On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring

Rant Warning. This is a rant. (It’s been a while)

“What fresh hell is this?”

That is my initial thought upon hearing any noise coming from outside.

You see, we have moved into what we thought was a nice and reasonably-priced apartment. During the inspection we saw a couple of cats and thought nothing of it (I’m very much a cat-person despite always owning dogs and indeed, the prospect of having a trio of someone’s pet cats around was actually an attractive feature), but within a few days of moving in the true colours came out: It’s not an apartment, but actually a crazy old man’s feral petting zoo.

Catacular

Connect the dots and it makes a fish.

Allow me to introduce our subject. He is old, senile, indecipherable (both from a poor grasp of English and the nonsensical fragments that do make it past that particular filter), and only ever wears pyjamas and a dressing gown. But, oh my, most significant of all is the delightful personality cocktail of extreme paranoia with a twist of contradictory ineptitude that combine to make a world outside my window one that defies any sort of logic.

You see we have a cat problem. Problem is an understatement. Usually it means someone’s pet coming at night and sitting on your lavender bushes. At a more intense level it signifies a small group of cats that consistently like to sit on your porch. To the most extreme degree I’ve found on the internet it’s a group of feral cats that are attracted to some kindly old widow feeding the kitties out of kindness until they breed into a veritable hoard. That’s the extent of the problem for which there are ready solutions.

Solutions like Molly, the slightly-cross eyed chocolate labrador puppy with a tendency to annoy sleeping cats.

Solutions like Molly, the slightly-cross eyed chocolate labrador puppy with a penchant for annoying sleeping cats.

Unfortunately, our situation is much worse: not only is there is a massive flock of somewhere between 25-30 individual, feral specimens residing in our back parking area, but we have the aforementioned Pyjama-Man standing on Sauron-like guard almost literally 24/7. From all evidence it appears when he and his wife are not either out on their balcony lobbing meat at the cats (and my car until I moved from my parking space to the street) or out there feeding them from a large bowl, they must simply withdraw to just behind the thin curtains and watch.

Nothing escapes their notice or suspicion and whenever someone walks into the territory it is only a short matter of time before he appears, suspiciously inspecting the path they took on the lookout for traps and reverting whatever changes were made (even cleaning the area) to their original cluttered state to provide disguised shelters for the cats. For instance my only effort so far to help the problem was to spray deterring eucalyptus oil along the fence. Sure enough, later that afternoon, he was out there with a hose (it’s mostly a concrete space) watering everything in sight and ranting loudly (though presumably he didn’t think I could hear him). Similar attempts (or perceived attempts) by other neighbours result in the search-and-destroy mission or an unending hosing down.

The situation is such that he has continuously been told not to feed the cats by his neighbours (though I avoid him), landlord and real estate, but his response to this is a confusing mix of pure denial, saying he’s only feeding one single cat he ‘owns,’ the phrase “this is the way it’s been done for 25 years”, or my favourite, resigned outrage at the fact that the ‘spirit of kindness’ is dead coupled with a sad, rant-filled token act of driving away the cats ‘for good.’ He has done this tirade twice in the past two months … Cats are still there. You see, like the humble shark, the PM is most active in his activities after dark, which is when one of these illogical aspects come to the fore. Like clockwork, our stealthy hero waits until the silent hour of 1am before going out for the main feeding sesh, but then proceeds to make all manner of cat-talk, clapping, splattering, bucket splashing and other assorted noises for a further hour. Even if I turn on all the house lights to indicate I’m still awake he still does not relent in his not-so-secret ritual.

Gosh he’s out there right now. And probably as you read this as well.

Now the cats themselves are not your typical strays, but are born and bred ferals; scared and defensive towards humans, not desexed (there have been three separate litters in the past two months) and the subject of many illnesses and afflictions. Were the kittens taken early enough they could be fostered out and lead long happy lives. Yet Pyjama Man bothers not with this; he cares not for their health, only their legion numbers. Futhermore, his veiled boasting of owning a gun and his very unsound mind, make it disturbingly unclear as to whether anyone else is allowed to take any sort of veterinary care of his ‘non-existent’ cats. I’ve overheard him telling another neighbour he’d ‘give his life for the cats.’ One thing is obvious – attempted trapping of cats for any desexing, fostering program will result in their immediate liberation, one way or another.

Caaaats. Caaaats. Cats-cats-cats-cats-Caaaats.

Caaaats. Caaaats. Cats-cats-cats-cats-Caaaats.

