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It's the End of the Year as We Know It

I can't explain how it is that I fell into the habit of posting the work of Thomas Nast for these last few holidays, but it's too late to turn back now.  As 2005 slips out the back looking bleary and sheepish and 2006 jumps out of the wardrobe and shouts "Boo!" there is time for one Last Fast Nast Blast from the Past:

A promising youth [click to enlarge]

The cartoon is from Harper's Weekly for January 14, 1882.  The online version explains Nast's now-obscure reference:

This January 1882 cartoon in Harper’s Weekly by Thomas Nast confidently closes the door on a false prediction that the world would end in 1881.

Mother Shipton is England’s most well-known prophetess, a British version of Nostradamus, the sixteenth-century French astrologer.  Born Ursula Southeil in 1488, at the age of 24 she married Toby Shipton and became known as Mother Shipton.  She died in 1561.

As with Nostradamus, Mother Shipton's prophecies were written in rhyming couplets; most were highly ambiguous, permitting them to be construed post hoc as having "predicted" notable events of the reader's choice.  The "end of the world" prediction was an exception to the ambiguity rule:

This Harper’s Weekly cartoon refers to the failure of Mother Shipton’s prophesy that the world would end in 1881:

Tis world to an end shall come
in eighteen hundred and eighty-one.

The Old Year angel of 1881 ushers out Mother Shipton, as the New Year youth of 1882 jauntily looks at his pocket watch.  The diamond stud worn by the formally-attired young man lights the exit for the departing elderly couple.  Today, about 100,000 people per year reportedly visit the Mother Shipton Cave and Historic Park in her hometown of Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, England.

I dare say the number of annual visitors to Mother's Cave would be much lower today had the world actually ended in 1881, so her error seems to have paid off in the long run. 

  • As a public service, here is a link to the official Mother Shipton's Cave website where, after a stormy introduction, interested readers will learn of the Cave's proximity to Britain's oldest tourist attraction (since 1630), The Petrifying Well.  The site also includes a lengthy narration of Mother Shipton's history, maps of the Park on the banks of the scenic River Nidd, photos, operating hours, admission prices, and other information of use to prophetess-seeking holiday makers.

Thanks for reading, and a Happy New Year to all.

It is the Best of Times, It is the Versed of Times

In my continuing year-end link clearance, today is the day for cleaning the shelves of accumulated poetry-related inventory.  Here we have no fewer than four (count 'em, four!) items all drawn directly or indirectly from 3quarksdaily, which is by a fair margin my favorite cultural discovery of the past six months or so.  This group begins in all seriousness, before sheering off rapidly into an abyss of poetical whimsy.  As we shall see in the final item, "The owls are not what they seem!"

  • Australian poet Peter Nicholson contributes a regular Poetry and Culture column to the quark-ish mix, and his November 21 essay took up composer Benjamin Britten, declaring him perhaps this past century's most adept at the difficult art of melding music to poetry.

Britten played with Menuhin at the end of the war for survivors of the concentration camps, and the memories he brought back from that time prompted the song cycle he composed not long after, The Holy Sonnets of John Donne.  The muscular confrontation with the fact of suffering brought forth a cycle in which Donne’s verse starkly counterpoises the music.  The counterweight to this confrontational style is the calm and lucid settings of Shelley, Tennyson, Coleridge, Middleton, Wordsworth, Owen, Keats and Shakespeare in Nocturne, where Britten finds the kind of equipoise so often missing elsewhere.  On the edge of sleep, or in the idea of sleep itself, the composer finds repose.  To use Yeats’ words, the ceremony of innocence may be drowned, but the memory that one was once innocent—Britten reaches at that with all his yearning.  You still wake to find the blood and pain of the real world, but during the cycle one has been enchanted, a little.  Some of Puck’s juice has been sprinkled in our eyes too.  The moment passes, but the moment was beautiful.  And one doesn’t forget that it was real.  Britten has made it so.  Poetry has helped the composer get there.... 

If one takes account of all the poetry settings Britten composed, and thinks of the literary input from Crabbe, Melville, James and Mann, and others, then one really is prompted to consider Britten one of poetry’s, and language’s, most eloquent advocates.  A composer as subtle and as various in his or her choice of texts, and the ability to set them as memorably as Britten: the muses were here in agreement, and they bestowed their graces liberally, even though darkness is clearly visible and any joy achieved is hard won.

