Monthly Archives: February 2010

Comedians Have Their Uses

Via the sidebar at Head Noises and DarwinCatholic, a very funny skit. Watch it to the very end. :)

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The Worst Audiobook Sins

1. Nothing happens.

If nothing happens and nothing entertaining is said, I am out of there. I am willing to deal with buildup; but when even a relatively short book is spending 45 minutes on nothing, that’s the end of my patience. (This is why pulp makes a pretty good showing in audiobook circles.)

The subset of this is: After a While, Nothing Happens. A lot of books have pacing problems in the middle, and this becomes glaringly obvious in audiobooks.

2. Bad writing.

There’s only so long you can put up with writing that makes you want to shoot yourself in the head, and there’s only so much a good voice actor can do. Unfortunately, a lot of bestsellers fall in this category.

Subsets of this: That’s Not How People Talk, I Can Predict Your Character’s Thoughts Word-for-Word, Too Many Similes and Metaphors, and Skip the Flippin’ Descriptions of Dresses Already! Most of these are probably the fault of the book’s editing (or lack thereof, in today’s publishing industry). But that’s no consolation to you the listener.

3. Being too wrenching.

There’s a fine line between good emotional writing and trying to make your readers slit their wrists. For sanity’s sake, I often stop reading books that are too sad; and I have less patience with audiobooks. Audio is slower, and it’s harder to skip or skim depressing bits.

4. Not safe for work. Or home. Or anywhere else.

Reading sex scenes is one thing. Listening to them is just degrading, like audioporn. And since audiobooks don’t usually come with content warnings, and downloaded audiobooks don’t have tracks for easy fast-forwarding… ew. And that’s the end of that book. So I tend to avoid contemporary love stories, lest I confront a sudden waste of money in Chapter 12.

5. Bad narrator.

You can usually protect yourself from this, nowadays, because you can usually find samples online of the narrator’s work before buying. Really, most people are decent enough even if they just read the words on the page. But hooboy, some voice actors are annoying! There are some favorite books of mine that I’ve actively avoided purchasing, because the narrator is just. so. bad.

6. A main character who needs a boot to the head.

That’s fine if it’s intentional. If the author just didn’t realize how annoying all the angst and misunderstanding and other character traits would be, it’s not fine and it’s not entertaining. Occasionally some brilliant audiobook reader helps you out by subtly satirizing the character, but usually they don’t. Alas.

7. Factual errors.

Mistakes are annoying enough when you read a book. But when you hear somebody say something not true, it feels like they’re lying to your face. You want to argue with them or inform them of their error. You can’t.

The subset of this is: The Plot Has Just Gone Down the Drain. If what they said wrong was vital to the plot, that’s pretty much the end of all suspension of disbelief right there. Since audiobooks give you more time to think, your mind will constantly wander off every time the mistake comes up again.

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Golf Course Content

Everything connects to everything else, if you look hard enough. So I was looking up Cruit Island in Donegal to find out where some of the Danta De songs came from, and found that a lovely golf magazine series on Irish golf courses included the tiny course on Cruit Island.

So here’s some legitimate golf content for Dan…. and there are links at the bottom of the pages to the rest of the series of articles.

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Who Was Una Ni Ogain?

A lot of the weird editorial decisions behind Danta De have begun to make sense to me. The editor didn’t make them, and the editor wasn’t there to create consistency in how the book was put together. The editor was dead.

It turns out that the driving force behind the book, Una Ni Ogain (or Agnes Young, as she was born), was a little old lady who died in 1927, a year before the book was published!! She was actually from a Protestant, Unionist family up north, the Youngs of Galgorm House in Ballymena. But she and her sister Rose Maud Young (Rois Ni Ogain) fell in love with the language and culture of the non-Scots-Irish folks in the Glens of Antrim. There was a whole circle of such ladyfolks and men of the same vintage: Roger Casement’s cousins, Margaret Hutton who translated the Tain Bo Cuailnge, Margaret Dobbs of Feis na Gleann, some close supporters of Patrick Pearse’s school-founding efforts, and so on. (Now that I have the proper search terms, I can find this sort of stuff. Sigh.) The folks up north then who were interested in Gaelic culture were apparently of all different classes and creeds, all mixing together pleasantly because the people in charge worked hard to make a friendly environment.

[Rois Ni Ogain is remembered today as an editor also; she put together a vast three-volume collection of Gaelic poetry called Duanaire Gaedhilge. (Published in 1921, 1924, and 1930.) Her diaries still exist, and have been used as a source for this very interesting history of Feis na nGleann. She was a great song collector.]

