Category Archives: folklore and ethnography
Will wonders never cease? Jack posts on time – – –
My good friend Dirk is the expert technical guru who records my radio shows at his excellent home recording studio. But his real expertise is in making videos and although officially retired, he continues to do that for his previous employer as an external contractor.
In the process of working on the radio programs he became fascinated by the background information on the music that I provide and that got him sucked into an idea.
So a few months ago he announced that he wanted to make a video documentary about my life with a core focus on me as an immigrant who chose to become an American. Running alongside that will be my professional career(s) and my musical life.
He started the project by videoing a series of interviews with me and that was quite intimidating! Almost from the start I decided to treat this like one of these personality tests where you answer questions without thinking too hard. The questions were mostly short and open, and my answers were usually lengthy. However, because I didn’t have any pre-warning of what the questions would be, I did occasionally have to ponder a bit.
The next stage is for Dirk to video interviews with Wendy and some of my friends, both here in the US and in Scotland.
Luckily he was recently in Scotland visiting his son Trevor who is studying at St Andrews University in my home county of Fife, so he could interview folk there. Equally luckily our musical buddy Alan Reid was passing through this way recently and Dirk was able to ambush him too.
The next stage is continuing to interview folk including a central figure to the story – Wayne Bean who first got me to the US back in the 1980s and then to WETSfm where the story continues.
I think I’ve learned a lot about myself during all this and have a clearer understanding of what brought me here. Despite all the practical and principled explanations I usually give (all perfectly true) I think underneath it all I was just ready for a completely new life!
But is that really possible?
I have been organizing small group tours of Scotland annually for the last twelve years. The first couple of times I had a definite sense of ‘going home’. However around year three I suddenly realized that boarding the plane to come back at the end I really was ‘going home’.
I think I have finally arrived at the point where I feel equally Scottish and American – not an American Scot or a Scottish American, but a US Citizen who will always be Scottish.
I’m waiting to see the finished documentary with both anticipation and trepidation – – –
As reported earlier, the short story competition was a close run thing. James Ryan’s was the first entry to arrive –
“Ahhhhhhhhhh….free at last.” How many seasons have I been lying under that bush? I hope it’s been long enough so that damned cat is dead. I don’t mean to sound like an animal hater but, it’s hard not to hate someone who buries you under a bush after peeing in your face. Don’t laugh. It was not funny at all. I’m not sure how many seasons went by before the smell left. I suppose I should be thankful that he didn’t do the other thing on me. If he had, I would probably still be stinking. Yuck!
I know you’re wondering what and who I am. My name is Elwyn and I am a Sylvan. Sylvans are associated with trees and bushes. We can be found in any woodland of any size. Our job is to keep the forest in good working order. It was my misfortune to be caught by the cat that day. Normally, I stayed high enough in the trees not to be in any danger. That day I was on the ground straightening an oak seedling that had been stepped on by a large bear the night before. It was a tiring job and when I finished, I leaned against a rock to rest from my labors. The sun was warm and the leaves were so comfortable that I fell asleep almost immediately.
The next thing I knew I was in the cat’s mouth and being carried towards the house in the distance. Talk about being scared. I was sure I was going to be eaten alive. He carried me to the bush in the yard where he played with me as if I were a ball. He batted me around and every time I tried to get away, he would let me get far enough to get my hopes up, then he would pounce on me again. He finally grew tired and went to sleep. Unfortunately for me, he went to sleep with his paw on my chest. I was just glad he had stopped throwing me around. After a while I started thinking about getting free.
The problem was that his foot was rather large and heavy. And every time I tried to move, his claws would extend and keep me where I was. I’m not quite sure how long he lay there sleeping, but it must have been several hours. I didn’t really mind because it gave me time to rest and begin to feel better about the whole thing. So far, I wasn’t dead or crippled up beyond recovery. So, I spent the time thinking of ways to escape. However, as hard as I tried, nothing came to mind.
The cat suddenly sat up, yawned, picked me up and carried me further under the bush where he dug a hole threw me in it and pissed in my face. Then he covered me up and there I stayed until the lady found me. NOW PUT ME BACK INTO THE WOODS!
Many thanks to Jeanne Powers for this review!
Gnomeland: An Introduction to the Little People
First off, this is not a sequel to Gnomes by Wil Huygen, the marvelous and charming “natural history” of the shy Holland gnomes. No, this is a book about garden gnomes.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, garden gnomes seem to pop up everywhere. Travelocity even has a spokesgnome, possibly inspired by a rash of gnome-nappings a few years back, in which a person or persons would swipe a garden gnome and take photos of it in various settings, sometimes sending postcards back to the owner from the gnome to illustrate its travels.
Egleton devotes the first few pages of the book to a very brief overview of gnomes in general, noting that there are several variations and tracing the origin both gnomes and their appearance. Then she delves specifically into the evolution of the classic garden gnome.
