Thursday, June 30, 2011


A wise person never plays leapfrog with a unicorn.
~ Proverb

Capall Mor statue
Co Kerry, Ireland

Unicorn and Maiden
Bodleian Library, MS. Douce 366, Folio 55v

Steampunk Unicorn Damask
by Jayde Hilliard

Virgin and Unicorn fresco
by Domenico Zampieri, 1581–1641

Melville Drive Unicorn
Photo by Kim Traynor
"Unicorns were the supporters on the armorial bearings of Scotland's royal family, the Stewarts. When James VI of Scotland became James I of Great Britain in 1603, one of the unicorns was replaced by an English lion on the new British royal coat of arms." Info from Geolocation.

Art Deco Zebra Unicorn

Unicorn Portrait
by Johanna Öst

Sharing the cake between the Lion and the Unicorn
by Sir John Tenniel, Wood-engraving by Dalziel
Illustration for Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass (1865)

* American Museum of Natural History: Unicorns, from their Mythic Creatures exhibit
* Unicorn music and poetry
* Unicorn legends
* Unicorn and Rainbow Image Creator

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Start 'Em Simply Ravin'

Just recite an occasional sonnet
And your lap'll have honey upon it...
~ Cole Porter

I'm more "Can't we all get along?" than "Battle of the Sexes," so The Taming of the Shrew has never been my favorite Shakespeare play. I know, there are various interpretations of it, and someone could probably convince me to like it, but my attitude is generally this:

Here's a song from Kiss Me, Kate anyway. I can't resist clever use of Shakespeare references.

Brush Up Your Shakespeare
by Cole Porter

The girls today in society
Go for classical poetry,
So to win their hearts one must quote with ease
Aeschylus and Euripides.
But the poet of them all
Who will start 'em simply ravin'
Is the poet people call
The bard of Stratford-on-Avon.

Brush up your Shakespeare,
Start quoting him now.
Brush up your Shakespeare
And the women you will wow.
Just declaim a few lines from "Othella"
And they think you're a heckuva fella.
If your blonde won't respond when you flatter 'er
Tell her what Tony told Cleopaterer.

Also, here's Bill Murray reading Brush Up Your Shakespeare.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Not Fading Away

Can you believe Buddy Holly was only 22 when he died?? He was already so accomplished. His songs stay fresh, even fifty-two years after his death.

He wrote the song that was the Rolling Stones' first hit in the U.S.

Here's a Buddy Holly song sung by a man whose voice is still sweet:

The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens also died in the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly. Ritchie Valens was only 17.


* I also love Linda Ronstadt's version of It's So Easy and That'll Be the Day. What pipes!
* A new Buddy Holly tribute album.
* Stats and info about covers of Holly songs.
* The Day The Music Died

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Women's World Cup

I followed the men's World Cup rather intensively last year, and I am very excited that the women's World Cup is starting tomorrow!

Interested? You can follow ESPN's World Cup 2011 coverage and check out the official FIFA site.

Friday, June 24, 2011


Spotlighting English author/poet Sophie Hannah today. She is famous for her psychological thrillers, but she also writes poems for children and adults:

The World is a Box
by Sophie Hannah

My heart is a box of affection.
My head is a box of ideas.
My room is a box of protection.
My past is a box full of years.

The future’s a box full of after.
An egg is a box full of yolk.
My life is a box full of laughter
And the world is a box full of folk.


No Wonder
by Sophie Hannah

This love looks set to grow extremely tall.
I chart its weekly progress on the wall

the way my mum made pencil marks above
my sister’s head and mine. I’ve called it love

since it began, but now I have some proof -
infatuation stops before the roof

while love climbs bravely up to bash its head.
The bleeding starts. No wonder hearts are red.


Pessimism for Beginners
by Sophie Hannah

When you’re waiting for someone to e-mail,
When you’re waiting for someone to call –
Young or old, gay or straight, male or female –
Don’t assume that they’re busy, that’s all.