Large quantities of Britten's poetry settings, including I think all of the works mentioned in this piece, are included in the enormous Naxos catalog that has become available for download to subscribers at eMusic.  I received an e-mail earlier this month from our author, Peter Nicholson, pointing me to his recently published pieces; I had already saved the link to this one at that point, and now I commend it to you.

  • Although they later had a bit of a falling out, Britten collaborated early on with W.H. Auden.  In a 3quarks item from earlier this week, Abbas Raza points to this article by Alexander Nemerov on the elaborate interrelations between Auden's poem, "Musée des Beaux Arts" -- which my 15-year old son recently was introduced to in a literature class -- and the painting to which it refers, and the relations between the painting and its sources, Ovid in particular.    Nemerov writes:

Pieter Bruegel made Landscape with the Fall of Icarus in 1938—or so W. H. Auden helps us see.  Auden wrote his famous poem 'Musée des Beaux Arts' that year, with its last stanza devoted to Bruegel's picture, and under the poem's pressure The Fall of Icarus becomes a commentary about events in the months leading up to inevitable world conflict.  More precisely, the poem transforms Bruegel's painting into a surrealist diagram concerning the place of the intellectual in violent times.  What do artists and poets and critics do in the face of catastrophe?  How do they register it in their work, or should they even try to do so?

  • Jack Gilbert is one of my own favorite poets, as I have mentioned at length previously.    Here, 3quarks contributor Morgan Meis reproduces a new Gilbert poem, "Ovid in Tears," one of five printed in the new issue of The Paris Review.  The other four poems are not available online, nor does the Review offer any online excerpt of the interview that apparently accompanies them.  Definitely enough to send me out hunting for a physical copy in short order.
  • Gilbert would have been a subject of a post that I have been meaning to get around to writing since mid-July, but will probably never actually compose.  The tale runs in this wise:

Back on July 28, post-avant poetics guru Ron Silliman posted the story of his emergence from a meeting on a hot afternoon and his retreat into the air-conditioned interior of a Barnes & Noble store, where he bought two volumes of poetry, one of which was Jack Gilbert's newest collection, published earlier this year, Refusing Heaven, which I had mentioned, partly as an excuse to post a photo of a hedgehog, a week prior to Ron's post.   [With me so far?]  Now, Ron Silliman knows a little something about Jack Gilbert, and is in a position to speak with some authority because the two poets knew each other and Ron studied with Gilbert many years back in San Francisco.  Fleeting references to Gilbert have cropped up in Ron's posts for years.  In this July 28 post Gilbert and Laura (Riding) Jackson, who is the other poet Ron whose work purchased that day, are described as

a bizarrely apt combination, these two gloomiest of poets.  One so in love with truth she sounds like Fox Mulder in the old X-Files,the other equally in love with beauty and the romance of the difficult.  It’s funny how very much alike they sound – but both are totalitarians as poets.  Both use generalizations, but they each absolutely are committed to the concepts that underlie them.  Neither is at all like the bland muddle of Auden.

The post moves on and Gilbert is not mentioned again.  (Many commenters spring in at this point to defend Auden, however.)  The following day, Greg Perry posted on Gilbert, quoting and praising a passage from "A Brief for the Defense," the initial poem in Refusing Heaven.  Greg's post was not triggered directly by Ron's, but was instead a follow-up to a brief item by Chris Lott in which Chris stated an obvious point:

I can’t tell from Ron’s hot post whether or not he actually likes Jack Gilbert’s work.

Now then, the post that I had planned to work on but never did was meant to be an answer to Chris Lott's question: I would run a thorough search through Ron Silliman's collected posts, find all of the references to Jack Gilbert, and deduce from this evidence whether or not Ron Silliman actually likes Jack Gilbert's work.  (My untutored speculation is that Ron probably does like Gilbert's work, but grudgingly and without the degree of enthusiasm he might otherwise muster, because he views Gilbert as a poet with the wherewithal to be so much better if only he had followed a more post-avant route rather than working uncomfortably close to Ron's bête noire, the alleged "School of Quietude."  If Ron Silliman characterizes you as "totalitarian," it is probably not entirely complimentary.  Only Ron himself knows for sure, of course.)

And there we are.  The post has never been written, and probably never will be.  BUT, if I ever get around to it, I have selected a really good title.  I will call it: "Topsy-Turvy: Gilbert & Silliman."


