Sunday, May 31, 2009
Saturday, May 30, 2009
The van was 17 feet long, and handled quite nicely. All the tricky stuff is done with mirrors, except, of course, if somebody decides to tailgate, they become invisible. You have to watch for them, because they somehow get sucked into the magnificent wake of such a moving van as this one, and they like it so much that they stay there for miles. Every once in a while, they will coyly appear in the mirror on your left, and you think kindly of them for reminding you that they're there. You also wonder why they don't just pass you. You know when they do pass you? When you see a cop pulling someone over on the right shoulder so you move over into the left lane, just momentarily. Then your shy little buddy back there cries, "Ah! I see how it is! You're driving in the fast lane? In a moving van?" And overcome with righteous indignance, they pass you on your blind side, and associate with you no more.
I wish there was something absolutely astounding I could tell you about the trip, but it was quite uneventful. I saw three dead barn owls at different places along I-5. More interesting, I caught a glimpse of a very live tarantuala hawk, but we passed like ships in the night. . .no, really more like a wasp and a moving van in the late afternoon.
Against a lot of good advice from everyone from my near-and-dear to the lady at the rental place, I opted to drive the van back again, and the time limit I ended up with had me driving back the next morning, so I did about 700 miles round trip in less than 24 hours. Not a record, by any means, but quite enough driving for little ol' me, thank you very much! The drive back was terribly bland--not so much as a mud dauber! (If you don't count all those mysterious, unidentifiable splotches on the windshield).
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Upon his will he binds a radiant chain,
For Freedom's sake he is no longer free.
It is his task, the slave of Liberty,
With his own blood to wipe away a stain.
That pain may cease, he yields his flesh to pain.
To banish war, he must a warrior be.
He dwells in Night, eternal Dawn to see,
And gladly dies, abundant life to gain.
What matters Death, if Freedom be not dead?
No flags are fair, if Freedom's flag be furled.
Who fights for Freedom, goes with joyful tread
To meet the fires of Hell against him hurled,
And has for captain Him whose thorn-wreathed head
Smiles from the Cross upon a conquered world.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
(Luckily, I yet again escaped the foot which was heading for my mouth, and managed to say, "If you'd like. But don't be in any hurry.")
Saturday, May 23, 2009
The general consensus is, of course, that it's a fiddle when used for folk music, and a violin when classical music is its provenance. I have, however, heard a good many fiddlers (the name, when applied to people, is less vague) refer without a second thought to, "My violin," (or, "Mah vahlin," in some cases). They play it: they're entitled to call it what they like, says I. There are, of course, extremists on both sides, who hold hard and fast to one term, but in general, I think it's safe enough to say I play the fiddle (sometimes-described-as-a-violin).
Well, it occurred to me to find out where the two disparate words came from. "Fiddle," it turns out, is from the Old English fiðele, a word which may have applied to the rebec, or something like it. Furthermore, fiðele likely descended from the Middle Latin vitula*. I am not certain whether vitula referred to a particular instrument, or whether it was a generic term for stringed instruments at large. But anyway, vitula. Remember that.
"Violin," on the other hand, had its roots in the Italian word viola. Viola, it seems, was once a much more general term than it is today, applying to anything (i.e. what we know as basses, cellos, violas, and violins) with a viola-ish shape. Violino was the diminutive form, applied to the "little viola". The fun part--viola is also quite possibly a descendant of vitula.
So, what is the difference between a fiddle and a violin? Like I said, it depends on who you ask.
*To be thorough, there is also a theory that it is of purely Germanic origin.
Friday, May 22, 2009
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Of course, I learned my lesson the hard way. I put down the pipes and dug around for the camera, and by the time everything was untangled, the wasp was taking a notion to seek the horizon, and the second variation of "The Company's Lament" was shattered beyond repair. I put the camera within easier reach and turned back to the pipes.
Though a couple of wasps flew by, I never did get a shot at another one digging. Some time later, I took a break to follow them around while they were hunting (I assume). They didn't spend much time in the air, or fly more than a few feet off the ground if they did. They were quite graceful in flight, afoot, slightly menacing as they often paused in their charge, only to move off again at the same smooth, rapid pace. The effect was something like time lapse photography; the wasp would be hurrying into a hole in one instant, and in the next she might appear suddenly atop an adjacent blade of grass before blurring away across a clearing. I was surprised to get any remotely clear pictures, but here is one:
That one was taken when she paused in my shadow, thus the impression that a flash might have gone off (it did). It would have been nice to get a picture in the sunlight at a proper angle as, there, the insect's wings reflect a rich, dark blue. I'm still not certain of the genus and species, but I'm pretty sure it's something in Chlorion; if so, it was after crickets.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
A very important aspect of the Campbell canntaireachd is the one-to-one correspondence between the notes played and the notes sung. For example, if the canntaireachd is sung, "a," the piper would know to play a D note. If, however, the sung syllable is "ha," the player remembers to add a G gracenote before playing the D note. (Again, note this is mostly in theory; a good many of the pipers who use canntaireachd fluently are more interested in singing the tune than reserving each phrase for only one purpose. )
Canntaireachd was invaluable in the days before pipe music began to be written down. At that time, pipers did not play ceol beag; it was all piobaireachd. Even today, canntaireachd is given a particular emphasis in the teaching of piobaireachd. The method not only aids in memorization, but gives a piper an extra degree of feeling for the music that will (hopefully) be transfered to his performance on the pipes.
