Thursday, December 31, 2009
Have a grand New Year, will ya? God bless.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
A Christmas Tree
The tree had grown when they set it inside--
Perhaps it was only that the roof was low,
But then they switched on the strings of lights
And it was unmistakable; a tree would have to grow
Up until it scraped the rushing Milky Way
To drench itself in white-gold stars. How
They burned on every branch, dripped quivering fire;
Constellations blossomed against the sky-dark boughs.
There was a tree once, the story runs,
A dark tree in a garden grew like this--
Tall, but in no other way alike--until it erased Heaven
For the pair who stood beneath and ate its bliss,
Ate and found it bitter. That tree withered in time,
But its fruit thrived, grew tendrils of darkness
Toward a dying sky. Only a distant echo
Wove words of daybreak through the starlessness.
The stars tonight are music in the sky
And upon exultant branches. There may be
A roof above, but still the new tree grows,
Tangling planets and needles, growing endlessly.
And all the fire of space whirls in one room;
The sea-roar of song hushes as the stars press in to see
The eternal cave amid the death-black boughs
Where a Maiden, singing, soothes a shivering Baby.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
The Festival Pattern Group based their designs on nature as expounded by the science of X-ray crystallography. Their foundational images were obtained by positioning a strip of film around a crystal of a given substance and concentrating an X-ray beam into the crystal. In this way, the refraction of the X-ray beam would be recorded as patterns on the film, suggesting the atomic structure of the substance.
An English museum called the Wellcome Collection has an online exhibit of the designs of the Festival Pattern Group. The image galleries have everything from a tie exhibiting chalk crystal structure, to quartz crystal structure carpeting. While I find some of the patterns more interesting as novelties than desirable as wallpaper, I think the majority of them are quite attractive. Still, it is probably a good thing they didn't catch on; the fashion world can be confusing enough as it is.
"Oh, Myrna, did you ever? She's wearing haemoglobin, and it's nearly a month after Labor Day!"
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
The music was of a handsome caliber to match the setting. It was not just a group of fair musicians getting a tune started and then letting it wander along to an inevitable finish. It might be a rather odd metaphor, but the picture that comes into my mind is a border collie working sheep. He's doing what he was born to do, he's perfectly at ease, and perfectly delighted to be doing it, but by gummy that herd is going where *he* wants to put it, and not just any corner it wants to stravage off into. The musicians here were, in that sense, herding the tunes along. The whistle might play alongside the fiddle here, it might soar into harmony there, it might sink into a whispering drone while the fiddle soared. The guitar might drive the tune with an unadorned rhythm, or braid chords together around it with a flight of passing notes. The bodhran might set a reel on fire, or make a bar startling by its sudden silence. No matter which way the tune turned, quick fingers were wrapped around it, shaping it, embellishing it, nudging it forward. I have mentioned fiddle, guitar, whistle and bodhran, but Brady McKay's warm and masterful vocals were on par with the instrumental virtuosity whenever she was called up to sing.
Some highlights of the evening were, fortunately, sets which the band recorded on their new album: of these one of the most exciting was a break from instrumental pieces altogether with an a capella rendition of the seafaring "Greenland Whale Fisheries," another a rich G-minor reel that would not have sounded out of place in a Cape Breton evening but which was, in fact, composed by fiddler Linda Relph. Also from the album, a set that caused quite a delighted stir was "Sally Gardens/Frank's Reel," where Kathy Barwick jumped in with an unabashedly Scruggs-style banjo accompaniment.
Well, you can hear some of this for yourself at the band's website. And, yes, "that banjo one" is one of those featured in the widget box at the top of the page, if you'd like a sneak peek (it's number 4).
Lastly, to return to the place I started, here is Nine 8ths Irish's MySpace page with another round of very satisfying tunes.
P.S. A word from the experienced: if you should find yourself mentioning this band aloud, take the name slowly and distinctly. One of my coworkers was a bit puzzled when he thought he heard me going off about "Miley Cyrus."
