4th of July

The Fourth of July should have the right amount of temperature for hangin’ out!”

Thus the man in the official Knicks jersey, Size XXXL, outside of Union Market in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

He was clearly distressed that things weren’t working out the way he had planned. Like that ever happens during a New York City summer.

I spend eleven months out of every year missing June. So when we have a bad one it can affect my outlook for a very long time.

While we had our share of June Gloom, with considerable downpours, we had more than enough stellar days of mild temperatures and lowish humidity to charge my batteries for the coming winter. And for that matter, the coming swelter.

But I like my Fourth of July to be nice and hot, and that it was, even if it did not work out they way I planned.

I went to the Prospect Park and stationed myself on the bolders that magically appeared under a row of shade trees on the western rim of the Long Meadow. I assume they were removed from the fenced off construction project going on just over the ridge behind them.

One of the rocks has a flat shelf at its edge, perfect for the cushion I typically use for the benches, when my laptop and I turn the park into my summer office.

But being a holiday I had but food and a guitar and was going to run through the songs for tomorrow’s rehearsal, which the Paul Ukena Trio will be performing at the annual Martinfest August 4, in Nazareth, PA.

But before I could even start my metronome, a young Rastafarian stopped to listen to pieces I was using to warm up and compliment me on my playing. When it was clear he wasn’t going away, I stopped to exchange pleasantries. And lent him my guitar so he could show me a song he wrote for his Williamsburg Reggae band.

Then he decided to get off his bike and get his out his own guitar, so he could show me various songs to help play while he sang.

Between the grilling holiday revelers nearby and the various aircraft overheard, I could not hear much of what he was actually saying.

And once he rolled a big spliff and kept it in his mouth like a Film Noir tough guy, it was even harder to catch the words. Too many chunk-chucka-chunk barre chords later, I begged off due to hand fatigue and came home.

And as I listen to the far off sounds of fireworks, I am finishing up some notes for an upcoming whisky review for 1mansmalt.com, which was so disappointing a dram I had to revert to mixers to find it some redemption.  It turns out it is not sweet enough to work with soda, but ginger ale isn’t bad. And with coconut water it is terrific, especially for a hot July night. But being single malt and priced as a special edition, it remains a disappointment. Scotch malt whisky needs to have the right amount of price for hangin’ out.

 

Bob Dylan – Lecture in Literature – 2016 Nobel Prize

The one and only Bob Dylan gives his Nobel Lecture in Literature

Due to scheduling obligations, the 75 year-old living legend recorded it

Nobelprize.org shared it on YouTube and other outlets

Listen to lecture in Dylan’s own voice while reading along

 

When I first received this Nobel Prize for Literature, I got to wondering exactly how my songs related to literature. I wanted to reflect on it and see where the connection was. I’m going to try to articulate that to you. And most likely it will go in a roundabout way, but I hope what I say will be worthwhile and purposeful.

If I was to go back to the dawning of it all, I guess I’d have to start with Buddy Holly. Buddy died when I was about eighteen and he was twenty-two. From the moment I first heard him, I felt akin. I felt related, like he was an older brother. I even thought I resembled him. Buddy played the music that I loved – the music I grew up on: country western, rock ‘n’ roll, and rhythm and blues. Three separate strands of music that he intertwined and infused into one genre. One brand. And Buddy wrote songs – songs that had beautiful melodies and imaginative verses. And he sang great – sang in more than a few voices. He was the archetype. Everything I wasn’t and wanted to be. I saw him only but once, and that was a few days before he was gone. I had to travel a hundred miles to get to see him play, and I wasn’t disappointed.

He was powerful and electrifying and had a commanding presence. I was only six feet away. He was mesmerizing. I watched his face, his hands, the way he tapped his foot, his big black glasses, the eyes behind the glasses, the way he held his guitar, the way he stood, his neat suit. Everything about him. He looked older than twenty-two. Something about him seemed permanent, and he filled me with conviction. Then, out of the blue, the most uncanny thing happened. He looked me right straight dead in the eye, and he transmitted something. Something I didn’t know what. And it gave me the chills.

