Tuesday, January 29, 2008


No, not mine. Don't let the whining fool you. It is, after all, just a cold.

But I have been thinking about the obituaries in the morning paper. Mary has once again pointed out to me that they almost never mention the cause of death. Some of them are quite extensive treatises on the deceased's clubs, hobbies, foibles, church allegiance, politics, lovable sins, and favourite songs. But no mention of how he died.

Now, I never noticed that at all until she mentioned it and now the more I think of it the odder it seems. This morning, for instance, there were 13 obituaries. One woman died of cancer. The other 12 folks seem just to have vanished. The whole point of the obituary is to make known that someone has died and yet how he died is left a complete mystery. I suppose if the man were 97 we can safely assume it wasn't a sky-diving accident or that he didn't fall off his Harley at a rally in Hollister. But what about this other man? He was only 41, i.e., a whole lot younger than I am. What happened to him?

I've decided that I definitely want a cause of death included when it's time for my notice to be published. In fact, I've pretty much decided which cause I'd like listed. I've informed herself that no matter how I actually enter the afterlife, the cause of death in the Press Telegram is to be given as "Shot trying to escape." I don't think she's taking that entirely seriously for some reason. So if you have occasion some time in the future to report the news of my demise, remember: it's "Shot trying to escape". It should add a wonderful little frisson of interest to an otherwise lugubrious page.

And, anyway, the way the country is going, the odds of it being accurate increase by the day.

This Stuff Actually Works

Long enough so that you can get to sleep, anyway. And that's no small thing.

I missed the Burns Supper last Saturday: too sore to blow the pipes thanks to all the coughing.. And we won't even mention the assorted other gigs that had to be passed along to someone else. If getting angry at it could cure a cold I'd be the healthiest man around.

Friday, January 25, 2008

"Honesty, Solidarity, Fraternity - Rah, Rah, Rah!"

As a football cheer, it needs work.

But the Vatican Premiere League is new yet.

Too bad the Scots College couldn't come up with a pipe band. Those maracas wouldn't stand a chance.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


This votin' for president wheeze is turning out to be lots more fun than I had anticipated. Yes, my candidate - whom you can hardly fail to have noticed over there on the left hand side of the page - is not, shall we say, the odds on favourite to win. But contrary to my preternaturally pessimistic prediction, neither is he at the bottom of the pile. He has, in fact, trounced the terrifyingly inappropriate Rudy Giuliani and made serious impacts on the debate. As of this morning, Thompson is broke and gone and Dr Paul is still in the race. Something like hope is in the air. . . .something almost like a chance.

Even the Democratic half of the race is great fun to watch. It would be better than a Laurel and Hardy movie, if the likelihood that one of those yo-yos were going to be president wasn't so great. Watch Mrs Bill try to attack Obama without alienating the black vote. Watch Obama try to attack Mrs Bill without alienating the feminist vote. Watch Mr Bill forget in mid speech that it is not actually he that is running for president.

And there're 11 months to go.

The March for Life

I did manage to dismiss the weeping retainers and elevate myself from my palate of pain yesterday to take a look at the Washington March for Life coverage on EWTN. If you're interested, I think they said you can view it on their website. I couldn't actually find it, but that doesn't mean it isn't there. (It doesn't even mean it isn't obviously there in a prominent position.)

The challenging part of the March for Life always occurs the next day: trying to find the Times's coverage of it. That can take longer than doing the crossword puzzle. If you missed it, it's on page A12, down at the bottom in the lower left corner, in the "Nation in Brief" section. It's subhead is "Bush Welcomes Roe Protestors". There's a little picture, too. It's 3 1/2" by 2" and appears to show some people dressed for winter carrying signs, one of which is white on black and may say "Life".

What did the Times find important yesterday? Well, the main headline on page one says "L.A. Schools cut building plans as enrollment falls".

Say. . . .you don't think. . . .


Magma. (noun) Naturally occurring mobile molten rock materials, generated within the earth.

That's what I seem to have been coughing up since last weekend. (Oh, sure, it may be the usual sort of thing associated with your basic chest cold. But melodramatic whimpering aside, the dredged up from beneath the crust of the earth, through the soles of my feet and into my chest explanation does, at the moment, seem the likeliest description.) And it's cold and it's raining and I had to pass along a good gig yesterday to someone else who has two functioning lungs. And now Mary has whatever it is that I have. And my diaphragm hurts too much from all this coughing to blow in a new reed which I will need by Saturday so I can play for a Burns Supper.

Other than that, not too bad. And, you?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

It's "Farewell to Alleluia" Day

Because tomorrow is Septuagesima Sunday and we won't hear "Alleluia" sung again until Holy Saturday.

Here is a hymn in honour of Alleluia from Musica Sacra.

Daniel Mitsui gives the Latin version of the hymn and some description here.

And here's what appeared in The Inn three years ago -- cribbed from Dom Gueranger, mostly.

Friday, January 18, 2008

A Close Run Thing. A Damn Close Run Thing.

Not as earth-shaking as Waterloo. But it was a fresh appreciation of the perils of playing a bagpipe.

I piped a funeral this morning and the chanter reed died the death. It wasn't it's usual resonant self at the church but I blamed today's humidity. . .or lack thereof. And there were some unaccountable chokes. Yup. Too dry. Moistened the reed a bit and carried on.

At the graveside it was obviously more than low humidity. I had to squeeze the reed open to play the second-to-last tune. The final tune was "Going Home". I walked away while playing it -- the only way you can do a diminuendo on the pipes: no volume control. Three or four bars from the end the reed shuffled off its mortal coil and joined the heavenly pipe band invisible. Just quit playing. Not a note, a squeek, or a chirp. It was far enough away from the congregation and close enough to the end that I think it sounded intentional. The family thanked me and seemed pleased. But it did make the palms of my hands sweat.