Monday, December 14, 2009
So here's something about cocoa. I am of the ranks of those (whoever they are) who are unfond of sweet cocoa, but while I can drink it entirely unsweetened, I'd just as soon not make a steady practice of it. A happy medium (neither gourmet, nor probably very healthy) is to dissolve a couple of teaspoons of baking cocoa in hot water, and add some flavoured coffee creamer to it, maybe a wee bit more than you would normally indulge in a cup of coffee, and top off the cup with more hot water. It's really rather good.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
As you can read here, spalting is actually the earlier (and rather more attractive) stage of wood decay. Those wonderful black lines are actually the pallisades that "form when incompatible colonies of fungi come into contact with each other and lay down barriers to separate their territories." That makes fungi sound rather vicious and not quite so much. . .fun, eh?
The page I just quoted, that of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, is well worth a perusal, as it describes the spalting process in fairly concise detail, and even gives spalt-it-yourself guidelines, for those so inclined.
But all this wonderful description is a bit cart-before-the-horse--I should have started at this page where you can see several examples of the phenomenon. While I'm at it, here's the guitar I started jabbering about in the first place, the Ovation CC44-SM, though the picture here doesn't show the spalting to its best effect.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
In came a fiddler with a music-book , and went up to the lofty desk, and made an orchestra of it, and tuned like fifty stomach-aches.
(Is that a rich description of the so-called catguts being wrangled up and down around and around the desired note, or what?)
After some hearty dancing they give the fiddler a dram, you might say:
. . .Old Fezziwig, clapping his hands to stop the dance, cried out, "Well done!" and the fiddler plunged his hot face into a pot of porter, especially provided for that purpose. But, scorning rest, upon his reappearance he instantly began again, though there were no dancers yet, as if the other fiddler had been carried home, exhausted, on a shutter, and he were a brand-new man resolved to beat him out of sight, or perish.
. . .The great effect of the evening came. . .when the fiddler (an artful dog, mind! the sort of man who knew his business better than you or I could have told it him!) struck up "Sir Roger de Coverley."
Which meant I had to put down the book and go in search of "Sir Roger de Coverley," just for the sake of deep learning. To my delight, it proved to be a good deal less obscure than I had feared, indeed, if you have ever seen a movie version of A Christmas Carol, you have likely heard it; for some wonderful reason, directors tend to get that detail correct. "Sir Roger de Coverley" is both the name of a very old English 9/8 jig, and of the steps which are customarily danced to it, something along the lines of a Virginia Reel (I say, drawing on my vast stores of knowledge; I can myself execute exactly 3.25 dances, and the Virginia Reel is over a quarter of them). Here is the tune on a button accordion as played by an Australian fellow who gives his name as Hector. You can definitely see how something like this could become "the great effect of the evening":
Monday, November 30, 2009
The Taigh na Teud article explains that St. Andrew's Day, "tends to be more popular with Scots who live abroad." Robert Service (of "The Cremation of Sam McGee" fame) wrote a poem about a group of Scots, very far abroad indeed--in the Yukon--who took their St. Andrew's celebrations quite seriously. I think John Ford should have made a film version. . .
The Ballad of How MacPherson Held the Floor
Said President MacConnachie to Treasurer MacCall:
"We ought to have a piper for our next Saint Andrew's Ball.
Yon squakin' saxophone gives me the syncopated gripes.
I'm sick of jazz, I want to hear the skirling of the pipes."
"Alas! it's true," said Tam MacCall. "The young folk of to-day
Are fox-trot mad and dinna ken a reel from a strathspey.
Now, what we want's a kiltie lad, primed up wi' mountain dew,
To strut the floor at supper time, and play a lilt or two.
In all the North there's only one; of him I've heard them speak:
His name is Jock MacPherson, and he lives on Boulder Creek;
An old-time hard-rock miner, and a wild and wastrel loon,
Who spends his nights in glory, playing pibrochs to the moon.
I'll seek him out; beyond a doubt on next Saint Andrew's night
We'll proudly hear the pipes to cheer and charm our appetite.
Oh lads were neat and lassies sweet who graced Saint Andrew's Ball;
But there was none so full of fun as Treasurer MacCall.
