Tuesday, November 19, 2013

You Don't See One of Those Every Day

Hello, hello. Here's a video of a piano-ish thing which has the distinction of being designed by Leonardo da Vinci*. All of the articles springing up in its wake seem inclined to refer to a "wacky piano," or a "crazy piano," whereas nobody seems to have thought of "the world's most ambitious hurdy-gurdy." But it sounds quite nice. If you don't have time to take in the whole thing, it's worth at least listening to the nifty string-quartet effect on Boccherini's "Celebrated Minuet" at 6:44.

*It is by no means an inconsiderable distinction either that it would appear that the fellow who is playing it built it.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Something for the Weekend

This is a fun game with a simple premise, if not necessarily a simple solution. The player listens to an audio clip and decides which language is being spoken. The list of possible languages lengthens as the game progresses. (I would write more, but according to my score in the first couple of tries, I really should be somewhere brushing up on my Hungarian. . .or Bangala. . .or Maltese.)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


I've been a bit out of things of late, so I am late both in discovering, and in passing on the news that, not only can you watch two days of the Worlds online this weekend, but you can also get a live stream of various events at the Piping Live! festival which is held in Glasgow in the week (I mean this one, of course) leading up to the Worlds. The varied program encompasses solo piping, band concerts, pipes as part of non-piping ensembles, and who-knows-what-else. I'm catching a bit of the quartet competition right now, and am enjoying it to no end.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

And the Annual Public Service Announcement

The World Pipe Band Championships is the weekend of the 17th. They've gone to a new, two-day format this year; none of the bands are pre-qualified, and all play off on Saturday to compete on Sunday. You can see it all here.

Sunday Within the Octave of Five Months After St. David's Day

Back at Easter I got to spend a wee bit of time at my sister's house which meant, of course, that I got to spend an even weer bit of  time browsing through her (very fine) bookshelf. I chiefly remember that I was very tired at the time, and that I ran across a book of poetry from World War I that was full of things I had never read. I sleepwalked through a couple of things by John Masefield that I quite liked, but was thoroughly enchanted by a piece by Ivor Gurney called "First Time In." One doesn't usually expect memories of the front lines to delight, but this poem was downright beautiful, and in my groggy state, rather unusually vivid. It didn't neglect the horror inches away "under the gun's noise," but I found something mightily heartening in the notion of men singing, even there.

It's been a busy year (and I am easily distracted, yes); it finally occurred to me last week that I wanted a copy of the poem I could link to here, so I started digging around. The First World War Poetry Digital Archive is quite impressive; you can look over poets' shoulders and read multiple drafts of all sorts of things, complete with scribblings-out and ink spots.

But then Google led me to this post, which was meant for St. David's Day, and has no less than three poems about Welsh soldiers singing (and a bonus bit about a goat, not to mention a bonus bit about "Sospan Fach"). So, if you like, you can scroll down until you find Gurney's poem that starts "After the dread tales. . ." or, you can (and you really should) read the whole thing.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Since It's Summer

Here's a definitely summertime sort of song, from The Show Ponies.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

New To Me

Blog posts having such an interval between them, I am fairly certain, are supposed to begin with a List of Weighty Reasons Why The Blogger Has Not Shown Signs Of Being Dedicated To Writing For The Edification Of A Starving World. Alas, my reasons are neither weighty, nor particularly fascinating, so I will not enumerate them. I have simply been busy, and perhaps the nose has been a bit too close to the grindstone to allow me to see much (even of the grindstone, which I am sure could be described in entrancing geological terms) worth repeating. 

That said, however, I am far from being in the position of a person who could truthfully hang this poster. Life is really quite pleasant and not the least of its pleasures is that I have been reading Dickens rather incessantly when time permits. I scored a used copy of Little Dorrit  some weeks ago, and have been enjoying it very much. This is the first time I have had the pleasure of reading a Dickens book (okay, a full-size Dickens book--I did enjoy The Cricket on the Hearth last year) which had not already been hinted at, or entirely disclosed by a movie (parentheses continue--the BBC did a miniseries but I haven't seen it) or the deep, quotable marks on popular culture that the like of Nicholas Nickelby, A Tale of Two Cities, Oliver Twist, or Great Expectations have left. It's loads of fun to truly be allowed to guess what might be coming next, and not just enjoy the ride, everyone and his uncle having already disclosed the denouement. 

