Now and again I enjoy glimpses of glorious futures of information access. Today's case in point was inspired by the morning bathroom reading of the Introduction to George Eliot's Scenes of Clerical Life, in which Thomas Noble quotes the opening passage of an essay George Eliot published in Westminster Review in October 1855 (bolding especially choice bits):
GIVEN, a man with moderate intellect, a moral standard not higher than the average, some rhetorical affluence and great glibness of speech, what is the career in which, without the aid of birth or money, he may most easily attain power and reputation in English society ? Where is that Goshen of mediocrity in which a smattering of science and learning will pass for profound instruction, where platitudes will be accepted as wisdom, bigoted narrowness as holy zeal, unctuous egoism as God-given piety? Let such a man become an evangelical preacher; he will then find it possible to reconcile small ability with great ambition, superficial knowledge with the prestige of erudition, a middling morale with a high reputation for sanctity.My god but that woman could write. I got to wondering if I could lay my hands on the whole text of the article ("EVANGELICAL TEACHING: DR CUMMING"), and a few quick searches brought me a Google Books scan from George Eliot's Works, which was almost completely satisfactory... the penultimate page of the article was illegible, but Google offered a "Flag this page as unreadable" link, and politely thanked me for reporting the deficiency.
For those with a taste for literary skewering, I continue with some more (winkled out from the pdf thanks to copyable plain text view), but heartily urge download of the whole text. You'll find this not irrelevant to our present circumstances:
Let him shun practical extremes and be ultra only in what is purely theoretic: let him be stringent on predestination, but latitudinarian on fasting; unflinching in insisting on the Eternity of punishment, but diffident of curtailing the substantial comforts of Time; ardent and imaginative on the pre-millennial advent of Christ, but cold and cautious towards every other infringement of the status quo. Let him fish for souls, not with the bait of inconvenient singularity, but with the drag-net of comfortable conformity. Let him be hard and literal in his interpretation only when he wants to hurl texts at the heads of unbelievers and adversaries; but when the letter of the Scriptures presses too closely on the genteel Christianity of the nineteenth century, let him use his spiritualizing alembic and disperse it into impalpable ether. Let him preach less of Christ than of Antichrist; let him be less definite in showing what sin is than in showing who is the Man of Sin, less expansive on the blessedness of faith than on the accursedness of infidelity. Above all, let him set up as an interpreter of prophecy, and rival Moore's Almanack in the prediction of political events, tickling the interest of hearers who are but moderately spiritual by showing how the Holy Spirit has dictated problems and charades for their benefit, and how, if they are ingenious enough to solve these, they may have their Christian graces nourished by learning precisely to whom they may point as the "horn that had eyes," "the lying prophet," and the "unclean spirits." In this way he will draw men to him by the strong chords of their passions, made reason-proof by being baptized with the name of piety. In this way he may gain a metropolitan pulpit; the avenues to his church will be as crowded as the passages to the opera; he has but to print his prophetic sermons and bind them in lilac and gold, and they will adorn the drawing-room table of all evangelical ladies, who will regard as a sort of pious "light reading" the demonstration that the prophecy of the locusts whose sting is in their tail is fulfilled in the fact of the Turkish commander's having taken a horse's tail for his standard, and that the French are the very frogs predicted in the Revelations.
So now I want to hunt down some kalimba videos...
As a lifelong fan of the window seat view and of American landscapes, I'm in, like, total awe of what Doc Searls has captured in 282 images on a flight from Boston to LA (watch it as a slideshow... just DO it). I'm beginning to GET what digital SLR is capable of (not quite ready to start carrying all that weight around, though).
This one is really worth every minute it'll take to read it: Across the Borderline: Pashtuns and Taliban in Two States. A good corrective to my earlier simplistic thinking on Central Asian irredentism, and just the sort of analysis one would like to see the presidential candidates conversant with...
As a long-time student of Nacirema and Naidanac cultures, I'm always on the lookout for examples of trenchant observation of those and other closely related societies. During the morning's bathroom reading, currently Woolf's Three Guineas (originally published in 1938), I found this passage and was, as they say, brought up short. No apologies for the length of the passage, and the whole delicious chapter is available via University of Adelaide:
Let us then by way of a very elementary beginning lay before you a photograph —a crudely coloured photograph— of your world as it appears to us who see it from the threshold of the private house; through the shadow of the veil that St Paul still lays upon our eyes; from the bridge which connects the private house with the world of public life.