P.S., Since I've mentioned him above, this is as opportune a moment as any to say how much I liked Greg Perry's Blue Moose.

  • And now, the promised poetical silliness, and worth the wait I assure you.  3quarks' Abbas Raza, again, points the way to Alex Lencicki's Brokentype which in turn points the way to Francis Heaney's soon to be published Anthology Holy Tango of Literature.

In it, [Heaney] made anagrams of the names of famous poets, and then wrote poems based on the anagrams in the poet's style.  The book includes Emily Dickinson’s 'Skinny Domicile', Alfred Lord Tennyson’s 'Errol Flynn’s not Dead', and William Shakespeare’s 'Is Sperm Like a Whale?'

Both posts reproduce Heaney's William Carlos Williams send-up, "I WILL ALARM ISLAMIC OWLS".  As Alex says, it is "several grades of awesome." Other offerings include T.S. Eliot's "Toilets," William Butler Yeats' "Till I Must Be a Lawyer," and Wallace Stevens' "Elves Enact Laws," which begins:

Call the roll for the majority whip,
The wispy one, and bid him vote
On autumn leaves’ numismatic worth.
Let committees dawdle in the glen
As they are wont to do, and let their aides
Weave flowers through broken lute strings.
Let vetos float amid the spheres.
The only senator is the senator of pointy ears. 

Nor do playwrights escape Heaney's notice: we are offered excerpts from, among others, Samuel Beckett ("Bake Me Cutlets," in which Vladimir and Estragon co-host a cooking show), Tennessee Williams ("Ellen's Siamese Twin"), and 2005 Nobel laureate Harold Pinter, whose "Horrid Planet" is a previously unknown episode of the Star Wars saga:

(Long pause.)

C-3P0: There’s a lot of sand here, that’s all I have to say. (Pause.)  A lot of sand.  (Pause.)  Don’t care for it.  No.  Don’t care for it at all.  (Pause.)  And too much sun.  (Pause.)  I don’t mind a bit of sun, of course.  I can’t think of anyone who minds a bit of sun.  It’s nice.  Warms you up.  Glints off you, it’s cheerful.  But there’s a limit.  And then there’s all this sand.  (Pause.)  Too much sand.  It’s interesting. When you think about it.  Eh?  What you do, when you’re crash-landing on a planet, you’re worried about landing in the sea.  The sea!  Because you’d be stranded, wouldn’t you.  No land in sight.  And then you crash. And this is what you get.  Sand.  (Pause.)  It’s funny, when you think about it.


I am at a loss for, well, words.

The book can be pre-ordered through various outlets (Amazon, f'rinstance), and in a fit of generosity Heaney has posted the whole thing in PalmReader format (for those who read on PDA's) and as a text file, here.

Magnetic Field Blend, or, Crushed by the Wheels of Industry

I am always saving links to items that catch my fancy, in the hope that they will eventually find their way into a post.  As the year runs down, I want to clear out my aging 2005 link inventory to make room for all of the new and exciting incoming 2006 links, so today I offer this miscellany of items relating to food and [mostly] drink.  Less tipsy compilations will follow in the countdown to Twenty-Ought-Six.

  • The Guardian's "Bad Science" columnist Ben Goldacre reports from the frontiers of winology -- in this instance, winology is to oenology as astrology is to astronomy -- on the dubious benefits of magnetizing your wine.  [Link via Arts & Letters Daily.]
    • This story reminds me of the wacky, New Age-y "pyramid power" craze of the late '70's, during which Vic Bergeron, founder and namesake of the Trader Vic's Polynesian restaurants, became enamored of the idea that wine would age in a superior fashion if stored in pyramid-shaped cellars.  He installed the pointy contraptions at several of his restaurant locations.  It seems not to have worked out, as you will find no evidence of the practice today.  Perhaps if he had magnetized the pyramids . . . .
  • Tom Wark rightly sings the praises of the Kir Royale .  If you don't already know what it is, you need to click through and find out.  The Kir Royale is a most elegant cocktail that happens also to be a particular favorite of the two most important women in my life: my wife and my mother.  (No wonder, then, that the latter thinks that the former is a very fine daughter-in-law.)  Involving as it does Champagne or other sparkling wine, a Kir Royale is an excellent choice for sipping during New Year's Eve celebrations.
  • Wine_and_fire_1 One of the biggest stories in California winemaking over the past few months has been the fallout from the colossal warehouse fire in Vallejo that ruined or destroyed as many as half a million cases of wine belonging to Napa and Sonoma County vintners large and small.  I took a look at the insurance problems being faced by those wine makers on my other weblog just before Christmas.   (That post includes links to Tom Wark's excellent coverage of the fire and aftermath, including exclusive photos of the scene.)

