This is weird too

Try this: It says I'm 50% dog and 50% cat. I'm not sure if I should be offended or not.

Here we go!

The New England Patriots didn't have a stellar season last year, but I'm more hopeful this time around. Of course, that is the eternal cry of every diehard fan...there's always next season. They're preseason record is the same as last year, 2-2. But we all know that the only thing that matters is that game on September 10 at Gilette Stadium! I love Fall so much.

Johnny Cunningham

Talking about the annoying habit of falling in love with dead guys, I seem to have acquired it somehow. However frustrating, it can be helpful at times, and this is one of those cases. About three years ago my Dad came back from the Celtic Fiddle Festival and mentioned something about a guy who was supposed to have been there, but had suddenly died before the consort. Human curiosity being what it is, I was slightly interested at the unexpected event but well, I didn't know the guy, and I soon forgot all about it. Ironically enough, I still vividly remember that day - even though I forgot it at the time. And this is why. Growing up I was exposed to all sorts of music. Bach sat right next to Aaron Nevil, Hank Williams, and the Beatles on our shelves. Mixed in there was a CD by a band called the Silly Wizards. It was a favorite, though we didn't know anything about the musicians. It was one of those random CDs - you're never sure of where you got it or why it's not more popular. Anyways, about three years ago, a few months after the fiddler had unexpectedly died, I sat down to listen to the Silly Wizards and it suddenly occurred to me that they really were the best Celtic band I had ever heard. I wondered if they had more stuff. It was around that time that I started to seriously get into Celtic music. Now I play the bohran and the pennywhistle, but then, I just contented myself with listening to CDs. I looked the Silly Wizards up online and ordered all their music. The more I listened the more I loved. I soon started to look up the band members and see if I could see them perform. The band had been dead a long time, but as far as I knew, all the members where still alive. I discovered that the band was comprised of some of the most brilliant and most talented Scottish musicians of their time, and each one had a widely different personality which came alive in the music. The Cunningham brothers were the most spirited and most talked about of the group. Johnny and his younger brother Phil ran the gigs as much on their humor and flamboyant personalities as by the music. Johnny was a stellar fiddler, while his brother followed right behind on his accordion. At 16, Johnny had left home to wander the streets of Aberdeen and join a crazy bunch of guys who called themselves the Silly Wizards. The music was good, but the laughs and the fun were even better. They soon had a following and began to record and tour. The Silly Wizards managed to put out about ten CDs before they fell apart. Johnny Cunningham was the first to leave. He had fallen in love with the US. He was young and already hailed as one of the best Scottish fiddlers in the world. A new horizon opened to him in America and his life became a pattern of endless tours and midnight gigs. For some reason, the Northwest has attracted Celtic musicians more than other cities. This is possibly because Kevin Burke, Ireland's greatest fiddler lives here, though I'm sure it's not the only reason. Johnny met Kevin as a young man, and they became the best of friends. As years wore on they founded the Celtic Fiddle Festival, a touring group of musicians comprised of themselves and Christian Lemaitre, a fiddler from Breton. Every year they took off a week or two from their busy schedule to tour the US together and play. Three years ago, they arrived here with the devastating news that Johnny had died. Johnny was one of those guys who attracted everybody just by the laugh in his eyes. He lived and played hard, but with such wit and joy that he lightened the lives of many people. I never had a chance to meet him, and the closest I ever came was the day I heard that a lone fiddler had passed away. It didn't hit me until later who he was.


What the...

This is truly weird. You'd think with guys like Ortega it would be over and done with. He ought to be either in jail someplace or retired and bellyaching about capitalism in the South of France or something. I guess he figures as long as Ronald Reagan isn't around to foil his nefarious plans he's got a chance...but the fact he keeps losing these elections isn't turning on any lightbulbs.