So clearly, what happened is that Una Ni Ogain put together Volume 2 pretty much by herself, and it wasn’t a difficult printing project to put together or check. But it took three years (according to the printer credits) for Michael O’Brien to draw and typeset the music and lyrics for Volume 1. (Obviously a spare-time or intern project.) This allowed a lot of inconsistencies to accumulate. By the time it was 1928 and the three years were done, Ni Ogain had been dead a year; so she would have had a hard time checking the galleys. Her music editor, Dwyer, was probably not too concerned about anything except checking the scores.

Well, now I feel rotten about about complaining so much. But it’s a bit weird that they wouldn’t mention her death in the books. I guess, Ireland being a small country, they figured that everybody knew.

The Northern Irish background also may explain why so many of the songs and poems use Northern spellings. I was wondering about that…. Also, she had a perfect right to namedrop so many famous people in her foreword. They were indeed her friends and helpers.

Ni Ogain’s background may also explain why the “Nihil Obstat” and “Imprimi Potest” pasted into my copy weren’t given to Danta De until 1933. She was a Protestant, Hyde was a Protestant, a lot of their buddies were Protestant; so it may not have been on their radar that they needed to submit this stuff to the Catholic archdiocese for approval. By the time somebody thought about it, the book was probably already headed into print and it was too late to have it checked. The Chancery staff were in Dublin, they may not have known Irish all that well, and they certainly might not have known old-fashioned Irish and Northern Irish very well. And then the Depression hit, and there were more urgent things for the Chancery staff to do… so yeah, that might all take quite a while.

So yes, it’s a weird book with a lot odd about its presentation to the public. But there were reasons that it went slightly pearshaped, and they probably weren’t any fault of Una Ni Ogain’s. So I apologize for any previous opprobrious comments about the sanity and professionalism of the dead. :)

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Danta De Status Report

I thought folks might be interested in how my grappling with that 1928 Danta De hymnal from Ireland is coming along.

Music transcribed: 68 tunes. That’s all the PD tunes in the book, not including reuses of the same tunes for different lyrics.

Lyrics transcribed and translated literally: 13.

Lyrics translated for singing by me: 6.

Singable public domain translations I’ve found elsewhere: 6.

I haven’t yet identified most of the tune names which aren’t given. Most come from Joyce, Petrie, Stanford-Petrie, Macbean, Annagain/Clanndioluinn, or Darley/McCall, and those are fairly large books of traditional tunes. I freely admit to not worrying about this much, since I know they’re PD. What with all the various ABC format tune collections and tune finders, and all the digitized tunebooks out there, I’m sure all will eventually become clear.

I did find out which tune is used in the Episcopal hymnal as ST MARK’S BERKELEY. It’s an ornamented version of the tune for #66 in Danta De, which is a tune from Darley/McCall’s 1914 collection. Irish Music Collections Online does include all the tunes in Darley/McCall in a handy digitized format, but it’s taking me a while to work through it.

UPDATE: Finally… last but not least… I FOUND THE ENGLISH VERSION!!!

Yes, the fabled English-language volume of Danta De does exist, and is online, thanks to those weird-spelling odd-cataloguing folks from Scotland. (It was catalogued under Young and O’Dwyer, even though it must have been sitting right next to Volume 1 and it says Ni Ogain on the title page. Sigh.) I wouldn’t have found it, except that I decided to browse through the “Gaelic” collection on archive.org. (Which isn’t all Gaelic stuff, actually. It’s just all National Library of Scotland stuff, mostly in English and often not concerned with Gaelic topics. Don’t ask me why….)

The English-language volume doesn’t include any music at all, but it does include a heckuva lot more understandable explanations. (I mean, sure I could have translated everything, given enough time. But it’s a lot easier for me just to read the flippin’ English!] The English translations are mostly not rhymed (though a few are, and singable too); they are mostly provided to encourage language learners, not for church. Thus the crammed-together column format of this second volume is entirely reasonable.

The only down side is that the late Douglas Hyde continues to be crushingly better as a songwriter than I, and so the contrast between his versifications and mine is not necessarily pleasant…. :) He was also forced to be President of Ireland, though, which I may confidently hope to be spared. :)

Well, my work here is not done, but it has just been considerably advanced. I won’t have to transcribe and translate everything literally before I can work on singable versions, now. I also have a lot more idea of what stuff I want to tackle.