Don’t conclude that their letter went missing
Or they must be away for a while;
Think instead that they’re cursing and hissing –
They’ve decided you’re venal and vile,

read the rest here.

Carol is hosting the Poetry Friday round-up.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Little Something for Your Gunpowder

"Put your trust in God; but mind to keep your powder dry."
~ Oliver Cromwell

Moghol work circa 1750

Powder horn
India, Mughal court, 17th century;

Powder flask, engraved steel painted with lacquer,
Morocco 19th Century
Linden Museum, Stuttgart

Gun Powder Flask-Sundial Compass Watch
Southern Germany, circa 1590

Gunpowder flask
Mughal, Late 18th century

Silver Flask

Two views of a German Steel Powder Flask
circa 16th Century (First the bottom, then the top)

Sakalava Madagascar powder flask
British Museum


* Gunpowder history
* Gun Powder Flasks by Robert A. Braun
* Identification of Various Powder Flasks
* Gunpowder: Alchemy, Bombards, And Pyrotechnics: The History Of The Explosive That Changed The World by Jack Kelly.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Playing Around With Poems

I love my poetry revision club. My clubmates are fun, smart, and just generally great to hang around with. We played around with poem art last time, sort of like what the Poetry Foundation did for National Poetry Month. Thank you, Katherine, Krista, and Chris for letting me share yours.

"Green bright curve of snake slides through spring fallen pink petals in the lime grass going someplace with a smooth slither sleek move along"

from Because You Asked About the Line Between Prose and Poetry
~ Howard Nemerov
"There comes a moment that you couldn't tell/ and then they clearly flew/ instead of fell"

"Wherever we turn in the storm of roses/ thorns illuminate the night/ and the thunder of a thousand leaves/ once so quiet on the bushes/ is right at our heels."
~Ingeborg Bachmann

"Insects, why cry?/ We all go/ that way."
~ Issa

Monday, June 20, 2011

Bluegrass Tributes

This week for Music Monday, we've got bluegrass tributes. I misplaced my copy of this CD, but it got a lot of play when I had it:

Here's a song along similar lines...I know it's a little unexpected, but I like it:

I think Statesboro Blues makes the transition to bluegrass pretty easily. No singing in this one:

A bunch of bluegrass tribute albums are available here.

Friday, June 17, 2011

I Ain't Broke, But I'm Bad Bent

"My definition of Blues is that it's a musical form which is very disciplined and structured coupled with a state of mind, and you can have either of those things, but it's the two together that make it what it is. And you need to be a student for one, and a human being for the other, but those things alone don't do it."
~ Eric Clapton

In honor of Father's Day, I'm posting lyrics from one of my pop's favorite genres: the blues.

Dead Presidents, excerpt
by Willie Dixon

Them dead presidents
Them dead presidents
Well I ain't broke but I'm bad bent
Everybody loves them dead presidents

Hamilton on a ten can get you straight
But Jackson on a twenty is really great
And if you're talkin' about a poor man's friend
Grant will get you out of whatever you're in


Night Patrol
by Robert Cray

See him cuddled in the shadows
Sleepin' on his cardboard bed
Using rags for a pillow
Where he lays his unwashed head

His blanket's old newspaper
Not much good against the snow
See so many like him out there
When you walk the night patrol

When you walk the night patrol
Oh, you wonder where he came from
Where he's gonna go
Was it a woman or a bottle?

That's brought him down so low
What's happened to his family?
Do they know he's out here in the cold?
He's just a nameless soldier

Marching on the night patrol
Marching on the night patrol
Like that girl on the corner
She can't be more than seventeen

She's run away from somewhere
Taking nothing but her dreams
Now those dreams are lying shattered
As the street exacts its toll

And she's just another victim
Lost out on the night patrol
Oh, you could ask me why I'm out here
Where do I fit into the scene?