Susanna Clarke

Susanna Clarke is a genius. Over the last 12 years or so, she's been working on a book called Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. It's set in Victorian England, written in Austenian prose, pretty slowly paced, and is over a thousand pages long. It's also BookSense's adult fiction book of the year, the winner of the Locus Award for a first novel, the 2005 World Fantasy Award, the 2005 Hugo Award for best novel and Time Magazine's #1 Book of 2004. The book isn't for everyone; the length and style can be offputting for those not used to it (or who don't think that it's just cool), but in my opinion, it's on a very short list of the best fantasy books ever written, right up there with The Lord of the Rings, The Once and Future King, and Lud-in-the-Mist. It's flat out awe inspiring. (Click on image for author interviews, including one on her plans for the sequel!) JS&MN is her first novel, but Clarke's also penned 12 or so short stories, many of which you can track down in Ellen Datlow and Terry Windling's award-winning fantasy anthologies. The best of these that I've read is Mr Simonelli, or The Fairy Widower, which appeared in Black Heart, Ivory Bones. Another excelent one is The Duke of Wellington Misplaces his Horse, which is especially neat because it ties into her friend Neil Gaiman's story Stardust, which is also a great read if you liked JS&MN.

The Carrotty Kid

Now THIS is what more kids' cartoons should be like! Hillarious, excelently voice-acted, with awesome flash animation. (Click picture for link.)


Who'd of thought

Two random facts for your delectation and delight. #1. T.S. Eliot's wife chased Virginia Woolfe out of a cab with a knife. The knife was rubber, but still.... #2. One octave of Easter, late at night and quite alone, a penniless student was walking the streets of Petersburg, Russia, when he looked up at a projecting balcony of the palace and saw the Tsar. They exchanged silent glances and went on their separate ways. The student was Alexander Kerensky, first and only leader of the Provisional Government set up by the February Revolution of 1917; the Tsar was Nicholas II, last Tsar of a dynasty that stretched back three centuries. Odd that Kerensky was the one who made "Nicky" resign. It's a small world.



Today I saw a guy grimly riding his bike through the crowded city streets wearing a typical biking shirt...emblazoned with bananas! This led me to recollect an amusing anecdote about Puritans and bananas. They hated the innocent tropical fruit and thought it most disgusting because: they boiled the whole thing and ate it with the peel on. Lunatics. That's your fun fact for the day!


fun and games

I remember the days when soccer used to be fun. When you and a bunch of other little kids would practice a few days a week and then go out on those brisk fall Saturday mornings and play your little hearts out. These days, that seems to happen less and less. True, the recreational leagues still exist and micro soccer is still about the cutest thing around, but those same little kids are being fed the message that they're not really soccer players unless they go to numerous camps over the summer and join select and eventually premiere teams. Of course they are still encouraged to play rec soccer, but the pressure to outdo every other teammate in other soccer related involvements is intense. The sad thing is that it comes mainly from the parents. Sports crazy parents are a disturbing reality everywhere you go. Most of the time they produce exceptional athletes through sheer force of will; sadly, those children miss out on many other levels. I can relate from personal experience stories of girls who gave up voice and/or piano lessons solely to concentrate on soccer; girls whose grades decline steadily because they live, eat, and breathe soccer. Being a competitive athlete and working on your game is a laudable thing. However, I'm forced to admit that it's less of a fun game and more of a way of life now.



Personally, I love them. Unfortunately, anti-Semitism has been with us from the beginning, and shows no signs of departing. I used to wonder why this was...after all, what's not to love about God's favorite people, who just happen to be brilliant and efficient? The answer appears to me to be nothing more than a deep seeded jealousy on most sides. After all, you just can't get around the fact that God chose one race, and, well, it wasn't the Aryans. It is true that Jews can be blockheaded troublemakers and revolutionaries, but as far as I can tell that only happens when they lose their faith. Sure Karl Marx was a son of Abraham, but he was also an atheist. Aha. As for me, I can live with the fact that God didn't choose my ancestors to be his particular people. I also happen to be a huge fan of Israel's. This may be my Irish-lost-cause-blood coming out in me; I tend to side (within reason) with the folks everyone else is picking on. The fact that Jews have been persecuted up one side and down the other for centuries draws me to them; and the fact that the main stream media is constantly getting on Israel's case without any balance induces me to take their side more often than not. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

I'm back (finally)

I have returned from an arduous journey to California and can once again update da blog. Just wanted to let the two or three people that possibly read The Morning Oil to know I'm back in town, and will post something of substance in due course.