Thousands of hours of practice, outrageously expensive highland dress, a quality pipe and yet it all comes down to less than a square inch of arundo donax; if that quits you might as well have stayed home.

The sun was thankfully over the yardarm and I had a beer with lunch.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Birthday

Everyone knows it's an important birthday today.

That's right: Gene Krupa would be 99 years old today. Here he is with Benny Goodman's orchestra in "Sing, Sing, Sing".

Monday, January 14, 2008

"Kentigern, the most famous and beloved by God and men. . . ."

It is St Kentigern's feast day today. He is the patron saint of Glasgow and often referred to as the founder of the city. The image above is that of the seal of Robert Blackadder (no, really) the first Archbishop of Glasgow. It shows St Kentigern dressed as a monk and holding a book and standing next to the salmon with the ring. (You can find the story of the salmon and the ring in chapter xxxvi of "The Life of Kentigern by Jocelyn, a monk of Furness".)

Considering the day, you might want to go here and listen to the Strathclyde Police Pipe Band (lineal descendants of the old Glasgow Police Pipe Band) playing a bit of the old piobaireachd "The Piper's Warning to His Master" in a band arrangement.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

"Ad Orientem" Redivivus

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict celebrated parts of Sunday's Mass with his back turned on the congregation, re-introducing an old ritual that had not been used in decades.

The Pope used the Sistine Chapel's ancient altar set right against the wall under Michelangelo's dramatic depiction of the Last Judgment, instead of the altar placed on a mobile platform that allowed his predecessor John Paul II to face the faithful.
More from Reuters.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Political Commentary

From The New Yorker this time. Political commentary from The New Yorker isn't the usual rule in these parts, but this one is cynical enough to brighten a dreary morning: "The Democratic primary looks like an old episode of The Mod Squad: the white guy, the black guy, and the blonde chick."

Probably not an exact quote but that's how it stuck in the memory. (If you're after precision, it's in the latest number somewhere; "Talk of the Town", I think.)

On the Bright Side. . . .

We try to find the silver lining here at The Inn and it does occur to us that the National I.D. Programme will be run by the same people who run the wire tap surveillance programme. So all is not entirely bleak:

WASHINGTON -- The FBI has hit a major hang-up in its wiretapping surveillance program: failing to pay its phone bills on time.

Facing tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid bills, telephone companies have cut off FBI wiretaps used to eavesdrop on suspected criminals, a Justice Department audit released Thursday shows. In one office, unpaid costs for wiretaps from one phone company totaled $66,000.

And in at least one case, a wiretap used in a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act investigation "was halted due to untimely payment," the audit found. FISA wiretaps are used in the government's most sensitive and secretive criminal and intelligence investigations, and allow eavesdropping on suspected terrorists or spies.

More from The Times.

"Your papers, please, Herr Laszlo. . . ."

Did you hear that "whooshing" sound yesterday? It was a little bit more of what was left of our freedom going down the drain. Americans are going to have "papers" now, just like subjects of the Reich in the old '40s movies. Says so, right here in this morning's Times:

WASHINGTON -- Americans born after Dec. 1, 1964, will have to get more secure driver's licenses in the next six years under ambitious post-9/11 security rules to be unveiled today by federal officials. . . . .

By 2014, anyone seeking to board an airplane or enter a federal building would have to present a Real ID-compliant driver's license, with the notable exception of those older than 50, Homeland Security officials said.

The over-50 exemption was created to give states more time to get everyone new licenses. By 2017, even those older than 50 must have a Real ID-compliant card to board a plane.

If only we can get a Republican administration all this will be. . . .Oh, wait. We, uh, have, uh. . . .

Never mind.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Happy New Year!

Yes, it is a bit late. But, really, you should be used to that by now. We have been at this stand since 2002 and an unhealthy fixation with clock or calendar has never been one of our vices. In any event, we are ready to begin again.

To start, some questions that have been asked need to be answered:

1)No, I have not given up on The Inn. Once again, the promise I made to myself when I began this little enterprise: the weblog will not become another one of my obsessions. Sometimes it is on the verge, but for the most part that is one of the dwindling band of resolutions that I've actually kept.

2)No, I am not still hung over from New Year's. Hmpf. The very idea. In fact, herself and I went out to a pleasant dinner that night with some friends who are home for the holidays from assignment in Singapore. We were home, in bed, and asleep by 10:30. Awakened by the fireworks at midnight, we wished each other a happy new year, rolled over, and went back to sleep. There now. Aren't you ashamed of yourself? “Still hung over,” indeed.

3)The Project is proceeding apace. But there have been a couple of setbacks. I should have tied on a bag with a longer gooseneck. The physics of pumping the bellows while maintaining the bag require a different arm positioning than the highland pipes and I didn't realize that when I tied on the present bag. I hate tying on bags and I haven't replaced this one yet. Soon, though. And I think a crack has developed in the top ferule of the bass drone. It doesn't look serious and perhaps it's always been there. But the bass has been impossible to tune lately and that's the only reason I can think of. I can still play without a bass drone and make progress with the bellows technique but the sound isn't as full as it should be. Naill isn't in the Lowland pipe making business any more so a mere replacement order isn't in the cards. If I can't find a pipe maker to tinker with this ferule or make me a new one, we may be looking at digging way down deep in the saddlebags and funding a new border pipe. Not what my investment programme was counting on. (No, not the weekly lottery ticket purchase; the other invesment programme.)

And, finally, I'm delighted to find some people actually missing the regular posts (or at least semi-regular posts) on The Inn. Thank you for the kind words. (And happy belated birthday to my friend Ziggy who was miffed that of all the days I missed posting, one was his birthday, the feast of the Holy Innocents. I shall try to do better next year. Uh, this year.)