And as Maloney's rag-time bank struck up the newest hit,
He smiled a smile behind his hand, and chuckled: "Wait a bit."
And so with many a Celtic snort, with malice in his eye,
He watched the merry crowd cavort, till supper time drew nigh.
Then gleefully he seemed to steal, and sought the Nugget Bar,
Wherein there sat a tartaned chiel, as lonely as a star;
A huge and hairy Highlandman as hearty as a breeze,
A glass of whisky in his hand, his bag-pipes on his knees.
"Drink down your doch and doris, Jock," cried Treasurer MacCall;
"The time is ripe to up and pipe; they wait you in the hall.
Gird up your loins and grit your teeth, and here's a pint of hooch
To mind you of your native heath - jist pit it in your pooch.
Play on and on for all you're worth; you'll shame us if you stop.
Remember you're of Scottish birth - keep piping till you drop.
Aye, though a bunch of Willie boys should bluster and implore,
For the glory of the Highlands, lad, you've got to hold the floor."
The dancers were at supper, and the tables groaned with cheer,
When President MacConnachie exclaimed: "What do I hear?
Methinks it's like a chanter, and its coming from the hall."
"It's Jock MacPherson tuning up," cried Treasurer MacCall.
So up they jumped with shouts of glee, and gaily hurried forth.
Said they: "We never thought to see a piper in the North."
Aye, all the lads and lassies braw went buzzing out like bees,
And Jock MacPherson there they saw, with red and rugged knees.
Full six foot four he strode the floor, a grizzled son of Skye,
With glory in his whiskers and with whisky in his eye.
With skelping stride and Scottish pride he towered above them all:
"And is he no' a bonny sight?" said Treasurer MacCall.
While President MacConnachie was fairly daft with glee,
And there was jubilation in the Scottish Commy-tee.
But the dancers seemed uncertain, and they signified their doubt,
By dashing back to eat as fast as they had darted out.
And someone raised the question 'twixt the coffee and the cakes:
"Does the Piper walk to get away from all the noise he makes?"
Then reinforced with fancy food they slowly trickled forth,
And watching in patronizing mood the Piper of the North.
Proud, proud was Jock MacPherson, as he made his bag-pipes skirl,
And he set his sporran swinging, and he gave his kilts a whirl.
And President MacConnachie was jumping like a flea,
And there was joy and rapture in the Scottish Commy-tee.
"Jist let them have their saxophones wi' constipated squall;
We're having Heaven's music now," said Treasurer MacCall.
But the dancers waxed impatient, and they rather seemed to fret
For Maloney and the jazz of his Hibernian Quartette.
Yet little recked the Piper, as he swung with head on high,
Lamenting with MacCrimmon on the heather hill of Skye.
With Highland passion in his heart he held the centre floor;
Aye, Jock MacPherson played as he had never played before.
Maloney's Irish melodists were sitting in their place,
And as Maloney waited, there was wonder in his face.
'Twas sure the gorgeous music - Golly! wouldn't it be grand
If he could get MacPherson as a member of his band?
But the dancers moped and mumbled, as around the room they sat:
"We paid to dance," they grumbled; "But we cannot dance to that.
Of course we're not denying that it's really splendid stuff;
But it's mighty satisfying - don't you think we've had enough?"
"You've raised a pretty problem," answered Treasurer MacCall;
"For on Saint Andrew's Night, ye ken, the Piper rules the Ball."
Said President MacConnachie: "You've said a solemn thing.
Tradition holds him sacred, and he's got to have his fling.
But soon, no doubt, he'll weary out. Have patience; bide a wee."
"That's right. Respect the Piper," said the Scottish Commy-tee.
And so MacPherson stalked the floor, and fast the moments flew,
Till half an hour went past, as irritation grew and grew.
The dancers held a council, and with faces fiercely set,
They hailed Maloney, heading his Hibernian Quartette:
"It's long enough, we've waited. Come on, Mike, play up the Blues."
And Maloney hesitated, but he didn't dare refuse.