Here, then, is a bit of Campbell canntaireachd, as it would be applied a piobaireachd. The singer is Barnaby Brown; the tune "My Dearest on Earth, Give Me Your Kiss."
The fact that canntaireachd was the traditional means for conveying piobaireachd, however, has not hindered it in becoming a very useful means for learning, expounding, or discussing light music. An accomplished piper tends to slip into it as though it is an extension of his own language. "Watch that hin o che, hin o che," the pipe major will caution, "You're running away with it. A little more hin."
For some reason canntaireachd recordings of light music seem to be quite rare, a circumstance which might serve, to an observer, only to downplay the taken-for-granted relationship between singing and piping. However, over at the Scottish Arts Council's website, you can listen to Rona Lightfoot singing some strathspeys and a reel (deviously, it's the link marked Canntaireachd on that page).
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Monday, May 18, 2009
Sunday, May 17, 2009
The only big (to me) thing I missed was a chance to post a short something about St. Brendan the Navigator yesterday, which was his feastday. Since I had left myself a note at least two months ago to be sure and do this, I was a little put out that I didn't do it in time after all.
Anyway, St. Brendan, an Irish monk, is the patron saint of sailors. It is quite likely that he sailed through the Hebrides and founded religious houses there, but even more intriguing is the possibility that another voyage took him as far west as North America--in the 6th century. The legend associated with his voyage might read rather fantastically at a first glance, but in the 1970's the adventurer Tim Severin decided that following in St. Brendan's alleged footsteps would be worth a try. Severin commissioned a large curragh, an Irish boat of hides stretched over a wooden framework, and in it he sailed from Ireland to Newfoundland, with a small crew. He lived to write a book about it, The Brendan Voyage. This book is quite interesting as it details the construction of the Brendan, as the boat was inevitably named, not to mention the voyage itself. One conclusion which Severin reached was that many details of the medieval legend were not as unlikely as they first appeared (a "pillar of crystal," for instance, is not unlike an iceberg). As you might expect of any book that treats of a voyage through the North Atlantic, this one is an excellent antidote to hot weather.
An interesting literary footnote--the Irish tradition of an earthly paradise that could be reached, God willing, by sailing West is not unsimilar to Tolkien's land of Valinor. In fact, Tolkien himself is responsible for an obscure poem called Imram (the old Irish term for a questing voyage like St. Brendan's) which is a dialog between a young Irish monk and the now-dying Brendan. A piece of it:
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Possibly because it is such a practical book, it becomes doubly funny in the passages where the writer obviously began to have too much fun. The edition I have was revised by Rab Wallace, so I don't know whether Mr. MacNeill or Mr. Wallace is to blame for the pithy statements that sneak up suddenly upon you, but no matter where they came from, here are a few highlights:
- "The singing is only to help your mind's ear (a neat phrase that, and worth dragging in again)."
- "Take your time. Remember that the race is not to the swift. Remember also that this is not even a race."
- "Now it's time to begin your third piobaireachd [. . .], 'The Lament for Alasdair Dearg Mac Donnell of Glengarry', generally referred to as 'Alasdair Dearg'. 'Alasdair' is pronounced with the 'd' something more like a 't'. 'Dearg' is pronounced 'jerrug,' somewhat to your surprise, no doubt, if you are not a Gaelic speaker."
- ". . .'What a great song I am making,' you say. But when you come to the Taorluath and the Crunluath variations you add, 'and what a clever chap I am, the way I do it'."
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Here she puts theory into practice at a show in North Carolina:
Here she defies gravity:
That might somewhat explain why I found her set at Weiser so memorable. Maybe.
Monday, May 11, 2009
Also, while you are at it, why don't you download the other video the band has up? Another rarity not filmed often enough, it's a drum fanfare. A drummer's job has to be complicated enough without throwing in the tricks these fellows add!
Sunday, May 10, 2009
"Time is the passage of. . ." Ooops. No.
"Time means moving. . .um." No.
"Time is a movement. . .forward? Where to? How would you characterize the movement of time as opposed to movement through space? Well, for one thing, time goes on moving whether the creatures in it are moving or not. . ." And then the vague picture in my mind of an endless, merciless river roaring through the quiet room, foaming over Now and carrying the world away, with no chance of anchorage. As soon as you realize it's Now, Now has become Then, and it's behind you, and time. . .well what *is* time, anyway?
Perhaps I had better leave physics alone for a while.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
But though I wrote it down with some attention, when it came time to do the shopping, I realized I was clueless when it came to one item on the list. A lemon I can identify, and limes and I are old friends. Even scallops are fairly recognizeable, especially when they are neatly labeled behind the seafood counter. But what's a shallot? I had heard the word, indeed, I had reminded Grandma when we were making the shopping list, "It calls for shallots." She agreed that I should get some and I traipsed off to the store, still unaware that I had no idea what I was talking about.
