(archives & links below)


1979: Albert's (in Omaha) is lit!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

the Canterbury carol

Back in 2003, a friend in a newsgroup (who I haven't met) queried:

Where could I find the "Canterbury Carol"?

This was the sort of challenge that, for some obscure reason, I felt like picking up and running with. As it turns out, I made some errors, conflating or expanding the MONK count somehow, so until that gets fixed, this is a work in progress. 2013 will be its tenth year as such. Anyway, fire up your plainchant (I had in mind a tune similar to Veni, Veni, Emmanuel's beginning) and have something near to hand for when you get thirsty.

Pilgrims, nine and twenty number we,
Traveling in such a company.
To Canterbury now we all do come
To shrive our sins at Thomas Becket's tomb.

A KNIGHT I am, whose warlike chivalry
Does serve our peaceful Lord of Galilee.
To heathen foes the fight I'd gladly press
To show them Jesu's grace and gentleness.

I am his YEOMAN, clad in brightest green.
My bow is long, my arrows true and keen.
How dull is e'en the sharpest shining sword
When laid beside our savior's holy word.

A PRIORESS am I, and it is thence
For Jesus' sake I make my journey hence
His blood redeem-ed Adam's shameful fall
His is the love alone that conquers all.

I am a NUN, and keeping to my friend
I'll travel on until the jouney's end.
My chapel I make on the open road,
And roods I find abundant in each wode.

We are three PRIESTS who travel in the sun.
A trinity we be, who preach as one.
Together, we make light work of our load,
And save such souls as we might, on the road.

A MONK I be, and forward now I ride;
My calling is not one found safe inside
I wander widely round the earthly sod
And hunt with love for souls to bring to God.

I am a FRERE, indeed a merry man
I find my pleasant joys where best I can;
To men I freely God's forgiveness give
For after all, a man of God must live.

A MERCHANT I, and reckon fully well
The worth of every good and ware I sell.
Yet all this world's wealth would not reckoned be
A farthing's worth in God's own currency.

A CLERK I am, from Oxford's noble halls;
I leave the shadows of its ivied walls
And travel hence with one important goal,
By Jesu's love to cleanse my mortal soul.

I labor as a SERGEANT of the law.
Before God's might, I meekly stand in awe.
His son did bring us, with his humble birth
A greater law than all that's found on earth.

Although a FRANKLIN wealthy I may be,
Yet in my soul I feel but poverty
The sweetest riches of this world I'd give
In Jesu's better world one day to live.

In stylish HABERDASHER's livery,
I garb in cloth men's frames most fittingly.
My greatest hope is that one day I'll don
A fairer raiment, when from earth I'm gone.

A CARPENTER, I hack and hew rough wood
And hope my work comes out the way it should.
But now I ride for days past field and floss
To honor Him nailed on a wooden cross.

A WEAVER am I, toiling at my loom
And as I work, my mind is on the tomb
Tho' warp and woof of life be in my eye
I pray I might be shuttled to the sky.

A DYER I, I live by staining cloth
With industry I strive, abjuring sloth.
And now on holy pilgrimage I fly,
That my soul may be stainless when I die.

An ARRAS-MAKER, I craft tapestries
Of heavenly and earthly majesties
The first to help me stand on Judgment Day;
The other pays my bills along the way.

Sweet friend, I pray you, do not scorn the COOK,
Whose recipe for life comes from a Book.
Who seeks his soul to leaven ere he dies,
That from the dirt to heaven he may rise.

A SHIPMAN, I have roamed the mighty seas
Yet now I go to pray upon my knees
And pardon seek for all those times I failed
And thoughtlessly and sinningly I sailed.

PHYSICIAN am I; man of many parts.
Philosophy I read, and healing arts.
Yet now I seek the healing of my soul,
And being with the Lord shall be my goal.

A humble WIFE am I, upon this path
Five husbands I have had, who lived in Bath.
A pilgrimage I take, so when I have died
The Prince of Peace may claim me for his bride.

A PARSON, I do preach upon the rock.
I seek to find the best way for my flock
I guide them not for profit nor for pelf,
Nor bid them go where I'd not go myself.

As PLOWMAN I must walk behind my ox
And watch to spare the colter blade from rocks.
I pray to God my soul to Heav'n may go,
And see my friends and neighbors there also.

A MILLER stout, my wheel grinds for an hour
And from its movement, grain is ground to flour.
So too, from even one of my large size,
My sins be ground away, and I may rise.