So banjo and piano, and guitar and saxophone
Contended with the shrilling of the chanter and the drone;
And the women's ears were muffled, so infernal was the din,
But MacPherson was unruffled, for he knew that he would win.
Then two bright boys jazzed round him, and they sought to play the clown,
But MacPherson jolted sideways, and the Sassenachs went down.
And as if it was a signal, with a wild and angry roar,
The gates of wrath were riven - yet MacPherson held the floor.
Aye, amid the rising tumult, still he strode with head on high,
With ribbands gaily streaming, yet with battle in his eye.
Amid the storm that gathered, still he stalked with Highland pride,
While President and Treasurer sprang bravely to his side.
And with ire and indignation that was glorious to see,
Around him in a body ringed the Scottish Commy-tee.
Their teeth were clenched with fury; their eyes with anger blazed:
"Ye manna touch the Piper," was the slogan that they raised.
Then blows were struck, and men went down; yet 'mid the rising fray
MacPherson towered in triumph - and he never ceased to play.
Alas! his faithful followers were but a gallant few,
And faced defeat, although they fought with all the skill they knew.
For President MacConnachie was seen to slip and fall,
And o'er his prostrate body stumbled Treasurer MacCall.
And as their foes with triumph roared, and leagured them about,
It looked as if their little band would soon be counted out.
For eyes were black and noses red, yet on that field of gore,
As resolute as Highland rock - MacPherson held the floor.
Maloney watched the battle, and his brows were bleakly set,
While with him paused and panted his Hibernian Quartette.
For sure it is an evil spite, and breaking to the heart,
For Irishman to watch a fight and not be taking part.
Then suddenly on high he soared, and tightened up his belt:
"And shall we see them crush," he roared, "a brother and a Celt?
A fellow artiste needs our aid. Come on, boys, take a hand."
Then down into the mêlée dashed Maloney and his band.
Now though it was Saint Andrew's Ball, yet men of every race,
That bow before the Great God Jazz were gathered in that place.
Yea, there were those who grunt: "Ya! Ya!" and those who squeak: "We! We!"
Likewise Dutch, Dago, Swede and Finn, Polack and Portugee.
Yet like ripe grain before the gale that national hotch-potch
Went down before the fury of the Irish and the Scotch.
Aye, though they closed their gaping ranks and rallied to the fray,
To the Shamrock and the Thistle went the glory of the day.
You should have seen the carnage in the drooling light of dawn,
Yet 'mid the scene of slaughter Jock MacPherson playing on.
Though all lay low about him, yet he held his head on high,
And piped ass if he stood upon the caller crags of Skye.
His face was grim as granite, and no favour did he ask,
Though weary were his mighty lungs and empty was his flask.
And when a fallen foe wailed out: "Say! when will you have done?"
MacPherson grinned and answered: "Hoots! She'll only haf' begun."
Aye, though his hands were bloody, and his knees were gay with gore,
A Grampian of Highland pride - MacPherson held the floor.
And still in Yukon valleys where the silent peaks look down,
They tell of how the Piper was invited up to town,
And he went in kilted glory, and he piped before them all,
But wouldn't stop his piping till busted up the Ball.
Of that Homeric scrap they speak, and how the fight went on,
With sally and with rally till the breaking of the dawn.
And how the Piper towered like a rock amid the fray,
And the battle surged about him, but he never ceased to play.
Aye, by the lonely camp-fires, still they tell the story o'er-
How the Sassenach was vanquished and - MacPherson held the floor.
This poem (and many others by the same author) can be found at RobertWService.Com.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Friday, November 20, 2009
Dear Old Dixie (The musicians are Bill Wells and Blue Ridge Mountain Grass.)
