"I am not one who was born in the custody of wisdom. I am one who is fond of olden times and intense in quest of the sacred knowing of the ancients." Gustave Courbet

26 December 2008

Jerry Jeff Walker, Contrary To Ordinary

I never live my life through other people's eyes
I guess I've always been the one they said was
Too tall, too late, too early
Yeah, he's the one
You ought to be in the circus
You're having too much fun

Just a one-man band, a one man gypsy circus
Finding out each piece of the puzzle has a purpose
Drifting and dreaming
Yeah, that must be my fate
Always grinning down the devil's throat
Blazing with aces and eights

And I was contrary to ordinary
Even as a child
Fast freights made me wonder
The full moon still drives me wild
And stories do come true
You just got to live your life in episodes
With one eye on a lady
And one eye still on that open road

And when I die don't put no tombstone on my grave
Just have my friends throw a great big party
Toss my ashes out across the waves
Don't bring no preacher man down
Just to tighten up my past
Just tell 'em how I like to live
I like to make sing and dance and laugh

And I was contrary to ordinary
Even as a child
Fast freights made me wonder
Full moons still drive me wild
And stories do come true
If you live your life in episodes
With one eye on a lady
And one eye still on that open road

Irving's Christmas Dinner

The dinner-time passed away in this flow of innocent hilarity, and, though the old hall may have resounded in its time with many a scene of broader rout and revel, yet I doubt whether it ever witnessed more honest and genuine enjoyment. How easy it is for one benevolent being to diffuse pleasure around him; and how truly is a kind heart a fountain of gladness, making every thing in its vicinity to freshen into smiles! the joyous disposition of the worthy squire was perfectly contagious; he was happy himself, and disposed to make all the world happy; and the little eccentricities of his humor did but season, in a manner, the sweetness of his philanthropy.

Read the final installment here. Merry Christmas and a Joyous New Year!

25 December 2008

Irving's Christmas Day

"I love,” said he, “to see this day well kept by rich and poor; it is a great thing to have one day in the year, at least, when you are sure of being welcome wherever you go, and of having, as it were, the world all thrown open to you ..."

Read the rest here.

22 December 2008

Washington Irving's, Christmas Eve

As we approached the house, we heard the sound of music, and now and then a burst of laughter, from one end of the building. This, Bracebridge said, must proceed from the servants’ hall, where a great deal of revelry was permitted, and even encouraged by the squire, throughout the twelve days of Christmas, provided every thing was done conformably to ancient usage. Here were kept up the old games of hoodman blind, shoe the wild mare, hot cockles, steal the white loaf, bob apple, and snap dragon: the Yule clog and Christmas candle were regularly burnt, and the mistletoe, with its white berries, hung up, to the imminent peril of all the pretty housemaids. The mistletoe is still hung up in farmhouses and kitchens at Christmas; and the young men have the privilege of kissing the girls under it, plucking each time a berry from the bush. When the berries are all plucked, the privilege ceases.

Read the rest here.

21 December 2008

Don Edwards, Coyotes

A great song from the the film soundtrack, Grizzly Man. The film is an account of a idiot named Timothy Treadwell, who went to Alaska to raise awareness of the plight of the grizzly by living with them. The bears eventually ate him.

Coyotes is the lone vocal track of the album of otherwise Richard Thompson instrumentals. Skip the narcissism of the movie. Get the soundtrack here.


The Navigator, by Robert Parke-Harrison

American Genocide

Denial or ignorance of the genocide inflicted upon the Native cultures of this country over the past 500 years is shamefully inexcusable. To point toward the German Third Reich or contemporary Sudan with elitist disapproval is an act of arrogance and stupidity akin to Ku Klux Klan demagoguery.

Purchase this important documentary here.

15 December 2008

The lowest trees have tops

As I drove to work this morning in the not-quite-dawn darkness and heavy rain, Sting's latest, Songs from the Labyrinth, played on the hi-fi of my jalopy. It was perfect. The austerity of the Elizabethan composer, John Dowland, fit the morning drive perfectly.

If this interests you, pick up a copy here. Be sure to get the CD/DVD collection, as the footage of the lute that Sting was given as a gift is worth the price alone. The labyrinth carved in the sound hole is astounding.