Now I'm drawing unemployment
Got replaced by a machine
And I'm tortured by my bad habits
Sometimes, I lose this struggle to control

And the street has its attractions
When you walk the night patrol
When you walk the night patrol


I listened to bluesman Robert Johnson quite a bit when I was in high school. Robert Johnson, Mose Allison, Duran Duran, and Madonna were all in heavy rotation on my stereo -- I was something of an eclectic listener. And in college I listened to Eric Clapton a lot. One of my favorite albums was Derek and the Dominos' Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. Here's Bell-Bottom Blues:

There's a connection between these two musicians (Eric Clapton and Robert Johnson). RJ was a big influence on Clapton. My pop told me recently about an album that Clapton recorded to honor Robert Johnson. The cover is shown below. I'm going to include a quote of Bob Dylan's about RJ below as well.

"When Johnson started singing, he seemed like a guy who could have sprung from the head of Zeus in full armor."
~ Bob Dylan

Love that quote! Happy Father's Day. Jone has the Poetry Friday round-up.

P.S. The Blues Foundation has a Blues in the Schools page. What a fun idea!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Jack Butler Yeats

Take, if you must, this little bag of dreams, Unloose the cord, and they will wrap you round.
~ William Butler Yeats

The famous Irish poet William Butler Yeats had a famous artist for a brother: James Butler Yeats. He lived from 1871–1957.

An interesting bit from Wikipedia about JB:

"Unusually, Yeats holds the distinction of being Ireland's first medalist at the Olympic Games in the wake of creation of the Irish Free State. At the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris, Yeats' painting The Liffey Swim won a silver medal in the arts and culture segment of the Games."

A Summer Evening, Rosses Point, Sligo
by Jack Butler Yeats

Morning after Rain, 1923
by Jack Butler Yeats
Tate Museum

Communicating with Prisoners
by Jack Butler Yeats

The Swinford Funeral, 1918
by Jack Butler Yeats
The Walters Museum

The Man with the Wooden Leg, 1902
by Jack Butler Yeats

Susan Mary Yeats (his sister)
by Jack Butler Yeats

A Full Tram
by James Butler Yeats

High Spring Tide, Cork
by Jack Butler Yeats
Museum Fine Arts Boston

Irish Fairy Tales
edited by W. B. (William Butler) Yeats, illustrated by Jack B. Yeats


* Jack Butler Yeats liked to use the impasto painting technique. What is Impasto?
* Jack's cartoons
* Jack's last sketch before he died
* A Villanova exhibit on JB Yeats
* A bio of his brother, William Butler Yeats
* A book about their father, John Butler Yeats.
* A book by the brothers which is free for the Kindle.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I Have No Idea

Foyles Bookshop is having a poem puzzle contest in June. The answers elude me. What about you?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Poet Jailed in Bahrain

Ayat al-Gormezi

Poet who became symbol of Bahrain resistance is jailed, an article by Patrick Cockburn, The Independent.

Bahrain woman gets year in jail for critical poems by the Associated Press's Brian Murphy

From The Guardian's Bahrain student jailed for year over protest poems:

"Across the Arab world, poetry is a powerful and popular form of expression. Thousands of works have extolled the so-called Arab spring, ranging from free-form verse in Cairo's Tahrir Square to literary figures such as Syria's Ali Esber, better known by his pen name Adonis, who has railed against Arab despots and last month was awarded Germany's Goethe prize."

Monday, June 13, 2011

Musical Pioneers

I briefly met flutist Doriot Anthony Dwyer earlier this year, which led to me learning a little about her (and, indirectly, Helen Kotas). Both women were pioneers. In 1941, Helen Kotas became the first woman to be the principal of a section in a major U.S. symphony orchestra. Ms. Kotas played French horn. I tried to find a video with her in it, but, unfortunately, I came up empty-handed.

In 1952, Doriot Anthony Dwyer (whose father was Susan B. Anthony's cousin -- I love that little detail) became the first woman to be the principal of a woodwind section in a major symphony orchestra. You can see her performing in the video below:

Here's a smidge of Linda Dempf's article about the Women's Symphony Orchestra of Chicago:
In addition to the general resistance women faced in working outside the home, women were perceived as lacking the physical strength required for playing instruments other than the piano, or lacking the stamina to withstand lengthy orchestra rehearsals. A woman's constitution was perceived as "frail" and she might wither under the tyrannous glare of the conductor. Many instruments—such as the double bass, winds, brass, and percussion—were deemed inappropriate for a woman, not only because of the physical exertion they required, but also because a woman might look less than ladylike while performing.

