Archive for the ‘Farming’ Category


[READ: January 2022] The Discworld Almanak

I assumed that this book would pair well with Nanny Ogg’s cookbook since in Maskerade, there’s a plot point about the Almanak getting published.  But as happens with this sort of thing, this companion book was published five years later.

There’s really nothing in here that’s relevant to any of the plots of the books, so that’s fine.

This diversion is basically an opportunity to explore the lighter side of Ankh-Morpork and astrology.  It also doubles as a journal for whatever year you may wish to use it in (no days of the week are supplied for the two dozen pages of empty calendar dates.

The book has the look of an old fashioned almanac (as you can see by the cover) with lots of little pieces of text in all manner of places.  There’s also old designs and bordered and even a place where you can punch a hole to hang a string so you can put the book in the privy.

As with Nanny Ogg’s cookbook, there are pinned notes from the publisher to the overseer of the book which add an extra level of humor to the proceedings.

The book also sets out the Discworld calendar year–it’s not quite the same as our as it has 400 days an a thirteenth month that no one talks about.

The book starts with a warning that the turtle is likely to turn upside down this year (fear not). (more…)

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Despite a terrible name that would keep me away from wanting to see them, The Redneck Manifesto are a very interesting and complicated band.  I discovered them through the book of Irish drummers.  TRM drummer Mervyn Craig is in the book.

The How is the band’s fifth album (and first in eight years).  The album is chock full of instrumentals that touch all genres of music.

There are jazzy elements, dancey elements and rock elements.  There are solos (but never long solos) and jamming sections.  Most of the songs are around 4 minutes long with a couple running a little longer.

“Djin Chin” has jangly chords and quiet riffs that switch to a muted melody.  All the while the bass is loping around.  It shifts tempos three times in the first two minutes.  Around three minutes the bass takes over the lead instrument pushing the song along with deep notes.

“The Rainbow Men” has a circular kind of riff with swirling effects that launch the song during the musical pauses.  After a minute and a half it drastically shifts direction and the adds in a cool solo.

“Sip Don’t Gulp” starts with a catchy bouncy guitar riff and bass lines.  At two minutes it too shifts gears to a staggered riff that sounds great.

“Kobo” is the shortest song and seems to tell a melodic story.  The two guitars play short, fast rhythms as call and response while the bass rumbles along.

“Head Full of Gold” is over 6 minutes with a thumping bass, rumbling drums and soft synths.  “No One” is nearly 7 minutes and feels conventionally catchy until you try to keep up with the beats.  After a middle series of washes from various instruments, the back half is a synthy almost dancey rhythm.

“Sweep” is a pretty song until the half-way mark when it just takes off in a fury of fast drumming and complex chords.  The end builds in upward riding notes until it hits a calming ending

“We Pigment” is a poppy staccato dancey number.  The second half turns martial with a series of four beat drum patterns and a soaring guitar solo.  More staccato runs through to the end.  “The Underneath Sun” also has a lot of staccato–fast guitar notes interspersed with bigger chords.  The end of the song is just littered with sweeping guitar slides until the thumping conclusion.

This album is great and I’m looking forward to exploring their other releases.

[READ: January 10, 2021] A History of Ireland in 100 Words

This book looks at old Irish words–how they’ve evolved and how they show the way Irish history came about.  The authors say:

our store of words says something fundamental about us and how we think.  This book is meant to provide insights into moments of life that may be otherwise absent from history books.  The focus is on Gaelic Ireland throughout as Gaelic was the native language of the majority of the inhabitants of the island for the last 2000 years. It yielded its primacy to English only in the last 150 years.

We selected words with the aim of illustrating each of our themes as broadly as possible.  We wanted the words in all their richness to tell their story … like how the word that originally meant noble came to mean cheaper (saor).

Almost all of the entries reference The cattle raid of Cooley (The Ulster Cycle) which features the hero Cú Chulainn.  This story is at the heart of most of historical Ireland and it’s pretty fascinating how many of these Gaelic words either originate with that story or get their foundation from the story.

There’s a general pronunciation guide although I wish each word had a phonetic guide because anyone who speaks English will look at Irish a if it is just a jumble of nonsensical consonants.

The book is broken down into sections, although the authors insist that there is no correct way to read the book.

