Birds At Our House


We live north of San Francisco in Marin County, where we have a house that is too small and too expensive on a hectare (two and a half acres) of beautiful California terrain. Henceforth this area shall be known as the Piliwale Andrew hectare.

rail context

I sit here writing this web log and look out the window at a railing where birds come to find the birdseed that Elise so kindly provides for them. I’m so glad that we decided to replace our windows, as if we hadn’t, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to see these beautiful birds that have decided to pay us a visit. My friend had told me about a company called, Graceland Windows ( that they used for their replacement windows and they had some great designs on there which would enable us to get a better view of the birds. Unfortunately, though we don’t live in the area so we had to use a company that was more local to our area. If we ever moved to Texas, we will definitely consider using this company. For the time being though, I’m going to enjoy looking at the birds through our windows. Also, I often see them in our outdoor home security cameras, pecking awaty at the lawn or drive. They’re relaxing to watch.


We get some good views of these fascinating and varied creatures.


There is a family of foxes who live on the Piliwale Andrew hectare, a lot of hungry deer, bobcats, skunks, a snake or two, racoons, coyotes, occasionally a mountain lion, but what we see and hear mostly are birds.


At night we often hear, but rarely see, the Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus). I love their lonesome sound.

turkey vulture

This little valley where we are has been home to Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura) probably for thousands of years. They stretch out their wings to dry and then circle lazily overhead, riding the thermals and living the good life.


The Turkey Vulture will not eat anything that is alive, and they are one of the few birds with a sense of smell.


The vultures are very comfortable here and perhaps twenty of them circle around and come to rest on various tree stumps near our house. This is their laughing place.


The Corvid family (crows, ravens, jays, magpies) is well represented. There must be forty crows who carry on and carouse in the pines, cawing and gossiping, squabbling and commenting loudly on anything that catches their attention. Crows can be taught to “talk” in captivity. They actually practice their vocalizations. You can hear them. They do this even in their sleep. Their ability to mimic is uncanny. They can mimic a squeaky door closing if they choose.


These birds are larger than you might think. Seeing the occasional one who lands on our railing reduces all of us (two humans, a dog and two cats) to a kind of reverential awe. Our crows are nearly the size of eagles.

corvus corax

Common Ravens (Corvus corax) are serious carnivores and their search for food leads them to live in more varied habitats than any other California bird. They eat road kill, any kind of meat they can find in dumps, crickets, grasshoppers and almost anything else.


The Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri) is also an improbably large bird with a crest, comb, topknot, whatever you want to call it. They are raucous, noisy and thieving. They will eat other birds and they often imitate Red-tailed Hawks to frighten intruders.

steller's jay

You can see clearly with the jays that they are descended from dinosaurs. They have an otherworldly look and their behavior is aggressive and predatory. Ornithiscian dinosaurs, they will eat almost anything and rob eggs when they can.


Woody Woodpecker in the Warner Brothers films has a characteristic call that is based on bop rhythms, popular music in the 1940s when he was created, but the pileated woodpeckers around here have a call that is quite similar to Woody’s. You recognize it right away. “And, then I said Baby!” If you sing that very quickly on an ascending scale, you will hear the woodpecker cry.

acorn woodpecker

Our woodpeckers bore hundreds of holes in the trees. They have an extra backward pointing toe for clutching the bark and they lean on their strong tails while working. Woodpeckers have a stiff extending tongue for insects and their eggs.


When you first hear them you think it is someone hammering a nail somewhere.


They knock busily against the tree trunks looking for insects and making nests. I hear them right now hard at work.

pil wood

Pileated Woodpeckers (Dryocopus pileatus) like dead or dying trees and we have a lot of those.


The Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) often selects nest holes on the downward side of leaning trees, where gravity can hinder any tree climbing predators.


The Downy is a small woodpecker, the smallest in North America, and it likes to live around bay trees. It drums loudly on dead limbs.


In the spring we see Olive-Sided Flycatchers (Contopus borealis) who like our wooded canyon in the coastal lowland and so come here to breed.


Olive-Sided Flycatchers spend the winter in Central America. Lucky them. That’s a lot of flying, though.


Western Wood-Pewees (Contopus sordidulus) come see us in about mid-April to early June. They and the Flycatchers have a crest or comb which makes them look distinguished. We have an “ephemeral” stream running through the Piliwale Andrew hectare and the Pewees like that. That “stream” becomes a raging torrent in February. My friend Clark brought his metal detector here one day and found a 1900 dime in the water.


The towhees might be the bird we see most. This is the California Towhee. which resembles a large, good looking sparrow. The plumage is very even and smooth.


The towhee is a handsome bird with a patch under the tail, called the crissum. One of the subspecies of the towhee is called crissalis because of this patch.

Rufous sided Towhee

Rufous-sided Towhees (Pipilo erythrothalmus) have regional accents. The ones in California talk like surfers. No, no, just kidding, but they do sound quite different from eastern towhees. Their call can sound like a buzz.

Towhee range

Towhees like to eat nuts, seeds and fruits.


Spotted Towhees (Pipilo maculatus) like to live near the ground but I see them on our railing pecking at nuts and seeds. They are also sparrowlike.


Males are gleaming black above (females are grayish), spotted and striped with brilliant white. This is a sparrow in overdrive.


Sometimes we see a Chestnut-backed Chickadee (Poecile rufescens) and think it is a towhee.


This is a handsome chickadee that matches the rich brown bark of the coastal trees that it inhabits.


The Chestnut-backed Chickadee is the species to look for up and down the West Coast and in the Pacific Northwest but especially on the Piliwale Andrew hectare. I saw one today in a tree out by the “river,” actually a trickle through the rocks at this point, though, I repeat, a raging torrent in February. Riparian pride is strong on the hectare.


Active, sociable, and noisy as any my little chickadee, these Chestnut-backed Chickadees move through tall conifers with titmice, nuthatches, and sometimes other chickadee species.

Chestnut-backed Chickadee

I have seen these birds in the shrubs in the heart of San Francisco. They seem at home everywhere.


Dark-eyed juncos are sparrows that nest on or near the ground in forests. In winter, they typically form flocks and often associate with other species. It’s fun to watch their beaks move as they “chew” their food. When they land, Juncos will fold their white feathers under, perhaps to escape detection by falcons and hawks.


When disturbed the entire Dark-eyed Junco flock suddenly flies up to a tree, usually perching in the open and calling in aggravation at the intrusion. I like to see animals talking back this way.


The House Wren (Troglodytes aedon) is a plain brown bird, very widely distributed. You probably see them everyday. They nest almost anywhere and will sing incessantly.


Bewick’s Wrens (Thryomanes bewickii) have a very long tail, tipped in white which they flick and jerk side to side. These hyperactive vocalists belt out a string of short whistles, warbles, burrs, and trills to attract mates and defend their territory, or scold visitors with raspy calls.


The Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) have scarlet-and-yellow shoulder patches they can puff up or hide depending on how confident they feel. Females are a subdued, streaky brown, almost like a large, dark sparrow. We always like to see them because they mean spring is coming, plus, they are a beautiful bird.

Cooper's Hawk

The hawks sit up high where they can see everything with their extremely acute vision. This is a Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii). They like canyons like ours with rivers or creeks running through them.


Accipiter striatus (Sharp-Shinned Hawks) like broken woodlands of coniferous, deciduous or mixed forest, so the Piliwale Andrew hectare is perfect for them. They are more common than the Cooper’s Hawk.

Red-shoulderedHawk buteo lineatus

The Red-Shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) has its main San Francisco Bay population center in Sonoma and Marin Counties, so we see a lot of them.


The Red-Tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) is hunted as the “chicken hawk,” but this bird is far more valuable for rodent control than for its occasional taking of a chicken. We value this hawk and wish there were more of them on our hectare.

Red Tailed Hawk

The Red-Tailed Hawk breeding season begins with a spectacular sequence of aerial acrobatics. Male and female fly in large circles and gain great height before the male plunges into a deep dive and subsequent steep climb back to circling height. Later, the birds grab hold of one another with their talons and fall spiraling towards earth. This has to be the origin of several ancient myths (Icarus comes to mind). Here is probably the origin of another myth: Red-Tailed Hawks are monogamous and they mate for life.


The American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) is the smallest falcon in North America and is the smallest American raptor. It will often hover over its prey, deciding before diving. We see them maybe more than any other falcon or hawk. This kestrel, the only kestrel in the Americas, has three basic vocalizations: the “klee” or “killy”, the “whine”, and the “chitter.” The “klee” is usually delivered as a rapid series – klee, klee, klee, klee when the kestrel is upset or excited. This call is used in a wide variety of situations and is heard from both sexes, but the larger females typically have lower-pitched voices than the males.


The Wild Turkey (Meleagris galloparvo) was very rare here in Marin after the great hunting slaughter of the 1870s, but since the 1960s, these turkeys have been reintroduced several times and are now a very successful species. You see them in any open field, often contending with the cattle on Flander’s Farm down the road on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. The males strut around and show themselves to the females. It’s all very educational.


Wild Turkeys look like the classic Thanksgiving Turkey, especially the males with their preening, overweening behaviors. The females mostly wander around ignoring such ostentation, but it is difficult to enter the mind of a turkey. She may have her own designs, unknown to us. They probably center around reproduction and the continuance of the species.


I always think of the turkey and the chicken as Indian birds, because, if you really look at them, it seems as if they recently arrived from the Subcontinent. They are too ornate, too exotic, too beautiful and too obviously related to the peacock to originate anywhere around here.


We on the Piliwale Andrew hectare are vegetarians, so we observe these feathered bipeds with great interest but not great hunger. We hear chickens in the morning, as we hear the Great Horned Owl at that time, but we are up long before they are, working, toiling, scratching for worms ourselves, indifferent to their carnal attractions, but always aware of their beauty.


How do California Quail survive? They are slow, they are stupid, their call is distinctive and they are very easy to see. Every predatory animal within reach must be intent on their immediate slaughter, and yet they live from year to year scampering along with little regard for safety. Our cats regard their comings and goings with great interest and yet the quail still live… how? They have large broods for one thing. They can run, walk, really, very fast, fast enough to get out of the way of an onrushing car. They will only fly as a last resort. They are like island birds that way.


Mountain Quail (Oreortyx pictus) walk upslope in the summer and downslope in the winter. Quail travel in flocks except when paired for breeding. They have a curious, guttural cry which some people interpret as “chi-ca-go,” which is as good a way to describe their vocal as any. That song is very low and in the back of the throat. Quail, pheasants, turkeys and chickens all eat grain and they are all related.


I usually hear hummingbirds before I see them. When I am gardening I hear a buzz and think it is a large fly, but turn to see the hummer. This is the Black-Chinned Hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri).


We leave our doors open a lot and we have a skylight, so hummingbirds will fly in and then try to escape upward to the skylight. Which reminds me, we are currently in the midst of a few home renovation projects and are actually thinking of replacing our skylight soon. We have been looking at DaLyte residential skylights for some inspiration. If hummingbirds buzz against the glass long enough, they die of exhaustion, so there is always a great rushing around for ladders and brooms to try to show them the way out. The trick is to catch them when they are really tired and then they will land on the broom and we can convey them outside. Easier said than done. Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna) is a frequent visitor who is often seen flying backwards.


Allen’s Hummingbirds ( Sealasphorus sasin) visit us early, somewhere from January to March.


This is a Canada goose washing. When we leave the Piliwale Andrew hectare and drive anywhere we see these beautiful birds in ditches, streams and ponds. They breed here and in Canada. They nest on the ground, but sometimes build nests in trees too.


The goslings follow their parents and learn what to eat.


One of the oldest songs in the English language, maybe THE oldest song in the English language is The Cuckoo. Peter Albin and I did The Cuckoo long before there was a Big Brother and the Holding Company, and long after too.

Janis Coffee Gallery 13 Dec 1964

The song finally became Oh, Sweet Mary, but The Cuckoo was long a staple in folk music days. Janis Joplin and James Gurley used to sing the lyrics, which went something like, “Oh, the Cuckoo, she’s a pretty bird, she warbles as she flies, she never hollers cuckoo, til the fourth day of July. Jack of Diamonds, Jack of Diamonds, I’ve known you from of old, you’ve robbed me of my silver, you’ve robbed me of my gold.”

Janis Joplin, Sam Andrew, James Gurley

The Cuckoo song is about treachery and betrayal and it is fitting because the cuckoo and her relatives are parasites and traitors, at least viewed from our Judaeo-Christian überconsciousness.


The cuckoo lays her egg(s) in someone else’s nest, the egg then hatches, and ejects the other eggs from the nest.


Now, there is probably no real evil (nor good, for that matter) in the universe, but, if there were, this throwing of the “real” young out of the nest might come close to some kind of evil. This is why the cuckoo became the symbol in ancient folklore for betrayal, treachery and infidelity. Some birds will actually build a new nest bottom over this false progeny and begin their nesting life anew, but most accept the new, huge, ungainly, false offspring, who has killed her “siblings.”


The Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater) is the California version of the Cuckoo. Cowbirds deposit their eggs in the nests of over 220 bird species. If the egg is accepted into the brood, the cowbird doesn’t disrupt the family further. But if the egg is rejected, cowbirds trash the nest, destroying the host’s eggs. This brutal behavior led ecologists to dub the species “mafia birds.” Cowbird eggs hatch earlier than host eggs, and although the parasitic hatchling rarely attacks other nestlings, it cries louder, demanding a greater share of the food-which it almost always gets.


This Cowbird behavior frequently leads to the starvation of host nestlings. Here is the problem of Good and Evil nakedly presented. Are we to blame the Cowbird for her behavior? She is acting on instinct. There is no thought, no consciousness here. No free will. Is she “wrong?” Is she “unethical?” Who would posit such a thing? And yet? And yet? If the Brown-headed Cowbird is not evil, then what is? Is “evil” an idea that won’t fit a situation like this? And then, if so, what area would “evil” fit? Adolph Hitler comes to mind. Other very sick people. Allow me to quote myself, “What used to be evil is now a disease.” Such are the lessons of observing nature.

Western Kingbird

The Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis) has ashy gray and lemon-yellow plumage, and is a familiar summertime sight at our house. This large flycatcher sallies out to capture flying insects from conspicuous perches on trees or utility lines, flashing a black tail with white edges. Western Kingbirds are aggressive and will scold and chase intruders (including Red-tailed Hawks and American Kestrels) with a snapping bill and flared crimson feathers they normally keep hidden under their gray crowns.


Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) build their cup-shaped mud nests almost exclusively on human-made structures. This is a bird of open country which normally uses man-made structures to breed and consequently has spread with human expansion. It builds the nest from mud pellets in barns or similar structures and feeds on insects caught in flight. In England this bird is known simply as the swallow.

american goldfinch male

The American Goldfinches (Spinus tristis) are active and acrobatic little finches that cling to weeds and seed socks. Goldfinches fly around here with a bouncy, undulating pattern and often call in flight, drawing attention to themselves. I like the group name for finches, “clarity.” A clarity of finches. It sounds so Elizabethan. My friend Tom Finch and his family are a clarity of Finches. It seems such an appropriate name for them.

Carduelis lawrencei

Lawrence’s Goldfinches (Carduelis lawrencei) are named after George Lawrence, a New York businessman and ornithologist. The bird was given this name by John Cassin in 1850. This goldfinch feeds on seeds and insects. Their plumage is very beautiful and subtly colored. The female lays 3-6 pale white or pale blue eggs which hatch in 11 to 13 days.


The Lesser Goldfinches (Carduelis psaltria) travel in swiftly moving packs and they like to be on warm south slopes where there is open fresh water.


Lesser Goldfinches will imitate and mimic songs of other birds.


House Finches (Haemorhous mexicanus) are small-bodied finches with fairly large beaks and somewhat long, flat heads. The wings are short, making the tail seem long by comparison.


Many finches have distinctly notched tails, but the House Finch has a relatively shallow notch in its tail.


White-crowned Sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys) are a large sparrow with a small bill and a long tail. The head can look distinctly peaked or smooth and flat, depending on the bird’s attitude. We see White-crowned Sparrows low at the edges of brushy habitat, hopping on the ground or on branches usually below waist level.


The Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) is, to me, one of the most striking birds on the hectare. They arrive in the fall and winter. The Cedar Waxwing is a medium-sized, sleek bird with a large head, short neck, and short, wide bill. Waxwings have a crest that often lies flat and droops over the back of the head. The wings are broad and pointed, like a starling’s. The tail is fairly short and square-tipped. These birds are so smooth and sculpted that they don’t look quite real.


The Latin/Greek name for the Northern Mockingbird says it all. Mimus polyglottos. Mockingbirds are best known for the habit of some species mimicking the songs of other birds and the sounds of insects and amphibians often loudly and in rapid succession. They can put on displays of calls that they have learned that will rival any concert hall offering.


When I was a boy I was fascinated with these birds and tried to kill as many of them as I could with my BB gun. Such is the insane legacy of testosterone. There were hit songs about mockingbirds, musicians always being fascinated with a fellow songster. Says here (English Wikipedia) that Darwin studied mockingbirds when he was in the Galápagos and not finches. News to me. I would have bet on the finches. On his second voyage he used what he had heard about the tortoises varying from island to island with his data on mockingbirds to buttress his case for the mutability of species.


This is a photograph of a University of Florida student being mercilessly harassed by a mockingbird who is protecting her nest, but it reminds me of another species (were they Cedar Waxwings?) at San Francisco State University where I took a graduate course on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales one summer long ago.

