Look into my eyes...

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I'm sorry that all my recent photographs have been insect macros... I normally try to vary the subject matter a bit, but lack of time keeps bringing me back to the small creatures lurking around the garden. Tonight my offering is another beautiful pest, the celery-leaf fly Euleia heraclei. The fly belongs to a family of flies known as the picture-winged flies because of the dark patterns on the wings, and this particular species mines the leaves of celery and other umbellifers. We have a large population in our garden, living on the Alexanders.

These flies are absolutely fascinating to watch. The males of related species have a lekking system, and in May they gather on leaves in the sunshine to strut their stuff. The patterned wings are very mobile and are waved gracefully in a visual display, which with chemical and acoustic signals, acts to attract females. The eyes are also very obvious, and flash different shades of red and green according to the angle of the light. There is some evidence that, in a related species, greater eye length is associated with greater copulatory success.

Having dispensed the natural history lesson, I present my third choice of music which is Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin. I first heard this in my late teens, and the wailing clarinet at the start of the piece made all the hairs on my neck stand on end, and still does to this day. This is a piece of music that I love for its own sake - the virtuoso piano performance, the edgy mix of classical and jazz and the variety of rhythms just tick all the right boxes for me! I also like the fact that it was conceived on a train journey in a marvellous flash of inspiration:

"It was on the train, with its steely rhythms, its rattle-ty bang, that is so often so stimulating to a composer - I frequently hear music in the very heart of the noise... And there I suddenly heard, and even saw on paper - the complete construction of the Rhapsody, from beginning to end. No new themes came to me, but I worked on the thematic material already in my mind and tried to conceive the composition as a whole. I heard it as a sort of musical kaleidoscope of America, of our vast melting pot, of our unduplicated national pep, of our metropolitan madness. By the time I reached Boston I had a definite plot of the piece, as distinguished from its actual substance."

The piece was originally played in New York in 1924, and attracted very mixed reviews. But it has stood the test of time: it has inspired musicians including Brian Wilson and Michael Stipe of REM, has been used in episodes of Doctor Who and has even been used in a Nintendo Wii game, so at least it's being heard by the younger generation!

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