Remington's Ride (The banjo player here is Jason Skinner, who has included the tune on an instructional video):
Santa Claus (I have no idea why "Santa Claus," therefore this tune does not awaken in me the same degree of antipathy that my neighbors' Christmas decorations-already-yet do. The banjo player here is Johnny Butten.):
An extra note for those of you who might like to try this at home: I ceased to think of "Tennessee Waltz" as an interesting tune a good fifteen years ago, until yesterday when the dobro player said in an offhand way, "Oh this is just the way I learned the chords. . ." Where most folks would play the first two measures: C_ _ C_ _, she plays C_ _ Cmaj7_ _, and it makes a world of difference. Exquisite might be a good description.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Anyway, I have tried making it myself in the past, but one thing I very much like about ordering it out is that they usually run the spinach and onions through a food processor at some point in the operation, resulting in a very smooth, well-blended sauce. Most of the recipes that I have Googled do not enlighten one on that process. I remember the one time I tried it, the spinach kept compacting in the bottom of the food processor, and very little of it ended up smaller than "chopped" anyway. Here is a recipe (sans the food processor) in case anyone else wants to give Saag Gosht a try. It would be just as nice a setting for beef as it is for lamb.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Also, there is a piobaireachd of the same title (in fact, Mr. MacLeod's story is associated with the piobaireachd), though to the best of my knowledge the song and the piobaireachd share nothing but the story, being two entirely different tunes. You can hear Murray Henderson play the piece on Lismor's Piobaireachd.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
This poem is one of those cases where the "picture is worth a thousand words" saw is stood upon its head. No matter how luminous the picture, it would have been lacking without the invisible blackbirds.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Early on in the book, I was quite taken with a painting by an English artist named Frances Anne Hopkins. Her husband, Edward Martin Hopkins, was an official of the Hudson's Bay Company during the 1860's. She accompanied him on several of his. . .well, I suppose you could call them business trips, but it seems a very dry description of anything which might involve a group of canoes and the Great Lakes' region. On these trips, Mrs. Hopkins sketched and, when she returned home, painted some striking records of what she had seen.
Here are a couple of examples courtesy of the Library and Archives of Canada:
"Shooting the Rapids"
Sunday, November 8, 2009
If you don't have time to watch the whole thing, you can skip ahead to 6:57 where the song starts. The story is, in short, about a piper who decided to explore a mysterious cave in the Isle of Skye, and who fared rather badly in his venture. The song was his lament as he discovered the perils of the cave. (But if you have time to listen to the story here, you should. She tells it better.)
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
It seems safe to say that his art transfers a degree of that zeal. All of his photographs are well calculated to make you take a second look upwards the next time you're under a night sky, but if I might play favourites, start by taking a look at this one.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Anyway, here is the Masterless Men's version of "The Bramble and the Rose" which was what I heard this morning. It was written by one Barbara Keith, and has evidently been recorded several times in the past, though it was new to me. Though the recording quality here isn't all it could be. . .here it is.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
The first being a study of a muchly-spliced rope:
And the second, rigging so high that it blocks out the sun.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
In one of these sessions, unlike in American fiddle jams, nobody takes turns. Or, to be more precise, they take turns picking tunes, but not playing them. The leader (that is, whoever picked the tune) might start in by himself, but as the tune gathers momentum and the rest of the musicians recognize where it is going, they start coming in, and the music blossoms out, thick and rich. Each fiddler, of course, has a slightly different take on a piece, all of which generally complement each other when played together, but when you add in the drive of the bodhrans, whew! it is moving along! It was. . .big, almost a force of nature, like a wind blowing uninhibited across an ocean--or the ocean itself. The rolling wave of music might curl and crash, suddenly, hissing into a whispered sheen of foam as the leader changed tunes and the other players quieted to listen, but still it moved forward, and once more another tentative bow would feel out the tune, a bodhran player would carefully tap out the rhythm on his thigh, and bit by bit all the force would creep back in and the music would flow in full spate.
For myself, my bowing is going to take a lot of work to keep up in a setting like this, and the repitoire definitely needs a transfusion! I heard a lot of great new tunes, and wrote down the names to several I particularly liked. These were, as luck would have it, a collection which I am having small luck in tracking down so far, but here's a small taste, albeit not on fiddle. I liked this "Return to Milltown," for the drastic differences between the first part and the second, and have been able to find a very creditable accordion version here ("Return to Milltown" is the first tune, which lasts to about 1:05 of this set; the other two pieces are "Mulhaire's Reel" and "Golden Keyboard.")