Your world, then, the world of professional, of public life, seen from this angle undoubtedly looks queer. At first sight it is enormously impressive. Within quite a small space are crowded together St Paul’s, the Bank of England, the Mansion House, the massive if funereal battlements of the Law Courts; and on the other side, Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament. There, we say to ourselves, pausing, in this moment of transition on the bridge, our fathers and brothers have spent their lives. All these hundreds of years they have been mounting those steps, passing in and out of those doors, ascending those pulpits, preaching, money- making, administering justice. It is from this world that the private house (somewhere, roughly speaking, in the West End) has derived its creeds, its laws, its clothes and carpets, its beef and mutton. And then, as is now permissible, cautiously pushing aside the swing doors of one of these temples, we enter on tiptoe and survey the scene in greater detail. The first sensation of colossal size, of majestic masonry is broken up into a myriad points of amazement mixed with interrogation. Your clothes in the first place make us gape with astonishment. How many, how splendid, how extremely ornate they are —the clothes worn by the educated man in his public capacity! Now you dress in violet; a jewelled crucifix swings on your breast; now your shoulders are covered with lace; now furred with ermine; now slung with many linked chains set with precious stones. Now you wear wigs on your heads; rows of graduated curls descend to your necks. Now your hats are boat-shaped, or cocked; now they mount in cones of black fur; now they are made of brass and scuttle shaped; now plumes of red, now of blue hair surmount them. Sometimes gowns cover your legs; sometimes gaiters. Tabards embroidered with lions and unicorns swing from your shoulders; metal objects cut in star shapes or in circles glitter and twinkle upon your breasts. Ribbons of all colours —blue, purple, crimson— cross from shoulder to shoulder. After the comparative simplicity of your dress at home, the splendour of your public attire is dazzling.
But far stranger are two other facts that gradually reveal themselves when our eyes have recovered from their first amazement. Not only are whole bodies of men dressed alike summer and winter —a strange characteristic to a sex which changes its clothes according to the season, and for reasons of private taste and comfort— but every button, rosette and stripe seems to have some symbolical meaning. Some have the right to wear plain buttons only; others rosettes; some may wear a single stripe; others three, four, five or six. And each curl or stripe is sewn on at precisely the right distance apart; it may be one inch for one man, one inch and a quarter for another. Rules again regulate the gold wire on the shoulders, the braid on the trousers, the cockades on the hats —but no single pair of eyes can observe all these distinctions, let alone account for them accurately.
Even stranger, however, than the symbolic splendour of your clothes are the ceremonies that take place when you wear them. Here you kneel; there you bow; here you advance in procession behind a man carrying a silver poker; here you mount a carved chair; here you appear to do homage to a piece of painted wood; here you abase yourselves before tables covered with richly worked tapestry. And whatever these ceremonies may mean you perform them always together, always in step, always in the uniform proper to the man and the occasion.
This same feathered visitor provoked a couple of haiku:
barred owl on a birch tree
grey on lighter grey
barred owl watching mouse
swift and silent conjunction
One of these in the yard the other day:
black nose, perked ears
red coat and waving brush
gone in a flash
I love the amateur spirit of these:
And check the enthusiasm of this Polish dance group:
Brad Fulton, fiddler, luthier (proprietor of SeaStrings, in South Ohio Nova Scotia), Development Officer/ Building Inspector/ Fire Inspector for Municipality of the District of Yarmouth, sometime member of the Yarmouth Shantymen and the Yarmouth Orchestra, teller of tales, author of The Saga of the Stove Wicks, and friend of 34-some-odd years, sent this picture a week or so ago. Just the picture, with the subject line A Thousand Words:
There's something about string basses. They aren't one of us. They're too big and ill mannered. They don't fit well in my studio. I confess I've always tried to have an arms length relationship with them. In the surgery the table itself and the patient thereon have to be moved every time to correspond with work station space needs. All the basses to date have been just a little less than welcome, and I think they knew it. They had all arrived via "ok, yes, well I guess I can likely fix it" situations. All have proven difficult. There hadn't been a one I'd rather not have bothered with. I came close to using my rubber mallet on one. Up to this point there'd been three. Inviting number four in was actually my idea, not that it mattered any. He ended up being just like the others. Too much work and bother for too little instrument. I've half a mind there may not be any more basses ever again. I near lost this wrestling match, and I'm not sure I could do it again with any more of them. Truth is I don't have a great deal of time for string basses. I've since learned (the fiddle elves had never warned me) there are bass trolls out there that prey on guys like me.