  • Writing and Literature
  • Technology and Science
  • Food and Feasting
  • The Body
  • Social Circles
  • Other Worlds
  • War and Politics
  • A Sense of Place
  • Coming and Going
  • Health and Happiness
  • Trade and Status
  • Entertainment and Sport
  • The Last Word

There are also delightfully weird wood carving-like drawings from by Joe McLaren scattered throughout the book.

The words are listed below with either a definition or an interesting anecdote included. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MANDOLIN ORANGE-Tiny Desk Concert #883 (August 23, 2019).

Mandolin Orange is one of my favorite new band names.  It’s funny and clever and tells you a lot about the band.

I so wish I liked them more.

In fact, their music is really lovely.  I guess it comes down to Andrew Marlin’s voice.  It really don’t like it.  Indeed, Emily Frantz’ backing vocals are delightful and if she sang lead I’d like them a lot more.

But clearly I am no judge, because their recent album (their sixth) was #1 on the following Billboard charts:

Heatseekers, Current Country, Bluegrass and Folk / Americana with Top 10 Entries on 5 Additional Charts.

So don’t listen to me.

Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz made everything seem so easy, pulling a few acoustic instruments out of their car and, in no time, huddling around a single microphone behind the Tiny Desk. With that, Mandolin Orange was ready.

Interestingly, “Golden Embers,” the first song that Mandolin Orange plays, doesn’t actually have a mandolin in it.  Rather, Frantz plays the violin while Marlin plays guitar.  I couldn’t get past his voice so I didn’t really hear the words beyond “it’s like an old friend,” but apparently he

sang about his mom being carried away in a hearse.


It’s the second song, “The Wolves” that features Marlin on mandolin and Frantz on guitar.  I liked this one a bit more perhaps because he seems to be speaking more than singing and that’s more palatable to me.  This song

 is a story song that … tells a tale on an older woman’s life, the “hard road” she’s taken and that feeling of wanting to howl at the moon when all is finally right.

The last track, “Wildfire” comes from their 2016 album Blindfaller.  He sticks with the mandolin as he sings about Civil War.

The lyrics to this song are pretty great

 It’s a song with a wish that the Civil War would have left racism to rot on the battlefield, and yet it still rages like “wildfire.” It’s a sobering message presented with a gentle tone.

And so I love their name, their music and their lyrics.  I just can’t get past his voice.  But what do I know.

[READ: October 14, 2019] “Are You Experienced?”

The title of this naturally made me think of Jimi Hendrix.  And I was correct to think this.  For this story concerns hippies about to shipped off to war.

Although Billy doesn’t know he is soon to be shipped of to Vietnam.  In fact, as the story opens, he is dropping acid with his girlfriend Meg near Lake Michigan.  Billy had hung a “Keep On Truckin'” poster on the wall.  The poster eventually started dancing, trying to lure her in.

Billy was always full of schemes.  He told her about his Uncle Rex and Aunt Minerva who had been farmers but had moved to Lansing.  He knew that Rex had a box of cash in his attic.  Rex doesn’t have the heart to spend the money because it came from the soil and “he lost his farm a few years back and he’s still not over it.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LOST & PROFOUND-“All Consuming Mistress” (Moose: The Compilation, 1991).

Back in the 1990s, it was common to buy a compilation or soundtrack or even a band’s album based on one song.  Only to then find that you didn’t really like anything else on it.

Maybe that single sounded like nothing else on the album.  Maybe the movie was almost entirely one genre, but they had that one song that you liked over the credits.  Or maybe the compilation was for something you didn’t know, but a song you really wanted was on it, too.

With streaming music that need not happen anymore.  Except in this case.

I bought this compilation, used, recently exclusively for one song, Rheostatics’ “Woodstuck.”  It’s a goofy song and this is the only place you can get the studio version.  The actual compilation was not well documented, so I didn’t know what the other bands on it might sound like.  It turns out to be a compilation for Ontario based Moose Records which specialized in Rock, Folk, World & Country.  They put out another compilation in 1992 and that’s all I can find out about them.

Lost & Profound has a fantastic name.  They are from Calgary and were originally called The Psychedelic Folk Virgins (quite a different concept). The band is based around the married musicians Lisa Boudreau (vocals) and Terry Tompkins (guitars).