More recently, Bob Sargent's Specialty Insurance Blog has raised the obvious follow-up question: if the insurance isn't in place to cover this loss, is there a potential claim for negligence against the brokers who placed the policies?  Any way you look at it, where there's fire, there's not just smoke, but lawyers.

  • At TCS Daily, Professor Bainbridge continues his campaign against The Scourge of Corked Wines, with this somewhat political slant:

I like old things.  Old ideas.  Old books.  Old wines.  I guess that's part of the reason I'm a conservative.  Yet, the intelligent conservative combines a disposition to preserve with an ability to reform.  And so we come to the question of closures for wine.

More corkage from the good Professor on his wine weblog, here.  My own commentary from this past August on non-cork closures is here.

  • Finally, in a bibulous literary vein, 3quarksdaily provides a link to a TLS consideration of Omar Khayyam and of Edward Fitzgerald's 'translation' of his Rubaiyat, aka "Omar Khayyam's Bible for drunkards."
    • The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam are not, of course, to be confused with Khayyam's Ruby Yacht, discovered by Bullwinkle J. Moose on the shores of Lake Veronica.

Christmas in the Rearview Mirror

For no reason I can identify, this year it felt to me as though Christmas had arrived much earlier than usual, not in an annoyed "must they start putting up the reindeer right after Halloween" sort of a way, but in the sense of actively looking for opportunities to hear Christmas-ey music and to think Christmas-ey thoughts.  Perhaps to counterbalance this festive feeling, I managed to put off my Christmas shopping even further than is my usual procrastinatory habit.  It's all a mystery in the end.

In any case, there is still a little bit of Christmas to be gotten out of my system, and this is the post in which I intend to do it, with two last Yule-ish items: a literary passage and a song.

First, the literary passage and a bit of happy coincidence.  I have been reading John Crowley's Little, Big, which I was inspired to do by a mention of it in the recent online seminar on Susanna Clarke's novel, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, hosted at Crooked Timber

  • If you have read JS&MN, which I recommend you do, and if you enjoyed it, as I did, then the Crooked Timber seminar is a must, particularly because Susanna Clarke is herself an active and engaging participant and provides all manner of comments concerning the world of the book, why things work as they do in it, and the process by which it came to be written.  Top drawer.  There is likely a good post to be written -- which I expect I will never get around to doing -- on the subject of how many Really Good Books and authors have first come to my attention via the often backhanded references to them in Crooked Timber posts over the past couple of years.  That site is a gold mine of good reading if you keep your eyes peeled. 

On Christmas evening, I had reached Chapter IV of Book 2 of Little, Big, in which we find the members of the Drinkwater family ice skating on the frozen lawn of the vast and inexplicable house at Edgewood, and which begins with this date-appropriate passage:

'Christmas,' said Doctor Drinkwater as his red-cheeked face sped smoothly toward Smoky’s, 'is a kind of day, like no other in the year, that doesn’t seem to succeed the days it follows, if you see what I mean.'  . . .

'I mean,' Doctor Drinkwater said, reappearing beside him, 'that every Christmas seems to follow immediately after the last one; all the months that came between don’t figure in.  Christmases succeed each other, not the falls they follow.'


And now, more music.  On the day after Christmas, I discovered through a Christmas Day post by Alan Williamson at *Sixeyes yet another new cover version of Vince Guaraldi's "Christmas Time is Here" to add to the two that I posted back on December 19.  This one is a particular treat for me, because it is by one of my favorite singer-songwriter-musicians, Eric Matthews.  It features his signature breathy multi-tracked vocals and a particularly nice trumpet part reminiscent of Chet Baker or the more melodic and muted side of Miles Davis.  I realize that the desire for Christmas music, if you have it at all, can generally be expected to run out no later than Christmas Day, if it lasts even that long, but there is no reason not to think ahead and to begin preparing yourself now with fresh music for next Christmas.  And here it is:

This comes by way of Matthews' current label, Empyrean Records, through which you may also obtain, if you really want a jump on your 2006 Christmas music needs, two additional Eric Matthews recordings for the season: versions of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear."

