Tag Archives: animals

A Tail of Two Cetaceans

Just when you thought the NOVA implosion was history, along comes a new one, this time exploding right from the start. It’s a real blast from the past – perhaps a millenium ago – whose light was discovered less than a week ago by an astronomer in Yamagata.

Nominally visible to the naked eye, Nova Delphini, in the minor constellation Delphinus, the Dolphin, is the first such unaidedly eyeable cosmic event in six years. If you look toward the Summer Triangle, find the apex, the bright star Altair. Continue past the apex, and the Dolphin is basically swimming a short distance beyond (“above” the isosceles triangle vis-a-vis its short base between Vega and Deneb).

I harbor no illusions that the flecks in this iPhone photo are much of anything but “noise,” but the four-star diamond shape in the cloudy area does have a resemblance to the Dolphin. The nova itself probably isn’t visible here.


I used a delayed shutter release, long-exposure app called SlowShutter, mounting the phone on a stable surface before the shutter opened, then deliberately covering the lens before “releasing (not plunging) the plunger” (picking the phone up to tap the shutter closed; the longest automatic alternative to the open-ended “bulb” setting is only 15 seconds). This exposure was 102 seconds at ISO 3200 (also set in the app), edited again afterward in the iPhoto app for exposure, resulting in the purple hue.

This was a couple nights back. Now that the moon is rising later, Nova Delphini might be visible until midnight or beyond. If you’re really interested, getting out into the country where there’s less ambient light would be worthwhile.

Are We Having Fun?

Jumping from one dolphin dispatch to another, the caption/comment on this Facebook post resonated with me, though some subsequent commenters jumped to the conclusion it was anti-science in tone. It wasn’t necessarily. And though there is potentially great value in analyzing phenomena like fun and play, I think there is something to the comment. I don’t know about the actual porpoise of the writer, but there are a least two kinds of people who might say what the writer did: those who are indeed making a facile anthropomorphic assumption, and those, in all likelihood a little more educated, who with affected humbler-than-thou self-effacement tend to assume only humans are capable of whimsy, or for that matter, evil. And let’s face it: Fun is generally not so fun when you stop to over-analyze it, though the devil of “over-” may be in the d(olphins’) tails. For now, I do think one thing we can rest assured humans fortunately maintain a sovereign, inalienable right to is the bad pun. No other species would touch that.

Color Me Jazz, Or The Basses Behind the Cuban Missile Crisis

Good live jazz last weekend at “Live the Palette,” the after-hours alter ego of Cafe La Palette in Hirai-cho, Tajimi.


Working for the first time as one group, the Satoko Nakagawa (alto sax) Quartet performed two sets, everyone playing within their ability to lend a relaxed, mellow sound to a quiet Saturday night beside the almost toylike trains trundling by on the Taita Line. Taking the train to Koizumi Station means you can drink worry-free.

Besides a variety of standards, the four did an original number called, I think, “Loop,” some moments of whose melody reminded me of a Coltrane piece, either Equinox or To/For Her Ladyship. When I tried to say as much to Ms. Nakagawa, she seemed at a loss for words, but she may have been thinking I was referring to playing style.


One great thing for me about Live the Palette: it’s non-smoking all the time! Who says jazz can’t live without smoke? Just for kicks, I rationalized an inadvertent lens smudge finagled a crosstar effect, and did a minimal bit of post-processing to roll my own smoke into the scene below.


Another welcome feature: No amped-up blaring of instruments through a superfluous sound system. The only microphone was for between-song announcing titles and credits. It’s always like The Emperor’s New Clothes when you hear live (especially acoustic) music amplified in an intimate setting: Any normal person’s very first reaction to this aural assault is, “Why the heck is it so loud? It’s fine out of the horn as it is.” But thereafter everyone comes to accept the overkill as normal, as their hearing goes to pot. Be the little girl who doesn’t know any better than to speak the truth: If the hall is small, pull the plug!

I got to talk with the band members and managed to stump them with an obscure request, which I searched for on the net and played on my iPhone for them. They seemed intrigued, so it may be coming soon to a set near you. With slightly different personnel, the quartet will be appearing at La Palette a couple of times next month.

Bands of Brothers

Most of the members are Nagoya-based, playing the Nagoya scene at the usual places. Ryouta Asada was on top of his game on drums, though taking a solo only on the final song. The night’s hot bassist went by the last name of Kimata. Sorry to say, I can’t transliterate his first name. The pianist, Yuichi Hayashi, has released CDs with his trio Trispace, which includes bassist Morihiro Ohmura. Ohmura has played with the Sakake Brothers With The Acoustic Band (sic) (AKA SBAB), whose guitarist I often used to cross paths with in Chikusa. I’ve also helped a younger Sakake brother with lyrics for his own indie band. Small world. No, not those lyrics. For that unfortunately unforgettable unending gem, we are indebted to the Sherman Brothers, who also kept Mary Poppins musically afloat, among work on many other family classics. Older bro Robert B. Sherman passed away in March.


