July 23, 2020 – Magicicadas and Pingüinos

how do they do that?

Summer is a curious time. It’s not my favorite time because I prefer cool weather over hot weather and, wow, is it hot right now. I’ve been a very fair skinned guy all of my life so when I spend too much time in the sun, I begin looking like the (boiled) Lobster Man from Mars. (The movie is truly awful, so awful it is actually pretty good.)

Cicadas make summer tolerable for me. They are among the ugliest creatures on earth but their songs are extraordinary. I’m probably one of those few odd people who long for the return of the magicicada, also known as periodical cicadas. These are the ones which tend to appear in 13 and 17-year cycles.

Magicicada are grouped into “broods” throughout the United States. Based on their last appearance, it is possible to calculate their next appearance. Here in Maryland we have a 17-year magicicada known as the Great Eastern Brood. They last sang for us 2004…well, not for me, I was still living in Iowa then…but they are coming back on tour in 2021. They will be appearing in 14 states: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, District of Columbia, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan. Woo hoo! I can hardly wait!

I try to take daily walks for exercise and to get out of Clemencia’s hair for a bit. My usual treks take me along some wooded areas where the cicadas have recently been testing their songs. It is one of the most comforting sounds I know and it always takes me back home to summer nights in Iowa.

Not sure what a cicada song sounds like? Here’s a video of a cicada doing a solo. In the background you can also hear a fascinated young child who poses one of those questions bound to stump most parents.

The film version of the Broadway show, The Music Man, is one of our favorite movies. It is about Harold Hill, an unscrupulous salesman of musical instruments and marching band uniforms in the early 20th century. He plies his trade in River City, Iowa and, as usual, plans to collect the money and leave town before the instruments and uniforms arrive. In this way he isn’t found out as a phony music teacher and band leader. In one of my favorite scenes, Hill (played by the late Robert Preston, whose acting career did not usually include singing, by the way) teaches four battling school board members how to sing and they become an inseparable barbershop quartet. The video of this scene below is a bit grainy but the audio is good…especially if you turn it up a wee bit.

So, what does Harold Hill, The Music Man, and this barbershop quartet have to do with the cicada video and song? Remember, in the scene, when one of the board members objects that he can’t sing? Hill tells him, “You see, singing is just sustained talking.” Maybe this also helps the parent answer the child’s question in the cicada video. You know, when we hear the child say, “How’s he do that?” Perhaps the right answer is, “You see, the cicada’s song is just sustained flatulence.” Just saying!


speaking of penguins…

If cicadas remind me of summer, penguins remind me of cooler, happier times. Aside from just the fact that they are incredibly cute and always well-dressed, I love them because of what they are called in Spanish. In Spanish the name for “penguin” is “pingüino” (masculine form) and “pingüina” (feminine form). Don’t know why, I just love the sound of the word and it almost always makes me smile when I say it or hear it. Because it is not a common word to use, I have to work really hard to find ways to use it with my Spanish’speaking spouse. For example:

  • Would you like to go the zoo next year…when we can leave the house again…and see some pingüinos?
  • I know we watched it only two nights ago, but how about if we watch March of the Pingüinos again tonight?
  • Hey, Clemencia, did I tell you I got a phone call from a person who claimed to be a pingüino?
  • Can you believe it? I had another dream about playing basketball with an 8-foot pingüino last night!

My pingüino musings do have a point but only barely. Today’s Washington Post has a photo essay by a Dutch photographer, Albert Dros. He traveled to Antarctica and got some beautiful photos of pingüinos and lots of ice, which is perfect for the heatwave we are enduring at the moment. Enjoy!


One more thing…

Here’s a very fun but brief Instagram posting from Scott Hoying, one of founders and leads in the acapella group, Pentatonix. It is a tribute to Dr. Anthony Fauci based on a song from Hamilton. Enjoy!


chickenman – episode 83

Ms. Helfinger makes an emergency call to the Atlantic Ocean to recall Chickenman to help the Commissioner fight a Very Diabolical.


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep striving for justice, peace, and health for all.

Tom

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