At least the weekend is over and done with.
Sometimes my head has too many thoughts.
Today’s song holds more than just a nice melody for me. In a lot of ways, what it is about is a reminder of why I do the work that I do, and why it is important to do it well. If you google “David Milgaard” (the inspiration – what a terrible designation – behind the song), you can probably divine more than a hint of what I do. The why is a complicated mix of ‘I like it’ and higher values and the feeling that I can do something to make the world a little… better, I suppose. Or something that makes me feel useful on a daily basis. Anyway, here’s your music:
The Tragically Hip is a strange kind of band, they’ve been around since the 1980s and they really sunk deep into the Canadian consciousness. They were certainly a fixture of the music world in the 1990s and early 2000s. I don’t know if they ever tried (too hard), but they never made it big outside of Canada. Within Canada, though, hoo boy. Everyone knows them, but that doesn’t mean they necessarily like them. They have a very unique style that doesn’t always feel accessible. It’s taken me years to grow into my appreciation of their music, and they certainly have a rich collection of Canadiana that touches on stereotypes and themes and very specifically Canadian subjects, even though their songs that I do like are definitely among my favourites. Their lead singer, Gord Downie, is a whole other kettle of fish. He did their farewell tour 2 years ago (he was diagnosed with a brain tumour and was given about a year, he walked on later that same year) and it was one of the biggest things to happen in recent Canadian cultural history. Not least because in his final months he addressed the subject of residential schools (I’m a bit out on a white dude saying so much without hearing about him giving First Nations people a voice of their own, but I can’t say he did wrong). We’ll be hearing more from the Tragically Hip in the future.
In any case, enjoy the music. I have a very social weekend ahead of me and it’s tangling with new stuff at work that makes me feel out-of-step but has many possibilities for personal and professional development. I hope to recover soon. :)
So this happened. And yes, snowflake that I am, I find it offensive. Deeply so.
“We are disappointed that the largest retailer in the world and in the U.S., Walmart, does not acknowledge or respect the millions of victims of various nationalities, who suffered under the Soviet regime – those deported, including the elderly, infants and children, political prisoners, dissidents, members of resistance movements and all those who lost their lives, health or family in the Gulag or other repressions of the Soviet totalitarianism,” a letter to Walmart, signed by the chairman of the Estonian Pro Patria party, Helir-Valdor Seeder, Estonia’s minister of justice, Urmas Reinsalu, and the Estonian member of the European Parliament, Tunne Kelam, said.
It’s like some symbols of authoritarian regimes are verboten, while others… are hip and trendy? By virtue of being labelled differently? (And yes, the term ‘communist’ as applied to the Soviet Union bears little resemblance to its application to the underlying philosophy, but this is not that discussion.)
One thing people may or may not know about me: I luuuuuurrrrve horses. Sorry not sorry, I do. And while some of us have had very varied experiences with them, I would like to share something that tends more towards the wondrous grace and amazing beauty of this magnificent animal.
Okay, okay, that’s not the subject of this post, but seeing as Halloween season is approaching fast, here’s more info via HyperAllergic on the Mari Lwyd phenomenon. (Very pagan, and I love to see these spooky traditions still maintained today.)
So, in short, I am both happy and sad: I recently discovered a new documentary series on HORSES! on the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, ha) website.
Here’s the trailer:
And oh my gosh, it’s horses, and wild scenery, and people, and dramatic music and slo-mos, and wow! I thought it was a four-part, but it’s a three-part mini-series (part one, part two, part three). Why so sad? Because the videos are only available in Canada (as anyone not in Canada might have already discovered by clicking those links). The CBC does have a youtube channel, but it’s been no more helpful, because from what I can tell, this hasn’t been posted yet (or maybe it’s because I haven’t subscribed).
The article that led me to this find is here, unfortunately for some reason I cannot find the actual article on my computer so you have to settle for the mobile version.
Our ancestors settled every corner of the planet on foot. But when we harnessed horsepower — roughly 6,000 years ago — the human story changed forever. For clever-but-slow Homo sapiens, the strength and speed of horses was a perfect complement. Horses transported us, pulled our loads, plowed out fields, herded our livestock, and carried us into battle (or sped us away from danger). In ways no other animal could, horses were our constant and irreplaceable companion.
In the age of machines, we still talk about “horsepower.” But horses have lost their central place in human life; we now keep them as pets and companions.
But while their importance in the human world is fading, there are some horse cultures that survive today. In Equus: Story of the Horse, we meet some of them.
The documentary visits Kazakh nomads, the Yakuts of Northern Siberia, the Blackfoot of the Western Plains, and the Bedouin. Some of those horses (the northern ones) are seriously cute.
In honour of all horses who inspire us (in one way or another), here’s a fusion of Mongolian throat singing and traditional Latvian folk music. It is quite something. Don’t forget to enjoy the gorgeous scenery, too!
The first thought of the morning is about the wondrous harvest of walnuts I expect to be collecting today. After hot coffee and a very satisfying breakfast, I walk out into the backyard and see…
To be fair, I also suspect two bird species of participating in this massacre, but I have the evidence of my eyes that this is, in fact, the work of a large rodent-like animal. Evidence:
But will you look at that pretty face?