However, the hard facts of the produce section do not allow for comfortable indistinctness. Confronted by lush rainforests of bunched parsely and ransacked pyramids of potatoes, I realized I had come with one intention uppermost in my mind, and that was to buy shallots. The question finally dawned--would I know a shallot if I saw one? I began the search in the herb section, thinking (I don't know why) that I was seeking sort of a cross between a chive and a green onion. Chives there were, in plenty, but the shallots, if they were there, were cunningly hidden. I looked wanely up and down the bins that were trying to rival a horn of plenty, bursting with. . .everything but shallots. Perhaps shallots were not called shallots in Sacramento. Perhaps they were traveling under an assumed name.
Finally I realized that there was another human being in this wilderness, a native of the place, or, at least, the produce clerk. I was going over to ask him where the shallots were kept. A fellow shopper materialized grandly and, being nearer, got in ahead of me to make inquiries about bok choy. I did not feel shortchanged; in knowing enough about bok choy to ask for it, she had betrayed herself as a woman who most likely was on a first-name basis with shallots. So I asked her while the produce clerk went off to see if there was any bok choy.
"Shallots?" she made an eloquent face. "They're over there."
I was astounded, realizing that she was pointing away from the forest of greens into the high, dry desert of potatoes and--onions.
"On the end," she said, "They're like onions, but more. . .more. . ." And that face again, as though they were a bit overdone, as things like onions went.
"Concentrated?" I wondered.
She nodded. I stared at the shallots which, from the outside, looked like undernourished yellow onions. I selected two and traipsed off to find the seafood counter.
That night I peeled one of these wonders, cut it in half, and began to dice it finely, as the recipe mandated. It inclined toward a slight purple inside.
I had discovered exactly what the elusive shallot looked like. But what did it taste like? I cut an extra slice to find out. I believe the face I made was close to the expression the lady in the grocery store had worn when revealing the long-sought vegetable. It was like an onion, but more. . .more. . .concentrated. Much more.
Friday, May 8, 2009
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
The pipers of World War I are deservedly legendary. It is hard to imagine just what it would be like to go over the top, up out of the trenches and into enemy fire with your hands full of nothing more than a chanter, but the stories say they did it time and time again. These days, and perhaps more particularly, this side of the Pond, they are remembered mostly in titles of a few tunes whose jauntiness is rather disarming, given the circumstances under which they must have been composed or popularized, "The Battle of the Somme" being a notable example.
Two of WWI's pipers are introduced by name in this article by Brett Tidswell (there are three pipers in the article, but the first is G.F. Findlater, of an earlier campaign in India). More on James Richardson, and a picture of the Chilliwack monument in his honor can be found here.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
These are orthodontic rubber bands, the little ones that hook an upper set of braces with a lower set of braces to coax a jaw into some unaccostomed position. They are also the reason band members with braces get an unaccustomed amount of attention.
Someone walks into rehersal with a new and uncomfortable looking hardware collection wired across his teeth. The reaction is sympathetic:
"How are you getting along with them? Don't really miss the popcorn?"
"How's piping with 'em?"
"Sixteen months, eh? Oh, it'll go by before you know it."
It is only after a properly sympathetic pause that it is appropriate to add, in the most offhand way possible, "Oh, by the way. . .emm, I don't suppose the dentist gave you any of those little rubber bands, did he? Oh no. Just one would be plenty."
I live quite near an orthodontist's office, so it was only a matter of months before it would occur to me that perhaps rubber bands could be procured right at their source. Oddly enough, they can. Indeed, the receptionist kindly gave me a whole bag of them, for free, with no orthodontic obligations attached. . .Who'd have thunk it?
Monday, May 4, 2009
Credits: YouTube channel: IrishFlutist85
SFUPB played the tune as part of their medley in 2007 (an inevitable meeting between perfect slow air and perfect band, says I). Here they, and their medley, are at Enumclaw. Listen for the end, where they return to the slow air, speed it up a bit, and play it against a countermelody--good stuff!
Credits: YouTube channel: Scotkin
Sunday, May 3, 2009
That is to say, perhaps it wasn't the most genial of combinations. Not in Chesterton's poetry, anyway. (P'raps the verse above was just a literary way of saying, "Why don't you just tune 'em already!?" You've got to cut the man some slack on that point; he didn't live to hear SFU.)
However, Chesterton and bagpipes coexist happily, alongside Lives of the Saints, political commentary and other unpredictable apparitions on The Inn at the End of the World, a blog by a Catholic gentleman and piper out of Southern California. I stumbled across the Inn quite by accident last week and found it both comfortable and comforting. Take a look!
Saturday, May 2, 2009
One interesting development, probably very much for the better; it was so windy that a little speck of something blew onto my camera lens. It makes the zoom practically useless, unless one wants a big, fuzzy spot right in the middle of the picture. I don't yet have a proper cleaning kit so this means, of course, that you will be spared the pictures I was going to get up early this morning to shoot. . .and I was spared getting up early.