I think it was a day or two after that that his plane went down. And somebody – somebody I’d never seen before – handed me a Leadbelly record with the song “Cottonfields” on it. And that record changed my life right then and there. Transported me into a world I’d never known. It was like an explosion went off. Like I’d been walking in darkness and all of the sudden the darkness was illuminated. It was like somebody laid hands on me. I must have played that record a hundred times.

It was on a label I’d never heard of with a booklet inside with advertisements for other artists on the label: Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, the New Lost City Ramblers, Jean Ritchie, string bands. I’d never heard of any of them. But I reckoned if they were on this label with Leadbelly, they had to be good, so I needed to hear them. I wanted to know all about it and play that kind of music. I still had a feeling for the music I’d grown up with, but for right now, I forgot about it. Didn’t even think about it. For the time being, it was long gone.

I hadn’t left home yet, but I couldn’t wait to. I wanted to learn this music and meet the people who played it. Eventually, I did leave, and I did learn to play those songs. They were different than the radio songs that I’d been listening to all along. They were more vibrant and truthful to life. With radio songs, a performer might get a hit with a roll of the dice or a fall of the cards, but that didn’t matter in the folk world. Everything was a hit. All you had to do was be well versed and be able to play the melody. Some of these songs were easy, some not. I had a natural feeling for the ancient ballads and country blues, but everything else I had to learn from scratch. I was playing for small crowds, sometimes no more than four or five people in a room or on a street corner. You had to have a wide repertoire, and you had to know what to play and when. Some songs were intimate, some you had to shout to be heard.

By listening to all the early folk artists and singing the songs yourself, you pick up the vernacular. You internalize it. You sing it in the ragtime blues, work songs, Georgia sea shanties, Appalachian ballads and cowboy songs. You hear all the finer points, and you learn the details.

You know what it’s all about. Takin’ the pistol out and puttin’ it back in your pocket. Whippin’ your way through traffic, talkin’ in the dark. You know that Stagger Lee was a bad man and that Frankie was a good girl. You know that Washington is a bourgeois town and you’ve heard the deep-pitched voice of John the Revelator and you saw the Titanic sink in a boggy creek. And you’re pals with the wild Irish rover and the wild colonial boy. You heard the muffled drums and the fifes that played lowly. You’ve seen the lusty Lord Donald stick a knife in his wife, and a lot of your comrades have been wrapped in white linen.

I had all the vernacular down. I knew the rhetoric. None of it went over my head – the devices, the techniques, the secrets, the mysteries – and I knew all the deserted roads that it traveled on, too. I could make it all connect and move with the current of the day. When I started writing my own songs, the folk lingo was the only vocabulary that I knew, and I used it.

But I had something else as well. I had principles and sensibilities and an informed view of the world. And I had had that for a while. Learned it all in grammar school. Don Quixote, Ivanhoe, Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver’s Travels, Tale of Two Cities, all the rest – typical grammar school reading that gave you a way of looking at life, an understanding of human nature, and a standard to measure things by. I took all that with me when I started composing lyrics. And the themes from those books worked their way into many of my songs, either knowingly or unintentionally. I wanted to write songs unlike anything anybody ever heard, and these themes were fundamental.

Specific books that have stuck with me ever since I read them way back in grammar school – I want to tell you about three of them: Moby Dick, All Quiet on the Western Front and The Odyssey.
Moby Dick is a fascinating book, a book that’s filled with scenes of high drama and dramatic dialogue. The book makes demands on you. The plot is straightforward. The mysterious Captain Ahab – captain of a ship called the Pequod –  an egomaniac with a peg leg pursuing his nemesis, the great white whale Moby Dick who took his leg. And he pursues him all the way from the Atlantic around the tip of Africa and into the Indian Ocean. He pursues the whale around both sides of the earth. It’s an abstract goal, nothing concrete or definite. He calls Moby the emperor, sees him as the embodiment of evil. Ahab’s got a wife and child back in Nantucket that he reminisces about now and again. You can anticipate what will happen.