And now that that's done, it's time to begin looking to the New Year.

Happy Boxing Day, Unanticipated Earthly Reward Edition

Saint Stephen with a rose
In and out of the garden he goes

  • "St. Stephen," Lyric: Robert Hunter, Music: Jerry Garcia

Beach Cricket, Boxing Day, Kings vs Shepherds [click to enlarge]

A Happy Boxing Day to all, notwithstanding the holiday's general non-observance in these United States.  Boxing Day, December 26, is the designated Feast Day honoring Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr (stoned, ca. AD 33), and is listed in the Canada Labour Code, among others, as a holiday.

We now interrupt our regular post-Christmas post to toot our own horn.  (If a horn is tooted in the Forest and no one reads, has it in fact been tooted?  Does it disturb the bears?  And what about . . . Naomi?) 

Tooting commences now:

It is an honor indeed, not to mention a surprise, to find that this weblog has been granted a 2005 Blawg Review Award as:

"Best Personal Blog by a legally-oriented male blogger." 

Thanks be to Themis!  Given the caliber of the other recipients of these awards, I will be blushing and shaking my head in disbelief for days to come. 

Congratulations to all of the honorees, especially to my opposite number -- "Best Personal Blog by a legally-oriented female blogger" -- Scheherazade of Stay of Execution.  The awardees individually and collectively are worth your time, and each does his, her, or their part toward debunking the notion that clear thinking and clearer writing must be left at the law school door.

It is a particular pleasure to find this Fool's regular reader, commenter and online kindred spirit, David Giacalone, two paragraphs further down the List, garnering a deserving nod in the "Creative Law Blog" category for his combination of tiny poems and deep thought at f/k/a . . . ..  David's own comments on the Awards, with interjections from Professor Yabut, are here.   

Special thanks are also surely due to E L Eversman of AutoMuse -- your one-stop shop for all things automotive and legal -- who incorporated an unsolicited link to this Fool's musings on the Number "L" when she hosted Blawg Review #36 earlier this month.  There can be no doubt that she contributed at least as much as my hairdresser and my publicist to my weblog's receipt of this award.

And so back to work.  Box on!


[Cartoon, "Beach cricket: kings vs shepherds on boxing day", by and subject to copyright of Peter Nicholson; reproduced pursuant to the generous permissions granted on the artist's website.]

Have Yourself a Nast-y Little Christmas


Forget sugar plums!  Here's a pleasant vision, indeed!  Less doleful by far than our Christmas Eve item but also by Thomas Nast, from the December 23, 1882, Supplement to Harper's Weekly comes a dash of "Christmas Flirtation."

Still, although I do so with regret, I am compelled in the interests of historical accuracy  to report that a somewhat disheartening story goes with this picture, as we learn from the Macculloch Hall Historical Museum of Morristown, New Jersey:

In Christmas Flirtation Nast portrayed his eldest child, Julia, as a sensual Victorian woman standing suggestively beneath mistletoe.  Nast hoped that an advantageous marriage for Julia would secure his social standing in America.  Sadly, Julia never married and died an alcoholic spinster in her father’s home.

Notwithstanding this world's sadnesses large and small, this Fool wishes you and yours a most Merry and Festive Christmas.  And, because this year the occasions coincide at sundown, he wishes any number of others of you -- and most particularly the families Coencas and Hoch -- a Happy Hanukkah.  And look!  With thanks to Google Images and the White House, I have even found an illustration of . . . The National Hanukkah Bush!

Get it?  'Hanukkah Bush?'  Ho Ho!

Christmas Eve, 1862+143

As was the case here on Thanksgiving, it's time for some Thomas Nast.  Here, with the assistance of a gentleman from Virginia, a Christmas Eve reminder that some things never change:


The wintry blast goes wailing by,
    The snow is falling overhead;
    I hear the lonely sentry's tread,
And distant watch-fires light the sky.

Dim forms go flitting through the gloom;
    The soldiers cluster round the blaze
    To talk of other Christmas days,
And softly speak of home and home.

            * * *

There's not a comrade here to-night
    But knows that loved ones far away
    On bended knee this night will pray:
"God bring our darling from the fight."