14 December 2008

Past Three O'Clock and A Cold and Frosty Morning

Past Three O'Clock
Lyrics by G.R. Woodward

Past three o'clock,
And a cold frosty morning,
Past three o'clock,
Good morrow masters all.

Born is a baby
Gentle as may be,
Son of the Eternal
Father supernal.

Seraph choir singeth,
Angel bell ringeth,
Hark how they rhyme it,
Time it and chime it!

Mid earth rejoices
Hearing such voices.
Ne'ertofore so well
Carolling nowell!

Hinds o'er the pearly
Dewy lawn early
Seek the high stranger
Laid in the manager.

Cheese from the dairy
Bring they for Mary,
And, not for money,
Butter and honey.

Light out of star-land
Leadeth from far land
Princes, to meet Him,
worship and greet Him.

Myrrh from full coffer,
Incense they offer;
Nor is the golden
Nugget withholden.

Thus they: I pray you,
Up sirs, nor stay you
'Til ye confess him
Likewise and bless him.

Two great performances here and here.

Endure courageously!

Slate has an article entitled, How the Illuminati influenced Beethoven. It focus is on the prodigy, and the influence of Schiller's Ode.

One of the things it all added up to was something like this: music as an esoteric language wielded by a few enlightened men for the benefit of the world. Beethoven was all about duty to the abstraction called humanity. That was what he was taught and what he lived and wrote for, through all the miseries of going deaf and a great deal of physical pain. It was people he didn't much care about. But in taking up Schiller's Ode for the Ninth Symphony, he proposed not just to preach a sermon about the brotherhood of humanity and the dream of Elysium. He wanted the Ninth to help bring those things to pass.

Read the rest here.

I am, too!

The National Weather Service is predicting that central Ohio will have about a 25% chance of a white Christmas.

A Christmas Carol

The 1984 adaptation of Dickens' A Christmas Carol is my favorite. The rich imagery is unsurpassed in other movies and George C. Scott plays his best role since Patton.

Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man's child. Oh God. to hear the Insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust.

Hmm . . . still appropriate.

Wassail! Wassail! All over the town . . .

More from Dawson ...

Wassailing the Apple-trees.

Writing on this subject, in the Antiquary, March, 1895, Mr. Harry Hems, of Exeter, introduces the reduced copy of an illustration which appears on the following page, and which he states was published in the Illustrated London News, January 11, 1851.

The picture (says Mr. Hems) "presents, as will be seen, a frosty, moonlight night, with a brilliantly-lit old farmhouse in the background. In the fore are leafless fruit-trees, and three men firing guns at them, whilst the jovial farmer and another man drink success to the year's crop from glasses evidently filled from a jug of cider, which the latter also holds a-high. A crowd of peasants—men, women and children—are gathered around, and the following description is appended:—

"'Amongst the scenes of jocund hospitality in this holiday season, that are handed down to us, is one which not only presents an enlivening picture, but offers proof of the superstition that still prevails in the Western counties. On Twelfth-even, in Devonshire, it is customary for the farmer to leave his warm fireside, accompanied by a band of rustics, with guns, blunderbusses, &c., presenting an appearance which at other times would be somewhat alarming. Thus armed, the band proceeds to an adjoining orchard, where is selected one of the most fruitful and aged of the apple-trees, grouping round which they stand and offer up their invocations in the following quaint doggerel rhyme:—

"'Here's to thee,

Old apple-tree!

Whence thou mayst bud,

And whence thou mayst blow,

And whence thou mayst blow,

And whence thou mayst bear

Apples enow:

Hats full,

Caps full,

Bushels, bushels, sacks full,

And my pockets full too!

Huzza! huzza!'

Christmas: Its Origin & Associations, by W.F. Dawson, 1902

Project Gutenberg is the first and largest single collection of free electronic books. Although I realize I would offend The Old Sage, Bloom, by saying so, I find PG a glorious treasure trove of all sorts of texts, some rare.

This morning, as I browsed, I came across the topic of this post, Christmas: Its Origin & Associations, by W.F. Dawson.

Popular Christmas festivities in the latter part of the eighteenth century are gleaned from contemporary writers:—

In Sinclair's Account of Scotland, parish of Kirkden, county of Angus (1792), Christmas is said to be held as a great festival in the neighbourhood. "The servant is free from his master, and goes about visiting his friends and acquaintance. The poorest must have beef or mutton on the table, and what they call a dinner with their friends. Many amuse themselves with various diversions, particularly with shooting for prizes, called here wad-shooting; and many do but little business all the Christmas week; the evening of almost every day being spent in amusement." And in the account of Keith, in Banffshire, the inhabitants are said to "have no pastimes or holidays, except dancing on Christmas and New Year's Day."

