Sunday, November 27, 2022
Wednesday, May 4, 2022
Tuesday, April 19, 2022
Wind howled all night. It's still blowing and the "real feel" is 26°. Appalachian lore says there are five "little winters" -- Locust, Redbud, Dogwood, Blackberry, Britches -- before spring is finally here to stay.
Redbuds are in bloom, and I've seen a few dogwoods in bloom as well, so I don't know which little winter we're "officially" in. But I'm pulling for Dogwood. 😉
If you're interested to know more about the "little winters," try this link:
Monday, April 18, 2022
Sometimes I drive the Blue Ridge Parkway for -- as Forrest Gump would say -- "no p'ticular reason."
But the real reason is because there's always something new to see. Not long ago, these trees were completely bare; today they're dressed in the green of early spring.
Tuesday, April 12, 2022
Attended Loch Norman Highland Games last weekend. Although it was a first for Rita Kochensparger and myself, it felt like Old Home Day, seeing so many friends: Neil Anderson, Scooter Muse, Aubrey Gray, Colin Shoemaker, Stephanie Sellers Morrow, Donald Cameron, Heather Gallia, Celtic Exchange (Danny), The Celtic Bag Co. (John), Chris Kagan, Tawnya Kagan, Jacqueline Murdock Habenicht, Robin Frye, Debbie MacFarland Webb, Sam Moffitt (you didn't see me but I saw you 🙂), Clan Forrester Society, Inc. ... gosh, so many people; I'm sure I've left some people out?
Pictured are the Tannahill Weavers , one of my all-time favorites and one of my big musical inspirations.
Even though it was C.O.L.D. it felt good to be out festivaling.
Wednesday, April 6, 2022
"I believe this to my core—there is no best musician, best artist, best dancer, best actor. The creative arts are subjective, and they reach people at a point in their lives when they need it most. It's like a song or an album is made and it almost has a radar to find the person when they need it the most." ~ Jon Batiste
Tuesday, April 5, 2022
Monday, April 4, 2022
Wednesday, March 30, 2022
Tuesday, March 29, 2022
Monday, March 28, 2022
The Academy Awards ceremony was just last night, but in one day we've heard a year's worth of buzz ... very little of it focused on the actors or the movies. We're obsessed with a brief exchange between Will Smith and Chris Rock in which Rock made a tasteless crack about Jada Pinkett Smith (Will Smith's wife), followed by Smith striding on to the stage and slapping Rock, then returning to his seat in the audience to yell and curse at Rock. Sad business. Even more sad from the point of view of the Oscar winners, whose achievements have been completely overshadowed by Smith v Rock.
I don't usually watch the Academy Awards and wasn't watching last night (although I've had countless opportunities to witness The Slap Heard 'Round the World of Movies). To me the Academy Awards is Hollywood's version of the high school athletic awards banquet: important mainly to the players. The two events are so similar, even down to the way the attendees dress: some dress comfortably, tastefully understated, while others go overboard with the dramatic.
Yeah, I can take it or leave it as to the Academy Awards, but it's absolutely hilarious to me how many people on this side of Hollywood trip all over themselves to proclaim how little they care about the Oscars (and other awards ceremonies like Grammys, Emmys, CMA Awards, you name it). Uhhh ... 🤣
While I don't think Smith was right to do what he did (my reasoning is somewhat nuanced) there's a part of me that isn't altogether sorry. There. I said it. Words matter, and it has been shown time and time again that the "scars" from words often last longer than physical scars. I realize that cutting observations and insults are part of Chris Rock's shtick and I'm prepared for it if I go to one of his concerts or watch a celebrity roast. He's so smart and quick and witty ... and in certain situations, a potential liability.
There's a reason why Border Collies, generally acknowledged as the smartest breed of dog, are not chosen to be guide dogs for the blind. They're just not temperamentally suitable for the task. It's probably the same for some comedians.
Wednesday, March 16, 2022
I think of my dad all the time. All the time, and so many different things trigger the memories.
I love it best when some random thing triggers a specific memory, like just now I glanced at the stove to see 1:11. Daddy loved bowling, and whenever someone's frame showed the score 111, he'd draw a little roof over it to make a stick drawing of a house. I haven't bowled in years, but this brought it all back.
Tuesday, March 1, 2022
Maybe you’ve never heard of a bandura. There’s a reason for that, and I’ll get into it shortly.
I was first introduced to the bandura by Yarko Antonevych (pictured), the son of a Ukrainian émigré, at the Florida Folk Festival. I’d been playing the hammer dulcimer for a couple of years and was really getting into learning more about musical instruments that were less “mainstream.”
