Category Archives: fandom

Roll the Bones

Rest in peace, Gary Gygax — sometime insurance agent, wargamer, groundbreaking game co-creator, Dungeonmaster, entrepreneur, novelist of sorts, and friendly guide to the D&D cartoon’s writers.

May the angels and St. Cuthbert come to meet you — and not with complaints about their stats.

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J.G. Ballard’s Last Book?

I’m not a great reader of Ballard; I don’t much enjoy horror or dystopic fiction. But I’m sad to hear that he’s doing so poorly, and glad that he managed to write his autobiography anyway.

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Brian Boru’s March — Performance Hints for Harpers

Not from me, goodness knows. From a very interesting site with info on Celtic tunes.

It was in the repertoire of the man whom O’Neill calls the “last of the great Irish harpers,” Patrick Byrne (c. 1784-1863). O’Neill never heard Byrne play, but an account of a Byrne concert which appeared in The Emerald of New York in 1870 caught his eye. Byrne played for an assemblage in the household of a Dublin gentleman in 1860, and O’Neill quotes from the article:

Byrne’s command of the harp was complete, the writer tells us. His
touch was singularly delicate yet equally firm. He could make the
strings whisper like the sigh of the rising wind on a summer eve,
or clang with a martial fierceness that made your pulses beat quicker.
After quaffing a generous tumbler of punch, he would say, “Now,
ladies and gentlemen, I am going to play you the celebrated march
of the great King Brian to the field of Clontarf, when he gave the
Danes such a drubbing. The Irish army is far off, but if you listen
Attentively you will hear the faint sound of their music.” Then his
fingers would wander over the upper range of strings with so delicate
a touch that you might fancy it was fairy music heard from a distance.
Anything more fine, more soft and delicate than this performance, it is
impossible to conceive. “They are coming nearer!” And the sound
increased in volume. “Now here they are!” And the music rolled
loud and full. Thus the march went on; the fingers of the minstrel’s
right hand wandering farther down the bass range. You find it hard
to keep your feet quiet, and feel inclined to take part in the march
music assumes a merry, lightsome character, as if it were played for
dancers. “Rejoicing for the victory!” But this abruptly ceases; there
is another shriek and dischord, jangling and confusion in the upper
bass stings. The harper explains as usual, “They have found the old
King murdered in his tent.” Then the air becomes much slower and
singularly plaintive. “Mourning for Brian’s death.” There is a firmer
and louder touch now, with occasional plaintive effects with the left
hand. “They are marching now with the brave old King’s body to
Drogheda.” The music now assumes a slow and steady tone, the tone
is lowered, and grows momentarily louder and louder, till finally it
dies away…And all these marvellous effects are produced upon what
is used as a simple dance tune in the south of Ireland (pgs. 81-82).

If you know the tune, you can almost hear how it could be done.

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The CMAA Colloquium Is Coming!

This summer I’m going back to the CMAA Colloquium! I put in my deposit, and was very happy to do so.

Why? Because the Church Music Association of America offers us a wonderful week of workshops, classes, choir practice, meeting other crazy people who help out the Church with music, and learning the Church’s best practices and intended norms through worshipworshipworship.  It’s attended by all sorts of people, from full-time musicians and professors and composers, to priests with no vocal or musical background who want to learn how to sing the Mass, to normal ordinary folks who sing mostly by ear (ie, me).  Not everyone who attends is Catholic, which adds spice to the mix.

The Colloquium this year is being advertised as “Seven Days of Musical Heaven”. As long as you believe that Heaven is a place where the Body of Christ does a lot of activities and worship as well as rest, this is a fair description. :)

This year it’s going to be in Chicago, at Loyola. It’s a lot easier for me to get there than to DC, and I find the prospect of summer in Chicago a lot less daunting. (DC in summer was once classified as a hardship post by UK diplomatists. Humid is not the word.)  Besides, I love love love Chicago! It’s the only city I’ve ever been that I love as much as home.

This year, they’re also offering, the week before the Colloquium, a week-long workshop that focuses exclusively on Gregorian chant. This is divvied up into classes teaching the utter basics and classes teaching advanced skills, and it’s intended to teach people enough about chant to be able to begin teaching others in their parishes at home. I would have loved to take this course, but I thought the regular colloquium would probably be more useful to me at present.

