldn't rest, and you couldn't fetch nothing for him to bet on but he'd match you. He ketched a frog one day, and took him home, and said he cal'klated to edercate him; and so he never done nothing for three months but set in his back yard and learn that frog to jump. And you bet you he did learn him too. He'd give him a little punch behind, and the next minute you'd see that frog whirling in the air like a doughnut—see him turn one summerset, or may be a couple, if he got a good start, and come down flatfooted and all right, like a cat. He got him up so in the matter of catching flies, and kept him in practice so constant, that he'd nail a fly every time as far as he could see him. Smiley said all a frog wanted was education, and he could do most anything—and I believe him. Why, I've seen him set Dan'l Webster down here on this floor—Dan'l Webster was the name of the frog—and sing out, "Flies, Dan'l, flies!" and quicker'n you could wink, he'd spring straight up, and snake a fly off'n the counter there, and flop down on the floor again as solid as a gob of mud, and fall to scratching the side of his head with his hind foot as indifferent as if he hadn't no idea he'd been doin' any more'n any frog might do. You never see a frog so modest and straightfor'ard as he was, for all he was so gifted. And when it came to fair and square jumping on a dead level, he could get over more ground at one straddle than any animal of his breed you ever see. Jumping on a dead level was his strong suit, you understand; and when it come to that, Smiley would ante up money on him as long as he had a red. Smiley was monstrous proud of his frog, and well he might be, for fellers that had traveled and been everywheres, all said he laid over any frog that ever they see.

Well, Smiley kept the beast in a little lattice box, and he used to fetch him downtown sometimes and lay for a bet. One day a feller—a stranger in the camp, he was—come across him with his box, and says:

"What might it be that you've got in the box?"

And Smiley says, sorter indifferent like, "It might be a parrot, or it might be a canary, maybe, but it an't—it's only just a frog."

And the feller took it, and looked at it careful, and turned it round this way and that, and says, "H'm—so 'tis. Well, what's he good for?"

"Well," Smiley says, easy and careless, "he's good enough for one thing, I should judge—he can outjump ary frog in Calaveras county."

The feller took the box again, and took another long, particular look, and give it back to Smiley, and says, very deliberate, "Well, I don't see no p'ints about that frog that's any better'n any other frog."

"Maybe you don't," Smiley says. "Maybe you understand frogs, and maybe you don't understand 'em; maybe you've had experience, and maybe you an't only a amature, as it were. Anyways, I've got my opinion, and I'll risk forty dollars that he can outjump any frog in Calaveras county."

And the feller studied a minute, and then says, kinder sad like, "Well, I'm only a stranger here, and I an't got no frog; but if I had a frog, I'd bet you."

And then Smiley says, "That's all right—that's all right—if you'll hold my box a minute, I'll go and get you a frog." And so the feller took the box, and put up his forty dollars along with Smiley's and set down to wait.

So he set there a good while thinking and thinking to hisself, and then he got the frog out and prized his mouth open and took a teaspoon and filled him full of quail shot—filled him pretty near up to his chin—and set him on the floor. Smiley he went to the swamp and slopped around in the mud for a long time, and finally he ketched a frog, and fetched him in, and give him to this feller, and says:

"Now, if you're ready, set him alongside of Dan'l, with his fore-paws just even with Dan'l and I'll give the word." Then he says, "one—two—three—jump!" and him and the feller touched up the frogs from behind, and the new frog hopped off, but Dan'l give a heave, and hysted up his shoulders—so—like a French-man, but it wan't no use—he couldn't budge; he was planted as solid as an anvil, and he couldn't no more stir than if he was anchored out. Smiley was a good deal surprised, and he was disgusted too, but he didn't have no idea what the matter was, of course.

The feller took the money and started away; and when he was going out at the door, he sorter jerked his thumb over his shoulders—this way—at Dan'l, and says again, very deliberate, "Well, I don't see no p'ints about that frog that's any better'n any other frog."

Smiley he stood scratching his head and looking down at Dan'l a long time, and at last he says, "I do wonder what in the nation that frog throw'd off for—I wonder if there an't something the matter with him—he 'pears to look might baggy, somehow." And he ketched Dan'l by the nap of the neck, and lifted him up and says, "Why, blame my cats, if he don't weigh five pound!" and turned him upside down, and he belched out a double handful of shot. And then he see how it was, and he was the maddest man—he set the frog down and took out after that feller, but he never ketched him. And—

[Here Simon Wheeler heard his name called from the front yard, and got up to see what was wanted.] And turning to me as he moved away, he said: "Just set where you are, stranger, and rest easy—I an't going to be gone a second."