Cedar Waxwing group in tree fwsADCB2BD2-1551-43CC-860AC1B31A6CA090

When we walked across campus we would be divebombed by birds who had been eating more fermented berries than was strictly wise, and the drunken avians would fly down, tear at our hair, and then make their getaway. They seemed mightily proud of doing this.


This upclose and familiar encounter with the birds was actually most entertaining.


The American Robin (Turdus migratorius) must be the best known American bird, although what an oddly funny Latin name she has. The Robin lays three to five guess what color? eggs in a tree nest made of mud and grass.


This should be our national bird. She is a migratory songster, named after the European Robin because of her reddish-orange breast, though the two species are not closely related, since the European robin belongs to the flycatcher family. Do you find this somewhat disillusioning? I do, but am not sure why.


The American robin belongs to the thrush family.

amer rob

Some people think that the American Robin ranks behind only the Red-winged Blackbird (and just ahead of the introduced European starling) as the most abundant, extant land bird in North America.

Turdus migratorius

The American Robin is active mostly during the day and assembles in large flocks at night. Her diet consists of invertebrates (such as beetle grubs, earthworms and caterpillars), fruits and berries.


The American Robin is one of the earliest bird species to lay eggs, beginning to breed shortly after returning to its summer range from its winter range. Its nest consists of long coarse grass, twigs, paper, and feathers, and is smeared with mud and often cushioned with grass or other soft materials. It is among the first birds to sing at dawn, and its song consists of several discrete units that are repeated.


Hermit Thrushes (Catharus guttatus) have a chunky shape similar to an American Robin, but smaller. They stand upright, often with the slender, straight bill slightly raised. This is a winter bird.


I just saw an article about Swainson’s Thrush (Catharus ustulatus) this morning (8 June 2013) in the Marin Independent Journal.

Swainson's Thrush @ Magee Marsh May 2006.  DSC00054 = Raw file #

“A local population of Swainson’s thrushes – a melodic songbird heard along trails and near streams – has had its 1,500-mile-plus migration tracked from Bolinas to Mexico with the use of small tags applied by researchers.”

Swainson's Thrush pictures

“The findings could help better protect the habitat of the birds as their lifecycle and travels are better understood, according to Point Blue Conservation Science – formerly the Point Reyes Bird Observatory – which did the research.”


“Until now, all we knew was that these birds likely wintered in Mexico or Central America,” said Renée Cormier, an avian ecologist at Point Blue and lead author of the study. “We’re very excited to finally pinpoint where Swainson’s thrushes spend the winter.”


The Swainson’s Thrushes are distinguished from other spotted thrushes by their eyering and “buffy” face.


Bushtits (Psaltriparus minimus) weave a very unusual hanging nest, shaped like a soft pouch or sock, from moss, spider webs, and grasses. They are fairly plain brown-and-gray birds. Slightly darker above than below, they have brown-gray heads, gray wings, and tan-gray underparts.

western bluebird

The Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana) is a beautiful, small thrush that often gathers in small flocks to feed on insects or berries, giving their quiet, chortling calls.


Western Bluebirds spread mistletoe seeds and they make us happy. The bluebird of happiness.

Mountain Bluebird

It’s always a bit of a shock to see a Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides). They look as if they just flew out of a Disney cartoon because their coloring is so vivid. They will nest up under the eaves of the house or shed, like these lp smartside sheds, because they seem to like human built structures. Sheds are more popular for these birds as they’re not often disturbed, whereas there’s often people in the house. Additionally, if homeowners are keen gardeners and have worms in a compost heap or store birdfood, like suet, mealworms or peanuts in their sheds, the birds will love choose to nest and feast in the shed, compared to the house where they’ll still have to forage for their food.


The Black headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus) is one of the few birds able to eat Monarch butterflies, despite the noxious chemicals those insects contain from eating milkweeds in their larval stage.

2009-06-14 007 black-headed grosbeak

These birds visit us most years and even when we can’t see them we hear the young ones who whine and whistle for food.


Western Tanagers (Piranga ludoviciana) are popular at our house because they eat wasps, ants, beetles and termites. They build their nests, usually in coniferous trees, at a fork in the horizontal branch well out from the trunk.


The Western Tanager’s plumage and vocalizations are similar to members of the cardinal family. They sing somewhat like American Robins, but more hoarse. The call sounds like “pit-er-ick.”

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Golden-Crowned Kinglets (Regulus satrapa) weigh about as much as two pennies so they are one of the tiniest birds and rather elusive. In Marin County, they breed mostly in Douglas fir and redwoods.

id gcki sy m 950 body apr06

They eat a lot of insects, gnats, caterpillars, aphids and spiders. The female lays a surprising 5 to 11 eggs, sometimes in double layers. The male feeds her while she sits on the nest during incubation.


Early Marin ornithologists weren’t even aware that the Golden-Crowned Kinglet bred here and the birds probably didn’t react well to early logging, but they returned with the regrowth of dense forests. Golden and ruby-crowned kinglets are the only members of their genus in North America, but they are astonishingly similar in appearance and behavior to their two Old World cousins – the goldcrest and firecrest.

yellow warbler 2

We see the Yellow Warbler (Dendroica petechia) fairly often and they were once considered abundant in Marin.


Female Yellow Warblers sing sweet-sweet-sweeter-than-sweet or sweet-sweet-l’m-so-sweet, but males sing various other songs as well, one of them being mean-mean-meaner than mean or mean-machine-I’m so mean. It is rather difficult to write out a bird song even using music notation. Birds’ songs and calls are ineffable and so beautiful. This morning I heard three hawks talking to each other and the conversation was so interesting that I wanted to fly up there myself and say a thing or two about vole catching, an area where I feel they could use a little improvement.


The dreaded cowbird often lays her parasitic eggs in Yellow Warbler nests who thwart these “evil” birds by building a new floor over the cowbird eggs and laying a new clutch of their own. Persistent cowbirds have been known to return five times to lay more eggs in the nest, and the even more persistent warbler builds SIX layers of nest floors to cover up the cowbird eggs. This goes on all the time, whether we are there or not.

orange-crowned warbler

Have you ever heard that Latin saying, I think Horace wrote it? It goes Ars est celare artem, and it means it is art to hide art. Keep’em guessing, would be the American vernacular equivalent. Anyway, we now consider the Vermivora celata, the hidden wormeater, otherwise known as the Orange-Crowned Warbler.


Adult male: dusky olive green upperparts, grayer on crown and nape. Whitish or yellowish narrow broken eye ring, indistinct dusky eye line. Greenish yellow underparts with indistinct blurry streaks. Undertail coverts always brighter yellow than belly. Adult female: duller and grayer than male. Immature: duller, similar to adult female. So, where is the orange crown?


The most frequent call is a very distinctive, hard stick or tik. Flight call: a high, thin seet. Song: a high-pitched loose trill becoming louder and faster in the middle, weaker and slower at the end. Birds don’t drawl the way Americans do. An American pronounces “stick” with a bit of a twist. It’s almost like “styi ck,” it’s a lazy diphthong. Birds speak more as British or Continental people do. “Stick,” very short and bitten off to our ears. It’s fast and clipped, virtually without a vowel. “Stck.”

Wilson's Warbler

With a length of only 12cm/4.75in, the specific name pusilla (small) given to Wilson’s Warbler (Wilsonia pusilla) by Alexander Wilson in 1811 is appropriate.


Alexander Wilson moved from Scotland to Pennsylvania in 1794 at the age of 28, became interested in ornithology in 1801 and decided in 1802 to publish a book illustrating all the North America birds. This appeared as the nine volume American Ornithology between 1808 and 1814.


Wilson met John James Audubon in 1810 and probably inspired him to publish his own book of illustrations, even though Audubon’s reaction to Wilson is described as ‘decidedly ambiguous’. (He declined to subscribe to American Ornithology, felt his own illustrations were much better and, in 1820, decided to publish the ‘greatest bird book ever’.)


This bird is quite small and will fit in the palm of your hand with room to spare. Occasionally I see the females down by our creek in the underbrush, so little that I think at first that they are flies. How can you fit all that life into such a diminutive package?


The Violet-green Swallow (Tachycineta thalassina) is a truly beautiful bird and the only swallow that lives in the woodlands and forests of Marin County. The purple on the upper-tail coverts, often not seen, identifies this as a male. Green on the back can be bright in both sexes, male head usually relatively bright green; female head duller green to brownish. The extension of white above the eye is a mark that allows distinction of Violet-green from Tree Swallows in flight. The two species co-exist in the San Francisco Bay Area, with the Violet-green usually at higher altitudes and the Tree more often near bodies of water


These swallows will find old woodpecker holes or natural cavities in trees for nest sites, and they will also use nest boxes or crevices in buildings.


Swallows catch insects in flight. They have a short, wide bill that opens into a gaping mouth ideal for scooping up prey in mid-air.


The Violet-green Swallows are winter birds. They arrive sometimes as early as mid-January. They get along well with other swallows and add some much needed color in the cold months.

Elise Piliwale Sam Andrew Steve Zia Victoria Rayles

I see other birds here on the Piliwale Andrew hectare, but I don’t know what they are and need to take a good photograph for identification. Birds are singers and travelers, so we feel a lot of kinship with them. See you next week.


Polyonymously Perverse

Fur Peace concert hall

Polyonymously Perverse



Polyonomous could mean having many names.  Cicero was known in his time as Marcus Tullius Cicero.  My name is Sam Houston Andrew III.

Sam& Elise door Fur Peace

Where we lived at the Fur Peace Ranch.


Melina Riverblues has many names.

Stephen Bruton, Leah Hawk, Kris Kristofferson

Stephen Bruton, Leah Hawk and Kris Kristofferson.

jorma don

Jorma Kaukonen and Don Aters

visconti 9

Il diavolo si nasconde nei dettagli.     The devil is hiding in the details.


My beautiful and wise friend Sally.


We were the Spice Boys.

Fur Peace kitchen

The meeting and eating house at the Fur Peace Ranch near Darwin, Ohio.

a 1f7de49be1_z

I love to engage in repartee with people who are stupider than I am.                 Ann Coulter (how does she find any?)



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La bottega dei sogni.    The dream boutique.

Aquila, ragazze

If we took away women’s right to vote, we’d never have to worry about another Democrat president.         Ann Coulter.

Fur Peace kitty

The welcome kitty at Fur Peace Ranch.

Harrison & Shankar

I’ll play what you want or I won’t play at all.

a 265-The-Science-Museum

All the world is a birthday cake, so take a little, but not too much.



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Ahahahahhaah, ma che faccia ho!   My god, what a face I have!

Fur Peace ranch signs

About fifteen minutes from Athens, Ohio.


I think there should be a literacy test and a poll tax for people to vote.      Ann Coulter (noted cheater at the polls).


I wanted to be successful, not famous.

a 945309778_91f3dffee6_z

Gossip is the devil’s radio.



Jorma Fur Peace

Jorma was so kind and generous to us. Everyone was. This was a wonderful stay.

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Le ragazze del rock.         The girls of rock.

Amad and Poetry

Polls? Nah!   They’re for strippers and cross country skiers.               Sarah Palin.


I believe that what Jesus and Mohammed and Buddha and all the rest said was right. It’s just that the translations have gone wrong.

a _master

Music belongs to everyone.  It’s only the music publishers who think that someone in particular owns it.

Don's Leon

Don Aters took this photo of Levon Helm.



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Interessante…. dove? come? partecipazione libera?     Interesting… where? how? free participation?

Angels LJ AZ

I could possibly have beaten Senator McCain in the primary. Then I could have been the candidate who lost to Barack Obama. Mitt Romney.


President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and their team have failed the American people, and that is why their majority will soon be out the door.        Mitt Romney.

Elise Fur Peace 29 June 2013

Elise Wainani Piliwale at Fur Peace Ranch: 29 June 2013.

a science-museum-london

If someone thinks that “love and peace” is a cliché that must be left behind in the 1960s, that’s his problem. Love and peace are eternal.



Absolutely all the people I know are a little crazy.

visconti 5

Che presenza inquietante hai lì dietro di te! Con tanto di simil “funcia”!  What a disquieting presence there behind you! And you can function with all of that!


As usual there is a great woman behind every idiot.

Hot Tuna italian

Hot Tuna à l’italiana.


When the President does it, that means it’s not illegal.       Richard M. Nixon.

Wax anatomical model of female human head showing internal struc

People react to fear, not love; they don’t teach that in Sunday School, but it’s true.        Richard M. Nixon.




Janis Joplin and Jorma Kaukonen sat in an apartment one day and recorded some songs while Jorma’s then wife Margareta typed a paper for her UC Berkeley class in the next room.  This is the typewriter she used.

margareta kaukonen

The clicking and clacking of the keys went straight onto the tape.

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Ho perso tutte le foto di quella sera tranne la più bella.  I have lost all the photos from that evening except for the most beautiful one.


It is necessary for me to establish a winner image.  Therefore, I have to beat somebody.      Richard M. Nixon.


Solutions are not the answer.           Richard M. Nixon.

a vrmh

Sure there are dishonest men in local government. But there are dishonest men in national government too.     Richard M. Nixon.

Vanessa Kaukonen

Vanessa Kaukonen made us feel at home on the Fur Peace Ranch. She is Jorma’s wife now and a capable, intelligent woman.



visconti 7

Mi viene da piangere. Cosa mi sono persa?      I’m about to cry.  Oh, no, I missed it.


The press is the enemy.            Richard M. Nixon.


Politics would be a helluva good business if it weren’t for the goddamned people.          Richard M. Nixon.

John Hurlbut

John Hurlbut, a prince among men, the factotum at Fur Peace.


I let the American people down.            Richard M. Nixon.




Ringrazia la sorellona che ti ha fatto questa foto.      Thank the big sister who took this photo for you.

Arianna Antinori, Antea Salmaso, toscana

What a terrible thing to have lost one’s mind. Or not to have a mind at all. How true that is.    Dan Quayle.

Jorma question

Peter Albin and I did an interview with John Hurlbut and Jorma. John wrote questions like this one, and Jorma asked them.


I am not part of the problem.  I am a Republican.       Dan Quayle.


I love California.  I practically grew up in Phoenix.     Dan Quayle.



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Ma che figata!

Edd Hart

Edd Hart.  Elise’s mother Carla Piliwale is married to Edd.  We had a beautiful drive through Ohio with these people.


Bank failures are caused by depositors who don’t deposit enough money to cover losses due to mismanagement.      Dan Quayle.


People that are really very weird can get into sensitive positions and have a tremendous impact on history.    Dan Quayle.


Bobby Knight told me this: ‘There is nothing that a good defense cannot beat a better offense.’ In other words a good offense wins.  Dan Quayle.



Carla Piliwale

Carla Piliwale.

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Musica e rappoorti umani…camminano insieme.       Music and human relationships…they go together.


Republicans have been accused of abandoning the poor. It’s the other way around. They never vote for us.    Dan Quayle.


I believe we are on an irreversible trend toward more freedom and democracy – but that could change.         Dan Quayle.


For NASA, space is still a high priority.        Dan Quayle.




London OH public library

We stayed in London, Ohio, for a couple of days and I haunted the library.

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Volevo farti i complimenti perchè hai reso perfettamente l’idea di quello che, credo, ognuna di noi pensa. Complimenti!   I wanted to give you my regards because you have rendered perfectly the idea that each of us, I believe, thinks.  Congratulations!


The future will be better tomorrow.           Dan Quayle.


I deserve respect for the things I did not do.          Dan Quayle.




Nella vita e nelle feste non smettere mai di giocare!

Jim Wall Fur Peace

Jim Wall, drummer extraordinaire and good friend.


It isn’t pollution that’s harming the environment. It’s the impurities in our air and water that are doing it.       Dan Quayle.


It’s wonderful to be here in the great state of Chicago.         Dan Quayle.


Republicans understand the importance of bondage between a mother and child.       Dan Quayle.





Peter green room

Peter Albin in the green room at Fur Peace.


If Al Gore invented the Internet, I invented spell check.           Dan Quayle.

John Lennon

The Holocaust was an obscene period in our nation’s history. I mean in this century’s history. But we all lived in this century. I didn’t live in this century.           Dan Quayle.


A low voter turnout is an indication of fewer people going to the polls.            Dan Quayle.




Minchia questa e fantasticaaaa!

Jorma painting

I love this Kevin Morgan painting of Jorma.


This president is going to lead us out of this recovery.            Dan Quayle.


The global importance of the Middle East is that it keeps the Far East and the Near East from encroaching on each other.     Dan Quayle.


Every once in a while, you let a word or phrase out and you want to catch it and bring it back. You can’t do that. It’s gone, gone forever. Dan Quayle.




Grazie alla fotografa.      Thanks to the photographer.


The loss of life will be irreplaceable.          Dan Quayle.

and I love her

We’re all capable of mistakes, but I do not care to enlighten you on the mistakes we may or may not have made.        Dan Quayle.

an oramics-portrait-560x414

I have made good judgments in the past.  I have made good judgments in the future.         Dan Quayle.




Che uomo fortunato che è Luca…        What a lucky guy Luke is…


Vanessa, Jorma and John Hurlbut.

a stell

In George Bush you get experience, and with me you get – The Future!               Dan Quayle.

Description=Beatles drummer Ringo Starr eats fish and chips, 1967.