Illustration: "Christmas Eve, 1862" by Thomas Nast, published in Harper's Weekly, January 3, 1863, pp. 8-9.

Verse: Excerpts from "Christmas Night of '62," by William Gordon McCabe (1841-1920), via

Come back tomorrow for something a little more cheerily seasonal.

Melancholy, Baby?

Speaking of melancholy music, as I was at the close of the preceding post, I have been meaning to link to a November 30 observation by the estimable Gideon Strauss:

There is a certain tough yet sentimental style that seems to be emerging among younger semi-popular singers.  My daughters listen to a lot of singers who do a wistful acoustic music, full of the loss of childhood, and yet trying for bravery in an almost-hopelessly complex adult world. . . .

* * *

My guess is that this minority cultural mood – not wanting to be taken in by the slick commercialized culture in which we are awash, but not wanting to succumb to a hopeless cynicism either; not wanting to give up on the retrospectively imagined fairytale innocence of childhood but not wanting more than the surface appearance of naiveté – is to young people in their late teens and early twenties what punk was to that age group in the late 70s, or grunge in the early 90s.  Not for everybody, not disco, but the lead indicator of the emotional style of a generation’s cultural leaders.

The principal musical examples cited are Coldplay [*sigh* Remember when they were really pretty good?   Two albums ago?   Before their success?  *sigh*] and Damien Rice.   There are many others out there.

Fortress_still The gem hidden within the post is the link to the marvelous sad and enchanting video for "Fortress" by the San Diego-based band Pinback.  As suggested by the figure of military mien to the left, it resembles the Bayeux tapestry as reimagined by some combination of Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam and the Brothers Quay; I particularly like the little old man with his Balinese shadow-puppet head, casting his seeds from his boat to the shore to explode into bloom.  For those who like the song itself (as I do), it is available for free and legal download as an MP3 through the kind auspices of betterPropaganda.

Another good example of the sort of music the Strausslings may be listening to is the Swedish singer Jose Gonzalez.  (While born in Sweden, he is of Argentine extraction, which explains his not-particularly-Swedish- sounding moniker.)  His sound is shown off to good advantage in this European advert for Sony's Bravia LCD television set, which hypnotically combines innumerable brightly colored bouncy-balls with several of the most steeply inclined hillside streets of San Francisco.  The link is drawn from deep within this post from late November at Said the Gramophone.  [Note: the regular and extended high-resolution versions of that Sony ad are in the new video-on-your-iPod H.264 format and require the most current version of Quicktime to play.]


Said the Gramophone is also the source at which, for the time being at least, you can hear a quietly astonishing recording of Norway's Nils Økland, soloing on Hardanger fiddle, performing -- channeling, really -- George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps".  The Beatles were, in our terms, long ago.  This song is not quite 40 years old, but in Økland's hands it sounds as if it might as well be 400.  There is nothing of Olde Musicke pastiche here -- Økland is responding to this music Right Now -- and yet it emerges sounding as if it were a field recording from, say, Hampton Court in the age of the first Elizabeth.  It's winter, it's cold at Hampton, and a slow pavane echoes down the halls, off the flags, into the night, and is gone over the drifting snow.  Until now.*


Continuing our drift away from the sort of music Gideon Strauss was talking about, I must mention just one more, also with timelessness nipping about its ankles:  Music (for Robots) posts a [presumably authorized] MP3 file of David Thomas Broughton's "Unmarked Grave," an honorable addition to the "I'm dead overseas at the hands of our enemies and singing to you from beyond as the strangers rifle my pockets and the scavengers pick my bones" tradition of British balladry.  The details of the battle matter not at all -- it could be the Marne, it could be Culloden, it could be most anywhere at any time.  Echo and loss, that's all one needs to know.  The M(fR) post is of the complete song, which runs north of eight minutes; a slightly shorter, excerpted version (five minutes plus) is also available [and definitely authorized] at betterPropaganda.

Again, cheers!


*UPDATE [0902 PST 12/23/05]: A comment has called my attention to the fact that Sean and the other Gramophonistas continue to be plagued by technical problems rendering their earlier-posted files unavailable, including the Nils Økland performance I touted so enthusiastically in this post.  Fear not, good readers: for the time being at least, you can access it here in the Forest.