Probably my favorite of the evening was "Myra's Jig," which you can hear on the MySpace page of an English trio called XYZ. I found out in trying to track it down that it is actually a Scottish tune, rather than Irish one, which is, perhaps an anticlimatic addendum after my intentions for adding variety to the repitoire. . .but it is awfully catchy!
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
There aren't many videos available of Bluegrass, Etc. and of the few existing, the sound quality does not do them justice. Here's a taste of an instrumental, however. Dennis Caplinger on banjo, and John Moore on guitar play "Don't Try This at Home."
John and Dennis are currently involved with another project as well, a group called Greenbroke, (MySpace page here) which includes John Cowan on bass and Brad Davis on guitar and vocals. From what I have been able to hear of them, they are on average a little more bluegrass than Etc, in this case, but likewise insanely musical. Here (despite what I just said about them being "more bluegrass") they toe the line of Texas Swing with "Panhandle Rag," John Moore on mandolin, this time.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
The site did include a video, or rather a sound clip set to pictures, of a true duet--really two mandolins this time, on nothing less than Vivaldi's Mandolin Concerto in C-Major, so there's a bit of the Baroque after all.
Oh, and in the course of writing this post, I found the page on his site that offers a video of him playing "Ave Maria". So now I can see it, but I still can't for the life of me figure out how he does it!
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Re: yesterday's post, it wasn't Bobby Hicks who wrote "Cheyenne." It was Bill Monroe. Yes, the Bill Monroe.
I mention the Gaelic singer James Graham every once in a while (here, f'r instance), but I think I've neglected to mention his website so far.. He has a few short clips from his albums up there; this is an excellent chance to get a taste of one of his very best pieces, a cover of Capercaillie's "Breisleach".
This is the bridge from a thoughtful distance. I quite liked this picture and was disappointed that it came out a bit on the fuzzy side. The red roofs and the orange-red bridge were a bit more obvious in real life. That whisp of white off to the right of the bridge's foundation is a sailboat. I edited the contrast in this picture a wee bit; it was from the set I took at the Hyde Street dock, also in San Francisco, and it was too close to noon for taking good pictures, especially of bright yellow boats. But I couldn't pass it up, I've been intrigued by feluccas ever since I saw that one at the Monterey Bay Aquarium last year.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
I had no hopes of finding a video that would even begin to convey exactly what I heard on Sunday, and I was right in that. You did have to be there. But for those of you who don't know the tune already, here is a very nice introduction by the Byron Berline Band.
And here's somthing else neat--another take of the same tune with both fiddle and vocals by a very young Allison Krauss, ca. 1987.
Though we really didn't play that much bluegrass at the jam, the other folks talked about it enough to where I had a rekindled interest in the subject. It was mainly that delicious minor-to-major flavour of "Wayfaring Stranger," however, that inspired me to try to find a video of the bluegrass classic "Cheyenne." I think this might have been written by Bobby Hicks, (anyway, I know he made it famous), but who should I find playing it but Aubrey Haynie (of the Time Jumpers)!
Which led me to find this video, which has absolutely nothing to do with any of the preceding (except that it is Aubrey Haynie again), being a good deal more Texas style than bluegrass, but it's another fine rendition of a classic. Eee, I do like those double stops.
That is enough rambling for one day.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Monday, October 12, 2009
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
The pain was still fresh in my mind some days later when somebody handed me a book with a generous admission by Mark Twain regarding the same composer:
"Wagner's music is better than it sounds."