It’s a question of whether we’re going forward into the future, or past to the back.            Dan Quayle.


It’s time for the human race to enter the solar system.            Dan Quayle.


Nieves Alvarez for S Moda


Questa è la mia preferita.          This one is my favorite.


Ben, Sam, Jim, Stefanie and Peter holding forth at the Fur Peace Ranch.


My friends, no matter how rough the road may be, we can and we will, never, never surrender to what is right.       Dan Quayle.


One word sums up probably the responsibility of any vice-president, and that one word is ‘to be prepared.’       Dan Quayle.


This election is about who’s going to be the next President of the United States!          Dan Quayle.




Veramente bella questa foto.      Truly beautiful this photo.


Jorma with lovely Nikon.


Unfortunately, the people of Louisiana are not racists.           Dan Quayle.

arr wonder

Hawaii has always been a very pivotal role in the Pacific. It is in the Pacific. It is a part of the United States that is an island that is right here. Dan Quayle.


I do have a political agenda. It’s to have as few regulations as possible.            Dan Quayle.




“Cosa sono questi occhi stupiti”, diceva una vecchia canzone italiana…   “What are those amazing eyes,” said an old Italian song…


Jorma’s family.


I don’t watch it, but I know enough to comment on it.              Dan Quayle.


I stand by all the misstatements that I’ve made.             Dan Quayle.




Che belle le rottoballe!          What beautiful bales of hay!


Jorma on his way to Hawaii.


I was known as the chief grave robber of my state.                  Dan Quayle.

a 69

I want to be Robin to Bush’s Batman.                  Dan Quayle.


If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there would be peace.     John Lennon


If we don’t succeed we run the risk of failure.               Dan Quayle.




Non ti facevo così mainstream.       I didn’t think you were that mainstream.


Jack Nicholson has his eyebrows insured. Jack Casady should probably do the same.


I’ve never professed to be anything but an average student.                     Dan Quayle.

ainda m

Illegitimacy is something we should talk about in terms of not having it.               Dan Quayle.


People who bowl vote. Bowlers are not the cultural elite.                Dan Quayle.




Se tutte le serate finissero cosi…             If only all nights finished this way…


Don Aters


Reading is like kissing:  with someone who doesn’t do it a lot, you notice it on their tongue.


It’s a very good historical book about history.                     Dan Quayle.


It’s rural America. It’s where I came from. We always refer to ourselves as real America. Rural America, real America, real, real, America. Dan Quayle.


Bernardo Nieves - Retrato


..chi ci ha già rinunciato e ti ride alle spalle forse è ancora più pazzo di te..   …who has already refused and maybe laughs behind your back is even crazier than you..


Rabbits in the road at the Fur Peace Ranch.


Let me just be very clear that the Republican Party will select a nominee that will beat Bill Clinton.          Dan Quayle.

Paul McCartney and his wife Linda attend the 13th Grammy Awards at the Hollywood Palladium, Los Angeles, 16th March 1971. Paul is collecting the award for Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or a Television Special on behalf of the Beatles, for the song 'Let It Be'. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Quite frankly, teachers are the only profession that teach our children.             Dan Quayle.


Space is almost infinite.  As a matter of fact, we think it is infinite.        Dan Quayle.




Sarebbe davvero bello rivedersi!         It would be really wonderful to see each other again.


Driving into the Fur Peace Ranch in the early morning.


The more I see, the less I know for sure.


The American people would not want to know of any misquotes that Dan Quayle may or may not make.         Dan Quayle.


Tobacco exports should be expanded aggressively because Americans are smoking less.         Dan Quayle.




Sentivamo la tua mancanza.        We felt your absence.


Brett at Fur Peace.

an dongen

We are ready for any unforeseen event that may or may not occur.          Dan Quayle.


The President is going to benefit from me reporting directly to him when I arrive.        Dan Quayle.


We have a firm commitment to NATO, we are a part of NATO. We have a firm commitment to Europe. We are a part of Europe. Dan Quayle.





don's nikon

Don’s Nikon.


We should develop anti-satellite weapons because we could not have prevailed without them in ‘Red Storm Rising.’      Dan Quayle.


We’re going to have the best American educated people in the world.       Dan Quayle.


What you guys want, I’m for.         Dan Quayle.

Ben X - Movie Wallpaper - 06



Svegliarsi dalla notte e vedere certe sorprese..       To wake up in the night and see certain surprises..

changing strings

Changing strings.


Welcome to President Bush, Mrs. Bush and my fellow astronauts.       Dan Quayle.


The other day the President said, I know you’ve had some rough times, and I want to do something that will show the nation what faith that I have in you, in your maturity and sense of responsibility. He paused, then said, would you like a puppy?      Dan Quayle.


I have a very good family. I’m very fortunate to have a very good family. I believe very strongly in the family. It’s one of the things we have in our platform, is to talk about it.       Dan Quayle.






Hubert Sumlin. I love his guitar playing.

aria ruta

When I talked to him on the phone yesterday. I called him George rather than Mr. Vice President. But, in public, it’s Mr. Vice President, because that is who he is.       Dan Quayle.


You do the policy. I’ll do the politics.        Dan Quayle.


You all look like happy campers to me. Happy campers you are, happy campers you have been, and, as far as I am concerned, happy campers you will always be.       Dan Quayle.




Guardali…bellissimi!        Look at them…beautiful!




We shouldn’t have to be burdened with all the technicalities that come up from time to time with shrewd, smart lawyers interpreting what the Constitution may or may not say.       Dan Quayle.


El Salvador is a democracy so it’s not surprising that there are many voices to be heard there. Yet in my conversations with Salvadorans…I have heard a single voice.          Dan Quayle.


I spend a great deal of time with the President. We have a very close, personal, loyal relationship. I’m not, as they say, a potted plant in these meetings.       Dan Quayle.




Che belli che siete!     How beautiful you are!


Warm, friendly people.

aria teresa

I’m going to be a vice president very much like George Bush was. He proved to be a very effective vice president, perhaps the most effective we’ve had in a couple of hundred years.       Dan Quayle.


Japan is an important ally of ours. Japan and the United States of the Western industrialized capacity, 60 percent of the GNP, two countries. That’s a statement in and of itself.       Dan Quayle.


The thing is, if you control the Senate meetings, you control the gavel. And the gavel is a very important instrument…an instrument of power. An instrument that establishes the agenda.          Dan Quayle.




…scusate sono di fretta devo correre a Porcia… festa sta’ per iniziare…..  Excuse me, I am in a hurry, I should run to Porcia…the party is about to begin….


Lenny Bruce and the Mothers.  What a bill.


Votes are like trees, if you are trying to build a forest.  If you have more trees than you have forests, then at that point the pollsters will probably say you will win.         Dan Quayle.


To those of you who received honors and distinctions, I say well done. And to the C students, I say you, too, can be president of the United States. George W. Bush.


When I take action, I’m not going to fire a $ 2 million missile at a $ 10 empty tent and hit a camel in the butt. It’s going to be decisive. George W. Bush.




Non è vero, se non fosse stato per Samuele sarei caduta 8000 volte.   It’s not true, if it weren’t for Sam I would have fallen 8,000 times.


It was fun driving through Ohio.


You can fool some of the people all the time, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on.     George W. Bush.


A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there’s no question about it.            George W. Bush.


I just want you to know that, when we talk about war, we’re really talking about peace.           George W. Bush.


Rico Nieves


Voto 10.        I vote 10.

fur peace too

Educating myself in the London, Ohio pubic, I mean, public library.


I think we ought to raise the age at which juveniles can have a gun.              George W. Bush.

don sam 29 june 2013

It’s clearly a budget.  It’s got a lot of numbers in it.             George W. Bush.


You teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test.               George W. Bush.


Natural gas is hemispheric. I like to call it hemispheric in nature because it is a product that we can find in our neighborhoods.  George W. Bush.

Elise Lynn Gaia

We got to put more food on our families.                George W. Bush.




Bellissime le mie bimbe..      Most beautiful my bimbos.

london city hall

The London, Ohio, city hall.


The legislature’s job is to write law.  It’s the executive branch’s job to interpret law.          George W. Bush.


Saddam Hussein is a homicidal dictator who is addicted to weapons of mass destruction.       George W. Bush.


No one was more shocked or angry than I was when we didn’t find the weapons. I had a sickening feeling every time I thought about it. I still do. George W. Bush.




Ma no te si neanca bona a girar le foto?

don blonde

Don Aters captures life at the Fur Peace Station.

Lennon And McCartney

It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first.    Ronald Reagan.

new wave divas

A people free to choose will always choose peace.       Ronald Reagan.




Ahhh, ecco!  Contenta?     Ah, there! Happy?

ben sam 29 june 2013

Before I refuse to take your questions, I have an opening statement.       Ronald Reagan.


But there are advantages to being elected President. The day after I was elected I had my high school grades classified Top Secret. Ronald Reagan.


Polyonymous for sure…

Sam Elise pastel

Elise Wainani Piliwale   and   Sam Houston Andrew III



ant parts



The word ant is derived from ante of Middle English which in turn is derived from æmette of Old English and is related to the Old High German ?meiza, hence the modern German Ameise.


Many of the shots below, particularly the better ones were taken by Dr. Alex Wild, whose work may be found at


Dr. Wild is a biologist at the University of Illinois where he studies the evolutionary history of various groups of insects. Alex conducts photography as an aesthetic complement to his scientific work. We highly recommend a visit to his site and note that all of his photographs are copyrighted.


All of these words come from West Germanic *amaitjo, and the original meaning of the word was “the biter” (from Proto-Germanic *ai-, “off, away” + *mait- “cut”).


The family name Formicidae is derived from the Latin form?ca (“ant”) from which the words in other Romance languages such as the Portuguese formiga, Italian formica, Spanish hormiga, Romanian furnic? and French fourmi are derived.


It has been hypothesized that a Proto Indo European word *morwi- was used (Sanskrit vamrah, Latin form?ca, Greek ?????? mýrm?x, Old Church Slavonic mraviji, Old Irish moirb, Old Norse maurr).


From the Greek ?????? mýrm?x, we get the scientific name for the study of ants, myrmecology. This is the Croatian version of the word.

ant anatomy

For every human in the world there are one million ants and a human weighs a million times more than an ant, so that works out to the same presence on earth for humans and ants. Taken altogether, they weigh as much as we do taken altogether.


The ant’s sense of smell is as acute as the dog’s. Ants have survived on earth for more than 100 million years. Not many other animals can make that statement. There are more than 12,000 species of ants all over the world. An ant can lift twenty times her own body weight.


Ants have elbowed antennae, metapleural glands, and a constriction of their second abdominal segment into a node-like petiole. The head, mesosoma and metasoma are the three distinct body segments. The petiole forms a narrow waist between their mesosoma and gaster (metasoma).


Ants have an exoskeleton, an external covering that provides a protective casing around the body and a point of attachment for muscles, in contrast to the internal skeletons of humans.


Insects do not have lungs. Oxygen and other gases such as carbon dioxide pass through their exoskeleton via tiny valves called spiracles.


Insects also lack closed blood vessels; instead, they have a long, thin, perforated tube along the top of the body ( the “dorsal aorta”) that functions like a heart, and pumps hemolymph toward the head, thus driving the circulation of the internal fluids. The nervous system consists of a ventral nerve cords that runs the length of the body, with several ganglia and branches along the way.


An ant worker is less than one millionth the size of a human being, but if you weighed all of the ants in the world they would be about the same poundage as all of the human beings in the world. Ants feast on insects and spiders and they clean up ninety percent of their dead bodies dragging them back to their nests for food. Ants spread seeds around the world and they move more soil than earthworms. They live deep in the ground and high up in the trees. Whilst this is true, some homeowners may have seen some ants in their backyards. Ants can become a nuisance when there seems to be an infestation of them. They don’t cause a lot of damage, but they can distrupt the soil around plants. This can have an impact on the growth of the plant. If these ants seem to be causing some problems, homeowners could always visit to see if they could remove this problem. Hopefully, that will keep plants safe. Ants, termites, stingless bees and polybiine wasps make up an astonishing eighty percent of the insect biomass. (Photo: Alex Wild


Ants are as social as humans, which probably accounts for their success as a species. An ant colony is a superorganism, a social unit. As long as the queen lives, the gene pool is secure. The individual worker, warrior, caregiver is nonreproductive and completely expendable. The colony is immortal, churning out queens and males year after year. Solitary insects are pioneers. They can go to strange places and live for a long time. Ant colonies take time to grow and they move slowly but once they get going it is difficult to halt their progress.


An ant begins as an egg, which if fertilized will be female (diploid). If the egg isn’t fertilized, it will be male (haploid). There is a complete metamorphosis, larval and pupal stages before adulthood. The larva is largely immobile and is fed and cared for by workers. Food is given to the larvae by trophallaxis. The feeding ant regurgitates liquid food from her crop, the “social stomach.” Adults also share food this way. Larvae may also be fed solid food such as pieces of insects brought back to the nest.


The larvae molt several times and then begin the pupal development. Their appendages are free, unlike butterflies at the same stage. Whether the larva becomes a queen, a worker, and what caste she belongs to is determined in some species by what kind of food she is given. Larvae and pupae need to be kept at fairly constant temperatures to ensure proper development, and so often, are moved around among the various brood chambers within the colony.


A new worker spends her first few days of adult life caring for the queen and young. She then graduates to digging and other nest work, and later to defending the nest and foraging. These changes are sometimes fairly sudden, and define what are called temporal castes. An explanation for the sequence is suggested by the high casualties involved in foraging, making it an acceptable risk only for ants who are older and are likely to die soon of natural causes.


Ant species in general have a system in which only the queen and breeding females have the ability to mate. Colonies of these ants are called queen-right.


Some ant nests have multiple queens while others may exist without queens. Workers with the ability to reproduce are called “gamergates” and colonies that lack queens are then called gamergate colonies.


The winged male ants, called drones, emerge from pupae along with the breeding females and these males do nothing in life except eat and mate.


Most ants are univoltine, producing a new generation each year. During the species-specific breeding period, new reproductives, females and winged males leave the colony in what is called a nuptial flight. The males generally fly up into the heavens before the females.


Males then look around to find a common mating ground, for example, a landmark such as a pine tree to which other males in the area converge. Males secrete a mating pheromone that females follow. Females of some species mate with just one male, but in some others they may mate with as many as ten or more different males.


After they mate, females then seek a suitable place to begin a colony. They break off their wings and begin to lay and care for eggs. The females store the sperm they obtain during their nuptial flight to selectively fertilise future eggs.


The first workers to hatch are weak and smaller than later workers, but they begin to serve the colony immediately. They enlarge the nest, forage for food, and care for the other eggs.


Species that have multiple queens may have a queen leaving the nest along with some workers to found a colony at a new site, a process akin to swarming in honeybees.


Anthropomorphized ants have long been used in fables and children’s stories to represent industriousness and cooperative effort.


In the Book of Proverbs in the Bible, ants are held up as a good example for humans for their hard work and cooperation. Note Aesop’s version of this in his fable The Ant and the Grasshopper, a story that I think about quite frequently.

The Ants Panic0001

In the Qur’an, Sulayman (Arabic: ???????) is said to have heard and understood an ant warning other ants to return home to avoid being accidentally crushed by Sulayman and his marching army.

ant god

In parts of Africa, ants are considered to be the messengers of the deities.



In Hopi mythology, ants are considered as the very first animals.


Ant bites are often said to have curative properties. The sting of some species of Pseudomyrmex is claimed to give fever relief, and ant bites are used in the initiation ceremonies of some Amazon Indian cultures as a test of endurance. (This is an Alex Wild photograph, copyright, all rights reserved.)


Ants communicate with each other using pheromones, sounds, and touch. The use of pheromomes as chemical signals is more developed in ants than in other hymenoptera. Ants perceive smells with their long, thin, and mobile antennae. The paired antennae provide information about the direction and intensity of scents.

pheromone trail

Most ants live on the ground, so they use the soil surface to leave pheromone trails that may be followed by other ants. In species that forage in groups, a forager that finds food marks a trail on the way back to the colony; this trail is followed by other ants, these ants then reinforce the trail when they head back with food to the colony. (Photo copyright: Alex Wild


When the food source is gone, no new trails are marked by returning ants and the scent slowly dissipates. When an established path to a food source is blocked by an obstacle, the foragers leave the path to explore new routes. If an ant is successful, it leaves a new trail marking the shortest route on its return. Successful trails are followed by more ants, reinforcing better routes and gradually identifying the best path.


An injured or crushed ant emits an alarm pheromone that sends nearby ants into an attack frenzy and attracts more ants from farther away.


Some ant species use “propaganda pheromones” to confuse enemy ants and make them fight among themselves.


Pheromones are produced by Dufour’s glands, poison glands and glands on the hindgut, pygidium, rectum, sternum, and hind tibia. Pheromones also are exchanged, mixed with food, and passed by trophallaxis, transferring information within the colony.


Trophallaxis (regurgitation) allows other ants to detect what task group (foraging or nest maintenance, for example) to which other colony members belong. (Photo copyright: Dr. Alex Wild


In ant species with queen castes, when the dominant queen stops producing a specific pheromone, workers begin to raise new queens in the colony. The latest movement in myrmecology is the study of these pheromones using very delicate instruments.

Janis guiro Sam

Janis Joplin is stridulating here.

Janis Joplin, guïro

She is rubbing a comb over a ribbed guïro.