It's too early to say how I like the book as a whole (no book, no matter how it might end, or what tortuous ways it might take to reach an end can be called wasted if part of it has been used to introduce that alarming creature known only as Mr. F's Aunt), but as always, Dickens shows a flair for reveling in words as the following quotes should suggest:

The house was very close, and had an unwholesome smell. The little staircase windows looked in at the back-windows of other houses as unwholesome as itself, with poles and lines thrust out of them, on which unsightly linen hung; as if the inhabitants were angling for clothes, and had some wretched bites not worth attending to. (Chapter 9)
*       *       *
There was a grave clock ticking somewhere up the staircase; and there was a songless bird in the same direction, pecking at his cage as if he were ticking too. The parlour fire ticked in the grate. There was only one person at the parlour hearth, and the loud watch in his pocket ticked audibly. (Chapter 13)
*       *       *
His smooth face had a bloom upon it like ripe wall-fruit. What with his blooming face, and that head, and his blue eyes, he seemed to be delivering sentiments of rare wisdom and virtue. In like manner, his physiognomical expression seemed to teem with benignity. Nobody could have said where the wisdom was, or where the virtue was, or where the benignity was; but they all seemed to be somewhere about him.
'Those times, however,' pursued Mr. Casby, 'are past and gone, past and gone. I do myself the pleasure of making a visit to your respected mother occasionally, and of admiring the fortitude and strength of mind with which she bears her trials, bears her trials.'
When he made one of these little repetitions, sitting with his hands crossed before him, he did it with his head on one side and a gentle smile, as if he had something in his thoughts too sweetly profound to be put into words. As if he denied himself the pleasure of uttering it, lest he should soar to high; and his meekness, therefore, preferred to be unmeaning. (Chapter 13)
*      *       *
. . .Mrs. Clennam, speaking in one unmodulated hard voice, and separating her words as distinctly as if she were reading them off from separate bits of metal that she took up one by one. . .(Chapter 15)
*       *       *
Of articles collected on his various expeditions, there was such a vast miscellany that it was like the dwelling of an amiable Corsair. (Chapter 16)
*       *       *
[Backstage in a theatre] At last they came into a maze of dust, where a quantity of people were tumbling over one another, and where there was such a confusion of unaccountable shapes of beams, bulk-heads, brick walls, ropes, and rollers, and such a mixing of gas-light and daylight, that they seemed to have got on the wrong side of the pattern of the universe. (Chapter 20)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Would You Look At That!

No, it's not really a post from me, more a link to a double-whammy series of pictures over at the always-excellent Natural History of Bodega Head. It's a tiger beetle. With eighth notes.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Remember, Man. . .

This was supposed to go up for Ash Wedesday, but I am at the mercy of the library computer for a couple of days. Not a cheery song, but oddly haunting.

Friday, February 8, 2013

'Tis the First Moth of Winter

It's the time of year when bold and early moths might be sighted, and while it always comes as a pleasant surprise to run across one, this is certainly the first time that I have had the delight of having the year's first moth literally handed to me. . .Also, it is the first one in my experience that has been made of paper. I have marvellous students.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Merry Indeed!

I had been long suffering under the impression that a book review was a utilitarian form of writing. Not that I don't appreciate the help a good one gives, whether to point me at something I should read, steer me away from something I shouldn't, or highlight all the points I missed in something that I already did. I cannot say, however that I ever enjoyed a book review with anything beyond a mild appreciation, a timid awe, or perhaps, in the case of something I had already read, with a certain sense of polite camaraderie with the reviewer. Until this morning, that is. I can now say that I have read a book review that, of itself, just plain made me glad to be alive. A good, and a boisterous review, a cheery, brawling, quarter-staff-wielding--oh really, never mind all of this introduction. Just go and read what Sean Fitzpatrick wrote about Howard Pyle's The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood. It's jolly!