Weeelll… Jury’s still out, I guess. There’s crows and jays around, and I have seen real squirrels creeping around the walnut tree.
In other words, I think this is a conspiracy of animals dividing the spoils without consulting us humans. How dare they!
Everywhere a nut, nut!! This year has been extremely generous in the nut department, but knowing the distribution schedule, we’ll be out by christmas.
And also, as mentioned previously, the world’s giantest squirrel diligently seeking out those nuts causes a certain percentage loss per windy day. More on that later… Have some nuts!
The finalists of the 2018 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards are out, and they’re a blast. Here’s a couple of my favourites:
And lots more…
Today’s piece of music is more of a dance showcase, in the theme of colourful animals. Below the fold because spiders.
The trees are doing something odd out in northern Ontario:
In the forests of northern Ontario, a “strange phenomenon” of large natural rings occurs, where thousands of circles, as large as two kilometers in diameter, appear in the remote landscape.
Via this link: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Aerial-photograph-of-forest-rings-with-diameters-of-approximately-150-m-in-northern_fig1_292337890, which leads to a very scientific article on the phenomenon.
The article assures us that this is nothing unnatural or particularly mysterious:
Indeed, as geochemist Stew Hamilton suggested in 1998, the rings are most likely to be surface features caused by “reduced chimneys,” or “big centres of negative charge that frequently occur over metal deposits,” where a forest ring is simply “a special case of a reduced chimney.”
Reduced chimneys, meanwhile, are “giant electrochemical cells” in the ground that, as seen through the example of forest rings, can affect the way vegetation grows there.
I’ve been out there and it looked fine to me, but things get even weirder and weirder the more I read – but that just might be the full article going in all kinds of directions, especially at the end. But the tree rings are cool. And maybe it’s aliens…
The dandelions are still out and about in the lawn, in various guises.
(More here, the second illustration is lovely.)
I know they were some of Caine’s favourites, so of course I stopped to take a few photos (did not see any dandy lions, though – sadly).
And on the subject of vague nostalgia, here is song I meant to share a while ago, from a new folk/fusion/? group of singers called Tautumeitas (“The Folk Girls”, although the term ‘tautumeitas’ is generally used as a collective term for unmarried women who are not kin). They have a few I will be sharing (love their stuff), I know Caine herself shared one a while ago. This song is called Sadziedāmi, and the chorus, in essence, says: Let us sing together, sisters, while we are still in one place – who knows where each of us shall be other years?
There are many epic stories out there – it seems people throughout the ages have been entertained by stories of improbable heroism, impossible deeds, romance, tragedy, magic, friendship, betrayal and the binary battle between good and evil. Latvians are no different, except our own epic poem, Lāčplēsis (Bearslayer) dates not from centuries or millennia ago, but from the end of the 19th century. The author, Andrejs Pumpurs, took liberties with folk stories and expanded a typical hero’s tale into a mythical legend of the pagan fight against christianization. Lāčplēsis’ origins are a matter of slight debate, as in some versions, he was born of a bear with the ears of a bear, and his ears were where his strength resided – in other versions, he was merely adopted by a bear and raised in the woods until a local king found him and took him in, or he wore a hat of bears’ ears, where he hid his strength. In any case, he meets his tragic end tumbling over a cliff into the river Daugava while fighting the crusading Black Knight, and, as always, it is said he will come again at a time of greatest need (so far, no sign – I guess that’s a good thing?).
What’s very interesting is that Lāčplēsis is very much a national symbol – the highest military honour one can receive is the Bearslayer medal (Lāčplēša ordenis), and he is trotted out for all kinds of events and by the most nationalistic political parties – who are, the vast majority, very right-leaning christian. How they reconcile a supremely pagan hero with their beliefs, I don’t know – especially one who lived a rather non-traditional life-style during one portion of the epic (the author borrowed ideas, and I find interesting the possible connection between bears and the etymology of Arthur). But there it is.
Anyway. The story was put into musical form (a ‘rock opera’) in the 1980s, to great acclaim. Every now and then, a new performance is prepared, and the next one is due in early November. As it happens, it will be a full choir-and-orchestra version (the best kind!) and my choir will be among those performing. It’s a melodramatic piece of music, the best kind to perform, full of deep texts about freedom and bravery and time running through fingers like sand and other major themes, and lots of opportunity to sing your heart out together with the string and brass sections (and the cymbals!). I expect it will be a wonderful experience.
Here’s a small sample, a medley of some of the main songs, from the vocal-symphonic music concert from 2013 (I hope the video starts at the 1.43:08 mark). I’m not going to translate all the words, just the four lines of the final section so you can have a small idea of the drama of the words:
It is not water that flows in the Daugava, it is time
It is not blood that flows in your veins, it is time
It is not a wave that washes over us, it is time
It is not the whirlpool that twists into rings, it is time
The short guy on the left has one of my favourite voices ever.
(The video contains the entire vocal-symphonic concert, which I recommend if you like classical music. If you listen to the very end, the very last song is conducted by, in my opinion, one of the most talented conductors out there. Before taking over at the National Opera, he was artistic director of my choir, and his style and interpretation have biased me against many another worthy conductor.)