Recently I made a rather interesting discovery while sick in bed with a sinus infection. You know how it is - too tired to read, too bored to entertain yourself - and in too bad a mood to do anything other than become well acquainted with the ceiling. It was a particularly bad day and even the ceiling wasn't affording much amusement. A late birthday present from one of my friends, dumped unceremoniously on my bed by a frazzled parent, aroused my interest. Among the other things stowed away in colored tissue paper at the bottom of the bag was a CD. It looked promising and I thought I might as well give it a go. As I flipped through the CD booklet, I noted with growing interest that this band, called Eisley, was composed of a few homeschooled teenagers from Texas. All from the same family, except one ( a neighbor, I believe). Well, slightly skeptical of the quality of the music, I turned them on, and needless to say, I have loved them ever since. If you're interested in hearing some of their stuff, click here!

Oldschool Hobbitry

I was perusing the City of Books recently and came across a copy of The Hobbit. Normally I wouldn't have bought it, seeing as I'm pretty sure I'm out of my Tolkien phase, but I hadn't read it in so long, and it was a - so cool - 1965 version, complete with dorky sixties art, that I eventually succumbed. I read the first few chapters of it on the MAX this evening, and was shocked not only by how incredibly entertaining it still was, but also by the fact that I geeked out at finding archaic material in it that was later edited out to bring it more in line with the Lord of the Rings. To whit: Gandalf is described as "a little old man", and it is mentioned that some of the lands beyond Hobbiton were not under the control of "the King." There's a king already? "This is SO cool," I kept thinking to myself. But I still don't know why. I'm OUT of the Hobbit. And LOTR. Moved on to greener pastures like Susanna Clark and Alfred Bester. Maybe it's the nostalgia. All right, I know it's the nostalgia in part, but I bet it just has something to do with the length. I've always found Tolkien was better in smaller chunks; look at Roverandom. His short works, especially those for children, have an immediacy and excitement behind them that, to me at least, typify what Tolkien did best. All that knowlege he'd built up as a scholar just all got unleashed at once, and was formed by an incredibly creative mind into some of the few stories that can rival George MacDonald's. Dang it. Now I have to go track them all down and read them... In the meantime, for anyone else who finds themselves with a sudden and inexplicable relapse of Tolkien geekhood, here's a few tracks recorded in The Prancing Pony. Some of them, like The King's Beer, just make you swell with Gondorian pride... *okay, going away now.* Elrenn and Endereth The Old Troll The Old Troll and the Maiden Dwarf and Orc The King's Beer The Ballad of Balin Longbeard



I never saw that show...but for some reason that (title of my post) always cracks me up. And now it's time to reveal my top pet peeve of all time: when people refer to Vietnam as "Nam" or "the Nam". It absolutely makes me wild. Bad enough when they say "Nam" as in "Nahm" the "a" as in "father". Even worse when it's "Nam" with the "a" as in "bad". Holy cow, it makes me mad...I understand that it's probably easier than saying "Vietnam". I understand that Korean War veterens do not refer to that troubled country as "Rea" because it just doesn't have a ring to it. But it still bothers me to no end. I think it's because when one calls it "the Nam", one exudes a sort of angsty disgusted attitude that suggests a deep seeded belief that the Vietnam War was a waste of time and lives. Or at least, that's been my experience. "Veterans" in movies say "the Nam" the way Napoleon must have said "Russia" when he was cooling his heels at Elba. It's nearly impossible to say "the Nam" in a respectful or even dispassionate tone of voice, and should not be attempted. I wish with all my heart that someone with an original mind would make a film portraying Vietnam the way it was: poorly executed, to be sure, but a noble cause that was every bit worth dying and bleeding for. Sadly, the attitude of many people of today is that nothing is worth dying for, let alone fighting a war for. It seems that most folks are unable to see that there was nothing arrogant in responding to Vietnam's cry for help. We weren't acting as the world police, and we most certainly belonged there. The arrogance came later, when we abandoned those people to their eager communist brethren...when we deciced we valued our own sorry skins more than honor, morality, or innocent Vietnamese lives. Bob Dylan's song "Masters of War" has a less than memorable tune, but one line stuck in my head after I heard it: "I don't think Jesus could forgive what you've done". You would think the guy was talking about the Viet Cong, but no. Typically, he was disparaging his own country for doing what we were supposed to be doing. When I think of the impact songs like that had on America's young, impressionable, and brain dead college students of that era, I find it takes more faith than I'd care to admit that the folk singers of the 60's will be forgiven. I know they didn't really know what they were doing (or at least that's what I hope) but when I think of the chain reaction: songs to college students, students subsequently taking to the streets, protests everywhere, eventually affecting the apparently spineless government in Washington; well, I become slightly agitated. I didn't really mean to write all that, but I guess now you know why I hate it when Vietnam is referred to as "the Nam". It conjures disturbing images of angry anti war protesters, strung out folk singers, self righteous Hollywood types, and most of all, those people we left to die. (Let's hope calling Iraq, "the Raq" doesn't become popular...)