If she were doing this quicker and it were a higher pitch, it would sound like a grasshopper, a cricket, a cicada… all stridulating insects. It’s not unlike the most unwelcome of insectual pests, locusts, which are wholly unpleasant and often swarm in the thousands and even millions, as explained here –

ants stridulation

Some ants produce sounds by stridulation, using the gaster segments and their mandibles. Sounds may be used to communicate with colony members or with other species. See how much like a guïro the ant’s sounding board looks?

Striatary files

You can just about hear ant stridulation in one or two species, although you can hear it very well in crickets and cicadas. I have always loved the sound which seems to be hypnotic in the way that chanting is.


Ants stridulate to communicate.


It’s a Ugandan jumping spider who has taken on the ant shape to confuse predators who won’t eat stinging ants. (Alex Wild took this photograph, which is copyrighted:


Ants attack and defend themselves by biting and, in many species, by stinging, often injecting or spraying chemicals such as formic acid.


Bullet Ants (Paraponera) in Central and South America, are considered to have the most painful sting of any insect, although it is usually not fatal to humans. This sting is given the highest rating on the Schmidt Sting Pain Index.


The sting of Jack jumper ants (less than a centimeter long with bright orange pincers) can be fatal and an antivenom has been developed for it.


Fire Ants (Solenopsis) are unique in having a poison sac containing piperidine alkaloids. Their stings are painful and can be dangerous to hypersensitive people.


Trap-jaw ants of the genus Odontomachus are equipped with mandibles called trap-jaws, which snap shut faster than any other predatory appendages within the animal kingdom.


One study of Odontomachus bauri recorded peak speeds of between 126 and 230 km/h (78 – 143 mph), with the jaws closing within 130 microseconds on average.

Journey to the Ants

The ants were also observed to use their jaws as a catapult to eject intruders or fling themselves backward to escape a threat.


Before striking, the ant opens its mandibles extremely widely and locks them in this position by an internal mechanism. Energy is stored in a thick band of muscle and explosively released when triggered by the stimulation of sensory organs resembling hairs on the inside of the mandibles. The mandibles also permit slow and fine movements for other tasks.


Trap-jaws also are seen in the following genera: Anochetus, Orectognathus, and Strumigenys, plus some members of the Dacetini tribe, which are viewed as examples of convergent evolution. (Photo: Alex Wild. All rights reserved.)

ant explode

A Malaysian species of ant in the Camponotus cylindricus group has enlarged mandibular glands that extend into their gaster. When disturbed, workers rupture the membrane of the gaster, causing a burst of secretions containing acetophenones and other chemicals that immobilize small insect attackers. The worker subsequently dies.


Suicidal defences by workers are also noted in the Brazilian ant Forelius pusillus where a small group of ants leaves the security of the nest after sealing the entrance from the outside each evening.


In addition to defence against predators, ants need to protect their colonies from pathogens.


Some worker ants maintain the hygiene of the colony and their activities include necrophory (undertaking), the disposal of dead nest-mates.


Oleic acid has been identified as the compound released from dead ants that triggers necrophoric behavior in Atta mexicana while workers of Linepithema humile react to the absence of characteristic chemicals (dolichodial and iridomyrmecin) present on the cuticle of their living nestmates to trigger similar behavior.


Nests may be protected from physical threats such as flooding and overheating by elaborate nest architecture.


Workers of Cataulacus muticus, an arboreal species that lives in plant hollows, respond to flooding by drinking water inside the nest, and excreting it outside.


Camponotus anderseni, which nests in the cavities of wood in mangrove habitats, deals with submergence under water by switching to anerobic respiration.


Many animals can learn by imitation, but ants may be the only group besides mammals where interactive teaching has been observed. (Photo: Alex Wild


An experienced forager of Temnothorax albipennis will lead a new nest-mate to freshly discovered food by the process of tandem running.


The leading tutor teaches the follower. The leader is acutely sensitive to the progress of the follower and slows down when the follower lags and speeds up when the follower gets too close.


Experiments with colonies of Cerapachys biroi suggest that an individual may choose nest roles based on her previous experience.


A generation of identical workers was divided into two groups whose outcome in food foraging was controlled. One group was continually rewarded with prey, while it was made certain that the other failed. As a result, members of the successful group intensified their foraging attempts while the unsuccessful group ventured out fewer and fewer times. A month later, the successful foragers continued in their role while the others had moved to brood care.


Ants generally build complex nests, but some species are nomadic and do not build permanent structures.


Ants may form underground nests or build them in trees. These nests may be found in the ground, under stones or logs, inside logs, hollow stems, or even acorns.


Materials used for construction include soil and plant matter, and ants carefully select their nest sites.


Temnothorax albipennis avoid sites with dead ants since these may indicate the presence of pests or disease. They are quick to abandon established nests at the first sign of threats.


The army ants of South America and the driver ants of Africa do not build permanent nests, but instead, alternate between nomadism and stages where the workers form a temporary nest from their own bodies, by holding each other together. This is called a bivouac. (Photo copyright: Alex Wild


The weaver ants (Oecophylla) build nests in trees by attaching leaves together, first pulling them together with bridges of workers and then inducing their larvae to produce silk as they are moved along the leaf edges. Some species of Polyrhacis nest similarly.


Other ant species build nests in and on buildings. Interior spaces in walls, windows, and even electric appliances such as clocks, lamps, and radios in the interior of buildings may be used as sites for nests.


Ants are usually predators, scavengers, and indirect herbivores, but a few have evolved specialised ways of obtaining nutrition.


Leafcutter ants (Atta and Acromyrmex) feed exclusively on a fungus that grows only within their colonies. They collect leaves which are taken to the colony, cut into tiny pieces and placed in fungal gardens.


The largest of these ants cut stalks, smaller workers chew the leaves and the smallest tend the fungus. Leafcutter ants are sensitive enough to recognise the reaction of the fungus to different plant material, apparently detecting chemical signals from the fungus.


If a particular type of leaf is found to be toxic to the fungus, the colony will no longer collect it. The ants feed on structures produced by the fungi called gongylydia. The white clumps are gongylydia.


Symbiotic bacteria on the exterior surface of the ants produce antibiotics that kill bacteria introduced into the nest that may harm the fungi.


Ants when they forage for food travel distances of up to 200 metres (700 ft) from their nest and scent trails allow them to find their way back even in the dark.


Day-foraging ants in hot, dry places can easily die from the heat, so the ability to find the shortest route back is essential.


Diurnal desert ants of the genus Cataglyphis (Sahara desert ants, for example) navigate by keeping track of direction as well as distance travelled. Distances travelled are measured using an internal pedometer that keeps count of the steps taken and also by evaluating the movement of objects they see.


Ants measure direction by using the position of the sun.


They can also make use of visual landmarks when available as well as olfactory and tactile cues to navigate.

ant holding world

Some species of ant are able to use the earth’s magnetic field for navigation. The compound eyes of ants have cells that detect polarised light from the Sun, which is used to determine direction.


These polarization detectors are sensitive to the ultraviolet region of the light spectrum.

ant mill

In some army ant species, a group of foragers who become separated from the main column sometimes may turn back on themselves and form a circular ant mill. The workers may then run around continuously until they die of exhaustion.

Empire of The Ants

Such wheels have been observed in other ant species, notably when a group has fallen into or been overcome with water, whereby the group rotates in a partially submerged circle on the surface of the water, which might allow for survival of a brief flooding.

grasshopper fiddler

Worker ants do not have wings and reproductive females lose their wings after their mating flights. Therefore, unlike their wasp ancestors, most ants travel by walking.

harpegnathos saltator

Jerdon’s jumping ant (Harpegnathos saltator) is able to jump by synchronising the action of its mid and hind pairs of legs.


There are several species of gliding ant including Cephalotes atratus; this may be a common trait among most arboreal ants. Ants with this ability are able to control the direction of their descent while falling. (Photo copyright Alex Wild.


Some ants can form chains to bridge gaps over water, underground, or through spaces in vegetation.


Some species, such as fire ants, also form floating rafts that help them survive floods. These rafts may also have a role in allowing ants to colonise islands.



Polyrhacis sokolova, a species of ant found in Australian mangrove swamps, can swim and live in underwater nests. Since they lack gills, they go to trapped pockets of air in the submerged nests to breathe.


Ants have different kinds of societies. Bulldog ants are among the biggest of ants. They are eusocial, that is very social, but their behavior is poorly developed compared to other species. Each individual hunts alone, using her large eyes instead of chemical senses to find prey. (Photo: Alex Wild, all rights reserved)


Species such as Tetramorium caespitum attack and take over neighboring ant colonies. Others invade colonies to steal eggs or larvae, which they either eat or raise as workers or slaves.


Amazon ants are incapable of feeding themselves and need captured workers to survive. Captured workers of the enslaved species Temnothorax have evolved a counter strategy, destroying just the female pupae of the slave-making Protomognathus americanus, but sparing the males (who don’t take part in slave-raiding as adults).


Ants know their relatives through their scent, which comes from hydrocarbon-laced secretions that coat their exoskeletons. If an ant is separated from its original colony, it will eventually lose the colony scent. Any ant that enters a colony without a matching scent will be attacked.


(Photo copyright: Alex Wild


Ants attack each other even if they are of the same species because the genes responsible for pheromone production are different between them. The argentine ant, however, does not have this characteristic, due to lack of genetic diversity, and has become a global pest because of it.


Parasitic ant species enter the colonies of host ants and establish themselves as social parasites; species such as Strumigenys xenos are entirely parasitic and do not have workers, but instead, rely on the food gathered by their Strumigenys perplexa hosts.


This form of parasitism is seen across many ant genera, but the parasitic ant is usually a species that is closely related to its host. A variety of methods are employed to enter the nest of the host ant. A parasitic queen may enter the host nest before the first brood has hatched, establishing herself prior to development of a colony scent. Other species use pheromones to confuse the host ants or to trick them into carrying the parasitic queen into the nest. Some simply fight their way into the nest. (Photo: Alex Wild)


A conflict between the sexes of a species is seen in some species of ants with these reproductives apparently competing to produce offspring that are as closely related to them as possible.


The sperm of the male ant appears to be able to destroy the female DNA within a fertilized egg, giving birth to a male that is a clone of its father. Meanwhile the female queens make clones of themselves to carry on the royal female line.

Wasmannia auropunctata

An extreme of sexual conflict is seen in Wasmannia auropunctata where the queens produce diploid daughters by thelytokous parthenogenesis (giving virgin birth to female clones) and males produce clones by a process whereby a diploid egg loses its maternal contribution to produce haploid males who are clones of the father.


Ants are partners with many other beings including other ant species, other insects, plants, and fungi.


Also, many other animals and even some plants prey upon them.


There are arthropods who spend part of their lives within ant nests, either preying on them, their larvae, their eggs, consuming the food stores of the ants, or hiding from predators. These are inquilines and they may bear a close resemblance to ants. (Alex Wild, photographer, all rights reserved.


The nature of this mymyrmecomorphy, ant mimicing, varies, with some cases involving Batesian mimicry where the mimic reduces the risk of predation. (Alex Wild, copyright)


Other cases show Wasmannian mimicry, normally seen only in inquilines. ( copyright Alex Wild)

milking aphids

Then, in a sense, ants prey on other animals, sometimes rather benignly. Aphids and other hemipteran insects secrete a sweet liquid called honeydew. The sugars in honeydew are a high-energy food source, which many ant species collect, almost as we collect milk from cows.


The aphids secrete the honeydew in response to ants tapping them with their antennae. The ants in turn keep predators away from the aphids and will move them from one feeding location to another. A human being can tap an aphid with a hair of the head and the same secretion will happen.


Many colonies will take the aphids with them when they move to a new area, thus ensuring a continued supply of honeydew.



Ants also tend mealybugs to harvest their honeydew which can allow mealybugs to become a serious pest of pineapples if ants are present to protect them from their natural enemies.


Ant loving (myrmecophilous) caterpillars of the butterfly family, Lycaenidae (blues, coppers, or hairstreaks) are herded by the ants, led to feeding areas in the daytime, and brought inside the ants’ nest at night.


The caterpillars have a gland which secretes honeydew when the ants massage them. Some caterpillars produce vibrations and sounds that are perceived by the ants.

dom species

Other caterpillars have evolved from ant-loving to ant-eating: these myrmecophagous caterpillars secrete a pheromone that makes the ants act as if the caterpillar is one of their own larvae. The caterpillar is then taken into the ant nest where it feeds on the ant larvae.


The tribe Attini, fungus growing ants, which includes leafcutters cultivates certain species of fungus in the Leucoagricus or Leucoprinus genera of the Agariceae family.


The ants and the fungus depend upon each other for survival.


The ant Allomerus decemarticulatus has evolved a three-way association with the host plant, Hirtella physophora (Chrysobalanaceae), and a sticky fungus which is used to trap their insect prey. Comme d’habitude dans les dossiers sur les espèces on s’attaque à celles qui ont quelque chose d’époustouflant voir d’extraordinaire et bien les Allomerus decemarticulatus sont extraordinaires dans le fait qu’elles construisent des pièges qui leur servent à attraper leurs proies. (As usual with species one is attracted to those who are somewhat bizarre or even extraordinary and Allomerus decemarticulatus are extraordinary in that they build traps for catching their prey.)


C’est une fourmi arboricole qui creuse des petits trous appelés “domaties” dans les branches d’une plante.
Les fourmis attendent à l’entrer de ces trous un insecte y mettant ses pattes … Et l’attrapent ! (Allomerus decemarticulatus is a tree ant who digs little holes called “domaties” in the branches of a plant, Hirtella physophora. The ants wait by the entry to these holes and when the insect puts its legs there… they catch it!).


Lemon ants make devil’s gardens by killing surrounding plants with their stings and leaving a pure patch of lemon ant trees, (Duroia hirsuta).


This modification of the forest provides the ants with more nesting sites inside the stems of the Duroia trees.


Although some ants obtain nectar from flowers, pollination by ants is somewhat rare. Some plants have special nectar exuding structures, extrafloral nectaries that provide food for ants, who in turn protect the plant from more damaging insects. (Photo: Alex Wild)


Species such as the bullhorn acacia (Acacia cornigera) in Central America have hollow thorns that house colonies of stinging ants (Pseudomyrmex ferruginea) who defend the tree against insects, browsing mammals, and epiphtic vines.


Studies suggest that plants also obtain nitrogen from the ants. In return, the ants obtain food from protein- and lipid-rich Beltian bodies. (Photo: Alex Wild


Another example of this type of ectosymbiosis comes from the Macaranga tree, which has stems adapted to house colonies of Crematogaster ants.


Seed dispersal by ants (myrmecochory) is widespread and estimates suggest that nearly 9% of all plant species may have such ant associations. The ants are collecting a protein rich material attached to the seed. They do not eat the actual seed, which is later discarded in the ant midden. This makes a perfect seedbed. This symbiotic relationship is called myrmecochory.


Elaiosomes (Greek élaion “oil” and sóma “body”) are fleshy structures that are attached to the seeds of many plant species. The elaiosome is rich in lipids and proteins and may be variously shaped. Many plants have elaiosomes that attract ants, which take the seed to their nest and feed the elaiosome to their larvae. After the larvae have consumed the elaiosome, the ants take the seed to their waste disposal area, which is rich in nutrients from the ant frass and dead bodies, where the seeds germinate. (Photograph: Alex Wild


Some plants in fire-prone grassland systems are particularly dependent on ants for their survival and dispersal because the seeds are transported to safety below the ground.


A convergence (mimicry?), is seen in the eggs of stick insects. They have an edible elaiosome-like structure and are taken into the ant nest where the young hatch.


Most ants are predatory and some prey on and obtain food from other social insects including other ants. Some species specialise in preying on termites (Megaponera and Termitopone) while a few Cerapachyinae prey on other ants. While no one is sad to see the demise of termites thanks to the ants, ants aren’t particularly welcome either and are both pests most people will want to rid their properties of – you can view website of specialist exterminators and get in touch with them to begin this process.


Some termites, including Nasutitermes corniger, form associations with certain ant species to keep away predatory ant species.


The tropical wasp Mischocyttarus drewseni coats the pedicel of its nest with an ant-repellant chemical. (The pedicel is the part at the top that attaches the nest to a tree or a building.) It is suggested that many tropical wasps may build their nests in trees and cover them to protect themselves from ants.


Stingless bees (Trigona and Melipona) use chemical defences against ants.


Stingless bees, sometimes called meliponines, are a large group of bees (approximately 500 species) belonging in the family Apidae, and are closely related to common honey bees, carpenter bees, orchid bees and bumblebees. Their name is slightly misleading as male bees and bees of other species, such as those in the family Andrenidae, can not sting. Meliponines have stingers, but they are highly reduced and cannot be used for defense.


Flies in the Old World genus Bengalia (Calliphoridae) prey on ants and are kleptoparasites, snatching prey or brood from the mandibles of adult ants.

Vestigipoda longiseta

Wingless and legless females of the Malaysian phorid fly (Vestigipoda longiseta) live in the nests of ants of the genus Aenictus and are cared for by the ants. Most of what you see in the lower of the two photoes above are larvae of army ants of the genus Aenictus. The odd one out is the whiter ‘larva’ in the centre-which is not a larva at all, but a fully adult female of the phorid fly Vestigipoda longiseta.