The earliest statues of the “classic” garden gnome apparently were created in the late 19th century when a large ceramic industry met an enthusiasm for garden decoration. The early figures were more of the bearded and wizened little old man variety before morphing into bright and merry little figures, which Egleton attributes to Disney’s cute little dwarf characters from Snow White.
For me, the most interesting part of the book was about the early creators of garden gnomes. Philipp Griebel added the figure to his factory shortly after opening in 1874, causing Grafenroda, Germany to lay claim to being the birthplace of the modern gnome, though there are those who would challenge this. August Heissner apparently began creating hand-painted clay gnomes for sale around 1870.
But all of this pales beside the glorious photos of gnomes of all sorts. There are bathing beauties, politicians (there are several versions of George W. Bush), athletes, naughty gnomes, and smoking and drinking gnomes. “Mobile Joe” is a gnome with a cell phone who crashed the Chelsea Flower Show, despite the “no gnomes” rule. There are some astounding photos of “gnome gardens” with large collections. One woman took inspiration from George Harrison, who had posed with the Friar Park gnomes for two albums, and created a gnome garden in tribute to the Beatle.
Gnomes are a world-wide phenomenon: they can be found all over Europe, North and South America, and even Antarctica. Australia seems to be particularly fond of gnomes, harboring several large gnome gardens and organizations dedicated to preservation and proliferation of gnomes. “Gnomesville” in Australia has become quite the tourist attraction, despite a lack of parking and toilets.
Even if you think gnomes are tackiness personified (the book says they’ve “been restored to their rightful place of kitsch honor”) you’ll smile at some of the creative ways people have used gnomes. It may just inspire you to add a gnome or two to your own garden. Or not.
Note: this review is written by a person who has pink flamingos in the garden
As we continue with our house move, Jack writes – –
Every now and then a strange and magical figure enters your life. Such was the case when River came down here from New York State to live with her brother Mark Cooperstein and his wife Elizabeth a couple of years ago.
River wasn’t her birth name, of course. She adopted the name River Lightwomoon many years ago, and if I tell you that she also lived in Woodstock then I think you probably begin to get the picture.
She was the archetypal hippy and also a wonderful musician, specializing in percussion, and any adjacent surface was a drum for her.
She told me the amazing story of how she was already beginning to play drums and went to a club where the world-famous Jack DeJohnette was appearing. At some point one of his drum sticks ended up at her foot and she returned it to him. She met him some time later and asked about lessons, but they were going to be far too expensive her. However he remembered her and the returned stick, they got chatting and he found out she was expert at tax forms. So, in return for handling his tax stuff she got her lessons!
I was intrigued by the complex rhythms she’d set up whenever she drummed and she explained that she had worked with a mainly female group that played South American influenced original music. A short bit of on-line research and there she was listed on a number of albums!
When our good friend and wonderful singer Barbara Dickson came here to perform, she was completely entranced by River and they shared many a musical moment. But more than that – Barbara also experienced what I had – a very rare and special connection!
RIP River – you will definitely be remembered.
Jack missed his Wednesday deadline again – –
We have a pretty disparate group of friends that have many different interests, some of which I share. One of these, of course, is music. Every now and again some of us find some overlapping time when we can get together and can do some picking and singing.
Today was one of these days, and it was glorious!
For a couple of hours all the cares of the world disappeared and three of us threw everything else aside, forgot our cares and lost ourselves in bringing together our very different music to a common ground.
Tony had just heard that his brother had suffered a heart attack (but was recovering), while Leroy is still dealing with the death of his beloved Jenny and Tyler is trying to balance the life of a professional musician with balancing his budget. Me? I’m just juggling all the logistics of buying a new house and moving there while keeping my marriage on an even keel!
Tony is our guitar playing Presbyterian Pastor buddy who is seriously into ‘middle-of-the-road’ anything goes kind of music. Tyler is our local deep down traditional and very well informed banjo playing expert on the local music. I sing Scottish songs and ballads and play a pretty odd guitar style.
But the dark horse in all this is Leroy.
He’s very capable at playing everything from Simon and Garfunkel to James Taylor and everything in between – and he does it very well. He talks about things like diminished minor 7ths and such like.
So, for two hours we shared songs and did our best to follow each other as we sang, and every so often really got it together. We chatted about our musical preferences and veered off into lots of other things. We laughed and got more serious sometimes. And we got some renewed energy for life’s challenges.
I have to admit that I wondered if getting together at eleven on a weekday morning in the bookstore with a group of folk I’d never played music all together with before was such a great idea. But in the end it was just what we each and all needed.
One of the customers that came into the bookstore as we were getting started spent a long time “browsing” and finally said he expected to pay extra for the excellent entertainment.
Nah—we got more out of it than we put in, and that’s worth everything. Take a look here.