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Actual Tudor Recipe for Butterbeer

I’ll never find this again, so I’d better link to it now….

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Medieval Lent Food!

Tomorrow’s your last chance for three months to eat a Tart on Ember Day! Oh noes!

If you don’t mind wading through the meat pies, Cariadoc’s Miscellany has some very good Lent choices in its pie section:

Malaches Whyte is a sort of egg-bread pudding-quiche. There are also Spinach Tarts, Bean Tarts, Mushroom Pastries (with cheese), and so on.

A lot of this food wouldn’t have been good for Lent in period, as the fasting rules were stricter. (No eggs or dairy, as the Eastern Rites still do. They called dairy “white meat”, meaning “white food”.) So for example, Rice for a Fish Day (Fish Day is actually a normal Friday, not a Lenten one; but same difference in this case) uses almond milk instead of milk, and Tarts out of Lent do use milk and cheese. In recipes where you could substitute almond milk for milk, it wasn’t too hard to make a non-dairy version for Lent.

For example, Viand of Cyprus in Lent sounds like a pretty nummy nutty seafood chowder, though I’m sure it would also be nice made with regular milk.

The Vegetable section and some of the other sections also have lots of goodies. Lenten Greens sounds pretty good. I mean, nothing against kale and cabbage; but I bet your kids would like them better with raisins!

Here’s the Table of Contents.

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Mersenne’s Full Life

It turns out that the mathematician Mersenne was a priest who became general of his religious order (the Minims, which is fitting for a mathematician!). He taught philosophy, theology, science, and music, and he wrote books on just about everything and letters to just about everybody. If he had a spare moment, he’d go walk in the garden and sing and pray, because he hated to be idle. Even when he died, he asked that his body be autopsied for science. (Which I’m sure took some dispensing; but his superiors knew he wasn’t doing it as some gesture of disbelief in the Resurrection, so no real problemo.)

Here’s a brief biography by a contemporary and fellow Minim. (Translated into English.)

An extensive post on Mersenne by the eccentric and eclectic Dr. Thursday.

As for the Minims, they were founded by St. Francis of Paola. They were a Franciscan discalced order which had a fourth vow, to abstain from meat and “white food” (dairy) all the year round, instead of just in Lent. (Unless under doctor’s orders, of course.) They got their nickname because they were supposed to regard themselves as the “least” of all the religious orders. Today the order is pretty much only in Italy.

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Beyond Imagination

From Matt Labash, the story of a priest in Haiti who buries the unknown dead. Normal conditions for him are unimaginably bad, and now it’s worse. Riveting and haunting.

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For All Your Norse Winter Needs….

Oooh. Free scholarly publications. Including one by Christopher Tolkien. Yum.

Via The Cimmerian, 2 years back.

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New. Doc. Savage. Movie.

Can five wisecracking, crimefighting, scientists and engineers laired up in the Empire State Building (thanks to the one who’s richer and crazier than Bruce Wayne), find success at last on the silver screen?

Let’s hope so!

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Well, That Explains a Lot.

A good chunk of the Irish religious song tradition is composed of substitution keening for funerals.

See, one of the last vestiges of the bardic and poetic traditions of Ireland was the traditional improvisational keening songs that women sang at funerals. Most women were able to compose a decent one on the fly, though it was a nice touch for your wake and funeral to be able to hire a professional bean-chaointe, or keening woman. Keening was an Irish Catholic thing, and it replaced, or was a lower class version of, the traditional formal laments of poets and bards. There also seems to be some evidence that keening women acted as MCs for the proceedings, especially if the principal grievers weren’t experienced at running wakes and funerals. Sometimes (just like bards and poets had), they showed up at a funeral without being invited, if they thought the person could pay and was too cheap to ask for them.

But at a certain point in the 19th century, after Catholic priests were legal again in Ireland, it turned out that a lot of Catholic priests were not too fond of having large bands of keening female relatives and friends around at the wake and the funeral. This probably had something to do with their very spare ideas of Catholicism, or their embarrassment with folk customs of other kinds that easily scandalized more “modern” parts of Europe. There were allegations that professional keening women were prone to public drunkenness. (Yeah. Totally unlike other Irish people at wakes….) Of course, a lot of this may have been reasonable objections. Wakes and funerals apparently did get out of hand, and probably needed some regulation and calming down.