Fungi in the genera Cordyceps and Ophiocordyceps infect ants. Ants react to their infection by climbing up plants and sinking their mandibles into plant tissue. The fungus kills the ants, grows on their remains, and produces a fruiting body. It appears that the fungus alters the behaviour of the ant to help disperse its spores in a microhabitat that best suits the fungus. This behavior is induced when the fungus takes partial control over the ant’s brain. (Photo: Alex Wild


Strepsipteran parasites also manipulate their ant host to climb grass stems, to help the parasite find mates.


A nematode (Myrmeconema neotropicum) that infects canopy ants (Cephalotes atratus) causes the black-coloured gasters of workers to turn red. The parasite also alters the behaviour of the ant, causing them to carry their gasters high. The conspicuous red gasters are mistaken by birds for ripe fruits such as Hyeronima alchorneoides and eaten. The droppings of the bird are collected by other ants and fed to their young, leading to further spread of the nematode. (Photo: Alex Wild)


South American poison dart frogs in the genus Dendrobates (tree climbers) feed mainly on ants, and the toxins in their skin may come from the ants.


This Central American species (Dendrobates) occurs from southeastern Nicaragua to northwestern Colombia. Though mostly distributed in humid lowlands and premontane rainforests from 0-800 m elevation, some montane morphs can be found up to 1200 m elevation. Type locality is the Pacific island of Taboga in the Bay of Panamá. In 1932, that morph was introduced to the Hawaiian Island of O’ahu.


Army ants forage in a wide roving column, attacking any animals in that path that are unable to escape. The name army ant (legionary ant, marabunta) applied to over 200 ant species, in different lineages, due to their aggressive predatory foraging groups, known as “raids”, in which huge numbers of ants forage simultaneously over a certain area, en masse.


Another shared feature is that, unlike most ant species, army ants do not construct permanent nests; an army ant colony moves almost incessantly over the time it exists. All species are members of the true ant family, but several groups have independently evolved the same basic behavioral and ecological syndrome. This syndrome is often referred to as “legionary behavior”, and is another example of convergent evolution. (Photo: Alex Wild


In Central and South America, Eciton burchellii is the swarming ant most commonly attended by “ant-following” birds such as antbirds and woodcreepers. The objective of the army-ant-following birds is simple: to devour the grasshoppers, katydids, crickets and other insects that think they are escaping death by flying away from the swarm.


Birds indulge in a peculiar behaviour called anting that, as yet, is not fully understood. Here birds rest on ant nests, or pick and drop ants onto their wings and feathers; this may be a means to remove ectoparasites from the birds.


Anteaters, aardvarks, pangolins, echidnas, and numbats have special adaptations for living on a diet of ants. These adaptations include long, sticky tongues to capture ants and strong claws to break into ant nests.


Brown bears (Ursus arctos) have been found to feed on ants. About 12%, 16%, and 4% of their fecal volume in spring, summer, and autumn, respectively, is composed of ants.


The life of ants is as strange as anything in science fiction. They are fascinating animals. During the writing of this I have imagined myself as an ant being raised from an egg in a colony. I have dreamed that I became an ant.


Thank you and I’ll see you next week.


Big Brother history, part seventeen – 2005

clam house

BBHC name printed

Sam Andrew, Ben Nieves Illinois 2011

Ben Nieves

1 January 2005       We played in Cleveland.



Then we went to Europe.


Driving through the Czech Republic, we were stopped at a Hrensko passport control (Zollamt) that looked as if it were in a 1940s film.



Bluesiana Club in Velden, Austria.

Velden, Austria (near Klagenfurt), is 30 kilometers or so from the Italian border and even closer to Slovenia, so Slovenians often came to see us.

With Slovenians and Kacee Clanton, Glenn Halvarsson, Chad Quist and Peter Albin.

1 April 2005   Bluesiana   Velden   Austria        Between Villach and Klagenfurt on Lake Wörther.

Elise took this photograph of the Wörthersee.

4 April 2005    Spectrum          Augsburg           Germany


Halle             Germany

7 April 2005         In Halle, Elise and I visited the Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte, the Provincial Prehistory Museum.

From the early Bronze Age, these are, however, made of gold.

Menschenwechsel.  Human change.  Evolution.

The theme at this museum was the evolution from Neanderthal to contemporary humans as it happened in Germany, right where we were.  We were seeing the history of the same Sachsen-Anhalt region around us.


Some people stay in the same place for millennia. They are happy there, and they keep their families around them.  Remember that dig in England where they ran the DNA testing on bones they found from thousands of years before, and one of the closest matches was to a school teacher who lived right down the road?

We were looking at tools and toys made by ancestors of people who were standing around us in the museum.

For an American, this is an unusual experience because we are new people in our continent, unless we’re talking about Native Americans. My friend Lance who is Navajo must feel something similar to this when he visits a museum in Phoenix.

This Neanderthaler, for example, looks a little like Rush Limpburger.

His thought processes may be a little subtler and quicker than Rush’s, but there is a certain physical kinship.

Handwedge or handaxe (Faustkeil) 200,000 years old. Beautifully made.

8 April 2005  Alter  Gasometer  Zwickau   Germany



Sometimes they sit down on the job.

9 April 2005   Forlì  Italy    Today is Elise’s birthday. She celebrated it by driving us from Zwickau in eastern Germany to Forlì in Emilia Romagna, a long, heroic drive overnight and over the snowy Alps.

Ernesto De Pascale was an old friend of mine.

Figli dei fiori…  flower children

11 April 2005   Teatro Blu     Milano         …nel blu di pinto di blu.


Nowwww don’t tell me you didn’t know all along,   You’re not Donna Read and I’m sho not Don Juan,

ex en Provence

We’re just two losers with good come ons.   But not quite good enough.      (Merci, Thomas.)

The gig was in Hannover, but we stayed in the tiny town of Nienburg.

A shout out to George Michalski, the Elton John of San Francisco.   Hi, George !


16 April 2005     Luzern      In Italian Locarno.  Everything here is in two or three languages.



Burg Satzvey:  We actually played in this castle. I thought, wow, the reverberation will be awful with all that stone, but the sound was quite good.

When the Germans want to play Renaissance Faire, they do it very well.


Now we go to Frankfurt am Main.

19 April 2005     Frankfurt    Das Städel is such a great museum.

They have this beautiful Botticelli there. Botticelli’s model was a woman named Simonetta and, improbably enough, she was the sister of Amerigo di Vespucci, the cartographer and explorer after whom our continent is named. Another coincidence is that the Vespucci lived in Vicenza, a place we visit often, the hometown of Arianna Antinori and Antea Salmaso.

Simonetta was also the model for The Birth of Venus and many other well known paintings from the Renaissance.

Primavera    Many other artists in Florence painted Simonetta but none so well, perhaps, as Botticelli.

In that same small town Vicenza where Simonetta and Amerigo di Vespucci lived, a farmboy was born a little later. He was a worker on construction projects but he showed a great flair for design and architecture.

A nobleman recognized the boy’s talent, gave him a place to live, an education and a name, Palladio  (in honor of the goddess Pallas Athena).

Palladio designed many, many buildings around Vicenza, Padua and surrounding areas. They look very familiar to us. This is the Villa Moro.

The White House and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello are both exact copies of buildings that Palladio made in Italy.

So, thank you to the little town of Vicenza, Italy, who gave us Simonetta and Amerigo di Vespucci, Palladio, Arianna Antinori and Antea Salmaso.

In Frankfurt, Chad and I walked back to the hotel from sound check.  Find Chad.

In the black room… I mean, the green room.


23 April 2005      Augsburg       This was the town of Augustus Caesar.  Augusti burg. Augsburg.


Hamburg                   There is a wonderful museum here, the Kunsthalle, the art hall.

Tal Wilkenfeld bassist

The Hanseatic city of Lübeck way up north just before you go into Denmark. A Hansa is a trading league or partnership. “Lufthansa” is an “air league.”


Århus     Denmark      This is a school town, bohemian.


25 April 2005    Copenhagen  Denmark     This was a most interesting museum. I like the name Glyptotek. Carving case, which is a way of saying sculpture museum.


When I was here with the Kozmic Blues Band in 1969, I had the most delicious mushroom soup, but couldn’t find it this time. I don’t know why. It’s only 36 years later.

27 April 2005     Randers    Denmark

Peter Albin onstage in Randers, Denmark.

Late at night, after the gig, Elise photographed this building across the street from our hotel.

With Andra Mitrovich

30 April 2005       Bergen          Norway


In the right testicle of Scandinavia, there she is, the town of Bergen.

Look at the venue name, Peer Gynt, Grieghallen. Hall of the Mountain King from the Peer Gynt Suite by Grieg was our theme for years. I still quote the tune in my solo on Blindman.

Andra Mitrovich          Elise Piliwale

It’s not the girl with the pearl earring, but it’s the girl hearing Pearl.

As Charlie McCarthy would say,  Bye, bye, Bergen.

Meanwhile, back in Fairfax…

12 May 2005           Dean Suzuki invited me to give a talk at San Francisco State University.



Photo:                  Polly Belinda Rendall

7 June 2005        Cleveland           This was a wonderful show.

Manet did this one of her.

And she did this one of herself.

Kate Russo

Kacee Clanton lying down on the job and looking pretty darned good while she’s doing it.

23 June 2005   Mountain Festival   Batesville         Arkansas


I know that I do a lot of foolish and dangerous things.

How can I talk about how I sing? It’s something totally instinctive that comes from inside me. I can’t describe my insides.

The only things that count are feelings: and my music is feeling.

Being intellectual raises a lot of questions and very few answers. Your life is full of ideas but you go home alone.

blue Janis





We very seldom play in the south of Italy, so when I walked around the streets of Salerno, everyone looked like they were from Brooklyn or Queens, because “our” Italians generally come from the south.

7 July 2005           Salerno

Una Salernitana      Chad Quist    Sophia Ramos

Don’t say anything bad about Salerno.

DD in Brooklyn

8 July 2005      Sant’Elpidio   This is a lovely place on the Adriatic.

Laura Albergante Visconti



Cesena is a little to the south of Ravenna.


Michael Falzarano     Diana Mangano     Kerry Kearney


11 July 2005   Genova    A beautiful town.

Emilia on drums

Emilia Febbraio a la batteria


Gianna Nannini was here in our hotel lobby in Genova. I had introduced her to the audience in Salerno, although they knew who she was better than I did. She is quite famous in Italy.

Genova is a wonderful town to walk in. Many hills to climb with great views of the harbor and the city.

13 July 2005       Up north in Udine, a beautiful place.



Udine, if not now, when?





14 – 17 July 2005


We recorded this gig and the result was the CD Hold Me released in 2006.

Friday  15 July 2005             Burg Herzberg          Germany

NGS Picture ID:972030

20 July 2005          Louisville        Kentucky

29 July 2005      Great American Music Hall     San Francisco            Still playing for Chet.      This was a great night.

2009 31 dec Nicole Elise Sophia

23 September 2005              Ko Samui          Thailand

Sophia Ramos

Elise in the hangar after we flew around the island of Ko Samui.

With Sophia Ramos    Alan Sadd   Elise Piliwale    Eugene Skuratowicz

Kate Russo    Peter Albin

With Randal Myler

7 September 2005        Louisville

4 October 2005       The entrance to the Landmark Motel        Hollywood.

28 December 2005              Coco’s            Ko Samui            Thailand


Guapísima Rosemarie

Back Camera

See you next week?

Sam Andrew          Sophia Ramos


Notes from a Bindle Stiff

Bindle Stiff:  (bundle man, hobo)   Jack London in a 1901 letter, ”Wyckoff only knows the workingman, the stake-man, the bindle-stiff.”

girl airplanes

Come live in my tent and pay no rent.


Appreciation makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.


Don’t play what’s there. Play what’s not there.


A good education will show you how little you know.


If you understood everything I say, you would be I… or me.


Mistakes in improvised music?  There are none.

glen farg

Probably the main duty of the young is to challenge the received notions of the old.

james gurley 1966

A jest is a truth with a melody.


I sometimes wonder if Americans aren’t fooled by our accent into detecting brilliance that may not really be there.


When are you going to figure it out about guns?  How many shootings is it going take?  They are occurring almost daily now.

jimi 17 sept 1970

People see the past as better than it was, the present worse than it is, and the future less resolved than it will be

noah peter

It says “extinguisher,” but it looks more like “stinker.”


Anything is possible as long as you keep working at it.  Don’t back down.


Common sense is not so common.


You can’t leave yourself out of that mix. You have to be honest enough to say, I’m the messed-up one in the family.


I never paint dreams or nightmares. I paint my own reality.

mari photo

The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.


Every revolution evaporates and leaves behind only the slime of a new bureaucracy.

marty kerry

God gives us nuts, but she doesn’t crack them.


Take a deep breath after any outburst of vanity or complacency.


It wasn’t Don Quixote’s madness that bothered him. It was Sancho Panza.


You Greeks are god driven crazy! One of the most beautiful peoples of the kosmos.


A stairstep not worn by footsteps is only a boring something made of wood.

mari photo 1

Begin with what is right rather than what is usual.


Women dress for women.


I’d rather they all hate it and I like it, than vice versa. I make music to please myself first, and if the audience likes it, all the better.


My father wouldn’t get us a TV, he wouldn’t allow a TV in the house.


Kindness and politeness are not overrated at all. If anything, they are underrated.


I’m always happy to have a job.


Interviews are all right with me. I don’t pursue them. When the people I work with deem them appropriate, I’m perfectly willing to serve.

Chaplin 27

Characters with no integrity are just as interesting as characters with lots of integrity.


I think that no matter how much you don’t like yourself or the drama of your life you can still find some comedy in it.


The proper union of vodka and vermouth is a great and sudden glory; it is one of the happiest marriages on earth, and one of the shortest lived.


The mind and the heart have their own logic but do not often let others in on it.



It’s scary to wake up one morning and discover that your university class is running your state.

Lincoln inaugural 1861

Watch out how you see yourself, because how you see yourself may be what you are.


Growing old is an interesting process. There’s no cure for it. The best medicine may be laughter, if laughter is any kind of medicine at all.


I’ll play it and tell you what it is later.


The universe is truly large. From here to Alpha Centauri is an unimaginable distance, and that is just a tiny, tiny corner in this whole universe, almost imperceptible. So, now, what were you worrying about again?


The feeling about a soldier is he wasn’t really going to do very much with his life anyway. The example usually is: he wasn’t going to play music that would be as ravishing, enlightening and as impassioned as there ever was, but how do we know this?  History is full of examples of people who were almost going to die, and yet, because of some unlooked for miracle, survived and went on to do such great things that benefited us all. What a narrow escape, and think of those who didn’t escape. Anyone who reads biographies will be very conscious of this.  There is only the most tenuous thread between life and death for us all.  Accidents play a much larger part in life than we are willing to recognize.  What if Jimi Hendrix had been killed in Viet Nam?  Who WAS killed in Viet Nam?

mari photo 3

I wanted to write about a normal young girl whose only difference was that she behaved in the way a boy might, without any sense of guilt on a moral or sexual level.

hippo cart 1924

If you’re feeling strong and emotional when you’re creating something, it will come out that way.

mari photo 2

Whiskey is by far the most popular of all remedies that won’t cure a cold.


Name me an emperor who was ever struck by a cannonball.


I don’t really want to control anyone, to be honest.


Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.


May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing views. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.

Saipan 1944

I speak Spanish to god, Italian to women, French to men, and German to my goat.


Abolition of a woman’s right to abortion, when and if she wants it, amounts to compulsive maternity, a form of rape by the state.


The missionaries go forth to Christianize the savages, as if the savages weren’t dangerous enough already.


The tragedy of war is that young soldiers die fighting each other, instead of their real enemies back home in the capitals.


A drink a day keeps the shrink away.


The trouble with returning to a place where you once were is that you can never repeat the same experience.

Jesse James 16

Our neoconservatives are neither new nor conservative. They’re as old as Babylon and evil as Hell.


Ignorance, apathy, hate, fear, greed, as long as these things are in human nature the Republicans will get some votes.


Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity for the human spirit.


It’s not the equipment, it’s the operator. It’s the singer, not the song.


I think when I practice, but feel when I play. The playing occurs ahead of my ability to understand it.


Some parts of my solos are OK and other parts I can’t stand. You have to live with that.

bookstore London 1940

I keep reading between the lies.


I was born lucky. I’ll be the first to admit that.

Back Camera

TV = Terrible Vaudeville.


If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do a  job, wait until you hire an amateur.


A person’s intelligence is directly reflected by the number of conflicting points of view she can entertain simultaneously on the same topic.


Forgiveness is good for your health.

London 1940

Aeschylus said that it is in the character of very few men to honor without envy a friend who has prospered, but I think I have this quality. Several of my friends have gone on to fame and glory and I very seldom want to kill them.


OK, I’ll give Brooke back her underwear.

silvia sf

There are a lot of people in the phone book, but very few ideas.

Back Camera

Not one of the first six Presidents of the United States was an orthodox Christian.


The best time to buy something is a couple of years ago.


We all think we’re going to get out of debt.

space chimp 1961


I would have answered your letter sooner but you didn’t send one.

skip spence

Much better to desire than to have.


I’d better say I belong to myself and the world rather than belonging to one nationality or another.



Nothing is ever the same as they said it was.

Princeton students 1893

You gotta have swine to show you where the truffles are.

veronica f

The best cure for hypochondria is to forget about your body and become interested in someone else’s.