The ship’s crew is made up of men of different races, and any one of them who sights the whale will be given the reward of a gold coin. A lot of Zodiac symbols, religious allegory, stereotypes. Ahab encounters other whaling vessels, presses the captains for details about Moby. Have they seen him? There’s a crazy prophet, Gabriel, on one of the vessels, and he predicts Ahab’s doom. Says Moby is the incarnate of a Shaker god, and that any dealings with him will lead to disaster. He says that to Captain Ahab. Another ship’s captain – Captain Boomer – he lost an arm to Moby. But he tolerates that, and he’s happy to have survived. He can’t accept Ahab’s lust for vengeance.

This book tells how different men react in different ways to the same experience. A lot of Old Testament, biblical allegory: Gabriel, Rachel, Jeroboam, Bildah, Elijah. Pagan names as well: Tashtego, Flask, Daggoo, Fleece, Starbuck, Stubb, Martha’s Vineyard. The Pagans are idol worshippers. Some worship little wax figures, some wooden figures. Some worship fire. The Pequod is the name of an Indian tribe.

Moby Dick is a seafaring tale. One of the men, the narrator, says, “Call me Ishmael.” Somebody asks him where he’s from, and he says, “It’s not down on any map. True places never are.” Stubb gives no significance to anything, says everything is predestined. Ishmael’s been on a sailing ship his entire life. Calls the sailing ships his Harvard and Yale. He keeps his distance from people.

A typhoon hits the Pequod. Captain Ahab thinks it’s a good omen. Starbuck thinks it’s a bad omen, considers killing Ahab. As soon as the storm ends, a crewmember falls from the ship’s mast and drowns, foreshadowing what’s to come. A Quaker pacifist priest, who is actually a bloodthirsty businessman, tells Flask, “Some men who receive injuries are led to God, others are led to bitterness.”

Everything is mixed in. All the myths: the Judeo Christian bible, Hindu myths, British legends, Saint George, Perseus, Hercules – they’re all whalers. Greek mythology, the gory business of cutting up a whale. Lots of facts in this book, geographical knowledge, whale oil – good for coronation of royalty – noble families in the whaling industry. Whale oil is used to anoint the kings. History of the whale, phrenology, classical philosophy, pseudo-scientific theories, justification for discrimination – everything thrown in and none of it hardly rational. Highbrow, lowbrow, chasing illusion, chasing death, the great white whale, white as polar bear, white as a white man, the emperor, the nemesis, the embodiment of evil. The demented captain who actually lost his leg years ago trying to attack Moby with a knife.

We see only the surface of things. We can interpret what lies below any way we see fit. Crewmen walk around on deck listening for mermaids, and sharks and vultures follow the ship. Reading skulls and faces like you read a book. Here’s a face. I’ll put it in front of you. Read it if you can.

Tashtego says that he died and was reborn. His extra days are a gift. He wasn’t saved by Christ, though, he says he was saved by a fellow man and a non-Christian at that. He parodies the resurrection.

When Starbuck tells Ahab that he should let bygones be bygones, the angry captain snaps back, “Speak not to me of blasphemy, man, I’d strike the sun if it insulted me.” Ahab, too, is a poet of eloquence. He says, “The path to my fixed purpose is laid with iron rails whereon my soul is grooved to run.”  Or these lines, “All visible objects are but pasteboard masks.” Quotable poetic phrases that can’t be beat.

Finally, Ahab spots Moby, and the harpoons come out. Boats are lowered. Ahab’s harpoon has been baptized in blood. Moby attacks Ahab’s boat and destroys it. Next day, he sights Moby again. Boats are lowered again. Moby attacks Ahab’s boat again. On the third day, another boat goes in. More religious allegory. He has risen. Moby attacks one more time, ramming the Pequod and sinking it. Ahab gets tangled up in the harpoon lines and is thrown out of his boat into a watery grave.