(For example, the Colloquium puts everyone into its gi-polyphonic-gantic choir working with Mr. Horst Buchholz, who is probably the best choir director I’ve ever had and who also knows a lot about vocalization.  And this year, they’ve apparently got a bunch of additional directors coming who are as good or better. I am a sucker for this kind of thing, and I will get to use it every week in my parish. Chant is coming in a lot more slowly, since we apparently have some people who really get scared and angry at its mere sound.)

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Some Good News

Erick Wujcik, famous gamemaster and RPG developer from Detroit, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer right before the holidays. His aggressive chemo seems to be working.

Thank you, St. Ezekiel, patron saint of gamers!

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Urgent Prayer Request

Greg McMullan, filker, MIT guy, Presbyterian, and athlete, died last night in a housefire. He was home alone and taking a nap. He called 911, but didn’t make it out himself. The cats of the household were also killed. The townhouse was a total loss; the top floors collapsed.

Please pray for Greg, and for his friends and family — especially his wife Maya McMullan, who is in the hospital from the fire’s aftereffects, his stepdaughter Faeryn, his stepson, and his mother and brother (since on top of this, they just lost Greg and Scott’s dad and grandfather earlier this year and have had all sorts of other troubles the last few years). Maya and Faeryn have basic necessities, a place to stay, and help from relatives, but obviously, this is hard stuff. Scott McMullan, his brother, is updating folks.

I didn’t know him very well, though I remember running into him at OVFF and having short chats. He was one of those nice guys I always thought I’d have more time to talk with. But here’s a picture of him laughing, from just a few weeks ago. No doubt he’ll be laughing and singing still, when we see him again.

May the angels lead you into Paradise.
May the martyrs greet you at your arrival, and lead you into the Holy City, Jerusalem.
May the choir of angels greet you.
And like Lazarus, who once was poor, may you have eternal rest.

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Hymn Note for Turtledove Fans

A lot of people realize that, in Harry Turtledove’s alternate Byzantium, the god “Phos” (Light) is both an alternate Ahura Mazda, as well as a way to comment on Byzantine Christianity without commenting. But he’s also referring to the famous Christian hymn “Phos Hilaron”. Like “Inventor Rutili”, it’s a lamplighting hymn. IIRC, Turtledove even quotes the thing in his trilogies, but I don’t know how many people catch it.

Here’s the hymn in Greek, sung to the “ancient” melody (“melos archaion”) by the late Fr. Dositheos, a blind monk from Mount Athos, with a drone backup (Kevin tells me below that the sound’s called an “ison”) from the monastery choir. From’s very interesting Byzantine music resource pages.

For those of us who don’t read Greek letters, here’s the transliterated lyrics so you can sing along:

Phos hilaron aghias dóxis, athanátou Patrós, ouraníou aghiou mákaros, Iisoú Hristé, elthontes epí tin ilíou dysin, idóntes phos esperinón, hymnoumen Patéra, Yión, kai ághion Pnevma, Theón, Axion se en pási kairoís hymneisthai, phonés aisíais, Yié Theoú, zoín o didoús, dió o kósmos se doxázei.

The interesting bit is that, although you hear its great solemnity when sung here as a church hymn (and rightly so), after a while the underlying bounciness starts to come through.

Here’s three totally different settings (in English translation) dug up by Chantblog. I don’t know if any of the music is the same as the tune above. Oremus has “O gladsome light” TTTO “Le Cantique de Simeon” by Louis Bourgeois.


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Techies in the Pews

Br. Guy Consolmagno, forced to take, every so often, a sabbatical from his normal duties as per Jesuit regs, has found occupation in the anthropological study of engineers’ religious positions. (This is the short version of a book he has out.)

Oh, yes, I know people like this. (Heck, I have acquaintances in common with Consolmagno, though I doubt I’d be able to identify them from the pseudonymous stuff in the book. I might flatter myself that I could, of course….) But it’s very helpful to see it all written out in logical order.

Via Zadok.

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A THIRD Detectives in Togas Book!

The good news: there’s another Roman kids’ mystery by Henry Winterfeld after Detectives in Togas (Caius ist ein Dummkopf) and Mystery of the Roman Ransom (Caius geht ein Licht auf).

The bad news: they’ve never translated Caius in der Klemme.

Aughhhhhhh! The citizens of Babel have a lot to answer for!

I shall drown my sorrows by looking at what seems to be a nice omnibus edition cover.


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Doctor Who Reference in The Court Jester?

Okay, so it’s not the Tardis. But one of the victims of court intrigue and pellets of poison in that Danny Kaye flick is… “Pertwee!”

You may yawn now.