Hark! Guaraldi Angels Sing!

No, friends, there is no War on ChristmasTM being carried out on this weblog.  Christmas time is here and, in observance of that fact, please permit me to offer you not one, but two, versions of, well, "Christmastime Is Here."

I refer of course to the song Vince Guaraldi wrote and recorded lo! those forty years ago for 1965's A Charlie Brown Christmas.  And in these edgy times what could be more appropriate than an unequivocally secular Christmas song from an animated television special that itself gives pride of place to young Linus' absolutely sincere recitation of the biblical Christmas narrative?   (Charlie Brown as a whole is a rather more sophisticated meditation on the cross-pollination of the sacred and the commercial in the Contemporary American Christmas than is offered by many of the pundits on either side of this year's recurrence of the supposed War on the holiday.  [No no, I don't mean you, David.]  And am I the only person who, when he wishes someone "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings" or "Seasons' Greetings," has always thought more of the precipitous arrival of the New Year on Christmas' heels than of "political correctness"?  But I digress.  Here, then, are the promised performances:)

First, a 2004 recording from The Silent League, an orchestral-pop project headed up by Mercury Rev veteran Justin Russo:

Second, a somewhat more abstracted and drifty 2005 version from the Atlanta-based band Snowden:

  • Snowden - Christmastime Is Here [MP3 link]
    • This comes from a 4-song freely-downloadable EP, Licorice, that is available from the band through the link above or here.  The EP includes two more secular seasonal selections -- John Lennon's "Happy Christmas (War is Over)" and Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" -- in moody, woozy renditions, as well as a non-holiday song, "China Light."  None of these is calculated to cheer you up, but they are just the thing if you like your music in a melancholy vein.


Rounding a Curve on the Time-Space Continuum [updated and updated again]

This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town
And beats high mountain down.

Many readers will recognize that text as one of the riddles posed by Gollum to Bilbo Baggins in the darkness beneath the Misty Mountains in Chapter 5 of The Hobbit.  The answer is "Time," and it must be said that the riddle takes rather a negative and unappealing, if hardly nontraditional, view of its subject.  I am of a more cheerful and optimistic disposition, myself.

Today I begin to prepare to approach the entry to the period in which I will, eventually, draw near to the zone surrounding the penumbra of that era in which I expect, at some point, to find myself in proximity to the outskirts of the vicinity, or perhaps the environs, of the route that leads to those paths and meanders through which, in a slow and circumspect manner seasoned by the occasional sojourn on one appealing byway or another, it is to be expected that, in due time but in no great hurry, I will at the last arrive at the approximate mid-point of my early life.

In short today is my birthday.  Precisely which of my birthdays it is today may be deduced from the visual clue below:

'A Fool in the Forest' is brought to you today by the numeral 'L'. Nifty!


UPDATE [0856 PST 12/08/05]: 

First, many many thanks to all of the kind commenters below and to those others who sent their links and wishes for this Occasion.   As I remarked in a comment at young Rick's Futurballa Blog:

When you've got your Lth, you've got everything.

Apropos of the Big L, see also the intriguing statistic posted this morning by Michael Blowhard:

'Only 0.3 percent of the Internet's estimated 53.4 million bloggers are age 50 or older.'

Member of an elite minority?  Moi?  Toi aussi, peut-être?


FURTHER UPDATE [0842 PST 12/09/05]: 

Schenectadehuvian haikuiste David Giacalone observes that today (Dec. 9) is the saint's day for the relevantly-named 16th century Welsh martyr Saint John Roberts -- hanged, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn Dec. 10, 1610 (which cannot have been pleasurable), two fingers are Saint John's sole remaining remains, but that's the fault of the French Revolution. 

In a concluding oblique reference, David adds:

Your Editor probably would not have remembered this date, except that it falls on the birthday of his [twin] brother . . . . 

(Bracketed language in original.)  I have pondered this koan-like hint and can only conclude with:

Happy Birthday, Arthur!   

Happy Birthday, David! 

LVI long, and prosper!

Postscript:  Concerned that his ever-reexpanding focus on law-related topics at f/k/a/ was driving out haiku content, David recently launched two fresh Blogspot weblogs devoted solely to his passion for concise Japanese poetic forms: simply senryu and  dagosan's haiku diary.   He's much less coy, though perhaps somewhat more conflicted, about his birthday there and there.