The thing that’s important to know is that you never know. You’re always sort of feeling your way.



Artists don’t retire. They stop when there’s no more art in them.


We might be be the holographic image of a two dimensional structure.

vittoria silvia franco

Tell me about yourself, your struggles, your dreams, your telephone number.

Hitler's men Xmas 1941

I consider your conduct unethical and lousy.


There are some people that if they don’t know, you can’t tell them.


All my life my heart has yearned for a thing I cannot name.


I consider myself more of a visual comedian than a physical one.


People look for happiness as a drunk looks for his house: he can’t find it, but he knows that it exists.



If you get the quality right, then the marketability or whatever; your ability to sell videos or your ability to earn money or whatever, will follow naturally. But try to be creatively lead rather than market lead.

Liberty 1885

I’ve been so liberated it hurts.


Tokyo to Nagoya.


One of the most attractive things about writing your autobiography is that you’re not dead.


While I have never been a regular churchgoer, I’m anything but immune to the power and the majesty of a spiritual experience.


I swear, if you existed I’d divorce you.



In those days, boxing was very glamorous and romantic. You listened to fights on the radio, and a good announcer made it seem like a contest between gladiators.


The marvelous thing about a double entendre is that it only means one thing.


He won’t, won’t he? Then bring me my boots.


If Attila the Hun were alive today, he’d be a music critic.


I am the the type to have a personal experience with a celebrity, but I’m too classy to bring that up.


I told my psychiatrist that everyone hates me. She said that I was being ridiculous… everyone hasn’t met me yet.

report card

If ten was the perfect score, he needed help in French.


My wife was afraid of the dark. Then she saw me naked and now she’s afraid of the light.


The way my luck is going, if I were a politician I’d be honest.


Nossa! Quanto tempo!


One of the fundamental truths about marriage. The wife is in charge.  Fine by me.

Back Camera

There is hope for the future because god has a sense of humor and she thinks we’re funny.


When I was a kid my parents moved a lot, but I always found them.


Do you ever really look at people in a health food store. They are pale, skinny and look half dead. In a steak house you see robust, ruddy people. They’re dying, of course, but they look great.




Old is always fifteen years from now.


There are no authorities on love, just those who have had luck with it and those who haven’t.


May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house.

Russia 1941

Death is caused by being born.


His eyes so dim, so wasted each limb, that, heedless of grammar, they all cried, that’s him!


I have one day today, and I’m going to be happy in it.

Das Städel

Anyone who says he understands women is missing a lot.


Just because you got the monkey off your back doesn’t mean that the circus has left town.


Timmy from Lassie.


Man does not control his own fate. The women in his life do.


Bella questa.  Che stelline che siete!   What stars you are.


I wanted to improve my looks at The Body Shop, but now I’m improving them at the Photoshop.


I’m shy, but I’m not clinically shy. I don’t have social anxiety disorder or anything like that. I more have a gentle shyness. Like, I have a little trouble mingling at parties.


One way to find out if someone’s honest. Ask. If he says yes, you know he’s not.


In the beginning there was nothing. Then god said, “Let there be light.” So then there was still nothing but you could see a lot better.


Aim high. That way you won’t shoot yourself in the foot.


People think because I can make them laugh on the stage, I’ll be able to make them laugh in person. That isn’t the case at all. I am essentially a rather quiet, dull person who just happens to be a performer.


Hello Kitty will never speak.


Marriage is a mistake every man should make.


As I get older, I get smaller. I see other parts of the world I didn’t see before. Other points of view. I see outside myself more. I was one meter and eighty-five centimeters when I lived in Paris in my twenties and now I am one meter and eighty-three centimeters, so I’m smaller that way too.

Tasmanian Tiger 1933

Better to burn out than to rust out.


Act the way you’d like to be and soon you’ll be the way you act.


Partnership is the way.


Sam Andrew Lisa Battle

When we talk to god, we’re praying. When she talks to us, we’re schizophrenic.


Journalists were so unkind to me. They said I knew only three chords, but they were wrong. I knew four.


Sometimes the best songs come all at once in twenty minutes or half an hour. Chords, words, melody, everything.


Everything that used to be a sin is now a disease.

hit parader

Multitasking?  I can’t even do one thing at once.


Who’s your real friend? The person who tells you the truth.


If you think your life is tough, read a bit of history.


Karl Rove said that if Arnold Schwarzenegger’s father weren’t a Nazi, Arnold wouldn’t have any credibility with conservatives at all.


The advantage for the snorer is that he is the one who’s sleeping.  (Merci à toi, Thomas.)


The word “privacy” does not appear in the Constitution.


I want the world to be better because I was here.


Everybody’s nuts. Enjoy the ride.


If you hear me saying, “I’m a serious artist,” please slap me.


“Republican party” is an oxymoron, isn’t it?


People take comedians seriously and politicians as a joke.


Know what you are doing. Love what you are doing. Believe in what you are doing.


Be thankful we’re not getting all the government we’re paying for.


You can learn by travel, by reading or by associating with people who are smarter than you.


Advertising can convince you to spend money you don’t have to buy something you don’t need to impress somebody you don’t like.


Crime does pay… if you’re a lawyer.


Things aren’t what they used to be, and that’s a good thing.


There is nothing that will get your mind off everything like golf. I’ve never been depressed enough to take up the game, but they say that you can become so angry with yourself that you forget to hate your enemy. Actually, I doubt this very much.


A holding company is a guy you hand the stolen goods to when the police arrive.


Marriages are made in heaven. So are hurricanes.


Life is what happens to you while you’re making other plans.


Don’t just do something, sit there.



If you love someone, say so.

Lisa Dave Tom 1996

What if, at this very moment, we were living up to our full potential?



People who complain about President Obama should consider how things would be if Romney and Ryan were running the country.


Not everyone in Hollywood is on the left.  Just the smart ones.


Strength doesn’t have to be boastful, belligerent and loud. Quite the opposite, really.


Every musician knows that a melody can come to you that is so beautiful, so universal that it’s not yours but god’s. You’re just a conduit.


That’s what show business is, sincere insincerity.

black swan sampler

The harder you work, the luckier you get.


Such is life and life is such, and after all it isn’t much, first a cradle then a hearse, could’ve been better, could’ve been worse.



I started school in Okinawa, Japan, and have never really stopped.


Steam punk can be scary.


Don’t let yesterday use up too much of today.

linda paul

I always wanted to be a physicist, but it seemed that I was doomed to be nothing more than a very silly person.

Sam Andrew motorcycle Lisa Battle

Thank you for being here and we’ll see you next week.


Big Brother history, part sixteen – 2004

I need you, darling, like the fish needs the sea.


Please don’t take your sweet, sweet love from me.

Kate with us October 2004

Kate Russo has played with us in hot places, México, Thailand, Arizona, Dallas, Austin, New York City in Manny’s Car Wash, where we were on a postage stamp sized triangular stage about the size of your closet filled with chain smoking New Yorkers out of their minds in the August heat. THAT was fun.

2 January 2004    The Docksider    Erie   Pennsylvania

BBHC Newport j&p

See how Pennsylvania made that little portal out to Lake Erie ?   Croatia has outlets to the Adriatic Sea much narrower than this, maybe a mile in length. Access to water is very important.

The Erie Canal, dug in the early 1800s, and connecting the Hudson River to Lake Erie, is what made New York New York.


Many other ports, Savannah, Boston, were more important at the time, but with a way to get goods over the Appalachians (Alleghenies, Catskills) and to Ohio and points farther west and south, New York City became the dominant Eastern doorway to and from the rest of the country out to the rest of the world, all because of that canal.

Even today transport by barge on the Erie Canal uses a tenth of the fuel of a truck.

Goods could be taken from the New York harbor up to north of Albany, and then west on the Erie Canal, which connected with Ohio canals, and then with the Ohio river on to the Mississippi and then on down to New Orleans. The young nation was now tied together by her waterways.


beach 1918

I used to sing this song in my folk music days. This printed music, however, is very odd, with its B#. I’ve never seen anything like this and in the fifth measure there is a trill between B# and C natural, and it looks as if the tablature has both notes in the same location. Very strange.


Anyway, I loved this haunting Erie Canal melody and the history embodied in the song.


This song is rather like what The Volga Boatman must have been to the Russians.

Minor key, strongly pentatonic, a chant, really, primitive, strong, good for keeping time while rowing or pulling a canal boat.


Map showing Present and Proposed Canal System

This version makes a lot more sense. This one’s in E minor. I think I used to sing it in D minor.


Rodney Albin            Ellen Cavanaugh       Peter Albin

mother daughter


3 January 2004        Sellersville Theatre         Sellersville    Pennsylvania

21 April 2004          Kellogg Foundation   Lake Tahoe  California      At this event, I met Don Graham, a neurosurgeon who since has gone from this…

… to this.             He and Sarah made Adyson Graham who is impossibly beautiful.

i photo

And, speaking of beautiful…

24 April 2004  Wild Hog Festival  Helena   Arkansas         It rained so hard at this event.

manu s

We really thought we might be electrocuted. Everything was soaking wet.


Electrocuted in Arkansas, that would have been some fate.

Now we’re down at the mouth of the Mississippi in a Caribbean city, New Orleans.


25 April 2004      Rosy’s Jazz Hall       New Orleans

noon 1946

lisa m

Mama Mills

Orlando, where the Carol guitar was stored in a vault for a while, is an inland place.   Photo:  Anthony Edman

13 May 2004   The Vault  Orlando Florida     The Carol guitar travels around the country and is in San Francisco now, I believe. Those are some of Janis’ things behind me, a cape and a dressing gown.

When we played there in Orlando, I took the guitar out of The Vault and put it on stage.

The Vault in Orlando.

Elise and I moved into this Marin house where we live now in 2004. It’s a small house on two and one half acres, a hectare.

Back Camera

So, now we have lived here ten years, time enough to cram the place full of books and a lot of love.

The Hawaiian archipelago is actually much longer than these main islands.  The whole archipelago extends some 1,200 miles over the Pacific.

Midway Island, that small two mile long dot there on the globe, is at the northwestern end of the Hawaiian archipelago. It is one third of the way to Tokyo from Honolulu.

sweet thoughts

My family traveled once (1956, 1957) in a propeller plane that actually refueled at Midway en route to Okinawa, Japan. We refueled again at Wake Island too, if I’m not mistaken.

Chad Quist, guitar    Kacee Clanton, singer     Todd Zimberg, drums


Kona Brew Pub

Colin and Wayne, good guys, erstwhile equipment managers for Big Brother, now far richer than we are, PLUS, they get to live in Hawaii.   Así es la vida.

See that red dot that says Makena?  James Gurley and I lived on the beach there for two and a half years or so, off and on, lived there with maybe ten of our friends. I wrote a song called Maui about our sojourn there. That was a beautiful time. Of course now Makena has resort hotels and is spotless. They wouldn’t let our kind in there now.  What else is new?

Regina and Kacee were with us.

19 June 2004  Red Cross Waterfront Festival        Alexandria  Virginia


Tristan Avakian played guitar with us and Todd Zimberg was on drums.   Tristan is now with Jennifer Espinoza in some incredible Queen tribute scene, and Todd has a series of jazz camps up in Washington.


We certainly drank our share of it.


30 June 2004     Stop 345      Memphis     Tennessee


31 July 2004   Magic Springs Theme Park   Hot Springs    Arkansas


6 August 2004   Sellersville Theatre      Sellersville    Pennsylvania      Sellersville is a borough in Bucks County in the Philadelphia-Camden metro area.

2014 Sundance TIn Type Portraits - Elle Fanning

7 August 2004   South Park Concert Site    South Park   Pennsylvania


13 August 2004   Gray’s Harbor Fair        Elma      Washington        I always wanted to open for a parrot.



karla downey

Kate Russo and I passed this one with ease. I could do this one with my eyes closed. I HAVE done this one with my eyes closed many times.

cow maiden

14 August 2004   Berbatti’s Pan     Portland     Oregon


18 September 2004    Tree Frog Music Festival     Fairibault    Minnesota



Jimi trio

Met them in Monterey.

jimi generation

Jimi was once the sound man for Big Brother and the Holding Company and he did a good job. We played at his club The Generation in New York and he ran sound and recorded us on a Nagra tape recorder. Here he is applauding the band. This was a wake for Reverend Martin Luther King, Junior.


24-25  September 2004     El Dorado Hotel & Casino      Reno


Chelsea Healey


Na’alehu Theatre

Chad Quist

Peter Albin                    Karen Lyberger

2 October 2004    Hamakua Music Festival      Honoka’a       Hawaii

BBHC ancient album

Chloe Lowery  and Elise Piliwale

The banyan tree downtown Lahaina, Maui. This tree just keeps on going and growing. It’s all one tree and it covers this entire very large block.


4 October 2004       The Landmark Hotel       Los Angeles                      Photo:  Howard Sounes

16 October 2004    Largo Cultural Center   Largo  Florida       Wendy Rich


Peter Albin


Shanna and Susan

31 December 2004    Coco’s in Ko Samui, Thailand.      set lists

crumb arthur

See you next week?

Sam Andrew, Peter, Jerry

Peter Lewis           Jerry Miller                Sam Andrew


Big Brother history, part fifteen – 2003


Antea gazpacho



18 January 2003      Porterville Auditorium           Porterville         California


Back to the Beans and Bangers circuit.



13 March 2003   The Brook   Southampton   UK

14 March 2003    The Rayners    London Harrows  UK       I asked Kacee Clanton to sing with us on this trip, and she did a good job. I said, “Only thing is, don’t bring anyone with you, and pack extremely light. We only have a small van to travel in. Also, where we will be staying, there are often no elevators and many flights of stairs,” so Kacee showed up with her girlfriend and the largest suitcase I have ever seen. She’s been to Europe many times since then. I bet her luggage was lighter each time.

The band this time:   Chad Quist, Glenn Halvarsson, Kacee Clanton and Peter Albin.

The band with the van.  Yes, we can. Yes, we have to.

15 March 2003  The Borderline   London


16 March 2003    The Borderline   Diest   Belgium         Quite a coincidence to play two clubs with the same name in two different countries on two consecutive nights.



Ingrid Maassen

17 March 2003  Club Banana Peel  Ruiselede   Belgium            This was a tent in an open field. A happening place, though.


One of the best men who ever lived: Vincent Van Gogh.  I read his letters to his brother Theo, and, even allowing for the fact that he is putting on his best face for a dear relative who is going to send him money, comfort and love, still, the piety, honesty, penetration, sheer energy and deep feeling of Vincent are amazing and very affecting.  If he had never painted a stroke, he would still be a very remarkable person.

Van Gogh’s birthplace.

He was born in Zundert, in the far south of the Netherlands.

18 March 2003   Stairway To Heaven   Utrecht   Netherlands


19 March 2003   Rijksmuseum   Amsterdam     I went to this museum long ago when I was in the Kozmic Blues Band, and back now.


Elise Piliwale, Stela Mandel and Nancy Pollock

20 March 2003   Wilhelmina          Eindhoven                Netherlands

My mother’s name was Wilhelmina.

She was named for this queen of the Netherlands.

21 March 2003   Patronaat  Haarlem  Netherlands       This is the hometown of Frans Hals, an extraordinary painter.

Franz Hals visited this home for retired men and painted the inhabitants in the very room where I saw his work. One of the quickest artists ever, he handled all that 17th century lace with verve and accuracy, alla prima, very few corrections. It was a privilege to be in the same room where he did that.

Hals did this painting in this building in about three hours. If you look closely at the original, you can see the almost incredible rapidity of the brushstrokes.

22 March 2003   Iduna   Drachten   Netherlands

Some of these towns were so destroyed in World War Two that they are brand new and even strip mallish today.

IM pretty

Hengelo is almost due east of Amsterdam, close to Enschede.

23 March 2003    Kleine Kunst    Hengelo        Netherlands     “Kleine Kunst” means “little art.”


Now we drive far south to Velden am Wörthersee, Austria.

25 March 2003   Bluesiana Rock Café        Velden am Wörthersee  Austria     Gúðrun Kofler (center above) has brought us here to her place many times now.

Velden is way down in the south of Austria between Villach and Klagenfurt, very close to Italy and Slovenia.

In old Germany the catchphrase was Kinder Küche Kirche (Children Kitchen Church).  Here it’s Konzert Keller Kofler, something like:  Concert  Cellar Kofler, Gudrun’s surname.

Chad can not only bowl, he can also rock and roll.

We had fun. I apologized for George W. Bush, but otherwise we had a wonderful night.

Monika Pabst !    ”Papst,” exactly the same pronunciation, means “pope,” and I think she would make a great pope.

Glenn Halvarsson, sommelier for the Swedish tap water tour.

Chad Quist. One of the all time great guitar players. Clean, intelligent and always interesting.

Austrians are light, witty, schpritzy like Mozart’s music.

An example of their sense of humor may be found down the street at the Stehbar (stand bar).  You think a US bar would advertise this way ?


My friend Ali

26 March 2003         Planet Music             Vienna


28 March 2003   Colos-saal    Aschaffenburg Germany   The name of the club is a Wortspiel, a pun. Koloss (Colossus) is a giant, and Saal is an auditorium (like French Salle).  And the whole thing is colossal.


29 March 2003    Alter Gasometer    Zwickau  Germany    The old gasmeter or the old gas company. I like the reuse of these buildings. This one is a beauty.