Ishmael survives. He’s in the sea floating on a coffin. And that’s about it. That’s the whole story. That theme and all that it implies would work its way into more than a few of my songs.
All Quiet on the Western Front was another book that did. All Quiet on the Western Front is a horror story. This is a book where you lose your childhood, your faith in a meaningful world, and your concern for individuals. You’re stuck in a nightmare. Sucked up into a mysterious whirlpool of death and pain. You’re defending yourself from elimination. You’re being wiped off the face of the map. Once upon a time you were an innocent youth with big dreams about being a concert pianist. Once you loved life and the world, and now you’re shooting it to pieces.

Day after day, the hornets bite you and worms lap your blood. You’re a cornered animal. You don’t fit anywhere. The falling rain is monotonous. There’s endless assaults, poison gas, nerve gas, morphine, burning streams of gasoline, scavenging and scabbing for food, influenza, typhus, dysentery. Life is breaking down all around you, and the shells are whistling. This is the lower region of hell. Mud, barbed wire, rat-filled trenches, rats eating the intestines of dead men, trenches filled with filth and excrement. Someone shouts, “Hey, you there. Stand and fight.”

Who knows how long this mess will go on? Warfare has no limits. You’re being annihilated, and that leg of yours is bleeding too much. You killed a man yesterday, and you spoke to his corpse. You told him after this is over, you’ll spend the rest of your life looking after his family. Who’s profiting here? The leaders and the generals gain fame, and many others profit financially. But you’re doing the dirty work. One of your comrades says, “Wait a minute, where are you going?” And you say, “Leave me alone, I’ll be back in a minute.” Then you walk out into the woods of death hunting for a piece of sausage. You can’t see how anybody in civilian life has any kind of purpose at all. All their worries, all their desires – you can’t comprehend it.

More machine guns rattle, more parts of bodies hanging from wires, more pieces of arms and legs and skulls where butterflies perch on teeth, more hideous wounds, pus coming out of every pore, lung wounds, wounds too big for the body, gas-blowing cadavers, and dead bodies making retching noises. Death is everywhere. Nothing else is possible. Someone will kill you and use your dead body for target practice. Boots, too. They’re your prized possession. But soon they’ll be on somebody else’s feet.

There’s Froggies coming through the trees. Merciless bastards. Your shells are running out. “It’s not fair to come at us again so soon,” you say. One of your companions is laying in the dirt, and you want to take him to the field hospital. Someone else says, “You might save yourself a trip.” “What do you mean?” “Turn him over, you’ll see what I mean.”

You wait to hear the news. You don’t understand why the war isn’t over. The army is so strapped for replacement troops that they’re drafting young boys who are of little military use, but they’re draftin’ ‘em anyway because they’re running out of men. Sickness and humiliation have broken your heart. You were betrayed by your parents, your schoolmasters, your ministers, and even your own government.

The general with the slowly smoked cigar betrayed you too – turned you into a thug and a murderer. If you could, you’d put a bullet in his face. The commander as well. You fantasize that if you had the money, you’d put up a reward for any man who would take his life by any means necessary. And if he should lose his life by doing that, then let the money go to his heirs. The colonel, too, with his caviar and his coffee – he’s another one. Spends all his time in the officers’ brothel. You’d like to see him stoned dead too. More Tommies and Johnnies with their whack fo’ me daddy-o and their whiskey in the jars. You kill twenty of ‘em and twenty more will spring up in their place. It just stinks in your nostrils.

You’ve come to despise that older generation that sent you out into this madness, into this torture chamber. All around you, your comrades are dying. Dying from abdominal wounds, double amputations, shattered hipbones, and you think, “I’m only twenty years old, but I’m capable of killing anybody. Even my father if he came at me.”

Yesterday, you tried to save a wounded messenger dog, and somebody shouted, “Don’t be a fool.” One Froggy is laying gurgling at your feet. You stuck him with a dagger in his stomach, but the man still lives. You know you should finish the job, but you can’t. You’re on the real iron cross, and a Roman soldier’s putting a sponge of vinegar to your lips.