So yes, he’s illogical, uncommunicable, unrelenting, paranoid, possibly unstable and fostering a massive hoard of unhealthy and uncontrolled feral cats, getting in car engines, killing wildlife, and spraying everywhere to the extent that would stun the most experienced Melbourne Cup plumbing contractor .

Sigh. Any suggestions welcome, though keep in mind the unstable, uncommunicable, and unrelenting part! Something tells me we’re moving again.

Rant over, thank you for either sitting though it or storming off. 😀

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Marmots and their Orchestral Rationale: Part II

INTRO: They say that pigeons develop odd and repetitive behaviours (such as hopping on one foot) should you feed them pellets at random intervals, presumably made of seed or some such food that pigeons like. The theory here is that they believe whatever they happened to be doing at the time triggered the pellet dispensing and if they manage to do it again (in just the right manner) then they will get more pellets. When the next one inevitably arrives it simply reinforces the behaviour and the cycle continues ad infinitum.

HYPOTHESIS: Anyway, it has been over two years since the early days of this blog and I thought it’s a spectacular time to revisit my inaugural rant about orchestral repertoire. I actually had attempted this about one year ago but it remained in draft from and I think now time and some more far-reaching data can provide a three-dimensional-time-instalment on the topic! Basically, we will look at the concert series for 2013 not only of the original Australian orchestra but three separate seasons of another very well-known orchestra in the UK and see what’s what.

METHODOLOGY: The pieces played fall into categories of:

  1. Works by popular European Composers
  2. Works by unpopular European Composers
  3. Works by popular non-European Composers
  4. Works by unpopular non-European Composers

A word from the recapping porpoise:

Recapping Porpoise

The definitions of European and non-European is quite simple but the former includes Russia (as part of a highly integrated ‘Western’ music culture). The definition of ‘popular’ I probably defined earlier in my last rationale post, but for apathy’s sake will re-make it up here and then for obsessive-compulsiveness’s sake compare afterwards anyway, (to test my own consistency).

Popular composer (My 2013 Definition): “A composer who is mainstream enough to be known by a regular concert going audience and can be expected to appear regularly (anywhere from extremely frequently to once every few years) in an orchestral concert series.”

Popular composer (My 2011 Definition): “A well-known composer (Beethoven, Mozart, etc) that a typical Classical concert-going audience could expect to hear every few years or so.”

Close enough! Anyway now we are all on the same (web)page here are the results:

RESULTS:

For the original Australian Orchestra:

Original Orchestra ANew Orchestra AWell that’s slightly more promising 70.3% of the series (down from 81.8%) made up of  European classical standards.

Now let’s take a peak of three 6-month seasons of the UK orchestra.

January 2012 to June 2012

1st Season Orchestra B

July 2012 to December 2012

2nd Season Orchestra B

January 2013 to June 2013

3rd Season Orchestra B

This is a little bleaker…

Just a little bit

The percentages chronologically here are 93.4%, 90.4% and 85.5%. Although it’s a slight downward trend the average is still 89.8% of the repertoire is typical European, and in one and a half years only one non-popular, non-European composer is featured.

CONCLUSIONS: I’ve been wondering a little recently about what would happen if orchestras (or classical artists in general) dropped the facade of being part of a ‘living tradition’ and dedicated themselves only to playing what is considered the classical music canon. With this repertoire already making up around 90% of a season (or much more if you include the popular non-Europeans) I doubt the regular concert-going audiences would complain or even notice if it was upped to 100%.

It seems to me that when these orchestras explore or innovate its out of begrudging tokenism and perhaps it would be healthy to say/admit “Wait, this is for all intents and purposes a museum-culture (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and you should go elsewhere if you’re not a part of that.” I think modern composers deserve better then to be lining up for meagre pellet distribution from a culture that is demonstrably against them… it is not good for one’s mental state. Or maybe perhaps what I mean is they should rebuke the insinuation that they are the latest edition of the classical ‘tradition’ and instead be seeking to be relevant to other groups who may be more interested rather than forcing new things on a audience obsessed with the past.

CODA:  The humble pigeon is actually quite exceptional for a commonplace bird*, unlike the ibis, which is unexceptional for a much-worshiped deity symbol. Look them up. Yes, both of them. And remember, nothing says ‘Deutsch touristischen’ more emphatically** than excitedly taking photos of the colloquial dump-birds.

You can even eat them!

*You can even eat them!

**This is not strictly true… a LOT of things say ‘Deutsch touristischen’ emphatically, not least themselves.