I have to say up front it's only the least grade basses I've ever worked on. Non instruments really. The laminates. Tugboats in the wood instrument flotilla. Clever veneers over plywood in the shape of their real cousins, overweight by quite a bit. This latest one was made in Germany circa 1955. It was purchased by the town band in '57 from Herb Deveau's long since gone bankrupt music store on Main St (good old Herb). It once had its neck wrenched out on a band trip and was sent back to the factory for repairs. Its last 25 years had been spent on Williams Street in John Hood's back room in pieces.
John, retired high school teacher, was at the baton year one when I joined the Town Band in '78. He conducted the high school band his entire career, and is our resident tuba in the orchestra. Every year or so John would slide his old bass into a casual conversation or two and wonder out loud if it could be fixed up and sold. There are folks who do such things in Halifax I'd always tell him.
This tale all began when my cello student Dan e-mailed out of the blue about his friend Warren in Digby who had smashed his bass up in an accident and was looking for a replacement instrument. Bingo ... I just happened to know where there was one. Opportunity knocked and I ran over and opened up the door. John was surprised and delighted I'd finally taken the bait, and he then told me "it's a real wooden bass you know". My turn to be surprised and delighted. It only needed its fingerboard to be refit (more blunt trauma), a new nut, endpin work, bridge and setup. We struck a deal for seastrings to restore, and be suitably rewarded at sale. Now John has been around music and instruments all his life, and I didn't give a moments thought when he made the bass claim. The sad truth was band instruments he knows all about, string basses not so much. Turned out it was all wood all right, all cleverly laminated together looking for all the world like the real thing.
A deal was a deal though, and so began the task of putting it together and playable again. My first discovery was the fingerboard hadn't come off quite as cleanly as one might have hoped. A few good sized slivers of ebony were left glued on the neck, and a few slivers were missing ... a little big job. The second was the tailpiece setup (previously coat hanger wire rigged) couldn't accommodate a proper fix without serious alterations. Old familiar bass repair issues all over again. One step forward, two steps back. And so he lay there on the worktable, taking up all the room in the shop and being stubborn. My feelings toward laminate basses hadn't changed one whit.
Just for good measure the endpin lacked the holdfast ring and screw mechanism to lock the pin. I had no luck despite an exhaustive search through my entire stable of 'nuts and bolts' bins, including the half dozen from my Father's basement shop. I believe I heard a smug grunt of satisfaction from the bass beast after the last bin came up empty.
Off to Waterview. I don't doubt you might have gazed upon it at some point, having perhaps stretched your legs whilst waiting for the ferry. It's very near the terminal north. It's a true blue all Nova Scotia rough and ready working waterfront machine shop. Fix everything metal mostly for boats they do. There's a hunk of pig iron on a rope which acts as the external pulley rigged counterweight closer for the slightly oversize and unmarked rough entry door. One never knows what lies on the other side of that funky door. I treasure the place. Inside was a huge excavator in the midst of an autopsy. The only people in the place were somewhere among the massive sections of the thing working torches. A great day at Waterview Machine Works. Protocol dictates standing looking hopeful being respectful until one of the guys finishes up and comes to deal with your petition. In for a penny, in for a pound. I requested a brass ring fitting for tubby's endpin. Impress buyers. A small touch of class never hurt anyone. He may sound like rubber bands stretched over cardboard, but he's going to have a spiffy new well-fit endpin.
Tying off as it were with black electrical wire tailgut on the lardy monster led to a rousing all night battle. Lord but there's a lot of tension on a bass tailpiece! The first two attempts ended in pull out failure. There wasn't going to be a third. It was him or me. With tailpiece in vise I toiled like a sailor, heaving and grunting fighting to knot the wire to hold. Site built wood forms for concrete can be wired together with less effort.