Months pass by. You go home on leave. You can’t communicate with your father. He said, “You’d be a coward if you don’t enlist.” Your mother, too, on your way back out the door, she says, “You be careful of those French girls now.” More madness. You fight for a week or a month, and you gain ten yards. And then the next month it gets taken back.

All that culture from a thousand years ago, that philosophy, that wisdom – Plato, Aristotle, Socrates – what happened to it?  It should have prevented this. Your thoughts turn homeward. And once again you’re a schoolboy walking through the tall poplar trees. It’s a pleasant memory. More bombs dropping on you from blimps. You got to get it together now. You can’t even look at anybody for fear of some miscalculable thing that might happen. The common grave. There are no other possibilities.

Then you notice the cherry blossoms, and you see that nature is unaffected by all this. Poplar trees, the red butterflies, the fragile beauty of flowers, the sun – you see how nature is indifferent to it all. All the violence and suffering of all mankind. Nature doesn’t even notice it.

You’re so alone. Then a piece of shrapnel hits the side of your head and you’re dead.

You’ve been ruled out, crossed out. You’ve been exterminated. I put this book down and closed it up. I never wanted to read another war novel again, and I never did.

Charlie Poole from North Carolina had a song that connected to all this. It’s called “You Ain’t Talkin’ to Me,” and the lyrics go like this:

I saw a sign in a window walking up town one day.
Join the army, see the world is what it had to say.
You’ll see exciting places with a jolly crew,
You’ll meet interesting people, and learn to kill them too.
Oh you ain’t talkin’ to me, you ain’t talking to me.
I may be crazy and all that, but I got good sense you see.
You ain’t talkin’ to me, you ain’t talkin’ to me.
Killin’ with a gun don’t sound like fun.
You ain’t talkin’ to me.
The Odyssey is a great book whose themes have worked its way into the ballads of a lot of songwriters: “Homeward Bound, “Green, Green Grass of Home,” “Home on the Range,” and my songs as well.

The Odyssey is a strange, adventurous tale of a grown man trying to get home after fighting in a war. He’s on that long journey home, and it’s filled with traps and pitfalls. He’s cursed to wander. He’s always getting carried out to sea, always having close calls. Huge chunks of boulders rock his boat. He angers people he shouldn’t. There’s troublemakers in his crew. Treachery. His men are turned into pigs and then are turned back into younger, more handsome men. He’s always trying to rescue somebody. He’s a travelin’ man, but he’s making a lot of stops.

He’s stranded on a desert island. He finds deserted caves, and he hides in them. He meets giants that say, “I’ll eat you last.” And he escapes from giants. He’s trying to get back home, but he’s tossed and turned by the winds. Restless winds, chilly winds, unfriendly winds. He travels far, and then he gets blown back.

He’s always being warned of things to come. Touching things he’s told not to. There’s two roads to take, and they’re both bad. Both hazardous. On one you could drown and on the other you could starve. He goes into the narrow straits with foaming whirlpools that swallow him. Meets six-headed monsters with sharp fangs. Thunderbolts strike at him. Overhanging branches that he makes a leap to reach for to save himself from a raging river. Goddesses and gods protect him, but some others want to kill him. He changes identities. He’s exhausted. He falls asleep, and he’s woken up by the sound of laughter. He tells his story to strangers. He’s been gone twenty years. He was carried off somewhere and left there. Drugs have been dropped into his wine. It’s been a hard road to travel.

In a lot of ways, some of these same things have happened to you. You too have had drugs dropped into your wine. You too have shared a bed with the wrong woman. You too have been spellbound by magical voices, sweet voices with strange melodies. You too have come so far and have been so far blown back. And you’ve had close calls as well. You have angered people you should not have. And you too have rambled this country all around. And you’ve also felt that ill wind, the one that blows you no good. And that’s still not all of it.

When he gets back home, things aren’t any better. Scoundrels have moved in and are taking advantage of his wife’s hospitality. And there’s too many of ‘em. And though he’s greater than them all and the best at everything – best carpenter, best hunter, best expert on animals, best seaman – his courage won’t save him, but his trickery will.

All these stragglers will have to pay for desecrating his palace. He’ll disguise himself as a filthy beggar, and a lowly servant kicks him down the steps with arrogance and stupidity. The servant’s arrogance revolts him, but he controls his anger. He’s one against a hundred, but they’ll all fall, even the strongest. He was nobody. And when it’s all said and done, when he’s home at last, he sits with his wife, and he tells her the stories.
So what does it all mean? Myself and a lot of other songwriters have been influenced by these very same themes. And they can mean a lot of different things. If a song moves you, that’s all that’s important. I don’t have to know what a song means. I’ve written all kinds of things into my songs. And I’m not going to worry about it – what it all means. When Melville put all his old testament, biblical references, scientific theories, Protestant doctrines, and all that knowledge of the sea and sailing ships and whales into one story, I don’t think he would have worried about it either – what it all means.

John Donne as well, the poet-priest who lived in the time of Shakespeare, wrote these words, “The Sestos and Abydos of her breasts. Not of two lovers, but two loves, the nests.” I don’t know what it means, either. But it sounds good. And you want your songs to sound good.

When Odysseus in The Odyssey visits the famed warrior Achilles in the underworld – Achilles, who traded a long life full of peace and contentment for a short one full of honor and glory –  tells Odysseus it was all a mistake. “I just died, that’s all.” There was no honor. No immortality. And that if he could, he would choose to go back and be a lowly slave to a tenant farmer on Earth rather than be what he is – a king in the land of the dead – that whatever his struggles of life were, they were preferable to being here in this dead place.

That’s what songs are too. Our songs are alive in the land of the living. But songs are unlike literature. They’re meant to be sung, not read. The words in Shakespeare’s plays were meant to be acted on the stage. Just as lyrics in songs are meant to be sung, not read on a page. And I hope some of you get the chance to listen to these lyrics the way they were intended to be heard: in concert or on record or however people are listening to songs these days. I return once again to Homer, who says, “Sing in me, oh Muse, and through me tell the story.”

5 June 2017

~

Read the acceptance speeches and other fascinating information about ALL Nobel Laureates at  Nobelprize.org

Related Reading:

Bob Dylan – Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie – composed and recited when he was 21, this poem puts to rest any argument that Dylan’s writing does not qualify as “literature.” It contains imagery very much in line with what he speaking to in his lecture.

Visions of Johanna 50 Years Ago Today – commentary and analysis of one of Dylan’s greatest compositions

Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech – with the video of the U.S. Ambassador to Sweden reading the speech at the awards banquet

 

Normandy, June 1944 – Monday Map

Complete with relief photos and elevation tables, the actual maps from the Normandy Invasion still inspire awe.

Classified as “Bigot,” the highest top secret security level possible, a very few persons even knew of the existence of this and other maps prepared for the assault on Hitler’s Fortress Europe.

Half of Omaha Beach

omaha_beach_east_f_1944_ Normandy2

omaha_beach_east_b_1944 Normandy

Source: Wikipedia

June Gloom and a Full Moon

June has come with gloom under low, unseasonably cool skies over New York City, mirroring the climate in Northwest Europe at the opening of the most monumental June in human history. [Now June 6, 2017, and it is 56 degrees and with a intermittent sea mist rain that makes this 73rd anniversary’s weather all the more like the 6th of June in Normandy in 1944, than when this was originally posted in 2015.]

The weather was so bad in the spring of 1944 that D-Day was postponed at the last minute, for 24 hours. So the first courageous airborne troops dropped from the sky a few minutes after midnight on June 6, to begin operations prior to the full scale assault that slammed into five beaches, as dawn lit the Normandy coastline west of Caen.

These maps give some indication of the enormity of the invasion, and the amount of detailed planning that went into it.

Some are taken from painstaking copies of original Bigot maps created for the D-Day landings, and available for sale at Alan Godfrey Reproductions.