Friday, October 9, 2009
I thought to improve my mind some weeks ago (it has yet to actually improve) so I checked out an armload of poetry books from the library (I have yet to give them much serious consideration). The Oxford Book of Scottish Poetry did get a cursory flip-through, however, and there, much to my amazement, was a selection from another poem about Gawain, this time, not in Middle English, but in Middle Scots. It is called The Knightly Tale of Golagros and Gawane. To my unsuspecting self, perhaps the most amazing part is, it was written in exactly the same style as the Green Knight--alliterative stanzas, each ending with a rhyming bob-and-wheel. I haven't read enough Medieval pieces to confirm that this was the latest rage at the time; I suspect that must have been a fairly popular format, as it does leave a writer enough freedom to spin a good yarn, while maintaining a bit of a poem's structure. Still, it is interesting to speculate on the popularity of the Green Knight poem, which is supposed to have been written in northern England. Did the Scot who wrote Golagros and Gawane some years later hear or read it? Aside from the structure, the poem, though not of such a reflective tone as the Green Knight, treats strongly of the virtue of courtesy. I suspect this was an expected attribute in the non-Frenchified, non-Maloryized version of Gawain, but given its central place in Golagros and Gawane, the poem, though not permitting such an intimate view of the knight's mind, does seem to continue the same likable hero of the Green Knight.
Below is the entire poem in Middle Scots with commentary that will likely answer most of my questions when I get around to reading it. I'll see if there is a modern translation floating around too (I haven't tried it all the way through in Scots yet--I borrowed a translation from the library), but I picked a bad time for this post. I need to run to work.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
She is a fairly old ship, built in Glasgow in 1886, built for work, and certainly did it, as you can read at the site above.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Here is a page from a flageolet website which lets the author speak for himself on the subject. Just as intriguing is the mention of tunes he wrote, some of which are in mothballs (or whatever you put valuable, generally unread manuscripts in) in Monterey. I wonder what it takes to have a peek. It might be too much to expect the musical equivalent of Kidnapped, but to say I am curious would be an understatement.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Admittedly, I always feel just a wee bit sorry for St. Francis, whose image graces a hundred thousand bird feeders, as if his mission in life were to go about singing, "Feed the Birds," in a pale glow of insipid tolerance for all things. I'm not objecting to the bird feeders themselves, it is just that after a body sees a few hundred of them, St. Francis can fade away into a plaster shadow of a man, placid, passive, who sat and smiled dreamily and let the world rush by him while he nodded, oblivious in his impractical corner.
Chesterton's vision of St. Francis, on the other hand, is that of a man, if possible, more alive than other men. The journalist gives the saint fiery dark eyes, underlines the not-so-subtle results of his mission with words like "explosion." But most of all, Chesterton's St. Francis is overflowing with a sense of very real joy--not merely a plaster smile of toleration--a joy so intense as to be almost as visible and solid as a mountain. Chesterton was also the man who said that only the humble man is truly happy (I think it was somewhere in Orthodoxy, but a few forays into the same have proved fruitless, and I have to begin thinking of bed in the interest of work in the morning). So, by way of brushing a few of the cobwebs off of St. Francis, while letting the birds have their proper attention, here is a quote that is not from the biography at all and which Chesterton wrote in The Defendant, not necessarily thinking of the saint. Still it fits mighty well in suggesting why a man like Francis might be the furthest thing from passive; he might be better said to be caught up in a lifelong state of pleasant surprise:
In a very entertaining work, over which we have roared in childhood, it is stated that a point has no parts and no magnitude. Humility is the luxurious art of reducing ourselves to a point, not to a small thing or a large one, but to a thing with no size at all, so that to it all the cosmic things are what they really are--of immeasurable stature. That the trees are high and the grasses short is a mere accident of our own foot-rules and our own stature. But to the spirit which has stripped off for a moment its own idle temporal standards the grass is an everlasting forest, with dragons for denizens; the stones of the road are as incredible mountains piled one upon the other; the dandelions are like gigantic bonfires illuminating the lands around; and the heath-bells on their stalks are like planets hung in heaven each higher than the other. Between one stake of a paling and another there are new and terrible landscapes; here a desert, with nothing but one misshapen rock; here a miraculous forest, of which all the trees flower above the head with the hues of sunset; here, again, a sea full of monsters that Dante would not have dared to dream. These are the visions of him who, like the child in the fairy tales, is not afraid to become small. Meanwhile, the sage whose faith is in magnitude and ambition is, like a giant, becoming larger and larger, which only means that the stars are becoming smaller and smaller. World after world falls from him into insignificance; the whole passionate and intricate life of common things becomes as lost to him as is the life of the infusoria to a man without a microscope. He rises always through desolate eternities. He may find new systems, and forget them; he may discover fresh universes, and learn to despise them. But the towering and tropical vision of things as they really are--the gigantic daisies, the heaven-consuming dandelions, the great Odyssey of strange-coloured oceans and strange-shaped trees, of dust like the wreck of temples, and thistledown like the ruin of stars--all this colossal vision shall perish with the last of the humble.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Anyway, here are a couple of clips from the Time Jumpers DVD, and by all means go over to their website, where you can read about them (some mighty impressive bios, there) and hear plenty more clips from their CD's.
