Brown River Queen cover art

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Even Wilder Man of Yocona Bottom

Fig 3A, The Yeti, sans britches.
Many of you will perhaps recall a prior blog entry entitled The Wild Man of Yocona Bottom, in which we recorded some unusual vocalizations originating somewhere along the Yocona River.

Subsequent scrutiny on the source audio has revealed something startling -- I believe there may have been not one but two creatures sounding the calls. One was close, and the other was further away, and harder to hear. 

But when you do hear it, it sounded like this:

First you hear dogs bark, barkbarkbark. Then you hear a long loud call, woooooooo, then dogs barking.

It's that wooooooo call I missed on the first close listen to the audio.

Contrast that call with what we heard as much louder and closer, on the rest of the recording:

Two callers, of undetermined species? Could be.

In an effort to identify what sorts of critters make their home in the woods behind out house, we installed a trail camera this afternoon. We hung it on a tree in what I think is a great spot, where two heavily-traveled game trails converge on the banks of a pond surrounded on all sides by dense woods.

Late afternoon, dense growth. Perfect place to hide.

First, I hung a line of apples across the game trail. Because as everyone knows, Sasquatch loves Granny Smith apples.

That stalwart fellow in the lower left corner is Lamar, our big black lab. Lou Ann was also with us, but every time she saw the camera turn her way she turned her backside to the lens. 

Lamar is now a gentle giant with a wide lazy streak. We found him many years ago running down the middle of Lamar Avenue in Oxford, thus his name. He weighed 15 pounds. I have never seen a creature so emaciated and skeletal; the vet said he should have weighed three times that, for his age and build. As you can tell, he eats rather well, these days.

But back to the wild wood. No sooner had I hung the apples, than one fearsome forest creature appeared!

I tossed a handful of jewelry into the woods, and she took off in pursuit of it. Always come prepared, kids!

Here's the whole setup:

Apples in the trees, trap camera strapped to tree. I should be able to catch anything traveling along either of the two trails or anything heading toward the pond for a drink.

The astute viewer may realize the apples and the camera are hung at levels more suited to Hobbits than Sasquatch. Which may be true, but I didn't think to lug a ladder through all that brush, and if all I get is a picture of hairy knees that will be fine too.

I predict here and now the vast majority of the photos will be those of deer, foxes, coyotes, feral pigs, dogs, bobcats, raccoons, and of course the occasional wandering saucer man.

I'll keep you posted on what images we capture.


I've told this story before, but it's been a while so I'll tell it again.

I'm a classic rock guy. I grew up listening to rock -- stadium rock, prog rock, classic rock. Pink Floyd and AC/DC and The Moody Blues and The Alan Parsons Project and the Beatles and ZZ Top and a host of other bands formed my musical ecosphere. My knowledge of 80s rock was encyclopedic. I listened to music non-stop.

Something happened in the early 2000s, though. I stopped listening to new music, and instead retreated into my collections of CDs (you kids can Google compact disc).

But as much as I love my collected music, a year or so ago I got restless. I wanted new music, stuff I'd never heard before. I wanted the same joy of discovery I felt the first time I listened to Dark Side of the Moon, or Tales of Mystery and Imagination.

I wandered around in iTunes, getting a song or two here and there, finding a few gems but missing that old rock and roll magic.

Then a new record store opened up in Oxford. An old-school record store called The End of All Music, selling vinyl albums.

What sorcery is this, I wondered? Who buys vinyl anymore, and why?

I'll answer both the who and the why questions. I buy vinyl, and I buy vinyl because it's just more fun.

My turntable isn't some five-hundred dollar European laser-balanced precision machine. I'm using the same massive Sony amp I bought in 1992. My speakers are so old they get AARP letters, addressed R. Speaker and L. Speaker.

But slap a vinyl album on my rig, and sit back in a comfy chair, and I tell you it's magic all over again.

I believe a good vinyl record on a decent turntable played through a good amp and quality speakers sounds better than the same album played from a digital audio file or a CD.

Could that be a bit of self-induced delusion?

Yeah, sure it could, but wouldn't Life be sad and awful without self-induced delusion?

What I really love about a vinyl album is this -- it forces you to A) sit and B) listen.

You hear the tracks in the order the artist arranged them. You don't skip from track 2 to track 9 just because the first few nanoseconds of a song don't grab you. Unless you want to haul your aging carcass our of your comfy chair and fiddle with the tone-arm, you're going to go where the musicians lead.

And that's when the magic comes back. For me, anyway.

Now, I don't know a thing about today's music scene. Show me a wall of new albums and I probably couldn't identify more than one or two. I don't even understand the new genres.

So my method for buying a new album is this -- I grab at random.

Tonight's random pick is The XX, and their album named X. Or XX. Frankly I'm not sure, because the cover says X and the record itself says X but the liner notes state XX. So either X or XX, and my inability to decide should showcase my aforementioned ignorance of modern music.

But I never let a little thing like ignorance get in my way, so here's my review of the record X (or XX).

Liner notes. Good times.

OVERALL RATING: 8 out of 10 Blurry Bigfoot Heads 

I like this album. It's contemplative, a touch melancholy, soothing and unhurried and complex. If I had to assign a genre to it, it would be what I call Coffeehouse. It's not in-yer-bloody-face rock ala AC/DC, and it isn't what's-it-all-about-Alfie prog-rock like Pink Floyd. 

But it's really good rainy day listening music. There are a lot guitars and some synth work and some drums. The vocalists are a man and woman and they sound as if the belong together. Best of all, they're not mad at each other, and they're not whining. They're singing, and it's pretty.

This is great music for:
  • Relaxing after a long day of crushing one's enemies 
  • Plotting global domination, but plotting for a year or so away, so no big hurry
  • Enjoying a relaxing goblet of Wobbly Wizard 3506
  • Posing dramatically in the corner of the coffee house while pretending to write a sonnet on foolscap with a quill pen
  • Enoying another relaxing goblet of Wobbly Wizard 3506, because man, that stuff rawks
Okay. That's my review. Let's head on over to Amazon, and see what genre and musical type this album is classified as. That way my incompetence can actually be quantified.

The XX album samples

First of all, it's The XX. Okay. Look, if you're the XX, maybe put another X on the cover. Us old people tend to be literal.

Next, the description:

"The xx exist in a time and space of their own making. In 2009 the south London trio’s debut album ‘xx’, quietly made at night over the course of two years, bled steadily into the public consciousness to become shorthand for newly refined ideas of teenage desire and anxiety. Articulated with a maturity beyond their years, its hallmarks were restraint and ambiguity."

Um. 'Newly refined ideas of teenage desire and ambiguity.' Did you catch that?

I didn't hear any of that. Frankly, I'm so old I wouldn't know a teenage desire if it walked up to me wearing a TEENAGE DESIRE placard. But still, nothing about this album suggested 'teenager' to me.

I said 'contemplative and melancholy.' The artists who created the record claim 'teenage desire.'

Man, that Wobbly Wizard is some potent stuff!

I now abandon any thoughts of being a serious music critic.

But hey, I loved the album.


The new Markhat novel is at the halfway point. Yeah, I said it, the halfway point. Which makes this effort the very fastest I've ever achieved. Is writing a novel fast fun?

You bet your Wobbly Wizard it is. Because I'm as eager to know what happens next as I hope you'll one day be.

Speaking of which, I should get back to work. Take care, peoples, and 'ware those teenage desires!

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