One thing I learned today: It’s a Small World was written in the wake of and as a reaction to the Cuban Missile Crisis, that nasty bit of history that nearly ruined my first birthday ended the world, and that happened fifty years ago this October. Thank you, President Kennedy, for your gift of determined diplomacy in the face of imminent Armageddon.

The takeaway: Giving provocative superpower premiers a face-saving way out of sticky situations can prevent panic attacks and significantly reduce the risk of nuclear planetary annihilation. Use as directed. Side effects may include dizziness, prolonged or chronic ringing of cloying songs in the head, and inexplicable aversity to theme parks. Peace has a price, after all.

For the Dogs, Or Bone Appétit

Cafe La Palette is popular with dog owners as it caters to canine customers as well as their human hopalongs (Daytime only; Fido must find his own means of enjoying jazz after the sun goes down). The clip you’ll see on the floor by your table is for fastening leashes to. Just so there’s no mistaking, dogs are welcome, but it’s not a dog cafe. The food is only for people.

The nighttime “master” is an interesting man who speaks pretty good English, but not annoyingly so, as in, “Ahh, here comes another foreigner I can accost, show off my English to, and commiserate with.” The live dates are pretty numerous and varied, so you’re sure to find a day, time and artist to take advantage of this special live jazz venue right here in Tajimi. There are regular jam sessions as well. The cover charge varies. It was ¥1500 this night. Doors open at 7 pm for live gigs, with sets at 8 and 9.

Every Which Way But Down

Vertically Challenged

I realized I’d hooked into another “why can’t they…?” fish yesterday morning as I tried, and I emphasize tried, to take off the label of this plastic bottle of tea before putting it in the recycle bin.

Shreds of Evidence

A Real PET Peeve

It’s very close to the “New EZ-Open Pack!” bait and switch, but specific enough to warrant an entry of its own. Part of the blog’s ongoing list of picayune, nothing-better-to-do-than-complain gripes on what could be done better, but never is.

I’m sure there are legitimate reasons for these labels being this way – polymer chains or production line efficiency or shrink-wrapping-type side effects or whatnot – but it still seems they ought to be able to make them so they easily tear vertically. Like major swaths of some modern societies, these supposedly disposable scrolls have an unquenchable proclivity to run to the extreme left or the extreme right.

“You’re Tearing Me Apaaart!”

Even with a double column of perforations delineating a vertical strip (that’s predictably hard to even get started), this incorrigible cummerbund had no intention of going quietly, putting up a tenacious fight, flailing left and right like a 300 pound trophy swordfish before finally succumbing to my refusal to bow down. It was quite the wrestle, a quintessential episode in the eternal struggle between human and plastic.

I considered posing with my trophy hanging from scales, but I just can’t bring myself to brag like that, and I would mean no disrespect to the polyurethane’s dignity by pompously parading around its once-proud shredded carcass. It was a formidable foe, and may it rest in pieces.

On the subject of plastic bottles, I wonder, do we call them PET bottles in the States? I remember the first time I heard that expression, in Kyoto, returning to Japan after many years. I was puzzled, as you can imagine.

And speaking of pets and bottles, I thought I’d fill out this rather hollow column with a mention of the water-filled PET bottles you see outside people’s homes and gardens and by concrete walls and poles. If you didn’t know, apparently some years ago it was reported on TV here that putting these bottles out keeps stray cats away and/or keeps them from urinating in your petunias or on your doorstep.


I think it’s since been found there’s no real effect, though people continue to pour and put the PETs in Puss ‘n Boots’ paths. Perhaps posting pictures of pathetic Kaiser Willhelm (on the bottle labels?) consternating over his sunken urinal would do the trick. It sure might put me off going.

Anyway, that’s a wrap for today.

Jazz Nights and Sitting Back

Sitting semi-cross-legged on the tatami for the first time in a while. A simple pleasure revisited as a result of a kneecap taking absence without leave, and its halting re-entry to the world at hand/foot. Don’t mean to be abstruse. Just being a sentient being.

Being serenaded as I tap this out by a real McCoy of jazz (not McCoy Tyner on this one, but Bill Evans on piano and the rest of the Miles Davis Quintet straight from 1958). Broadcast from New York, though coming through on the net.

Another fruit I realized I only really care for sometimes, pictured below.


On the subject of summer life on the vine, I saw two ladybugs and a gecko crawling up windows today. Don’t know if that’s a trend or a red herring. Some say ladybugs are bellwethers of weather patterns.  My barber said the rainy season may be lifting, though that seems unlikely.