But, by your leave, I did not think that a continuation of the history of the enterprising vagabond Jim Smiley would be likely to afford me much information concerning the Rev. Leonidas W. Smiley, and so I started away.

At the door I met the sociable Wheeler returning, and he buttonholed me and recommenced:

Well, thish-yer Smiley had a yaller one-eyed cow that didn't have no tail, only jest a short stump like a bannanner, and—"

However, lacking both time and inclination, I did not wait to hear about the afflicted cow, but took my leave.

"Oh! hang Smiley and his afflicted cow!", I muttered, good-naturedly, and bidding the old gentleman good-day, I departed.

Rollins gets jazz fest rolling in fine style, J.D. Considine, Wednesday July 01 2009.

It would be hard to imagine a better start for a jazz festival. On Friday, the first night of the 23rd TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival, Sonny Rollins strode onto the stage of the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. Resplendent in a white jacket over a black T-shirt and pants, the saxophone colossus politely acknowledged the audience's applause, then directed his rhythm section - bassist Bob Cranshaw, guitarist Bobby Broom, drummer Kobie Watkins and percussionist Victor Y. See Yuen - as they set up the insistent, triplet-based pulse of Sonny, Please.

Then Rollins dove in. His playing was tentative at first, offering simple variations on the main theme. Once locked in, though, his playing took off, offering dense, cascading strings of eighth and 16th notes as he explored the outer reaches of the tune's harmonies. Rollins was on fire, spinning ever more elaborate lines off the ostinato bass before shifting to the "name that tune" section of his solo, in which he quoted at least a half-dozen standards (I Can't Get Started, On the Street Where You Live and La Marseillaise among them).

It was a hard performance to top, and for the most part, the band didn't. Cranshaw covered the full range of his five-string electric bass in a lovely solo during In a Sentimental Mood, trombonist Clifton Anderson showed off his range and versatility on They Say It's Wonderful, while Broom was in fine form throughout, particularly with the hard-swinging Strode Rode.

Despite a bit of edge-of-the-stage dancing during the calypso Nice Lady, the 78-year-old Rollins couldn't rekindle the spark of that smouldering first solo and brought the performance to a close after Strode Rode. Not that there was cause for complaint; the high points of Rollins's 70-minute set were so magnificent, it felt a bit greedy to want more.

Besides, the nice thing about jazz festivals is that great moments can be found almost anywhere. Late Friday, bassist Michael Bates brought his superb Outside Sources quartet to the Rex. Quinsin Nachoff (who, like Bates, studied at the University of Toronto) is one of the best reed players of his generation, while trumpeter Russ Johnson offers such a perfect blend of technique and inspiration it's hard to believe he's not better known. The show was nothing less than dazzling.

Not so Medeski, Martin & Wood, who played Saturday at Nathan Philips Square. There was no denying the trio's technical command, and they employed an impressive variety of instruments, effects and techniques in their nearly two-hour set. Yet the music itself was strangely tedious. MMW had essentially only two modes - electric boogaloo and what might be termed Weather Report Lite - and spent the evening offering little more than textural variations.

Less may not have been more for MMW, but it definitely was for guitarist Charlie Hunter, who was at the Pilot that night. Working as a duo with drummer Eric Kalb, he offered a witty, loose-limbed performance that moved easily between funk and standards, sometimes in the same tune.

Midway through the Maria Schneider Orchestra's Sunday set at the Fleck Dance Theatre at Harbourfront Centre, Schneider remarked on how happy she was finally to be playing Toronto. Judging from the rapturous applause at the end of the show, no doubt many in the audience were hoping she'd come back soon - like, maybe, next week.

Unlike most big-band leaders, Schneider doesn't play with her band; she merely writes the scores, and conducts. But that's more than enough. Her compositions seem to encourage melodic, individualistic solos, and thus the 100-minute set moved from bright spot to bright spot, thanks to such soloists as trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin, trombonist Ryan Keberle and (particularly) drummer Clarence Penn. No wonder critics consider this the best big band in jazz today.


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