Hit Parade

I watch The Jerry Springer Show every night. There's always a lot of hollering and fighting, but nobody ever gets hurt. I want to see somebody get hurt sometime.

-- "Town Talk," Southwest City Journal, March 24.

FORMAT OF THE WEEK: A wide-ranging compendium of things unrelated.

NOISY VISITOR OF THE WEEK: Springtime is a season beloved by many, including the frugal. In their case, it's the time of year when the heating system is given a respite. Windows are cracked open. Fresh air begins to circulate. Cash is saved and the lungs breathe easier.

Problem being...
Spring is also the season in which randy, agitated mockingbirds begin their vocal pyrotechnics. The season of "displaying" is upon us, followed by the laying of eggs, the quick nurturing process and the eventual departure of mockingbirds from whatever trees or telephone poles they've claimed as their own. It's not necessarily an endless process, but it's not really a short one, either.

"About now, they'll start showing up," says Walter C. Crawford Jr., topper of the World Bird Sanctuary. "The eggs come in April or May. There's a couple weeks of display, a couple weeks of raising the young, then they're usually gone by June. Sometimes, they'll nest for a second time, but normally it's just once."

If you have a mockingbird, or even a couple, in your immediate neighborhood, you know that their seasonal visits aren't quiet. During any portion of the day and night, the need to burst into song may overtake them. These leather-lunged flyers take on more voices than a holy roller in the grip of the Spirit. Their regard for the human sleep cycle is minimal, with the early-morning hours often their most active time.

According to Crawford, there's no real way to ease these songbirds from your backyard to someone else's. (From personal experience, small stones thrown at their heads work, but only briefly. Ditto the shaking of trees. These crafty birds flee, only to return when your own head hits the pillow. Uncanny, they are.)

"They're habitat-specific," Crawford says. "They prefer yards with a few trees and some open space."

And they love berries, which they monitor from high places -- often near your windows. According to the fascinating Web site dedicated to the "Backyard Birds of Winter in Nova Scotia," Canadian versions of the bird do exactly this: "'Guarding posts' are posts that are used over and over by the mockingbird as they provide a good view of its domain. The purpose of the mockingbird's vigil is to protect its berries so it has a better chance of surviving the winter. Should another berry-eating bird show interest in the mockingbird's berry patch, the mockingbird will do everything in its power to chase the intruder away." Therefore, more noise.

One Internet bird writer feels that "the mockingbird is not just a buffoon. In its own right, it is probably the most gifted in song of all birds. Sidney Lanier, the great American poet, calls him a 'heavenly bird' and writes that he will be named 'Brother' by Beethoven and Keats when he joins the unseen singer in the spirit world. Certainly if one has not heard a mockingbird burst its heart in song on a warm summer moonlit night, one has not experienced a truly full life."

One may also never again experience a full night's sleep, if these heavenly bug-eaters take up residence near your own. How long until June?

CD OF THE WEEK: No, we're not talking about compact discs, we're talking civil disobedience. The frenzy stirred up down at the Frost Campus over new parking rates was, by all accounts, something to see -- TV cameras banned from meetings, students at fish fries talking about protests. Controversy at St. Louis University? Huh? There's been much loose talk of organized protests down at the Frost Campus over the parking issue, including driving cars into the quad and hundreds of students slowly circling the campus' perimeter. Strangely, the annual tuition hike was taken with more calm than was the parking-rate hike. The lesson, true in most facets of American life, is this: Don't mess with people's automobiles.

Judging by some of the comments last week, indignation is still running high, but student leaders are having a hard time getting more than a minority of students to act. More meetings are scheduled for today.

(Somehow these acts don't exactly remind you of Danny the Red leading French students into brick-throwing battles in the streets of Paris in 1968, but student revolutions, in whatever form, are more than welcome.)

NEW BAND OF THE WEEK: At the Side Door a few Tuesdays back, "audition" night was going along on its usual unpredictable course. A folksinger named Blueberry brought two friends. A not-quite-ready-for-playing-out ska band named theCondiments brought a dozen. The hellfire-and-brimstone overtures of Goth-rockers Tripelexer (inadvertently) entertained with a stage show best called unique. But the most surprising of all (in draw and sound) were new kids on the block Absent Without Leave.

Unlike the crop of foul-mouthed youths clogging area stages today, these young cats took a pass on the baggy-panted, workbooted tomfoolery ofhip-hop/metal, inside copping their looks and chops from an unlikely source: Weezer. Tuneful, fresh-faced and delightfully dorky, AWL sang out about girls, waiting for phone calls, sitting alone in the bedroom and other forms of wholesome teenage longing. That the songs held up well only added to their charms.

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