There is a truly wonderful ending to this epic, however it wasn't at the preferred time of tune up. That's always my favorite time in the shop, when my bow brings a restored instrument to musical life again. Fats just didn't cut it. He's a looker but he wasn't a sounder. Good thing he had his good health and an outstanding endpin.
His final insult to SeaStrings was a doozie. I gotta hand it to him. After I won the tailgut fight and he was at last tuned up I decided the flotsam rattling inside his belly needed purging. Wish I'd had a garage station air compressor hose so I could have just blasted him like mechanics blast engine grime off motor parts. Cleaning out fiddles is a snap. Cellos too can be handled quite easily, however what does one do to clean out a bass? I lied down on the floor and raised him up over me belly to belly with my arms and legs thinking I'll just tip him gently side to side and all the stuff will dribble out of the f holes. I rather underestimated his weight and girth though, and at the end of a very long evening of tailpiece wrangling I was almost out of gas. I simply didn't have the physical strength to pull off this stunt. With the whale hovering at arms length above me, my feet up in the air spread wide supporting either side of the lower bout, the absurdity of the situation overcame me and I began to laugh ... not the wisest thing to do when you have a bass raised over your prone body. Panic at the seriousness of the situation came next. What if I lose it off to one side and it crashes onto the concrete studio floor? More laughter. My muscles burning, my arms shaking, the bass wobbling precariously and I'm either going to crack it into pieces or be crushed by it. What's a poor luthier to do?
Survival instinct is a wonderful thing. I simply gave in. Folding like an accordion I let the beast squish me, hugging it safely when it came to rest on my chest then carefully rolling over to rest it on its side beside me. All in a day's work at seastrings.
Now Warren plays jazz bass with a professional guitarist. In the interim his quite wonderful bass was repaired by the bassmaster George Barkhouse in Halifax, and this old second rate laminate sure wasn't going to be finding a new home in Digby as per my original scheme. Go figure. My local bluegrass contacts didn't even consider him worth coming to meet in the flesh either. Not even when the set of photos I'd sent included a nice shot of the endpin. I was having nightmares of this monstrosity hanging around the studio for months.
My cousin Murray, Mom’s sister Vera’s oldest boy lives in Pictou and plays bluegrass bass. Murray just might know someone who wants a beginner bass. He e-mailed back saying he forwarded my e-mail (complete with endpin shots) to Jerry’s Bluegrass and Old Time Music website somewhere in East Hants. Two days later at 8 in the morning Shelly from Tantallon calls up and asks if he could come down in his station wagon to see the bass. It’s always a good sign when a buyer thinks things through. Let me tell you Shelley was no slouch at setting the endpin to his own height neither… another good sign.
We were all happy to see it go. I’m almost feeling sentimental about the old fart. One more for the elves.
...that's what Nick has, for unexpected musical moments. Here's George Hrab, offering a lot for the viewer to consider:
E.M.D. (Eat My Dust) is, for my money, David Grisman's most paradigm-shattering tune, and made its first appearance on the 1976 David Grisman Quintet record. The mandolin parts are wonderful, but Tony Rice's guitar break
forever changed my conception of what the guitar could be made to do. There are several versions of the tune out there in YouTube land, each demonstrating different facets of the tune and showcasing the approaches of virtuoso players:
Grisman Quartet, early 1980s I think. Tony's break: 1:10-1:45
Bluegrass All-Stars, with Alison Krauss. Tony's break: 2:40-3:20 (good sound but jerky video)
Tim May and David Harvey, the tune starting after 3:30
better than most pictures of oook, and Makeshift is a welcome addition to the menage
I'm a sucker for mandocellos, and you don't often get to see/hear them in duet:
"It's a very strange paper. There is a core that is competently done; it's a review of the various functions of the mitochondrion, and 90% of it is useful, detailed stuff. It's a bit outside my field, but what I could follow seemed reasonable. But then…oh, man. Every once in a while, it just goes cockeyed and throws out these incredible non sequiturs, making bizarre assertions that are unjustified by the evidence. If Norman Bates were the author of this paper, I'd be able to tell you exactly which parts he wrote while wearing a dress."
(The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, via Suburban Guerrilla... especially love the bit about Appalachian folksong collectors in Plus-4s)
I've been thinking about presentation of still images via animation, considering both the technical wherewithals and the aesthetics of visual and audio production (voiceover? textover? music?). This realization of Hine photographs from ScrappyGater provides a lot of food for thought:
Personally, I'd rather hear than read those captions and screens of text, and I'm not sure what I think about Ashokan Farewell as accompaniment (though it's a marvelous tune, applicable to just about anything reflective or heart-wrenching).