But what was announced was that keening was an unseemly amount of grief for a Christian to display. (Although it was formalized, and must have kept people busy thinking instead of brooding.) Unlike other wake customs, keening was banned outright by the Irish Catholic Church.

Of course, this went over like a lead balloon. Beyond the issue of having to change your second or first job rather suddenly, if you were a professional keener, it went against most people’s ideas of what was fitting.

Eventually, a compromise was reached. Keening was still banned; but if you held hands and swayed over the coffin like you were keening, or walked behind the coffin to the cemetery singing like you were keening, while singing songs about Jesus that somehow sounded a lot like keening, that was okay.

So… there’s a lot a lot a lot of Irish religious songs about Jesus’ Passion that are in the keening style. Traditionally, people mostly only sang them at funerals and on Good Friday. And that explains most of the Lent section of Danta De. :)

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Translation: Posadh Naomtha Cana (The Holy Wedding at Cana)

So here’s my translation.

Grace’s King was at the wedding.
Don’t we wish we had been there
Down in Cana with Mother Mary.
And such a merry feast to share!
Gathered round a groaning table,
When they ran out of the wine
And poured water into stone jars –
Never vintage was so fine!

King of earth and Lord of water,
Loving Jesus, faithful God,
First you wore a thorn crown for us,
And then You bore the Cross and trod
Roads of stone while we tore at You,
Then with strangers crucified –
Yet You unlocked our sins’ prison,
And set us feasting by Your side.

All great riches are a small thing
Next to Glory’s King divine,
Serving supper that is His body
And His blood, while sinners dine.
Put no faith in cash or credit,
Burning off like fog or lies.
But in God’s Kingdom, store up glory
And in His bounty, we’ll arise.

It’s not as literal a translation as I’d like, but it’s pretty close.

Noirin Ni Riain sings a version of this one (spelled “Posadh Naofa Cana”), but not to exactly the same tune as the one in Danta De. That tune comes from Maighread Ni Annagain, who apparently did a bunch of song collections with Sean Clandillon, married him, and continued to sing with him when he was head of RTE in Dublin.

(He was also known for suing a magazine for slander, because a reviewer said that the song collections of him and Ni Annagain were an insult to Irish music. Long suit, he won, the magazine folded. Then he quit RTE and became a health inspector because it was less trouble than public life!)

Anyway, it’s a good tune and I’ll put it up shortly on my website, along with all the others. (Yes, I finally transcribed the whole hymnal, minus the possibly-copyrighted modern stuff.)

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And They’re Allowed to Go to Dog Shows???

I just saw one of the stupidest essays ever. I realize that this is saying a lot, on the Internet. But….

First of all, a Scottish deerhound breeder said this. I expect those people to have some sense.

Second, this person said that, if he chose not to vaccinate _any_ of his dogs, not even with puppy shots, that it was all his decision and no problem for others.

The heartbreak of a lot of dog diseases is that they are _extremely_ easy to pass along. If one unvaccinated dog gets distemper, all the unvaccinated dogs get distemper. All the stray dogs in the neighborhood that you never realized came to visit? They get distemper. All the non-dog animals in the neighborhood that can catch canine distemper (like raccoons, skunks, and foxes) get distemper. There’s still no treatment, once you catch it. All die in agony, or almost all. Oh the embarassment.

So sure, you may think you can keep your dogs isolated from all infection. But can you keep them isolated from stray dogs and raccoons and foxes? Those are urban animals, not just country ones. Are you really going to tell me that your dogs never go outside?

We also have delusions that it’s okay to permit your dogs to get sick, and that if you feed dogs raw food and don’t vaccinate them for a few generations, the survivors will never get sick. I’m sure this will work, given that canine diseases existed for millions of years before domestication, and that the foxes and raccoons and skunks are not coming down with canine distemper because they order out pizza to their dens with their cellphones.

So– really really holistic and healthy. When your whole kennel dies, the way whole kennels of dogs regularly used to die before distemper vaccines, I hope you enjoy knowing that you took care of your puppies so very well, and didn’t let their “vital forces” be “depleted” by a vaccine. I’m sure you’ll be glad to join all that long history of grieving breeders, cleaning out everything in the kennel with bleach after burning your dogs’ bodies or covering them with lime. Yay! Happy fun!

All I can say is that it’s a darned good thing the survival of Scottish deerhounds is not solely in the hand of this dangerous loon, and that I’m very glad that I live nowhere near such a pesthole in the making. Unfortunately, folks in California are stuck with her, and she actually has influence in her breed. Creepy….

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