“East” Germany was under Soviet domination for a long time and there was not a lot of money under Communist rule, so, paradoxically, many places were left “unimproved” and as they were in the 1930s. Indeed, Prague in many places looks much as it did in Mozart’s time, which is why they filmed extended portions of Amadeus in Prague instead of in Vienna. Communism had the inadvertent virtue of preserving an older way of life.

When I stay in an old hotel room in eastern Germany, I think a lot about the lives lived there under Communism. The faded walls, ancient appliances and creaky floors speak to me of all the people who simply tried to make it through those parlous times.


The “cookwash.”  Laundromats are great places for guitar playing. Somehow they filter out the mistakes. It’s like singing in the shower.

The Sword of the East.   Don’t get me wrong. There were a lot of beautiful ideas in Communism. The rights of women, for example, were recognized under that system, and in old Soviet films you see women engineers on locomotives, women doctors, a real gender equality only beginning to be seen in the West now.

Communism, though, had the misfortune to be directed by human beings and we all know how selfish and venal they can be, and how even a little power can pervert the finest ideals.

So, in the former East Germany, I see much evidence of the wreckage of hope and ambition and comfort.  This can be dispiriting.


The times, though, as someone once noted, are a changin’.  All of these old buildings and old lives have a new lease now. Suddenly former East Germany is hip.  The people in the DDR were “hillbillies” not so long ago. Now they are “authentic” and preserved from the olden times. This is a familiar scenario. Social regentrification, I suppose you could call it, and it’s worth a lot more than nothing.


It’s just that, when I am in those old hotel rooms late at night, I think of the ones who didn’t make it, the ones who died shortly before the Wall came down and thus lived their entire lives in desperate hope, cramped conformity and, sometimes, in terror.

We are the people.

Vacation in the DDR, the Orwellian named Deutsche Demokratische Republik.  Now that it’s over, everyone wants to reëxperience life under Communism.  The Ford in the East Germany of that time was called the Trabant (the Trabi) and now everyone wants to have one and especially that little tent that was erected on top of the car. It’s so chic, don’t you know ?

How quickly we forget and how easy to remember the “good old days,” which, of course, never were good.  Nostalgia for neuralgia.

Brezhnev and Honneker, the East German leader,  certainly seemed to be feeling the love, but there wasn’t a lot of trickle down.  There never is. There never will be.

31 March 2003    Objekt 5    Halle          Germany


1 April 2003   Musiktheater Rex  Lorsch  Germany

I'm under a train

Sylvia Bartolotti tells me that Sto sotto ‘n treno (I’m under a train) is a way of saying, I feel as if I’ve been run over by a train, or I have a horrible hangover.


2 April 2003     Rockfabrik    Ludwigsburg             Germany

It’s funny to me, because Rock in German means skirt, and Fabrik could be cloth, but it really means Rock Factory.  Rock und Blouse could be a skirt and blouse, or it could be Rock and Blues.


4 April 2003  Fismo   Einsiedeln    Switzerland           My hotel room was right across from this monastery.


Fismo is an acronym:   Fédération Internationale des Sports Mécaniques Originaux.

The CH = Confoederatio Helvetica    The Helvetic Confederation.  In his book De Bello Gallico The Gallic War, Julius Caesar used the word Helvetica for what is now Switzerland. So, the abbreviation for Switzerland on license plates and elsewhere is CH.

6 April 2003            Albani Music Club         Winterthur           Switzerland


My niece Emily Bullis Rollins came to see me in Winterthur. We had such a good time. I wish I would have had her sing a jazz standard or two.  Cry me a river?  Next time, Emily?

Cathy Richardson sang with us in Texas and

Joel seated

Joel Hoekstra played guitar, two hot Chicagoans. I have raved about Joel elsewhere. He’s a good human being and probably the best guitarist I have ever known. He plays in White Snake now.

9 May 2003     Wildflower Arts & Music Festival   Richardson  Texas, or Wichowdson, as Cathy pronounces it.


28 June 2003            Jenner By The Sea       California



17 July 2003           Point Breeze           Webster             Massachusetts


18 July 2003    Ocean Beach Park       New London      Connecticut


19 July 2003       Vetrock     Mason Field    North Attleboro          Massachusetts

Elise Piliwale             midtown Manhattan.

27 July 2003   Central Park Summer Stage  New York City          Nina Simone’s daughter Simone and Elise.

Diane Lotny and Rob Clores.  There is something special about Diane. She has a big brain and a lot of talent.

Ashley Kahn and friends.

This is where we met the beautiful and talented Sophia Ramos. Sophia sang Ball & Chain and she stopped the show.

Couple Number One :    Carrie and Rob Clores.

There was an embarrassment of riches that day: Annisette, Baby Jane Dexter, Chan Marshall, Christine Ohlman, Caron Wheeler, Diane Lotny, Genya Ravan, Judith Owen, Kate Pierson, Lene Lovich, Little Queenie, Milini Khan, N’Dea Davenport, Phoebe Snow and Simone.

Judith Owen.

Kate Pierson was her usual charming self.

Miz Happiness and Joy, Milini Khan.

Brad Campbell and Snooky Flowers came, and we pretended we were the Kozmic Blues Band with Rob Clores and Maury Baker, the original drummer.

Milini Khan belongs to Chaka, and Simone belongs to Nina, so we had some royal princesses there.

Liz Payne Getz and Elise Wainani Piliwale.

Phoebe Snow came by and sang Piece of My Heart.  It was so good to see her… and hear her.

Diane Lotny, Kate Pierson and Elise Piliwale.

Chan Marshall.

Chan sang Down On Me.

Cat Power

Ry Cooder came to Central Park because he was playing with some Okinawan musicians.

18 September 2003      Sky Church    Experimental Music Project         Seattle

Sam blondes

19 September 2003   The Kenworthy Performing Arts Center    Moscow   Idaho

Lynn gamba

Lynn Asher has been on my mind a lot lately.


20 September 2003  First Orcas Island Music Festival     Orcas Island     Washington

Lynn Asher GGate

San Francisco that a way.

25 September 2003        Justin Herman Plaza          San Francisco

4 October 2003        The Landmark  Hotel    bathroom sink, room 105     Los Angeles            Photo:  Howard Sounes

Yes. We remember her all the time.

12 October 2003     Avalon Ballroom              San Francisco

Lauren and Lynn

Wishing her well.   Lynn and Lauren

Wendy Rich sleep learning.

6 November 2003     Skihuette    Oberwangen    Switzerland

Oberwangen is very close to Bern.  We often play also in Rubigen (in the lower righthand corner of this map).

Hazel and Lena

Hazel Scott and Lena Horne

7 November 2003         The Krone Bar          Einsiedeln        Switzerland

Red Dog merchandise

8 November 2003      Baden Halle 36     Baden Baden was a famous spa. Dostoyefsky set a novel there, Der Spieler, The Gambler.   This word “Messe” can mean “a mass” or a “tradefair.” You see it a lot with city names.  ”Messe” can merely mean “town center” or something to that effect, since the fair, and the mass, were usually held in the center of town.

9 November 2003   Albani Music Club   Winterthur   Switzerland       Lovely people here.

Wendy Rich              Glenn Halvarsson     Glenn is Swedish, don’t  you know?  In fact, he’s a big Swedish meatball.

Sound checks. I love them so much. (That’s an example of irony.)   During this one, which was actually pleasant, we performed Blue Bossa and Cry Me A River, which Wendy Rich sang to perfection. The jazz ballad is really her strong point.

Wendy with that dazzling smile.

11 November 2003    Hirsch    Nürnberg   Germany   To some, this town Nürnberg connotes trials of World War Two gangsters.

To me, Nürnberg is the home of Albrecht Dürer.

I visited Dürers house in Nürnberg, and pulled this print on his own press upstairs. Big thrill for an artist.

Dürer was very successful.  He was as well known in his time as, say, Vincent Van Gogh is now. Dürer’s art was instantly understood and very popular.

I love his work too, and have made many copies of it.

Laura and Lynn

Photo:   Baron Wolman


Lynn Sausa

13 November 2003    Das Movie    Bielefeld           Germany

Bielefeld doesn’t exist! For some reason, internet users in Germany write this a lot. I know it exists. I’ve played there a couple of times.

Michael Spörke published the German edition of his book Big Brother and the Holding Company, Die Band, die Janis Joplin berühmt machte, in 2003 or so.

Elaine Mayes took this interesting photograph.

14 November 2003   Alte Mälzerei  Regensburg      Malz = malt, so this could mean Old Maltery, a brewery.

Lynn Asher, Caroline Sky

The Cotton Club       Zug       Switzerland

Lynn Asher

Zug is a little south of Zürich.   Zug means a train or a column (of, say, marching soldiers) or a procession, so it’s an odd name for a town.


30 December 2003         Sudsy Malone’s          Cincinnati          Ohio

steve ashman and daughters

Steve Ashman and friends

31 December 2003          The Rose         Medina    Ohio


See you next week !

Sam Andrew


I Homologate This Message.


Homologate:   agree with, approve, approbate, sanction, authorize, warrant, countenance, ratify, confirm, confess, acknowledge.

Che Guevara

Janis homologated these images.

Jim Wall, Sam Andrew, Ben Nieves

To render valid by some subsequent act.


A marriage contract, though defective in legal solemnities, is held to be homologated by the subsequent marriage of the parties.


Homologate is derived from the Greek homologeo (ὁμολογέω) for “I agree”, which is generally used in English to signify the granting of approval by an official.

blue Janis

The homologating body may be a court of law, a government department, or an academic or professional body, any of which would normally work from a set of strict rules or standards to determine whether such approval should be given.

1 14 67 b

The word may be considered very roughly synonymous with accreditation, and in fact in French and Spanish may be used with regard to academic degrees.


Certification is another possible synonym.  To homologate is the infinitive.

ant knee red vic


Products must often be homologated by some public agency to assure that they meet standards for such things as safety and environmental impact.

Elise phone kitchen summer 2013

A court action may also sometimes be homologated by a judicial authority before it can proceed, and the term has a precise legal meaning in the judicial codes of some countries, especially in Scotland.

2006 BeinInn laminate

The equivalent process of testing and certification for conformance to technical standards is usually known as Type Approval in English-language jurisdictions.

elliot newhouse 30 May 2013

Another example of the use of homologate  pertains to the biological sciences, where it may describe the similarities used to assign organisms to the same family or taxon, similarities they have jointly inherited from a common ancestor.

girls together outrageously

So, dear reader, what would this organization, Girls Together Outrageously (GTOs) have to do with the word “homologate?”

1 8-10

In racing, a vehicle must be homologated by the sanctioning body to race in a given league, such as World Superbikes, International Level Kart Racing or other sportscar racing series.

Janis airbrush

Where a racing class requires that the vehicles raced be production vehicles only slightly adapted for racing, manufacturers typically produce a limited run of such vehicles for public sale so that they can legitimately race them in the class.

Twin Reverb

These vehicles are commonly called “homologation specials.”


The term homologation is also applicable in the Olympic Games, in venue certifications, prior to the start of competition.

Janis alone amazed

An issue was raised at Cesena Pariol—the bobsleigh, luge and skeleton track used for the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino (Turin) —over its safety in luge.

1 7 72

This delayed homologation of the track from January 2005 to October 2005 in order to achieve safe runs during luge competitions.

Janis and Dorothy

A judge must homologate the plea bargain between the district attorney and the defense.

Sam Nick Peter

Gran Turismo Omologato is the origin of the acronym GTO.

Janis autoharp

“We’ve major issues which appear to be discussed in the press. Decisions are made and then we’re asked to homologate these decisions.”

1 14 67

“What was needed was a more streamlined street car to homologate for racing.”

Janis close up

Now the same amazing race technology is available in fully homologated form for use on the road by drivers who know what satisfaction means.

Sam Monterey 1967 tinted

This protective front headlight grill for use off-road is not homologated for on-road use.


Homologation is the certification of a product or specification to indicate that it meets regulatory standards.

1 29-30 71

There are companies that specialize in helping manufacturers achieve regulatory compliance.

Janis Mona Lisa

These homologating companies have services that might include the explanation and interpretation of standards and specifications.

Sam lag 66

There may be homologatory assistance in plant facility audit and approval, testing and certification of materials, product design consulting, and translation of manuals, legal mandates and other written material.

Melina R

My friend Melina has a beautiful collection of black and white photographs of blues players and she has tacitly homologated my use of them from time to time, just as she may use any image that I have.


I don’t know why I did it, I don’t know why I enjoyed it, and I don’t know why I will do it again. What do you want? It’s a birthday.


Reason itself is fallible and this fallibility must find a place in our logic.

Freeman Perry May 2013

We started out as opportunistic renegades. By now, we’ve lasted long enough to become American Original Respectable Renegades.

2 17 68 a

I want it to go on, but I want us to go out on top.  Well, so much for that. OK, then, go out on the bottom, yeah, yeah, that’s the ticket.

jeff air

I don’t miss the rat race, but occasionally I miss the rats.

Janis real

One of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal, or even inability, to be compromised.

Sam Kathy Nick

The element of surprise is what I look for when I am playing.


We all come into the world not knowing who we are.

2 20-21 70

Women get the work done, with lesser play of ego.

Sam still 30 May 2013

If anyone thinks I am wrong, I am inclined to agree with her.

Sam Janis Winterland PostSteiner

You know what would be interesting to see? A film about an Al Qaeda follower from her own point of view, how she became that, what her ambitions are, her name, her family, her petty dislikes, her secret wishes. This would show us more than a thousand state documents.


There is so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, that it ill behooves any of us to find fault with the rest of us.

Sam Janis studio 68

If you want to change your life, change your mind.


Don’t be afraid of failure. Be afraid of succeeding too early.

Sam Janis sculpture

God limited the intelligence of humanity, but not the stupidity.

Melina Ri

One sure way to please a tigress is to let her eat you.


The biggest risk in life is not taking any risks.

Sam Janis Richard Snooky

A bad temper is a sign of weakness.


They had several car crashes in that film, but none of them killed the right people.

Sam Janis Peter Monterey

When you see old photographs, it’s lovely to remember being young, but even better to know that you grew up.

Cathy Richardson, Hummingbird

Every now and then do something that you think you are really bad at.

Sam Janis Memphis

Some white people hate black people, and some white people love black people, some black people hate white people, and some black people love white people. So you see it’s not an issue of black and white, it’s an issue of Lovers and Haters.

bug summer 2013

I like to do interviews where I see that the questioner is pondering his next line while I am answering his last… NOT!

Chuck Flood Hummingbird

I’m definitely not a shopper. I totally hate the process of researching and then haggling for the price. I wish I could just snap my fingers and it would be there. I would pay extra for that, actually, and, in fact, I suppose I do pay extra for that. Actually, I would pay extra for not having the thing at all.

Sam Janis Lag 66

My family were Democrats. In fact, if one of us children was acting up and being stubborn, my father would say, “Stop acting like a damned Republican.”

SamCutler Cutting 30 May 2013

Music is irrational. The better it is, the madder it is.

Humming top & case

Life is a song, so sing along. Life is a game, it’s never the same. Make it your goal to nourish your soul.

jerry lee

This looks totally posed. They’re probably his cousins.

Sam Janis April 1969

On two occasions I have been asked, “Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?”  I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.


Neither success nor failure is ever final.

Sam Janis apres baiser

The best command of the language is often shown by saying nothing.

Melina Riv

To make your dream come true, you need to be wide awake.

Cutting 30 May 2013

Bad politicians are elected by good people who don’t vote.

Hummingbird bridge

Look up. When you’re flat on your back, look up.

Sam Janis forward

Don’t worry about what is going to happen. It’s bad enough worrying about what is happening now.

stones early

Everybody doesn’t have to get every joke. People really appreciate not being condescended to.

Hummingbird case open

If you have health, friends and enough money to pay the rent and eat, you have a lot.

sam james peter janis newport

Legends are all about the past and have nothing to do with the present.

Kessler's 30 May 2013

You can’t think clearly when your fists are clenched.

Great Music 30 May 2013

I often play language learning CDs in my car, and I’ve noticed that when I become angry at another driver, I don’t learn anything at all from the CDs. I have to listen to that spot over again. This in itself is educational.

Hummingbird Nudie

I’m the L word.   Liberal.

Sam Big Brother Park

It’s not so much the taxes we pay as it is the feeling that someone is picking our pockets without our knowing why.

Chealsea Dawn 30 May 2013

As long as there is one pretty woman on stage, the theatre will live.

Guitarist Cutting 30 May 2013

When you’re wrong, admit it. When you’re right, be quite.  (Or quiet, whichever is best.)

Cutting couple 30 May 2013

A door is what a cat is always on the wrong side of.

Dr. Photo 30 May 2013

Am I a late bloomer or an early rotter?

Brian Barry 30 May 2013

Most people would rather be right than be reasonable.

Hummingbird, sideways

You cannot move others unless you too are moved.

Flatbush Avenue 31 May 2013

Remorse or reminiscence?

Mills Cutler 31 May 2013

The fruits of our private study should appear in our public behavior.

High Note Amityville 31 May 2013

Sometimes I look at the stars for so long that they seem to move and dance in the sky.

Jim Lisa Ben 31 May 2013

My father seemed to me to know everything, all about the artists in the Renaissance, all about the carburetor under the hood, all about the rocks and how they came to be that way, all about the plants and their histories. If he couldn’t afford something, he would simply make it with his own hands.