...and ScrappyGater (Michael Jeffries) has a fistful of other Productions that you'll be greatly Informed by. Note especially his not-still-image videos Ya Don't Fool with the Ingledoos (which isn't embeddable, but you'll probably be glad you clicked, unless you're a snake fancier) and Uncle Buddy: Jackleg General Contracting Hour, both of which carry me back to Old Virginny, fer shur.
Roy Zimmerman on The Big Tent (thanks Nick!):
...I suggest Claire Nouvian's The Deep: The Extraordinary Creatures of the Abyss. This one will surprise even the most jaded palate, delight any passing children, change your view of what the world is all about. Sounds fulsome? Take a look at some of the images at the University of Chicago Press site, and sharpen up that credit card. You won't regret it.
update: lyrics, and I like this version better except for the faulty synch:
Obituaries are gold mines of socio-cultural Data, especially when one alters the focus from the facts presented about the deceased to the context in which he or she lived. I first started to accumulate Nova Scotia obituaries 35+ years ago, with an eye to demographic details (especially re: migration), and I regret that I was less than systematic in pursuit of these delicious data. My friend Carolyn Littlejohns forwarded this one, a gem of the genre from the Halifax Chronicle-Herald of Thursday Jan 31, replete with Canadianisms and Maritime syntax:
It's all here: his sibling set stayed in Antigonish, except for a sister who escaped to the Boston States; his children left Antigonish (all but one) for various greener pastures. In an environment where there are scores of people named "William MacDonald" it's common to have specifiers like "the Painter" ("the Dancer", "the Piper") added to make it quite clear which Billy is the focus of a story. If I had nothing else to do, I'd get out the box of collected obits and extract a few more stories...
MacDONALD, William Alexander "Billy the Painter" - 88, 17 Sylvan Valley Rd., Antigonish Co., died Tuesday, January 29, 2008, in St. Martha's Regional Hospital, Antigonish. Born in Antigonish, he was a son of the late James "Jim the Painter" and Jessie Ann (MacRae) MacDonald. Bill received his education at Morrison School, Antigonish, where he also enjoyed playing hockey. He joined the Canadian Army in 1939 and was stationed in Auld's Cove, St. John's and Botwood, N.L. In 1943 he went overseas and was seriously wounded in Falaise, France. Upon returning to Canada, Bill was employed as a painter. While painting the R.K. MacDonald Guest Home, the scaffolding collapsed which left him unable to walk. However, with grit and determination, he overcame this obstacle and walked again. He loved hunting, fishing, fly tying, horse racing and playing the bagpipes. He retired from the federal government after over 25 years of service. He was a member of Arras Branch No. 59, Royal Canadian Legion, Antigonish, the Antigonish Pipe Band and St. Ninian's Parish. Bill will be very much missed by his family, Charlie the cat, and the "boys at the mall". Surviving are his wife, the former Nan MacPherson; daughters, Barbara, Saudi Arabia; Alexina, Halifax; Lynn (Brian Quinlan), Scarborough, Ont.; son, John (Joy), Antigonish; grandchildren, Jessa, Alexander, Jade, Brooke; brothers, James, Antigonish; Jobie, North Grant, Antigonish Co.; Lewis, Clydesdale, Antigonish Co.; sisters, Mary LaBrosse, Antigonish; Roberta McFadden, Woburn, Mass.; Jessie Sears, Antigonish; a number of nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by sisters, Sarah Lonergan, Gertye MacPherson, Teresa DuFresne; two brothers in infancy. The family would like to give a thank you to the VON and the nurses at St. Martha's Regional Hospital for their help and support. Visitation 2-4, 7-9 p.m. today in MacIsaac Funeral Home, 61 Pleasant St., Antigonish. Mass of Christian Burial will be Friday at 11 a.m. in St. Ninian's Cathedral, Antigonish, Rev. Martin MacDougall presiding. Burial at a later date in St. Ninian's Cemetery. Memorial donations to St. Ninian's Restoration Fund. (source)
Smartmobs, Frozemobs, whatever: