Traveling music

Beta and I went to Galway about ten years ago (it was in October) to see a man about a harp, beginning what we did not know at the time would be a series of travels in the name of music. At the time, bad tin whistle was the limit of my own musical experiences, and I had no plans to change that.

The first trip went well. We bought an Irish harp, we made friends in Dublin, Beta, although only eight at the time managed the following day to guide her massively hungover father through a transfer at Zurich airport where I thought I’d lost my ticket and we got home safe, harp, bodhran, and all.

In the ten years since then we have been to workshops around Austria and to a couple orchestra camps. It was often a thing just the two of us did, and I enjoyed it. Encouraged by her great joy with the harp, I took up cello, with less success but just as much joy. Somehow I even ended up composing music.

This evening we will leave for what I think will be our last orchestra camp (our trajectories are taking us elsewhere, I guess). We will play a concert on Sunday, and then three more in the coming weeks. She will sound beautiful on the harp, I will sit as far back in the cello section as I am able and play some of the songs (more than last year), pantomime others.

Sometimes you only realize later that something you do is for the last time – carrying your kid around on your shoulders, visiting a certain place, giving a big guy the finger in traffic. This weekend, though, I will be aware of it every second, and paying attention.

Little-known facts about the skate


  • Skates are cartilaginous fish. They belong to the Rajidae family, controlling half the casinos in Las Vegas.

  • Skates are bottom-dwelling, all the way down to the abyssal zone.
  • So black is the skate’s favorite color.
  • The common skate, Dipturus batis, is the largest found in British waters, but it is less common than the thornback ray, Raja clavata, which is the most common skate in British waters.
  • Ironically.
  • Skates grow slowly and mature late. It is not uncommon to find adult skates blogging all day at work.
  • Skates are prone to self-conscious sentimentality. For example, when an adult skate drops his young off at school, he not only sits there in his car watching her across the street and all the way into the school, his heart breaking over the irretrievable moment, he also watches himself watching her and thinks, I ought to write something about this some time.
  • The skate’s biggest fear is someday tourists will discover the abyssal zone.
  • The skate has been good about doing the dishes lately.
  • Skates lay eggs in a case known as a “mermaid’s purse”.

Reading Jordan Harper at the United Nations

There I sat, on the overstuffed, too-low, stained, green chair (“Donated to the United Nations by the Government of Hungary”) in the lounge on the fourth floor, squinting to read my laptop in the glare coming in through the window on my lunch break from covering a meeting of a certain crime commission, where things such as human trafficking, money-laundering, narcotics and arms trafficking and their connection to terrorism (kaching!) were being discussed with soporific effect, when she walked in.

Well, not exactly she.
A metafilter projects link. Metafilter is good to read when you’re using a dim iBook and the sun is bright, because good contrast, the blue and yellow.

The link was to a website of short neo-noir hardcore hardboiled fiction by Jordan Harper. Here, I will link his site: Jordan Harper crime fiction

After taking notes at the conference that morning, it was like looking at crime through the other end of the telescope, if turning around a telescope made it work like a microscope.

I really like his writing. My sister sent my wife a collection of America’s Best Crime Fiction for a certain year, 2007 maybe, that I am reading on the toilet lately, and Harper’s writing is as good as anything in that. I read through all the stories on his site and couldn’t get them out of my head, a couple in particular.

I even sent him a gushing fan email.

His writing, in fact, reminded somewhat of my writing on this site, if instead of sentimental marine creatures talking about their dreams you had neoNazis cutting people in half with shotguns, and stuff (I don’t want to spoil anything for you).

Actually, upon further reflection, his writing does not strongly resemble mine, but it did remind me heavily of my young man-hood, and the sorts of people and situations I would have chewed my arm off to avoid. And the scary men I sensed at the edge of my peripheral perception. The demons of my youth, or something.

Rasputina has a song, “State Fair”, that reminds me vividly of situations of my youth. In a totally different way, Harper also brings to life dialects and characters I have not seen elsewhere. Maybe I just lead a sheltered life, who knows. You should go look at his stuff, though, and let me know what you think.

Going to school

“You have a choice,” I said. “Sigur Ros or Nine Inch Nails.”
“Nine Inch Nails,” Gamma said.

It rained hard yesterday. My wife called me at work and said the road near our village was closed due to a mudslide. That’s some hard rain, because it’s perfectly flat where we live.

There is one underpass where the road goes under some train tracks, sometimes that fills up. And new train tracks are raised, so maybe some mud washed down the embankment.

I made it home okay. I couldn’t make my mind up between Nine Inch Nails and Sigur Ros, so I kept switching between the two. NIN went well with the lightning and dark clouds. SR went well with the rained-on fields and the green coming out in the woods.

Could be anywhere

There are a bunch of old trees outside my office window. It was warm this morning so the window is open. It just got windy. The sound the wind makes I have heard before. Waiting for a train one humid afternoon in the middle of nowhere in Japan. On the Oregon coast as a boy, hiding from people in tall grass. Taking a leak at a rest stop in Eastern Washington one hot summer day, trying to remember why I was there.

People are talking somewhere, and cars are driving around and the elevator is going places.

Music cannot cure wasps

I’ve seen two remarkable musical performances in the last month or so. One was a Norwegian orchestra in the Musikverein in Vienna, in the same hall where the New Year’s concert is held every year by the Vienna Philharmonic. I mention it because it was my first time there and I was impressed by all the gold leaf on the walls and nymphs etc. The acoustics were great, I recognized “celebrities” in the audience as well as several regular people I knew and, whoa, great band. Their first number, by a modern Scandinavian composer, reminded me a lot of Sigur Ros. It was quiet, and beautiful.

They had a young German cellist play a couple solos, also very nice. Guy in his early thirties, I guess. I went with my cello teacher and a couple other students of his to hear this guy. I apologize for not including names and links in this post, but I am typing fast before I have to go wake up Beta, who is visiting; then I must hop in the shower and scurry off to work.

Anyway, driving one of the students home afterwards, fighting to stay awake because I seem to get sleepy after lunch and stay that way, I saw a ton of martens on the streets. Little guys slinking around, bounding down the sidewalks, zipping into driveways when my car came by, staring with their yellow eyes.

They like to nibble car wiring, so everyone here hangs bags of mothballs under their car hoods.

Last week, a friend and I went to see a young blues musician, Peter Kern, perform in a wine cellar near where we live. The walls were covered with soot and cigarette smoke, the place was tiny. There was a framed print of Gina Lolobrigida on the wall and a small stage in the corner. Peter Kern is in his early thirties, and an amazing blues guitarist. Chicago blues. Great voice, too.

All day long that day I’d had the feeling that wasps were walking around under my pants. Up and down my right pantleg. I figured it was connected with the back pain I’d been experiencing that week, pinched nerve, but the tick vaccination campaign here is so effective that whenever you have an itch or something, you automatically suspect some sort of infestation.

I never got stung, and not even Chicago blues made the wasps go away, though, so I figure they were nerve damage. Only temporary, though, because they’re gone now.

In the intermissions we stood around an oil drum outside, in which a fire burned, and tossed wood onto the fire and joked around. The fire was hot, and the wind was cold, so I had a stiff neck the next day and stank of several kinds of smoke, but otherwise the concert was great.

I reserve the right to edit this post for coherence later when I’ve had more sleep.

Opossum, the other white meat

My favorite Alan Watts story is about a teacher whose student asks him, so if everything is an illusion, then that elephant is an illusion too? And the teacher says, yes, that’s right. So to prove his faith in his teacher, the student lies down and tells the elephant guy to have it step on him, which it does, and he is crushed. Maybe I ought to have told him he’s an a illusion, too, the teacher mutters.

Still, picking out a tie this morning, I had to think about money and slavery. Are we slaves? Is money imaginary? If money is imaginary, does that mean we are slaves? What is a slave, what is the definition? I’m thinking sort of, in the sense of drudgery, or submitting to a dominating influence, or bondage of some sort.

If money is imaginary, does that mean we are slaves?

Is money the gold leaf on an iron glove? Does everything come down to money, or to the power structures beneath? Maybe money is the smiley face on the prison guard’s taser.

Maybe we should be grateful to people like J