Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Photo Stroll Through Manassas

Today I walked to Old Town Manassas and took a few pictures along the way. Enjoy! Vic

A pair of mourning doves along Signal Hill Road.

A bright red tulip past its peak on Fairview Avenue.

A uniform patch of dandelions along Signal Hill Road.

No matter what people say, dandelions are awesome. Here comes the wind!

The only bloom on a bush in front of the Trinity Episcopal Church on Church Street.

A robin sitting in a residential tree along Tudor Lane.

Seeing a lot of these lately. Look like mini Christmas trees.

Construction pipes in the large area behind Osbourn High School.

One of several starlings watching the construction. It is a starling, yes?

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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Manassas Bald Eaglet Preparing To Fly

It was just last month that this young bald eagle hatched from its egg near the Manassas airport. Typically Bald Eagles lay more than one egg, but this appears to be the only one that survived. My hope is that the construction that took place in late February and early March did not somehow spook the adults while they were sitting on the eggs, which may have caused one to crack or be damaged. In any case, let's celebrate the new guy (or girl).

Today I spent a few hours far across the street from the nest and was able to capture this video of the eaglet preening. He/she is quite big already! Check out the second video below and you'll see how wide its wingspan is. It's almost as large as the parents' wingspans! We're guessing the eaglet is about 6-7 weeks old. According to this informative site, eaglets typically start flying around 10-12 weeks after birth. It sure looks like it wants to now.

It was quite windy outside, but you'll see how big its wingspan is at the beginning of this video:

Here's a still picture of the baby (juvenile).

And one of the parents returning to the nest, possibly to feed the guy (girl).

If you visit the nest, please stay on the opposite side of the road so you will not disturb the birds.

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Friday, April 24, 2015

Poem: Drug Commercials on the Evening News

Drug Commercials on the Evening News
(From Poetry Pizza: A Slice of Life Collection)
by Victor Rook

Pill-popping nation tunes in at six
The evening news will give them a fix
After stories of death, despair, and doom
They'll sell you some drugs to ease your gloom

Not one or two, nor three or four
But drugs in the dozens knock on our door
From inside the screen they promise relief
From all of our pains and physical grief

Chron's to diabetes, and overactive bladder
There's a pill to take, no matter the matter
If you've had the pox, you might get shingles
It's a painful fire that more than tingles

Have you got a sneeze, there's a pill to take
Can't form your own tears, there's a drop to fake
Vaginal cream for the women among us
And a pill to rid your unsightly toe fungus

If you can't get it up, there are drugs for that
But four hours in, you may go flat
You never know when, you'll aspire
So take the drugs daily to stoke your fire

Drugs galore will thin out your blood
Your colon, too, can become a great flood
Just take this pill and it will go through
But better watch out for what else it may do

The pills they sell have side effects
The list scrolls up like a Rolodex
Dry mouth, fatigue, and they must confess
Taking their pills may cause you your death

Yet the actors appear to float in slow motion
Their lives now grand after taking their potion
Sunshine and mountains, all picturesque
Living life full without the stress

It makes me wonder, and gives me a fright
Why they show these ads, night after night
Then lawsuits arise when we find out the facts
That the research they did was horribly lax

ABC, CBS, and NBC news
Drug pushers pushing those drugs on you
What ever happened to happier ads
Like food, and toys, instead of what's bad?


Get your copy of Poetry Pizza at http://victorrook.com/poems

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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Return to Scotsman's Garden: Where 'Beyond the Garden Gate' was Filmed

Today I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the property where I filmed my award-winning nature film, Beyond the Garden Gate. It has been a decade since I left my little home in the cottage there. I noticed that the current owners were having a yard sale as I drove back from a nature trail in Brentsville. So I pulled over, introduced myself....and the memories instantly came flooding back.

Though the garden was a bit overgrown--it always was hard to maintain--the current owners love the place. They even introduced me to a nest of owls that have made their home there for several years. I was able to take both pictures and video of one of the adults in a tree right above my old cottage. Here he/she is!

In addition to the video I shot there back in 1998-1999, I still have thousands and thousands of still photos. I will share a few here:

There were many dogs on the property when I lived there. This is Clyde, a boisterous and attention-demanding Golden Retriever. There was also a black lab, Sadie, another black lab, Bonnie, a Doberman named Bobo (short for Beauregard Lexington), and a couple of Gordon Setters. Plus three cats, two macaws, turkeys, pheasants, peacocks, geese--and that doesn't even include all the natural wildlife! You can see a lot of the creatures in the video.

This is John, the man who laboriously built the garden and added on to the house. It was rare to see him resting. When he moved here back in the 70s, it was just the house, cottage, the large oak tree in the center of the property, and a field of cows nearby. That is now a new development. John is Scottish with a thick accent, and thus we referred to the garden as Scotsman's Garden. John currently lives in Bent Mountain, Virginia.

Here is one of many shots of the large oak tree in the center of the property. It really is quite gigantic, and thank god for the shade it provided. This was taken during a beautiful and colorful sunset. In the video you will see several shots of the tree as the camera maneuvers around the garden with a steadicam device.

The pathway leading from the house to one of the many sections of the garden. I filmed a ton of birds, frogs, you name it along this sidewalk. It was common to see several large pots of plants lining the perimeters of walkways. Elephant ears, day lilies, even carnivorous pitcher plants. Oh, and several hundred orchids hung outside during the summer months.