 The Full Invasion Area

Allied_Invasion_Force_Normandy

Half of Utah Beach

Utah_Beach_Map_Front_A Normandy

American Navel Operations (Operation Neptune)

D-Day navy map Normandy

British Empire Operations

Normandy Invasion Map

Canadian Assault on Juno Beach

Canadian D Day Landings Normandy

British Main Assault at Sword Beach

Sword Beach Normandy

Detail from Bigot map of Sword Operations (English and Free French Commandos)

ouistreham Normandy map

Detail of British Bigot Map Legends

Map Legend Normandy

Other Reading:

Britannica’s D-Day site was created years ago, so it has some bad links, but it is full of interesting oral histories by veterans, as well as detailed charts and maps, and other information of interest.

http://kids.britannica.com/dday/browse?browseId=237176

U.S. Army official report on the action at and around Omaha Beach, 6 June 1944. This was prepared and provided to veterans at the 50th Anniversary commemoration in 1994, and based closely on the official report by the War Department, 20 September 1945

http://www.history.army.mil/books/wwii/100-11/100-11.HTM

South-East Islay Skerries – Monday Map

A hauntingly beautiful seascape, the skerries along the southeastern coast of the Isle of Islay are now a nature preserve

Home to charming marine life and at least one species of scary skerry folklore

click photos to enlarge

Skerry is the name given to any of the countless little islets that dot the Scottish seacoast, from the Kintyre peninsula at the nation’s southwest corner, to the subarctic Shetland Islands far to the north. The Isle of Islay, the southernmost main island of the Inner Hebrides, just west of Kintyre, is surrounded by a necklace of skeeries ranging from small islands filled with nesting birds, to minuscule teeth of jagged rock barely rising from the surrounding shallow seas that are choked with thick kelp forests and teaming with aquatic creatures.

S E Islay Skerries

They were also known to be the haunt of kelpies, shapeshifting water spirits of ancient Pictish folklore, who often came ashore in the physical guise of a horse. Those unfortunate enough to encounter one were beguiled by the promise of a free ride on a beautiful mount, only to be unable to dismount before the kelpie returned to the depths to drown and devour them.

kelpie water horse spirit skerries

Not exactly Disney’s Little Mermaid.

Before the advent of modern conveniences, villages along Islay’s stormy southeast coast depended upon their local skeeries as a source of food, from seabird eggs, to shellfish, to larger marine life. All such traditions came to an end in 2005, when the South-East Islay skeeries became an official protected Area of Special Conservation.

Scotland Islay Skerries ASC

South-East Islay Skerries lighthouse

click to enlarge

The Kintyre Peninsula is seen in the distance of this photo, miles beyond the lighthouse that stands on a small skerry at about the midway way point of the South-East Islay Skerries SAC.

While there are five other locations on Islay designated as protection areas for birds, the South-East Islay Skeeries received their specific designation as a marine ASC due to an important colony of some 600 harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) that rely on the area for pupping, molting, and hauling-out areas, where seals leave the water for long periods of time to socialize, usually segregated by sex and age group.

seals-loch-an-tsailein-islay-skerries

Some 80% of the SAC is made up of marine areas and sea inlets, while 18% is consists of the skeeries, as well as sea cliffs and the rocky shingle along the main island. The remaining 2% is salt marshes and salt pastures. The topography includes a series of underwater ridges, which provide the seals unique opportunities for hunting and sheltering from the strong currents in that location.

On the coastline near the southern end of the South-East Islay Skerries SAC is the Ardbeg distillery. One of nine active single malt whisky distilleries on Islay, several being known for producing the most robust single malts in the world, Ardbeg makes the peatiest, smokiest single malt Scotch whisky available today.

