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A Child’s Christmas in Wales

Sunday, 28 December, 2014 0 Comments

The great Dylan Thomas knew that the best Christmas present of all is a story well told. A Child’s Christmas in Wales is a classic Christmas story and it’s more relevant this year as 2014 marks the centennial of the poet’s birth. Snippet:

Always on Christmas night there was music. An uncle played the fiddle, a cousin sang “Cherry Ripe,” and another uncle sang “Drake’s Drum.” It was very warm in the little house. Auntie Hannah, who had got on to the parsnip wine, sang a song about Bleeding Hearts and Death, and then another in which she said her heart was like a Bird’s Nest; and then everybody laughed again; and then I went to bed. Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-colored snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steady falling night. I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept.

Dylan Thomas (1914 — 1953)

Hundred Waters

Saturday, 27 December, 2014 0 Comments

Album of the Year? Lots of contenders. One is The Moon Rang Like a Bell released by Hundred Waters on 27 May. “Part of The Moon‘s appeal is that it hearkens back to the style of Vespertine, the last album when Björk’s restlessly experimental music still had a foot in accessibility, before she took such a conceptual turn,” wrote Mark Richardson in Pitchfork. This was a good year for Nicole Miglis, Paul Giese, Zach Tetreault and Trayer Tryon.

The Wran’s Day

Friday, 26 December, 2014 0 Comments

In many parts of Ireland, it was customary on 26 December, Saint Stephen’s Day, for the “Wran Boys” to go from house to house carrying holly bushes decorated with ribbons and singing traditional ditties:

“The Wran, the Wran,
The King of Birds.
Saint Stephen’s morn
Was caught in the furze.
We hunted him up
And we hunted him down
And in the wood
We knocked him down.”

In return for singing, they would be given small amounts of money and the evening often ended in the local pub. One legend about this tradition is that Saint Stephen hid from his enemies in a bush but was betrayed by a chattering wren (“wran”). As a result, the wren, like Saint Stephen, is hunted down and stoned to death.

The wren

Happy Christmas!

Thursday, 25 December, 2014 0 Comments

Happy Christmas

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock

Wednesday, 24 December, 2014 1 Comment

The language of Thomas Hardy is filled with the dialect the English West Country. For example, “In the lonely barton by yonder coomb” becomes “In the lonely farmyard by that small valley over there” when deciphered.

The Oxen

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
“Now they are all on their knees,”
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
“Come; see the oxen kneel”

“In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,”
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.

Thomas Hardy (1840 — 1928)


Stocking fillers

Tuesday, 23 December, 2014 0 Comments

“Children are grateful when Santa Claus puts in their stockings gifts of toys or sweets. Could I not be grateful to Santa Claus when he put in my stockings the gift of two miraculous legs? We thank people for birthday presents of cigars and slippers. Can I thank no one for the birthday present of birth?” G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy.

stocking fillers

The Interview solution: YouTube and BitTorrent

Monday, 22 December, 2014 0 Comments

“We would still like the public to see this movie, absolutely,” Michael Lynton, chief executive of Sony Entertainment, told CNN yesterday. Asked about releasing The Interview via YouTube, he replied: “That’s certainly an option and certainly one thing we will consider.” Last week, the director Judd Apatow predicted the film would be available on BitTorrent within six weeks. BitTorrent claims to have more than 170 million monthly active users and its motto is: “Get started now with free, unlimited downloading.” How would Pyongyang deal with that?

Down on the wind farm

Sunday, 21 December, 2014 0 Comments

wind turbine

The night Bob Dylan played for a single Swede

Saturday, 20 December, 2014 0 Comments

Fredrik Wikingsson went to a Bob Dylan concert. Not exactly newsworthy, that, except he was the only fan sitting in the auditorium of the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. Dylan isn’t known for doing cover songs, but he played three for Wikingsson: Buddy Holly’s Heartbeat, Fats Domino’s Blueberry Hill and Chuck Willis’ It’s Too Late (She’s Gone). The mini-concert was arranged by the Swedish TV show “Experiment Ensam,” which enables people to experience individually those things that are normally shared by large groups.

Castro’s hipster apologists

Friday, 19 December, 2014 0 Comments

In the Daily Beast, Michael Moynihan names and shames them: “Here is Matt Bradley, Middle East correspondent for the Wall Street Journal: ‘I really hope I can make it to Cuba before McDonald’s, Starbucks, etc.’ And progressive radio host Matt Binder: ‘Booking my Cuba vacation now before there’s a Starbucks, a McDonald’s, and a bank on every block.’ BBC producer Jeane McCallum: ‘May be time for a return to Cuba before McDonalds moves in.’ And Jonathan Eley of the Financial Times: ‘Cuba: visit now before McDonalds, KFC, Starbucks et al move in. It’s a unique place.'”

That’s just a sample. How predictably predictable they are.

The QR code piano man

Thursday, 18 December, 2014 0 Comments

Last Wednesday, the Swiss composer and performer Julian Layn tweeted, “I’m off on my end-of-year-tour starting today in #genova | tmw thursday #milano | friday #padova | saturday #munich | sunday #vienna.” It was a pleasure to see him perform in public on his QR-coded piano. The music is creative, classical and complex, which is inevitable given that Layn holdds a PhD in theoretical physics.

Julian Layn