Comfort Inn 31 May 2013

Labels are for medicine bottles. Labels are for clothes. Labels aren’t for people.

Lisa elevator

Whoever said, “It’s not whether you win or lose that counts,” probably lost.

Crossroads 1 June 2013

People want to matter. Help them to do that and show them that they do.

Hummingbird, stylized image

For the caterpillar it’s the end of the world.  For the butterfly it’s her birthday.

Playland At The Beach

My wife.  She makes life come to life.

Janis with my:our Hummingbird

A professional musician is an amateur who didn’t stop.

Janis Sam Victor Fill East?

If you want something in your life, act as if it’s already there.

Melina Rive

Living to the highest standard you know leads to happiness.

Shiho arms cross Hummingbird

A synonym is a word you use when you can’t spell the word you first thought of.

in bed full view

Learning when to leave is not a negligible part of one’s education.

Crossroads banner 1 June 2013

I have been in the twilight of my career for longer than most people have had careers.

Ann S Kerry K m2 June 2013

Actually, I’ve been in the twilight of my career for longer than many people have lived.

janis blues hall of fame

Music has given me soul.

Kerry Kearney 2 June 2013

Talented people are the easiest to get along with.

Shiho cradling Hummingbird

The simpler it is, the more beautiful it can become.

BBHC Main Squeeze

One must always maintain one’s connection to the past and yet ceaselessly pull away from it.


When you walk into a party, you don’t see someone’s brain right away, although it doesn’t take long to see her soul.

blue moon

No matter what you do, you can’t live in the past.

BBHC first promo

I wake up at five every day, even if I went to bed at three. I’m blaming it on my cats.


The optimist says we live in the best of all possible worlds.  The pessimist fears that may be true.


Write the kind of song you would like to hear.

2009 31 dec Nicole Elise Sophia

No lady is ever a gentleman.


You begin growing your wisdom teeth the first time you bite off more than you can chew.

1992 sam peter

People worry more about what they can’t see than what they can.

Melina River

It is better to create than to learn.

Elise 7 May 2013

Picture you upon my knee, just tea for two and two for tea.

Kerry 2 June 2013

My ambition is to do a good job. I never plan anything.

Ann Sam Xroads Lisa 2 June 2013

Life is accepting what is and working with that, or, as my mother put it, you work with what you got.

Lisa Mills 31 May 2013

Everyone has a story that is worth telling and, if told right, it can be a beautiful song.

gate 3 june 2013

Self consciousness, shyness, timidity are all forms of egotism and that’s all right.


People believe quickly what they wish to be true.

1990 Sam Andrew  Mick Taylor woman

You take the truth and you put a little curlicue on the end.


Every language has its own song.

1967 Jame Gurley

James Gurley.


You can’t teach talent, but you can teach competence and confidence.


I used to be afraid of being normal even though nothing is normal.


Films have the power to change people’s minds. A film can make you a better person.  In fact, a film should make you a better person.

Sophia la cantadora

Good old days? What good old days? People who wish for the old days have very selective memories.


Life is much shorter than it seemed at first.

Sophia & Peter

For at least a hundred and fifty years, America’s best ambassador has been her music.


Being a musician is just a job, but it can be an interesting job.

Combination of the Two

I was always shy, timid, introverted, whatever you want to call it, and mortally afraid of going onstage. I bet that is true of many, many performers.

Melina Riverb

I wrote Flower in the Sun in a bathroom in Bernal Heights, San Francisco.  It was the only place I could find any privacy.


I try to live by the Golden Rule.  Most of the time that works.

Andrew 70 pub BBHC

We’re not disgruntled. We’re actually fairly gruntled and couth.


Anybody can succeed, anybody can play, but you’ve got to work hard to do it.

via San Vitale

I’m a skilled professional musician. Whether or not I have any talent is beside the point. Main thing is to do the job well.


I read many, many books, but I am careful to to let anything I read influence me.

tom georges 1

Many people who are brutally honest are more brutal than honest.

1967Motherload poster signed by Chet

At 53 I got the girl!  Now she’s almost 53.

edmund kean

Dying is easy, comedy is hard, as Edmund Kean observed on his deathbed.


Comedy is not only hard to act, but hard to write.  As Michael Caine noted, you get one comedy script for every twenty dramas.


Comedy is underrepresented in every actor’s résumé because comedy is very difficult.


English is clipped in speech.  Texan is clopped in speech.


Be like a duck, always oily calm on the surface and furiously paddling underneath.


I admire other musicians but I would never think of competing with them.  What we do is so different. I compete with myself. I have had so many great guitarists play and sit in with Big Brother over the years. More guitar players have performed with Big Brother than musicians on any other instrument. Even singers, and that’s saying something.

Melina Riverbl

The Jack Benny philosophy:   I feel like 39.  At 39 you’re old enough to know something and young enough to look forward to what you can do with that knowledge.  So I’m staying at 39.  It sounds so much better than 40, doesn’t it?  It sounds better than 71 too, which is what I really am, and very happy to be 71 too.

sam 2

Talk low, talk slow, and don’t talk much.


Count your money.  I’m not going to retire, so I don’t have to worry about that part, but you always need about three times as much money as you think you are going to need.


The first star I saw was Lash La Rue, and I thought, that’s what I want to do, be Lash La Rue.


If you see money as the solution for every problem, then money is the problem.


You get paid the same for a bad gig as for a good one.

matrix fillmore west

My fan mail is enormous.   Everyone is under six.


To an engineer it’s “good enough for government work.”  To an artist there’s no such thing as good enough.

LARK sam lisa

There are as many ways of loving as there are people in the world.

kelley mouse

I sang before I talked, before I had a memory. When my memory began, I was already singing.


I’m a huge shoe person.   I only wear shoes that are truly enormous.

joplin cotten

Learn everything you can, anytime you can, from anyone you can – there will always come a time when you will be grateful you did.

jimi lagoon

The fact is that great musical pieces take and hold the stage because they provide great emotional experiences.

Melina Riverblu

Success is important only to the extent that it puts one in a position to do more things one likes to do but it’s even more important because it can allow you to help people who truly deserve help.

Janis Joplin Reunion Concert Front

Music is a process which is successful only if it is achieved by people who love to collaborate.


If you approach a song as though it were something that always went a certain way, that’s what you get. Maybe best to approach a song as though you never heard it before.
Golden Rule


We all make mistakes. Best to look at them closely, confront them honestly and learn from them.


Are we not all desperate in one way or another?


I have been the victim of heartless and, worse, pointless malice delivered by stupid people who truly believed that they had something to say.

Elise Greece

Giving a phenomenon a name does not explain it.

elise bratislava

Even the most malignant gods would not continue to inflict life upon humanity, time without end.

Donna Patterson

Don’t rush into adulthood. It is not really all that much fun.

dan o'neill

The only real failure is one you don’t learn from.

crumb cwiz

combo two

The most important things in life aren’t things.

Melina Riverblue

Promise a lot, and then give more.

clarinet com

Learning is an avenue to happiness, ever open to those who are deprived of honors or wealth.

cheetah 1967

The worst thing is to get involved with people who aren’t passionate about what they’re doing.


A little nonsense now and then is good for women and good for men.

Big Brother Maryland

I wish I could understand why the electoral college is necessary.


The greatest peril to the soul is an answered prayer.

BBHC Winterland 10 Yrs. After

I don’t have everything I want, but I have a lot that I am grateful for.

1968 sam sepia

You can sell out if you want to, but just because you did doesn’t mean they’re going to keep their end of the bargain.

affects bored

1968 july 28 sam janis Newport

In film there’s just one chance to make something decent. In the theatre, you get to do it over and over.


Don’t worry about being modern.  That’s something you can’t avoid.

71 peter

A miracle can happen at any time.

BBHC publicity

Sam Janis gold dress Peter

Don’t be silly and don’t waste your time.

Sam BHOF 2 Jujne 2013

I appreciate the love and respect behind such an award, but I can’t help thinking about people like Blind Lemon Jefferson, Charley Patton, Son House, Skip James, Tommy Johnson, Willie Brown, Geeshie Wiley, Ishmon Bracey, Kid Bailey, Arthur Crudup, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Little Walter,  John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed, B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf, Mississippi John Hurt, Booker White, Furry Lewis, T-Bone Walker and Ike Turner, so I am going to write about them next week.

BBHC Staten Island 2 June 2013

Thank you for being here.


The Chinese Written Language



The Chinese very early saw that a sophisticated, loose and elegant style of writing was a clear sign  of intellectual prowess and ethical refinement.


The written language has changed very little from its origins more than three thousand years ago.  There are several characters here that are written the same way they are today.


All of the countries around China, Japan, Korea, Viet Nam, Singapore, saw her as the Middle Country, the giant in their midst, so that even today China may be written as the “center.” Center country.


See how the line is drawn through the center of the rectangle on the left?


There are other ways to write “China” but this is the one that is easiest and most often used.



“Sun” was originally drawn as a circle with a dot in the middle, and it evolved into this character.


And this is moon.

bright ming

Putting the sun and moon together made a brilliant light, so the meaning of this combination of sun and moon is “bright, enlightened” (ming).

ming coin

You can see the word “ming” on this coin.  The Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) was a brilliant time of exploration, new ideas.

bright mirror still water

This means “bright mirror still water.”  It is a four character summary of a Chinese Taoist text used for meditation in Zen Buddhism to suggest a calm and clear state of mind. The first character is ming which can be mei in Japanese. Meikyoo shisui.

kurosawa akira

When ming is used in Japanese as a given name, it can be pronounced Akira and it is the “first” name of director Kurosawa Akira.


This character ben is a pictograph of a tree with the root emphasized. It means root, origin, source.


When the root character is put together with the character for sun, it means Japan, the origin of the sun because to the Chinese Japan was to the east and so was the land of the rising sun. In Japanese these characters are pronounced Nihon.    Sun root.


Míng bái means “understand” or “clear.”  The second character means “white, bright, clear.”


This is how the character for woman evolved.


And this is child. See how her arms are stretched out?

good hao

The Chinese write woman and child together to mean good (hao).

hello ni hao

This is how you say “hello” in Chinese:  Ni hao.  You good?


If you put woman under a roof, the meaning is peace, tranquility.


If you put a child under a roof, the meaning is “letter,” because children learned their letters under a roof.


If you put a pig under a roof, the meaning is “family” or “home.”


Putting a woman next to a home is the Chinese way of writing “to marry a man.”

qi wife

A woman with a broom is a wife.


The character for tree or wood is very straightforward.

plum li

A child under a tree is how Chinese write “plum.”


This character plum is pronounced LI (lee). It is the second most common surname in China, but the most common surname on planet Earth, because we have many Lees here and they have many, many Lees there.


Two trees are a wood and three trees mean “forest.”

east dong

When you see the sun rise through a tree, that means “east.”


The Chinese have simplified their written language so that the character to the left above is how “east” is written today. Traditionalists like me regret the passing of the old beautiful ways, but we have to recognize that this makes life simpler for a billion plus people.  You do lose a sense of the etymology of the words, though. It is rather as if in English we would spell history histree thus losing the idea of “story.”


Tokyo means “east capital,” and the Japanese write it like this.

east capital

But the Chinese now write it like this.

dong east

You know what I mean? We lose a bit of history here.


“West” (xi) was originally a drawing of a nest because birds nest when the sun goes down.  This still looks a bit like a bird in a nest, doesn’t it?

mountain shang

“Mountain” is a drawing of a mountain. Shang. Shan.


There is a province in China called Shanxi. Now you know why it is called that.  Because it is a mountain in the west.


North   East   South   West

san yama

The Japanese pronounce mountain “san” and their beautiful mountain is called Fujisan.  ”Yama” is the native Japanese word for “mountain,” so they say Fujiyama or Fujisan, but never Fujiyamasan, as I said when I first went to Japan at age six. I was saying Mount Mount Fuji in effect. Rather like someone saying “We’re going to the El Sombrero tonight.”


When the Japanese adopted the Chinese writing there was trouble making a fit, because Chinese is an extremely analytical language and Japanese is as inflected as Latin, so the Japanese created no less than three different systems of writing so they could add endings and prefixes to Chinese words.

shan mountain

Adding to the complexity was the fact that the Japanese often adopted the Chinese word as well as the writing of it, so that there are many, many pairs like “yama” and “san” in Japanese. Almost every noun, it seems, has a native Japanese word and then a Chinese borrowed word for its name.

child zi

The character for child above is called zi in Chinese, as we have seen, but in Japanese it can be SHI, SU, ko, -go and most nouns have this many pronunciations.


This character, by the way, is the ending for women’s names which was very common until the advent of womens’ liberation. Women were called Yuriko, Yukiko, Hanako, Yoko, Chisuko, Tomiko, where the -ko was written with this character which means “child.” Now many women have dropped this -ko.  


My friend Yukiko made this beautiful flower arrangement.


This character for heart is a fairly accurate anatomical drawing of the heart and it is pronounced xin in Chinese. In Japanese the pronunciation is SHIN, close enough to xin. The native word in Japanese for heart is kokoro and -gokoro in combinations.


This is the old way of writing “love” in Chinese and the Japanese still write it this way. Note that heart is there in the middle of the character which is pronounced ai in Chinese.


In China they now write “love” this way, so it lost its heart.


Too bad.


Here are some “heart” words. This one is “think, recall,” pronounced SHI, omo(u) in Japanese.


“Bad, evil.”   Pronunced AKU, waru(i) in Japanese.




“Sad, sorrowful.”   Pronounced bei in Chinese and HI, kanashii in Japanese. The top part of this character means “not,” so not heart = sad.


Grass or herb can be written this way.  The line at the top of this character with two other lines through it is used in many words relating to plants. This is called “the grass radical.”


The character for young has the grass sign, probably because grass is spring and youth.


This kanji (kanji = han letter, Chinese letter) is gei which means “art(s),” especially the popular arts like music, weaving, origami, crafts.


A geisha is an art person.


This character also has the grass crown. This is “flower” which is KA or hana in Japanese. When I go to Hana on Maui, I always think of this character because there are so many flowers. The pronunciation is hua in Chinese. This was originally a man falling head over heels with the grass symbol added on top.


This is bamboo. Zhú.


Tea.  Chá. You probably know the word chai.  Same difference.



Cha iro is Japanese for tea color, brown.


At the top of this character is the “grass” radical and it is used to write this word: plant.

medicine grass music

This is the grass radical combined with the character for music which makes the word “medicine.” Grass (herb) and music to mean medicine gives an insight into the Chinese view of healing at the time this character was formulated.


The Chinese write “brave” or “hero” this way to imply that the person is in the jungle (grass component) in a large space.

ying kuo

Because the pronunciation is “ying” they use this character to write England.  Ying guó. Brave country.  England is a brave country, but the ideogram seems chosen more for its sound than for meaning.

mei koku

Characters are often chosen for their sounds, especially if they are complimentary.

mei guo ren

“America” is called mei koku (beautiful country) in Japan and mei guo in China because those names sound like “America.” Mei guo ren is an American, a beautiful country person.

Pa ris greatly desire village

“Paris” was often written in China with two characters that sound like Pa ri and mean “greatly desire village.”  There are a lot of puns and rebuses involved in writing of foreign names.


The character for “horse” evolved somewhat like this.


In Chinese this horse character is pronounced ma and in Japanese BA, uma.

Chinese Horse with script

Many of the characters for animals have four legs.

a run, gallop

This horse radical is used to write to run, to gallop.


This is a station, like a railway station or a bus station. It dates from when horses were the main mode of transportation. Pronunciation is EKI. This is a useful word to be able to read if you live in Japan.


This will give you some idea of the stroke order involved in making these characters. The order of drawing the strokes is very well established. Learning it, I believe, was what led me to become an artist.  The stroke order in Chinese writing is logical and well thought out.


In Chinese, fish have legs.  Well, they did before the Chinese Communists simplified the written language and did away with legs altogether, replacing them with a single stroke. The Japanese and the people of Taiwan still write the character for fish with the legs.


It evolved in something like this manner.

kingyo goldfish

In China now, “goldfish” is written like this. The character on the left means “gold.” The character on the right is how the Chinese write fish now. One stroke for the old four strokes. More efficient, more convenient, but something is lost.

year of the goldfish

This is the year of the goldfish.

person people

Person is written like this.


So mermaid or merman is written like this.  A person fish.


This is the character for eternity and it contains every kind of stroke used in Chinese calligraphy.

shiawase da

In Japanese for “I am happy,” you can say “Shiawase da.


The first character on the left is called by the Japanese KOO, saiwa(i), sachi or shiawa(se).  It means good fortune or happiness.


If you really want to express happiness, you write the character twice… double happiness.


You see this double happiness character everywhere, especially in San Francisco, because everyone wants to be doubly happy and fortunate.

double bonheur

Artists challenge themselves to see how loosely, elegantly and artistically they can make this word double happiness and yet still have it be understoo0d.


Can you still read the two happinesses here?


Of course this is a wonderful message for weddings and anniversaries because there are two characters for two people.  Looks a bit like kissing, doesn’t it?


My friend Peggy Pettigrew Stewart is a glass artist and she may want to consider using some variation of this beautiful image in her work.

two happy

Double your pleasure, double your fun, double your happiness everyone.


When characters were written on bones and bronze, double happiness looked like this.

jade double

Here it is in jade. Can you still read it?


And some modern silly versions.


We’ll see you next week?

doble felicidad