Women responded to this exclusion and lack of opportunity by playing in all-female the 1930s, there were nearly thirty all-women orchestras across the United States.

* Helen Kotas (1916-2000): A Pioneer by Heather Thayer, Horn Call
* Helen Kotas Hirsch by Lowell Greer

* Doriot Anthony Dwyer by Susan Fleet
* Sculpture for Doriot by Homer Gunn

* A brief timeline of women orchestral musicians in the U.S.
* The Cleveland Women's Orchestra, the last of the all-women's orchestras still around today, is in its 76th year.
* Black Women in American Bands and Orchestras by Dr. Antoinette Handy

* This list shows the relative representation of women and men in European orchestras in 2005 (some U.S. orchestras are also included). Honestly, I was shocked by the ones at the bottom, like the Vienna Philharmonic (99% male). That's old news for some people, but I had assumed that women were better represented everywhere.
* Here's a 2009 update to the last list -- interesting because it shows the changes between 2005 and 2009.

* Unrelated to the above, but still notable: Women's Orchestra at Birkenau

Fun fact:
* First woman to conduct a symphony orchestra in the U.S.:
Mary Davenport-Engberg, Bellingham, Washington, 1914.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Wife, Spy

This marvelous portrait of Margaret Kemble Gage is by John Singleton Copley. Read about her here.

American-born Margaret appears to have spied on her British general husband--and father of her many children--on behalf of the American revolutionaries. What a difficult decision to make. And she winds up being shipped off to England, so she doesn't get to stay in the new country she helped.

This portrait is from 1771, but she almost looks like she knows what's going to happen!

Friday, June 10, 2011


"Soldiers take an oath to defend the Constitution, but let me tell you, what they're really defending is libraries and museums and the memories of the human species, and that's an awesome responsibility."
~ Donald Anderson

an excerpt of Here, Bullet
by Brian Turner

If a body is what you want,
then here is bone and gristle and flesh.
Here is the clavicle-snapped wish,
the aorta's opened valves, the leap
thought makes at the synaptic gap.


Do read the rest of Here, Bullet. I read the poem when it first came out, and it stayed with me.

More about Brian Turner:

Iraq Soldier Describes War in Poetry

Interview with Poet-Soldier Brian Turner on the San Francisco Book Review.

Other soldier-poet links, from various time periods:

About the 18-minute film Poet, Soldier, 2009. Also, its trailer

Wilfred Owen: The soldiers' poet

The Work of Soldier Poetry in Kansas, 1917-1919 by Timothy D. Rives (about WWI)

Verses in Wartime

Jennifer Ludden interviews Robert Hedin, who edited American War Poems, from Revolution to Terror.

"Army & Navy: Soldier Poet in New Guinea" from Time, Monday, Jan. 11, 1943

Why poetry is the soldier's art by Douglas Perry

The Welcome Home Project: Poetry

Today's Poetry Friday round-up is hosted by Anastasia.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


I don't get nervous in any situation. There's no such thing as nerves when you're playing games.
~Shaquille O'Neal

Lewis chessmen
probably made in Norway, about AD 1150-1200

The Cheat with the Ace of Clubs
by Georges de La Tour, late 1620s
Kimbell Art Museum (there is a later version of the same composition in the Louvre.)