Boyhood's Christmas Breaking-up is thus described in a poem entitled "Christmas" (Bristol, 1795):—

"A school there was, within a well-known town,

(Bridgwater call'd), in which the boys were wont,

At breaking-up for Christmas' lov'd recess,

To meet the master, on the happy morn,

At early hour; the custom, too, prevail'd,

That he who first the seminary reach'd

Should, instantly, perambulate the streets

With sounding horn, to rouse his fellows up;

And, as a compensation for his care,

His flourish'd copies, and his chapter-task,

Before the rest, he from the master had.

For many days, ere breaking-up commenced,

Much was the clamour, 'mongst the beardless crowd,

Who first would dare his well-warm'd bed forego,

And, round the town, with horn of ox equipp'd,

His schoolmates call. Great emulation glow'd

In all their breasts; but, when the morning came,

Straightway was heard, resounding through the streets,

The pleasing blast (more welcome far, to them,

Than is, to sportsmen, the delightful cry

Of hounds on chase), which soon together brought

A tribe of boys, who, thund'ring at the doors

Of those, their fellows, sunk in Somnus' arms,

Great hubbub made, and much the town alarm'd.

At length the gladsome, congregated throng,

Toward the school their willing progress bent,

With loud huzzas, and, crowded round the desk,

Where sat the master busy at his books,

In reg'lar order, each receiv'd his own,

The youngsters then, enfranchised from the school,

Their fav'rite sports pursued."

For my money, the best entries begin around section 230.

Read it all here.

Irving's Old Christmas: Part 2, "The Stage Coach"

The scene completely realized Poor Robin’s humble
idea of the comforts of mid-winter: Now trees their leafy
hats do bare To reverence Winter’s silver hair; A handsome
hostesss, merry host, A pot of ale now and a toast, Tobacco
and a good coal fire, Are things this season doth require.

Read it here.

06 December 2008

. . . lookin' out my back door


Old Testament Sky

Yesterday, as I was driving home, I witnessed an incredible landscape. I immediately thought of one of my favorite songs from a great Up North band , Song of the Lakes, Old Testament Sky.

Hear it here.

01 December 2008

Stuff that works

I got an ol’ blue shirt
And it suits me just fine
I like the way it feels
So I wear it all the time
I got an old guitar
It won’t ever stay in tune
I like the way it sounds
In a dark and empty room

I got an ol’ pair of boots
And they fit just right
I can work all day
And I can dance all night
I got an ol’ used car
And it runs just like a top
I get the feelin’ it ain’t
Ever gonna stop


Stuff that works, stuff that holds up
The kind of stuff you don’t hang on the wall
Stuff that’s real, stuff you feel
The kind of stuff you reach for when you fall

I got a pretty good friend
Who’s seen me at my worst
He can’t tell if I’m a blessing
Or a curse
But he always shows up
When the chips are down
That’s the kind of stuff
I like to be around


I got a woman I love
She’s crazy and paints like God
She’s got a playground sense of justice
She won’t take odds
I got a tattoo with her name
Right through my soul
I think everything she touches
Turns to gold


Lyrics by Guy Clark

Justin Ropers . . . getchasum.

Do yourself a favor . . .

Simple arrangements, acoustic instruments, peaceful music.

Find it here.

Josquin Desprez

My favorite Renaissance composer, Josquin Desprez, is the topic of great essay I found on an incredible site, Engines of Our Ingenuity.

Josquin is a highly versatile composer. Most of the time I read or study while listening to his work. But he is equally at home in the kitchen, raking leaves, and I've even had him playing outside while I shoveled snow on a crisp January evening.

My favorite Josquin collection is a UK import, find it here.

Washington Irving's Old Christmas

Washington Irving's collection of essays on the Yuletide season, "Old Christmas," is the world's most underrated piece of Christmas literature. Do yourself a favor, read it. Irving imagery is unparalleled ... English manor houses hiding in the shadows of crisp mist, Yule logs, mistletoe ... all the traditions of the English country Christmas are experienced and explained.

Enjoy with a potent potable.