Appelhans, Card, and Leviton

Chris Appelhans writes one of the most...heart warming comic strips ever. It's called Frank and Frank. He hasn't done many of them yet, but seriously, they're all great. Read it Here. For those of you into Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card's just begun a new book, called Empire. It seems to be set modern day, and deals with Islamic terrorism, and the possiblity of a second American Civil War. The first five chapters are up on his website for free! Go read 'em if you feel so inclined. They're pretty cool. Empire (aprox. PG-13 for language and violence) And as an extra special's a song by Michael Leviton. He's sort of a more cynical Jack Johnson. Summer's the Worst

My One True Love

I have an unfortunate tendency to fall in love with dead guys. This one barely intersected with my parents' lifetime! Be that as it may, Hilaire Belloc remains one of my favorite people of all time. Most people prefer GK Chesterton's method of defending the Catholicsm...i.e., kind and jolly and polite. Belloc's pugnacious style definitely is my cup of tea. If you can, get a hold of Joseph Pearce's biography of Belloc, Old Thunder. Pearce is an exceptional biographer, and his books are all worth reading. Here's an example that shows why Belloc makes me smile. When running for Parliament, he was confronted with a lot of anti-Catholic bigotry, naturally, but instead of being politic, he met it head on: "Gentlemen, I am a Catholic...If you reject me on account of my religion, I shall thank God that He has spared me the indignity of being your representative." Anyway, go read Pearce's biography of him.


A Study in Emerald

If you're a fan of Arthur Conan Doyle or H. P. Lovecraft, you'll get a huge kick out of this. One of the best things I've read recently. It's a short story by Neil Gaiman, published in the style of an old London newspaper. It's being reprinted in his new story collection, Fragile Things, but I doubt it will keep the awesome formatting. It's a .pdf file, so you'll need the Adobe reader to view it. A Study in Emerald

My turn

I really have no idea what I'm supposed to post about, but since my name's on the front page, I might as well say something. I guess for now I'll just say I'm the other poster/administrator, and even if you don't here from me immediately, I do exist. And have relatively dissimilar interests from Ben, so get ready for a psychotically ecclectic blog.

The 22nd Machine

Got back from my writing group Wednesday night, with alot of good criticism on the first chapter of the book I'm writing, The 22nd Machine. It's set in an enormous, steampunkish city called Flind. The city has some similarities to to 19th century London, but some big differences too. Like it's not on an island, and it's actually a city-kingdom, and small, self-containted country. Here's the first chapter, for those of you who are interested. Enjoy! The 22nd Machine - Chapter One


On Lookin' Like Jesus

The Killers' new single is scorchin'... When You Were Young


Mignola Cartoon!

Back from the dentist - for the third time in a week. *blah* Once more tomorrow, then: Freedom! Got bonding done to add a bit onto some of my teeth that were too far apart, and then a retainer for my new mouth. *grin* On another note... Mike Mingola, the guy who writes and illustrates Hellboy, and a former Portland resident (how many comic book writers aren't?) wrote a one-shot a while back called "The Amazing Screw-On Head." It was a deeply weird adventure/alternate history story involving a robot named Screw-On Head, and his battles against Emperor Zombie. Mignola, of course, pulled it off brilliantly, but recently the SciFi channel anounced they'd made a Screw-On Head animated short. They remain dubious as to whether it will have any appeal to the masses, so it remains online for now, in the hopes that enough people will warm to it. Go see it Here. It's hillarious. And features Mignola style animation!


Music, and Aimee Mann

Took me four or five hours to figure out how to do it properly, but I finally managed to post mp3 files on here. Turns out you can't link them from archived emails, or upload them from your computer; you have to first upload them from your music library to an online file hosting site (particular file hosting sites too, most of them don't work right or scam you) and then hotlink from there. But on the bright side, it looks like Blogger has a new feature that lets you play the music at the blog. Cooool.
Anyway...(drumroll) Here's Aimee Mann singing from Live at St. Ann's Werehouse.