Yarko taught as he performed, explaining that the bandura of today had “evolved” from a lute-like instrument played in Ukraine during medieval times. Although the strings are plucked, rather than hammered, I noted a definite similarity of its sound to a hammer dulcimer, and was fascinated to see another instrument that had so many strings – and was probably similarly difficult to keep in tune.
Beautiful as the music was, my main takeaway from Yarko’s performance was the tale he told about the persecution of Ukraine’s Kobzars – a unique class of itinerant musicians who earned their living singing and playing traditional Ukrainian music. In the late 1800s, Imperial Russia banned stage performances by Kobzars and bandurists; the intent was to prevent any musical performances in the Ukrainian language because the repertoire typically included aspects of Ukrainian history and culture. Kobzars, who had once enjoyed status in society, turned to street performance but in some cities were arrested and their instruments destroyed. They were relentlessly persecuted and all but wiped out.
A few of them survived, however, and a rekindling of interest in them and in the bandura sparked a rise in Ukrainian self-awareness. There was even a brief period during which the Russian government showed tolerance to Ukrainian language and culture.
Then, the Communist Party launched a fight against nationalist tendencies. Kobzars, and even the manufacture of banduras, were once again restricted, all in an effort to quell a movement for the liberation of Ukraine. Bandurists were harassed, arrested, exiled, tortured, and even executed.
In 1932 (or 1933; accounts vary), on the orders of Joseph Stalin, Soviet authorities invited all Ukrainian Kobzars to attend a congress in Kharkiv. All who attended were taken outside the city and put to death. According to Yarko, the only reason that anyone knows about the bandura today is because of a bandurist who figuratively “missed the train to Kharkiv.”
No documents exist – or at least none have been found – to substantiate the story about the mass execution of Kobzars and other traditional Ukrainian performers. But there’s plenty of evidence that SOMETHING happened, that bandurists died or disappeared in significant numbers around that time, and with all that we now know about Stalin, the story is more than plausible.
And isn’t that the way to subjugate a culture? Over and over throughout history … Irish, living in Ireland, yet forbidden to speak their own Irish language. Native American children sent off to boarding schools, in order to “Kill the Indian in him, and save the man.” The playing of bagpipes banned in Scotland by the Act of Proscription of 1746. Obliterate any semblance of cultural identity.
Historically, Imperial Russia, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Poland, and Lithuania all have claimed jurisdiction over Ukraine. I don’t pretend to understand all of the complexities that have led to Russia’s current attempt to once again annex Ukraine. But my sympathies lie firmly with Ukraine as they fight, yet again, to maintain their identity as a culture and as a sovereign state.
Friday, January 28, 2022
Today I had a Facebook comment from a long-time acquaintance: Gilbert Sullivan. Actually, I first came to know him when we were in elementary school, through my younger brother. Gilbert Sullivan’s name immediately grabbed me … and this was years before Irish pop star Gilbert O’Sullivan hit the music scene. Gilbert Sullivan’s name meant something to me because it reminded me of Gilbert and Sullivan, the creative team that wrote comic operas in the Victorian Period. Most of my other elementary-school friends didn't make that connection. (And why on earth would they?) But I was listening to Gilbert and Sullivan operas, and playing their music on the piano … yes, even as a little kid.
As an adult, teaching school, I encountered a student named Nicole Porter. “Cool name,” I thought. It was even cooler when I discovered that she could sing! “How fitting!” I mused to a friend. “How so?” said with a blank look, was all I needed to hear to realize that my friend’s mother didn’t ever sing them snippets of Cole Porter songs.
And these are just a couple of the musical connections made by my brain. I can’t even count the number of coincidences and oddities -- musical and non-musical alike -- that my brain found interesting or amusing but were met with blank looks, and occasionally derisive laughter … until I finally learned to just keep the observations to myself.
Like any other kid, I didn’t want to be weird. Unlike most other kids, I never figured out how to accomplish that.
I’m still weird. I laugh at jokes that are funny only to me because they pull together disparate knowledge and trivia; by the time I explained every little component, the joke would no longer be funny, even to me. As a kid, this really bothered me. As an adult, it doesn’t much bother me any more.
Part of self-acceptance, I suppose.
I have friends whose "weirdness" is genius, in my estimation. There are friends who are considered by others to be weird but in reality are marginalized, because of the unwillingness of general society to accept them for exactly who and what they are, without condition or judgment. I hope they all know just how much I love and admire them for being true to themselves. It can’t always be easy. I know whereof I speak.