2017 – Resolutions and Hopes

So, the calendar New Year is the time when people make grand pronouncements, devise magnificent plans, swear to do or not do things . . . and then wonder where the past 12 months went. Also known as “crud, the gym is full” month.

So, in the spirit of so other foolish endeavors, like trying to grow to be six feet tall, I hereby resolve in 2017: Continue reading


The 19th Century – 1789-1914?

I went into history because they said there would be no math. I was probably not the only one, because in European history, people refer to the 19th century as “the long 19th Century,” and start it in 1789, ending in June 1914. Which some uncharitable souls, who likely majored in the hard sciences or math, take to imply that historians can’t add. We can, but events don’t always line up neatly with years that end in 00, and grand sweeps of the spread of ideas and technology tend to ignore calendars. Continue reading

Interesting Differences – New Handbroom

For reasons known only to Mom Red, a new dustpan and handbroom appeared. These are not just your basic plastic “gets it done” cleaning things, far from it. They are German-made with nice turned wooden handles, a solid metal pan, and horsehair bristles. I got to try them out tidying up after I changed the cat litter pan. It was . . . different. Continue reading

Signs of Age?

When you get sweaters and books for Christmas and are excited about them. (Hey, it’s the new edition of Prehistoric Cave Art)

When you could swear that you have a dress with a certain design on it, and you don’t, no matter how often you go through your closet, even using more light just to make certain. (In my defense, I had looked at a dress with the pattern on it, and decided against getting one because I’d already bought something. I think.) Continue reading

Chanukah 5776

The Amarillo Symphony orchestra decided to try something new this year. Well, actually there are several things new this year, one of which has me more curious about the structural engineering than about the music, but the ASO decided to try a Holiday Pops concert, with music ranging from a popular sing-along to classical to modern classical (“Sleigh-ride,” a John Rutter choral anthem), and more. The conductor, Jacomo Bairos, was rather surprised when everyone in the audience stood for the “Halleluia” from Messiah, but then he’s from Latin America, likely raised Catholic, and wasn’t familiar with that quirk of English and US Protestantism. One of the modern pieces was . . . different. Good different, but different.  Continue reading

New Release: A Carpathian Campaign

The first book in the WWI – interWar alternative history/ secret history series, The Powers, is now available on Kindle. Paperback will be out after the New Year.6274_a-carpathian-campaign_3300x4950

Welcome to a Europe where Fredrick the Great didn’t keep Silesia, where Vienna still has its walls in 1914, and where both humans and non-humans quietly rule Eastern Europe.

“There won’t be a war this year. There wasn’t one in 1908, or 1909, or 1910, and the fussing in the Balkans doesn’t count.”

Or so István Eszterházy believes. In the world of the Powers, the ancient creatures that have worked with the great Houses for a thousand years and more, István knows that even if war comes, it will be fast, brief, and he’ll be on the winning side. And that cavalry rules the battlefield.

But 1914 is different.

Although set in the Cat Among Dragons universe, this series stands alone, and no knowledge of the other books is needed.

Edited to add: At 1400 CST, A Carpathian Campaign reached

Thank you!

Update 1645 CST:



Ralph Vaughan Williams

I went through a phase when I loved “Greensleeves” and would listen to all sorts of variations and interpretations of the song. Except for one. That one I didn’t like because it didn’t have as much of the melody as I wanted.

The version above is, in my view, a little too slow. I recently heard it performed much more as a waltz and less of the Christmas lullaby (“What Child is This?”) spirit, and I liked it better.

It wasn’t until about ten or fifteen years ago that I really got interested in Ralph Vaughan Williams, aside from growling about some of his hymn arrangements that were written for use in stone churches with minimum of three-second echoes (you need that time to be able to move your hands into position for the next phrase and not have an unwanted pause in the music.) I hadn’t really appreciated his larger body of work until I started listening to his symphonies and other things. He has a lush, thoughtful sound that speaks to me, a bit like a less hurried Elgar or Holst.

Ralph Vaughan Williams was born in 1872 into a family of the middle-middle class, although his mother was descended from Josiah Wedgwood. He grew up with music and literature all around him, and his father’s job as a Church of England minister probably had something to do with the boy being steered away from viola and violin to organ. He studied with Sir Hubert Parry, who encouraged Williams to look into the English musical tradition. A whole lot of people are grateful for that advice, because Vaughan Williams took English music and made it amazing. He also studied history, and after a brief tour abroad, returned to England. There he discovered folk tunes. The turn of the 19th-20th century was a time of much work collecting folk music in a race against time, and Vaughan Williams dove in.

In 1910 he premiered the work “Tallis Fantasia,” sometimes called “Variations on a theme by Thomas Tallis,” using a hymn written by Tallis (a great English Renaissance composer) as his base. It was a smashing success, and remains probably his second best known work in the US. (And elsewhere, but be ready: the room will get very, very dusty: http://bayourenaissanceman.blogspot.com/2008/09/musical-interlude.html )

Vaughan Williams served in the Army during WWI in the medical corps, in part due to his age. He returned to music after the war and continued composing, performing, and collecting folk music. He remained active until his death in 1958.

His music has a lushness and depth that, as mentioned above, is like that of Holst, Elgar, and Gerald Finzie, but more melodic (in my opinion). Although it is hard to find much melodic in his war composition Dona Nobis Pacem, which takes words from Walt Whitman’s “Dirge for Two Veterans.” The music matches Whitman’s lyrics quite well – although for those of us who are not so fond of Whitman or dissonance, it’s not a fun composition to perform or to listen to. I’ve done it twice and it still challenges me and not in happy ways.

I happen to greatly enjoy English music from the late 1800s – 1950s or so, especially the more traditional composers, and have grown to relish Vaughan Williams. There’s an unapologetic depth and sensuality to his writing; long sweeps of glorious, beautiful, rich sound that roll like the sea or the green hills of England. He loved words, he loved music, and he made no bones about writing what he enjoyed and about loving England too. In a way he’s a bit of a Romantic, but not a blind one. And he made full use of whatever instrument or instruments he wrote for, something I appreciate even when I curse under my breath because the churches I play organ in have no echoes and his hymn settings make me sound clunky. Sorry sir, it’s me, not you.