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More Food for the Brain-Eater

I started trying to catch up on the Shadow Unit characters’ fictional LiveJournals (yes, I subject myself to it — a sign of my seriousness!) and found myself wandering through a maze of twisty little LJs, not at all alike.

In the midst of this, I found myself reading a very disappointing review of Patricia Briggs’ latest novel, Iron Kissed. As I suspected from reading the back cover of Blood Bound, her Mercy series has turned into yet another stupid descent into “strong female character seeks annoying love triangle”. But this time, instead of going for the “strong female character defeats love triangle by sleeping around with everyone”, we have “strong female character chooses the man who’ll most treat her like crap” along with “unnecessary rape plot” and “rape by character most like the readers’ usual male friends”. So no need to read Briggs anymore, then. (At least until she’s finished this seven book contract. Seven books, one advance? Honestly, not a great move.)

However, the reviewer also links to the writer’s FAQ, and that it reveals that it was actually written into her series contract that Mercy maintain a “complicated love life”. Wow. Portrait of a modern wage slave formula writer, eh? Also, a great insight into the publishers. Strong female character can’t fight evil unless she’s torn between X number of lovers… and getting raped, of course. Welcome back to the seventies.

I am deeply disappointed that a writer I’ve enjoyed would begin to fall to the Brain-Eater this early! Perhaps she will come back with a book in which Mercy rejects making herself a doormat for the sake of sex and a highly dubious security in prisonwarden form; and actually starts to act like the self-respecting human being she’s supposed to be.

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By Klono’s Silicon Sternum!

Imagine Entertainment and Universal Pictures are negotiating for an option on the Lensman novels.

At worst, more money for the estate. At best, either serious coolness or me explaining ad nauseam how the books are sooooo much better than the movies. :)

In other sf/f film news, cast news for a movie of that fightin’, far-travelin’ Puritan, Solomon Kane, accompanied by a movie about Conan and the animated Conan movie Red Nails. They’ve already done movies on Red Sonja and King Kull. So for Howard heroes, that leaves Black Agnes, the Irish guy, the….

Also, some director chick for whatever reason wants to make a movie of Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End. (Boring book, for my money. But it turns out that aliens who look like the Devil were actually the good guys who set off our evolution, yada yada, and lots of people like it for some reason. So Amy Welborn and the apologist crowd will at least get some extra cash out of the Gnostic and Teilhard de Chardin overtones.)

Finally, if Dom and Co. want to try to catch a free showing of Jumper (adaptation of Steven Gould’s teleporting teen novel)

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I am the last person in the world to find this stuff out….

Emma Bull, Elizabeth Bear, Sarah Monette, and Will Shetterly have decided to play X-Files/Bureau 13. With online stories and character LJs and stuff.

It’s called Shadow Unit, and more will be coming soon. If you follow the links, you can find other interesting things. Enjoy!

Btw, it’s apparently been a very mixed holidays for the old Scribblies crowd. Emma Bull’s father apparently passed away over the holidays, and Steven Brust had to declare bankruptcy. On the bright side, there’s Shadow Unit, Pamela Dean’s newly finished rough draft, and Brust making progress on his much-awaited book Iorich. So… prayers are in order, I think, as well as book-buying and tip-jar tipping.

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GaFilk Streaming Audio

So you didn’t make it down to Georgia? Listen to the filk convention, live!

Schedule of Events:

Friday, 11 January 2007

19:00 – 19:45 Opening Ceremonies
20:00 – 20:45 “My Filk” Panel Game
21:00 – 21:45 Concom Choice Concert, Tom Smith [Tom primarily sings humorous songs. USELESS to try to describe him any more than that.]

Saturday, 12 January 2008

12:00 – 12:45 Peter Beagle [As a fantasy writer, high fantasy with a twist. As a singer/songwriter, eclectic.]
13:00 – 13:45 Brian Richardson
14:00 – 14:45 Brobdingnagian Bards [Renfaire Celtic filk pop. Excellent w. marketing, btw.]
15:00 – 16:45 2×10 Slots [Various people who signed up on the sheet sing ten sets' worth of two song sets.]
20:30 – 21:15 Jeff and Maya Bohnhoff [Rock parodies, served up with spirit. Maya's also a fantasy writer.]
21:30 – 22:45 Interfilk Auction

Sunday, 13 January 2008

12:00 – 14:15  Ecumenifilk   [Spiritual song service. Probably not all monotheistic.]
14:30 – 15:15  Closing Ceremonies

All times are in East Coast US time (GMT + 5) and may be fannishly approximate

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