This is a slow song sung by Lisa Boudreau.  The credits don’t list a violin, but it sure sounds like there’s one on the song.  Maybe it’s an e-bow.  This song, a low-key folk song seems to be a good representation of the band’s sound.  A find this a moody and enjoyable song.

[READ: July 20, 2019] “Forbidden”

This is a story of a woman and her mother.  A symbiotic relationship of two women on a farm in Ireland.

In dream, my mother and I are enemies, whereas in life we were so attached we could almost be called lovers.

Her mother was a superstitious woman who looked for augurs and signs.  So that when the narrator began writing, her mother said that literature was a precursor to sin and damnation.

Her mother hated the books she brought home from college and when she wrote fanciful pieces for a railway magazine her mother seethed. (more…)

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Generally speaking, I don’t like the blues.  I think it’s pretty boring music-wise, with most songs sounding vaguely the same, especially on record.  I would never go to a blues show on purpose.  However, if all blues shows were like this one from Kingfish, I’d go to a lot more.

Christone “Kingfish” Ingram a Mississippi guitar player has a lot of hype around him (XPN loves him) and while I haven’t enjoyed the songs they’ve played, this set was stunning.  And when you learn how old he is, it’s even more incredible.

Ingram’s otherworldly guitar playing and ridiculously rich voice make it hard to believe that he is only twenty years old. He is clearly aware of the absurdity of his talent given his age, as he sings “they say I got an old soul and I ain’t even 21.”

He opened with “Before I’m Old”, off his debut album Kingfish.  The song opens with a lengthy guitar solo and lyrics that are basically an autobiography.  When I was younger, I used to rate guitar players by their soloing skills.  I don;t do that anymore.  In fact I don;t really care if there are solos in songs these days.  But I do still enjoy a guitarist who can play a wicked solo live.

I don’t care much about the structure of “Before I’m Old” because it’s all about the jamming solo he plays.  The great part of the solo is the tone he gets.  It’s just him and a bassist (and a drummer), but it doesn’t sound like a bassist playing notes and a guitarist soloing independently.  His guitar is full enough that it sounds like a bigger band.

But his skills are really tremendous.  He seemingly casually busts out a minute and a half solo mid-song that is exciting and full of passion.  There’s basically two verse sin this five minute song which ends with a little nod to Jimi Hendrix.

Next came “Fresh Out”, which Ingram started solo. Eventually he was joined by his bassist and drummer, but his solo verse demonstrated that in a way, they’re just extras; he can carry this all on his own.

This is a slower, classic blues song about having no love.  But it’s all about the three and a half minute solo.  In the middle of it, he quiets everything down while playing a slow, moody passage while the band is almost silent, playing just enough to keep the song going while Kingfish jams.

The final song, “Out of This Town” is the one I’ve been hearing on the radio.  It’s catchy in a classic bluesy way, but I never thought much about it.  I do like the five note hook and pause just before he sings “out of this town” but otherwise it was just a blues song.

But this live version was a revelation.

Ingram stretched each of his tracks out, squeezing every last drop of possibility out of them. He stretched them so much that he was only able to fit three songs in his twenty minute slot. Like with the two before it, Ingram led “Out of This Town” into an explosive electric blues epic.

This song stretches out to 9 minutes, five of which are the guitar solo.  In the wrong hands, a five minute guitar solo can be an interminable wank-fest.  But Kingfish makes it interesting–you actually don’t want the song to star up again because the guitar is so good.  And yet, when his sings, his voice is deep and rich as well.

This show may even get me to enjoy the song more the next time I hear it on the radio.

[READ: June 1, 2019] “In the Hay”

This essay is a fascinating insight into manual labor, immigration and alcohol.  All in three columns of type.

In 1959, Wolff looked for summer work on the farms along the Skagit River near Seattle.  Wolff was fourteen and kind of small, so he worked at a farm for a bit and then moved on.  Then he met a farmer who paid him better and treated him well, so he settled in.

The more permanent field hands bucked hay, but Wolff was not strong enough to do that, so he hacked weeds or shoveled shit. He would pause from time to time, catching snippets of conversation on the wind.

The following summer he returned bigger and strong and he joined the hay crew.  The crew was four people: Wolff, Clemson, the farmer’s nephew and two Mexican brothers, Miguel and Eduardo. (more…)

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