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Posts Tagged ‘fun’

Pumpkins and More

Huge selection of pumpkins and gourds at Wilson Farm, Lexington, Massachusetts.

Most people regard Halloween as simple fun — a moment to indulge in humanity’s playful side. That’s especially true for the very young, if not for the gruesome-looking teens or mischief makers. I always love seeing the littlest ones in their Spider-Man, Snow White, or witch costumes,

But even the creepy stuff is sometimes fun. I went trick-or-treating with John when he was 10, and we loved being startled by what we thought was a bundle of old clothes on the Dallas family’s front steps when it suddenly started moaning.

Back at the house, I would usually put on Halloween-ish records and turn up the volume: “Night on Bald Mountain,” “The Ride of the Valkyries,” a pre-Cats version of TS Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (narrated in a spooky voice by Robert Donat), and the Lambert, Hendricks & Ross song below, “Halloween Spooks.” Not sure anyone else listened to that background music, but it always got me in the mood.

Nowadays, we alternate between John’s neighborhood Halloween and Suzanne’s. Since we went to his in 2019 and did nothing in the pandemic, we will be with our younger grandson and granddaughter today.

Enjoy a few pre-Halloween photos from around these parts.

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Photo: Tara Tanaka/Audubon Photography Awards
A Northern Parula like this definitely qualifies for the affectionate label “birb.” In fact, in its fluffed-up form, it also fits the birb subcategory “floof.” (All in fun.)

You can discover some entertaining things on twitter, especially when someone you follow retweets an unusual item from someone else. I keep tabs on a lot of nature lovers, and that’s how I learned about birbs.

Asher Elbein writes at Audubon magazine that because birbs have been an internet meme for seven years (who knew?), “it’s high time we establish some ground rules. …

“For those not terminally online, birb is affectionate internet-speak for birds. The word began, as near as anyone can tell, when the absurdist Twitter account BirdsRightsActivist tweeted the single word ‘Birb’ out on November 2012. … The term is seemingly designed for the internet: one syllable, beginning and ending with ‘b,’ connoting a pleasant roundness, a warm mouth-feel. ‘What a good birb,’ you might say, or ‘I’m so glad we went birb-watching,’ or ‘I love Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birbs.’

“Birb is a slightly daffy word from the same school of internet absurdity that gave us LOLCats (‘I Can Haz Cheezburger’). … Yet unlike these online gags, or memes, birb functions as a category rather than a stock character. It is roughly akin to ‘doggo,’ or ‘snek,’ yet all dogs and snakes are contained within those words; birb remains amorphous. … Are some birds more birb-like than others? What is a birb, really?

“First, let’s consider the canonized usages. The subreddit r/birbs defines a birb as any bird that’s ‘being funny, cute, or silly in some way.’ Urban Dictionary has a more varied set of definitions, many of which allude to a generalized smallness. …

“What this question requires, therefore, are some basic operational rules.

“Rule 1: Birbs are often (though not conclusively) small. Adult Ostriches are thus disqualified, as is any bird larger than a turkey; warblers, sparrows, flycatchers, and other songbirds are the most likely demographic. Even large birds start small, however: An ostrich or crane chick is absolutely a birb. We may understand, then, that while ‘birb’ can be a developmental stage, some birds are birbs their whole lives.

“Rule 2: Birbs are often (though not always) round. People tend to regard round animals as cuter, and round objects in general to be more pleasant. … Classic songbirds and rotund groundbirds like grouse and ptarmigans have the advantage: They look like little balls of fluff, an important component for birbness. … If the Pileated Woodpecker didn’t lose its birb status under Rule 1, it does now, though smaller and rounder woodpeckers like the Downy or Red-bellied are most certainly birbs.

“Rule 3: Birbs appear cute. This gets into slightly dicier territory: Isn’t cuteness subjective? Up to a point, but Rule 2 helps here. Humans tend to like looking at round and fluffy things. So much so, in fact, that violent or unseemly behavior doesn’t disqualify a bird from birbness: the aggression of hummingbirds, the Vlad-the-impaler antics of shrikes, brood parasitism of cuckoos, and brain-eating of Great Tits are immaterial to their round fluffiness. You could post a picture of any of these on reddit under ‘murder birb’ and nobody would blink. … Silliness and absurdity also come into play: The potoo bird is large and not particularly fluffy, but its general muppety appearance makes it a contender for the title. …

“The following can be unquestionably judged as birbs, hitting the natural sweet spot of round, fluffy, and small: The vast majority of songbirds. Burrowing Owls, Elf Owls, both screech-owls, American Kestrels, and other small raptors also qualify. So do prairie chickens, quail, shorebirds like sandpipers, and smaller seabirds like puffins and penguins. … Little waders like the Green Heron are in, but the Great Blue Heron? Sorry, not a birb.

“Big raptors, while incredible and fascinating creatures, are not birbs. … Most cranes, herons, and storks are too large and lanky. And then you get to birds like the Cassowary, which is perhaps the least birb-like bird on the planet. Its chicks may qualify as birbs (see Rule 1), but the adults most definitely do not.

“Now, one might reasonably ask why it matters which birds qualify as birbs. Strictly speaking, of course, it doesn’t. But viewed sidelong, it becomes a taxonomic game, akin to ‘is a hot dog a sandwich?’ ”

Which, you have to admit, is one of the more urgent questions of our time.

More at Audubon, here. There is no way I would ever have heard about birbs were it not for twitter.

Photo: Honest to Paws
The Muppet-like goofiness of the Great Potoo allows it to qualify as a birb.

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112913-children-museumWhen you take your father’s mother (Farmor) and your mother’s father and mother (Morfar and Mormor) to the Children’s Museum, you start by showing them how the fluffy balls fly through tubes and out the top, and you show them the water room, where you have to wear a smock.

Then you run up and down the ramp to the second floor, up and down, up and down, and up and down some more, laughing and turning your head back to make sure they are all following at a lively pace.

Once you are sure they will behave themselves and not go wandering off when you have work to do, you can settle into the kitchen and concentrate on putting the cheese wedge in the pot and stirring and taking it out and putting it back in and putting the lid on top and taking it out again and putting in a potato and stirring and shaking a can of tomatoes upside down until every last bit is in the pot with the potato and stirring and putting the lid on. Then, you know, you may need to take the stacked dishes and lay them all about on the floor and then restack them and put them neatly on the shelf.

It’s a lot, and you need to be sure the grandparents are sitting still and paying attention so you don’t have to worry about them for a while.

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