There's an entire song dedicated to the insects on the property in my film. I've only seen four walking stick bugs in my life, and one of them was crawling on the back door of my cottage one day. You can see it in the demo clip for Beyond the Garden Gate. At night, orb weaver spiders made giant webs between low tree branches. I hated walking to the back field to let the geese in after dark. I'd use my tennis racket to knock through the webs.

Here's me filming daffodils at the base of the oak tree, circa 1999. I'm glad I retired that shirt to Goodwill. I still have the Sony TRV900 camera, and it still shoots great video. I've upgraded to high definition video for my next video project, though. It will be a series of nature vignettes entitled "Natural Moments." And, the owners have asked me to return to film more of the owls. What a nice gesture, and how cool to have that be a part of my new work!

Before I left, I discovered this rock they were selling at the yard sale. It used to be in front of my cottage within a small garden of its own. The owners let me have it. Here it is way back then.

Lastly, enjoy this interactive map I created of the property back when I filmed Beyond the Garden Gate. Click on the red dots to see small pictures of each location. Enjoy!

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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Grounds Central Station Hosts Local Poetry

Grounds Central Station, a frequently attended coffee shop in the heart of Old Town Manassas, has agreed to display several poems from local poets in their front windows. April is designated as National Poetry Month, and many of the poems featured come from published authors.

Originally, the poems were to be displayed in the windows of the unoccupied building at the corner of Main and Center Streets. But just days before they were to go up, realtor Weber Rector covered those windows with large For Sale signs. The Center for the Arts at the Candy Factory, who spearheaded the art display, is still working to see if some or all of the poems will eventually make it there. The display was already approved by the City of Manassas.

Original location approved by the City of Manassas.

Luckily, Grounds owner Matthew Brower graciously agreed to feature the works. Many of the writers often meet at the coffee shop, so it was only natural that their work be showcased there. Signed books from local authors are also available for purchase inside.

So take a trip to Grounds, grab some coffee and a sandwich, and enlighten your mind with these imaginative and thought-provoking pieces!

Two of my poems, The Bald Eagles Nest and The Woman on the Bottom Floor, are included.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Poem: Those Things That Disappear

Those Things That Disappear
by Victor Rook

Birthday cards with dates in the corner,
school notebooks filled with scribbles.
Old clothes out of style, like that
brown Western shirt you wore
with matching corduroys.
Where did they go?

Birthday circa 1969. Billy Blast-Off was the coolest toy ever!
Decorations you can no longer buy,
painted glass and covered with
loose strands of faded tinsel.
Once in a box in the attic
that smelled like cookies and mildew.
Now just a memory.
Who took them away?

Those macramé owls you made,
and that elaborate string art where
you accidentally left nail holes
on the dining room table.
The same table where undried paint
from a paint-by-number of a deer
left a stain around its edges.
Where are they now?

45 rpm records you bought,
so excited to see the song titles
and stack them up on the spindle
to play over and over again.
You thought they'd make
nice wall decorations someday.
But they are gone.

My first tennis racket.
Shifting lives and shifting boxes,
carried from place to place.
All accounted for then, but
now you no longer own
those things from your past.
Were they really thrown out,
or have they evaporated?

Like those dolls you once had,
GI Joe or Barbie, whichever.
Was it a yard sale, or did they get
tossed into the trash because
the dogs chewed their arms off?

I'd like to find that pile,
or giant room, I'd imagine.
Where everything I ever had in my
life is there for me to hold once again.
Those things that disappeared
are hiding somewhere, somehow,
whole or in bits and pieces,
on this Earth.

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Saturday, April 4, 2015

TABS BE GONE: Never Use a Tab in a Document

This may be news to you if you're a writer, but tabs are not the way to format paragraph indents. Not only is it an outdated method, but it can totally screw up your document when it comes to formatting for print, Kindle, and Nook. The first thing I do whenever I receive a document for book formatting is remove all tabs.

The way to format a paragraph indent in Microsoft Word:

1. Place your cursor in the paragraph you want to indent and choose Format-Paragraph (or something similar depending on what version of Word you are using).
2. A pop-up will allow you to select what kind of indenting. Here, I am choosing to have the First Line of the current paragraph, and each one that follows as I type, automatically indent by .25". This is how you'd want to set it up for most books.

3. You can also choose to have an entire paragraph indented. Choose Left or Right and the amount to indent under Indentation.
4. If you need to remove First Line indent (like for the first paragraph of a chapter or scene change), simply put your cursor anywhere inside that paragraph and go to step 2. Choose None under Special Indenting.

How do I replace the current tab marks?
Ah, now that you know this wonderful tidbit, you probably want to get rid of all those stupid tab marks in your document.

To remove tabs in a Word document:

1. Save a backup copy just in case.
2. Use Find and Replace under Edit. Click on Special on the pop-up window and choose Tab character. It will put tab code in the Find location. Leave Replace empty. Hit Replace All. All Tabs will magically disappear. Yay!

3. Now you have to make sure your paragraphs are indented. Since you still have paragraph marks in your document, highlight all the text that needs to be indented and follow the paragraph indenting steps above. I often do a Select-All for the story text, then unindent first chapter and scene change paragraphs afterward.

So there ya go. NEVER type a Tab character again. Because now you know what happens...

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