In 2017, Ardbeg released a special expression of their whisky named Kelpie, in honor of the local kelpie legends and the fact it has a particularly volatile and maritime character, not for the timid tippler of landlubber libations. And you can read an exclusive feature article on Ardbeg Kelpie at our sister site One Man’s Malt.

ddArdbeg Skerries

photos in this post are by Armin Grewe. Check out his marvelous photoblog

http://www.islay.org.uk/

And his text and photo blog about one of the coolest places Planet Earth

http://new.islayblog.com/

Cricket, a technical manual

My understanding of the Rules of Cricket

Easy as eel pie

One side is in and one side is out until the side that is out gets the side that is in out, when they come in until they are out.

Or so I thought. I have since been informed that there are some other rules to Cricket. The following should clarify a few things:

You have two sides, one out in the field and one in. Each man that’s in the side that’s in goes out, and when he’s out he comes in and the next man goes in until he’s out. When they are all out, the side that’s out comes in and the side that’s been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out. Sometimes you get men still in and not out.
When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in. There are two men called umpires who stay all out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out.
 
When both sides have been in and all the men have been out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game

 

 

 

Jerry Douglas and the Transatlantic Sessions Tour

Town Hall, NYC, May, 4 2017 – Final Concert of the Transatlantic Tour

Since 1995 the Transatlantic Sessions have delighted audiences with collaborations between Scottish, Irish, English, and American roots music devotees.

According to their official Wiki – Transatlantic Sessions is the collective title for a series of musical productions by Glasgow-based Pelicula Films Ltd, funded by- and produced for BBC Scotland,[1] BBC Four[2] and RTÉ of Ireland. Each half-hour episode features a core “house band” led by Shetland fiddler Aly Bain, and special guests, recorded at a unique location, such as a stately manner house.

The 2017 American tour was an almost-three hour extravaganza featuring some of the finest musicians ever produced in the UK or Ireland, along with many special guests from the USA, most of whom have appeared at various Transatlantic Sessions in the UK.

Here are some excerpts from the incredible Transatlantic Sessions show last night, with a list of performers listed beneath.

Jerry Douglas – Steel Guitars, Vocals (USA)

Aly Bain- Fiddle (Scotland)

John McCusker – Fiddle, Whistle (Scotland)

Michael McGoldrick- Pipes, Flute, Whistle (England)

Donald Shaw – Accordion, Piano (Scotland)

Russ Barenberg – Guitar (USA)

John Doyle – Guitar, Guizouki, Vocals (Ireland)

Daniel Kimbro – Bass (USA)

James MacKintosh – Drums (Scotland)

 

SPECIAL GUESTS

Mary Chapin Carpenter (USA)

Rosanne Cash (USA)

Sarah Jarosz (USA)

Declan O’Rourke (Ireland)

Aoife O’Donovan (USA)

John Paul White (USA)

Karen Matheson (Scotland)

Look for Transatlantic Sessions on BBC, PBS, and Youtube

 

Remember this day!

Pancho Villa and others at the very first Fiesta de la tarro vacía

Rare photo recently discovered

Sinko de Mayo

A contemplative Villa (left) and a glum Zapata (2nd from right) face an uncertain future

In Mexico during the time of the Revolution, mayonnaise was a national obsession. More of the condiment was consumed there than any other one place on earth, with Hong Kong a distant second.

In fact, leaders on both sides of the conflict were crazy for the stuff. But it was Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata circa 1910, who spread the spread among the common people, as it were, so that its popularity soared.

In those days, England was the mayonnaise capital of the world, with Cross & Blackwell’s, and Hellmann’s as the most popular brands, and the largest shipment of all time, some tens of thousands of jars, set out from Southampton by steamship on April 10, 1912, bound for Vera Cruz, by way of Cherbourg, New York, Charleston, and Havana.

But as history showed, the vessel was none other than the ill-fated H.M.S. Titanic, which struck an iceberg and sank on April 15th.

When news arrived in Mexico twenty days later, the war-torn people were devastated. Their anguish was so great that a truce was declared between the Federales and the rebel factions, for one day of mourning. And thus was held the very first Fiesta de la tarro vacía (Feast of the Empty Jar.)

(photo: Museos de México)

feast2

It has been observed ever since, on this very day, now known colloquially as Sinko de Mayo.

Thank you, I’m here all week …