Saturday, June 5, 2010

"Let's Hear It for the Medium Dogs!"

The first time I ever went into New York City unchaperoned  was to go with my fellow pseudo-intellectual pals to a Carnegie Hall show by Laurie Anderson. This was the early 80s, and Anderson was known for "electronic" music. She manipulated her voice and violin using a battery of electronic gadgets. Many of her songs were simply spoken monologues over eerie or screechy ambient sound. Her lyrics stuck me and my peers as deep. (If you were alive and sentient and nerdy during the Reagan years and living in or near New York City, you may remember "O Superman." It featured Anderson's highly processed voice narrating a one-sided, existential telephone conversation. "Hello? Is anybody there? Is anybody listening? O O O O.") Later, she did the album Mister Heartbreak with Peter Gabriel. Its song "Sharkey's Night" featured the voice of William S. Burroughs reading the lyrics over screechy, amplified violins and swoopy Bolivian whistles. It's a classic, but it won't make sense if you are too young to know what a "courtesy telephone" is. Anderson is best known these days as the spouse of "rock legend Lou Reed." Who?  I was such a nerd; I had never heard of The Velvet Underground.

Flash forward thirty years. Anderson recently gave a concert at the Sydney Opera House in Australia (where it is winter by the way). Her audience? Dogs. At first, she wanted to play sounds that only dogs could hear, but she decided to include some human-audible sounds just to keep owners' attention. (Anderson regularly plays for her own dog, a rat terrier named Lollabelle.) Check out this clip to see how the dogs reacted. Also, read about the concert here.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Just Call Her Grizz

Okay, you'll have to indulge me again. I am still learning how to turn fuzzy videos from my digital camera into watchable clips. In this one, Muzzy takes on Scott's Bailey and Maggie while a mortified Bandit looks away. The clip was recorded on a windy day. I'm still figuring out how to edit sound, but Bailey's grizzly bear impressions are definitely audible. Enjoy. -z

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Singing Dogs

Recently, Frankie and Teddy showed off their singing chops at Dog Park. Muzzy, who has only once before burst into song, is mostly a spoiler here.

(It's a rough edit. Every time I played the clip, Muzzy would fret and circle the room, so no fine-tuning.)

(Also, remember that if annoying and inappropriate ads pop up in the bottom of the clip as it plays, you can click the bottom right corner to stop them.) Enjoy. -z

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Rules of Dog

One of my favorite Web sites, Schott's Vocab, had an entry about universal laws and principles that are less well understood than gravity but just as undeniable. Here's a sample submission from a post-er named Stan:

"Muphry's Law: The principle that any criticism of the speech or writing of others will itself contain at least one error of usage or spelling." Nice one, Stan.

(A corollary applies to Crazy Guy's sign: "The principle that any bogus warning about the consequences of leash-free dog walking on state land will itself contain spelling errors that reflect the writer's profound ignorance.")

Are there other universal laws that regulate Dog Park? I can think of a few.

The Rain Boot Conundrum: The wearer of rain boots will inevitably discover that precipitation did not in fact fall on Dog Park. Wearer will be teased mercilessly for her/his choice of foot gear.

The Treat Defeat: The only dog that does not respond to the call of "Treat!" is your own, which is behaving badly by running after state employees or in front buses on Bull Creek Road. You, meanwhile, are swarmed by dogs whose owners hate you for tempting their dogs with freeze-dried liver.

The Poop Bag Principle: Whereby the absence of poop bags in one's pocket will cause immediate  and repeated eruptions by one's dog in full view of the parking lot. Public shaming will ensue.

The First Law of Sunscreen: The amount of sun shining is in inverse proportion to the quantity and SPF of the sunscreen you have slathered on or forgotten to apply before heading to Dog Park.

The Primary Principle of Self-Jinxing: A cosmic comeuppance in which you inadvertently summon health problems for your dog (and accompanying vet bills) by uttering the words, "We've gone a whole month without a trip to the vet."


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Muzzy's Secret Garden

Most of the flora at the Dog Park are past their prime and begging to be mowed. Muzzy, though, presides over a secret garden of sorts--our back yard. My approach to gardening is pretty haphazard. I like the laissez-faire approach. Half the things I've planted have died, but if a volunteer sunflower or tomato or lemon balm springs to life in an uncultivated spot, I leave it be. The exception: The neighbor's invasive bamboo. I whack it with a shovel, but we are still under siege.

The previous owner of my house planted wild garlic. I used to fight it. Now I admire its big puffy heads. Fennel grows behind it. I only saw a handful of monarch butterfly caterpillars munching on the fennel this year. Fennel is a monarch's favorite snack.

This sand plum tree is producing fruit for the first time, after seven years in my front yard. Likewise, the peach tree that grew up from a discarded HEB peach pit is weighed down with green fuzzy fruits. Muzzy is doing her best to keep the squirrels from eating them before they are ripe.

Sand plums are too tiny and sour to eat fresh. They need to be made into jelly. See my friend Colleen's thoughts about making sand plum jam here . (My trees are from her yard.)

This winter was terrible for all the prickly pear cactus plants in Austin, but I am all amazement at these blooms. This is the first time the one in my yard has actually flowered. This plant must be ancient. (When I moved into the house, it was the only thing planted in the backyard.)  My wildflower book says that prickly pears rarely grow taller than 14 inches. Mine is taller than I am (63," on a good day).

The tomato plants that I bought and put in the ground are not particularly fecund  this year. Yet I've got volunteers all around the yard. They sprang up from my compost pile.

A future zucchini. The heat is already making my cucumber and zucchini plants wilt midday. If we don't get rain soon, I may have to give up on these water-hogging vegetables. But the basil plants are inches high already (started from seed just a month ago). It will be a good year for pesto, if for nothing else.

Bon appetit. -z