The Dice Players
by Georges de La Tour, circa 1650-1651

Red Queen lecturing Alice
from Lewis Carroll's "Through The Looking Glass"
illustration by John Tenniel, 1871

Domino Doll 11
by IndianDollArtWorks

by Rhonda Radford-Adams


* Ten things you didn't know about the Lewis chessmen
* Want to play life-sized chess? You can get yourself some Chess Hats.
* UnwindRewind's Traveling Chess Party photo
* A list of possible Fair Dice. (There are more shapes than you'd expect)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Barcode Orchestra

When I went to the Shortie Awards, I saw the Barcode Orchestra exhibit at the Artisphere. I could explain it, but you might as well watch:

The creators offer the current Max MSP patch and Reason file used for Barcode Orchestra for download.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Hymn to Nikkal

For this Music Monday, we have the oldest song in the world. The Hurrian hymn to Nikkal (orchard goddess, wife of the moon god), circa 1400 B.C.E., Syria, is the oldest surviving (nearly) complete work of notated music in the world:

* This handout from San Jose State University shows a translation of the song and the Hurrian alphabet.
* A more technical description of the song, with various translations and links to versions of it.
* Did you know there's an International Study Group on Music Archaeology? Among other things, they offer links to artists who play ancient music.

Ancient music played on the lyre by Michael Levy:

Sunday, June 5, 2011


Had a great time at the Shortie Awards today. My nine-year-old really enjoyed Shortie Con, too.

Here's a link to the Shortie You Tube channel.

If you're a young filmmaker (or a teacher of young filmmakers), you might want to enter the competition next year. The deadline is April.

Updated on Feb 26, 2012: I don't think the Shorties will be taking place this year :-(

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Secret We Return To

I've talked about Rattle before. I'm returning today with excerpts from Rattle poems. Click on a title to read the whole thing.



by Siobhan Brannigan

My opera singer’s name is Leah, I recommend her.
Men fall in love with her when she goes to get the mail,
and not just mailmen, men from across the street,
men who have been following her for four days and want her
address to be their address, they would take her last name,
and just because of her humming. When she gasps,
hearts break. When she snores, marriages fall apart.
With Leah, I am always backstage. Still­...


by Richard Beban

like the one about the man who
walked down the street
& turned into
a drugstore.

There was some secret in the moment
of that turning—when he was one thing,
became another—
that I return to again & again.


excerpt from BEGINNER’S LESSON
by Malcolm Alexander

...Make nothing more of the moon
than what it is, a great big pebble
hunting for a shoe, not to be confused
with the heart, likewise a vagabond.


by Tony Brusate

Whole days evaporate. Her body
turns to sand. She could be an island beach,
her bedsheets a briny foam upon her shores.
The men of the island stand waist deep casting
their hand-tied nets toward the surf. Women on shore
sort baskets for fish. Dark naked children scamper
through the breaking waves laughing and swinging sticks.
There is no too quiet house, no dog
coming upstairs to lick her face, to see she’s still alive.
And later, no children or husband returning
from school or work, puzzled
by this, her fourth whole day in bed...


Toby has today's Poetry Friday round-up.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Scholar Stones

The National Bonsai Foundation says:
Bonsai and viewing stones are closely related art forms, each reflecting a deep respect for nature. While a bonsai is cultivated to evoke the qualities of a venerable old tree, a viewing stone is usually displayed to suggest an aspect of the natural landscape, such as a distant mountain or a waterfall. Thus, when these small-scale forms are viewed together in a complementary arrangement, the whole of nature can be imagined.
Chrysanthemum Stone - Moon Night
National Bonsai Foundation
Gift from Nippon Suiseki Association to President Gerald Ford
Photo by Joe Mullan

Dwelling Stone
From Ciniru River Valley, Kunigan, West Java, Indonesia
Gift from Indonesian Suiseki Association
Photo by Joe Mullan

from the Metropolitan Museum of Art
by Lang Ying (1585-ca. 1664)

Abstract Suiseki
In the Earth Art Gallery
Photo by Andrew Alden, licensed to; suiseki by Jim Broadhurst

Mountain Stone Suiseki
In the Earth Art Gallery
Photo by Andrew Alden, licensed to; suiseki by Lance Plaza

From The Zymoglyphic Museum
Stars in Stone

The Ancestors' Land
by Primangelo Pondini

Interested in learning more?
Felix Rivera has a very nice Suiseki site