Friday, October 2, 2009
Thursday, October 1, 2009
One person claimed that "strived" is the way to go, and one rallied round for "strove." The clincher--I asked my grandmother what she would say, and she gave me an odd look and said, "Strived." She should know. So if people want to write things like, "Music of this period strived to be more noble," evidently they are welcome to it. But if you should catch me writing "strove," tread gently because you tread upon my dreams.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Here's a little piece from a 1910 book called Heroes of California, complete with a photograph of the man, and one of the terrain he crossed.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
If you go over to her MySpace page, the first three songs there are from the new album. And for those of us who don't speak Gaelic, there is the luxury of lyrics and translations here.
P.S. "Lon Dubh," also on the MySpace page (I think it was released as a single) might be familiar to those of you who are better at your pop culture than am I. Embarassingly, the title is one of the few Gaelic words I actually know, and yet for the longest time I couldn't figure out why the tune was so familiar!
Monday, September 28, 2009
And a very uncomfortable shot, looking down from the third floor. That checkered bit to the left of the centre is the ground floor. It isn't all that far, as heights go, but it is the one thing about the capitol which has impressed me from an early age. Artistically, I have always loved the view. Altitude-wise. . .let's all move along now, eh?
The motor and prop of a biplane, from the Capitol City Airshow.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Thursday, September 24, 2009
(The website above is nicely set up and very extensive and, yes, it includes pictures--oh! such pictures!)
EDIT: Yes, I do have other things to do, why do you ask?
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
There were plenty of photo opportunities, but the best of them required a fast-draw style that I have not yet acquired with the camera. I managed to catch some airborne acrobatics faintly here, above the tail of the plane on the ground.
There were a few old warbirds there, including a P-38, which was very exciting to see, however the pictures I got of that in flight might as well have been the Loch Ness Monster for all you could tell what they were ("It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a. . .spot on the lense!")
When we first arrived, there was an F-22 Raptor running through some of its tricks. I don't know that I've ever seen anything that was both so graceful, and so powerful. It commanded your attention, and drew you right along with it, so you were, at the same time, more conscious than usual of your feet, planted firmly on the ground, while it seemed your heart and soul were spiraling off into the sun. Again, no good pictures on my part, but I found something better on YouTube--here's a short video clip of an F-22 in action at Nellis AFB.
Of course, the top billing of the day was the Air Force's Thunderbirds in their F-16's. Precision flying is pretty neat to begin with; when you see it done in graceful little crafts that are going upwards of 400 miles an hour, it leaves you quite bereft of any words to describe it. I hadn't been to an airshow in at least ten years, and in that time my mind had acquired a new simile for that kind of perfect flying. I was a little unnerved when the thought crept in, "They're like SFU!" Which is like comparing apples and oranges (or worse, comparing Naills and F-22's) but there is a certain something that sort of precision has in common, a single-minded pursuit of excellence that leaves one much the better for having seen it.Then add to such excellence, the breathtaking (an overused word, but honest, I don't think I was doing much breathing at the time) sight of a trim aircraft carrying the impossible cargo of a single human soul straight up for miles, dwindling until, at last it is swallowed by the huge, silent grey desert of sky. An astronomer might tell you that the pilot has not even scratched the surface of the universe, but a fact like that does nothing to banish the phrase that is running through your mind, and probably many of the minds around you: "I have. . .put out my hand, and touched the face of God."