I am a MANCIPLE from inn of court,
No man has managed yet to sell me short.
This pilgrimage I take, while I have breath:
For I could win in life, yet lose in death.


As REEVE, I am the steward to my lord,
And from my skills, fine goods I can afford.
Yet though I forecast crops with great success,
I would not wager my soul on a guess.

My living as a SUMMONER is sweet,
I never want for cheer or drink or meat.
I blush not that I take whate'er I can;
For God knows, you can't cheat an honest man.

A PARDONER, I know the Bible well
Choice relics from it I am pleased to sell
Saint's toe bones I can let all have who pay
And they're all glad to have them, anyway.

As POET, I have dragged this out too long,
And yet I'll put myself into the song.
I earned the right by riding on this road,
And trust that God will lighten my soul's load.

©2012 by Kip Williams.

I've indicated some places where the chorus may be interposed. You can skip them! Or you can sing it after every verse, if you like. If you sing while walking, you may be at Canterbury when you finish.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

minas morgul

Minas Morgul was Minas Ithil
Now it's Minas Morgol, not Minas Ithil.
Now the shadows grow in old Minas Ithil
On a moonless night, by runic light.

The Uruk-Hai in old Minas Ithil
Lurk in Minas Morgul, not Minas Ithil*
So if you've a doom in fair Minas Ithil,
It awaits thee in fell Morgul.

(Even old Mirkwood was once the Greenwood great.
Why'd they change? I dare not say --
Evil One liked it better that way.) So--

Take me back to old Minas Ithil.
No, you can't go back to old Minas Ithil
For the road leads not to cold Minas Ithil.

Why did poor Minas Ithil pop its corks?
That's nobody's business but the Orcs!

[ttto: Istanbul (not Constantinople). New words (c)2004 by Kip Williams]

*This has been criticized, but it is a true statement. The ones that are there do that. I didn't say there were a lot of them. Q.E.D.

(I realized I don't have this up on my own page. I wrote it in 2000, right around or just after the time I was in "The Mikado" at CNU.)

Friday, October 05, 2012

Internet Writer


(to the tune of Paperback Writer, by Lennon & McCartney)

Pasty basement dwellers, won't you view my blog?
I had eighty hits last week, just see the log.
All my teachers told me, stick with what you know,
But I don't know joe, so I'm gonna be an internet writer,
Internet writer!

When I watch a movie or a TV show,
How's it make me feel? People need to know!
Got strong opinions, I hold nothing back,
I'm a little cracked, and I'm gonna be an internet writer,
Internet writer!

(Internet… writer… internet… writer) (repeat this part when you feel like it)

Got my thumb on the pulse of the intertubes,*
And an eye that catches any kind of boobs,
My friends all say that I'm a crazy stitch,
Some day I'll be rich, cuz I'm gonna be an internet writer,
Internet writer!

I can update often, I've got time to spend.
Please retweet my twitters, be my facebook friend!
Put my link up on your blogroll too,
I'll link back to you, man, I'm gonna be an internet writer,
Internet writer!

Gonna build my influence, and when I'm big
I'll be read at Reddit, I'll be dug at Digg,
Drudge and aintitcool will defer to me,
And they'll all agree, I'm the king of all teh internets writers,
Internet writer!!

(new lyrics ©2012 by Kip Williams)
(thanks to Nehemiah Scudder for the title and central conceit — he literally asked for this)

*A significant line. The thumb has its own pulse, which can be confused for the pulse it's supposed to be taking. Plus it fits the meter.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

FREE to a good home

Okay, not really. But here's the thing.

I get daily emails from the Mechanical Music Digest, which consist of the day's postings to a diverse group of hobbyists. Their delight is in player pianos, pianolas, band organs, violinolas, music boxes, and even automata. Every so often (and getting oftener) I read about another beloved member of the community who has passed on or gotten too old to keep doing the work, and the collection he or she (usually he) spent years putting together and keeping in order is looking for a home. More often, many homes, as different things go in different directions, possibly including the trash.

As they age out, they wonder where the next generation of people who appreciate this exacting craft will come from. Who will repair the machines? Who will keep the rolls rolling? Their kids, oftentimes, have bemused tolerance for their parents, but no intention of carrying on after them. The faces they see are getting older.

Now, I look around and see young people who love clockwork and gears and steel and brass and polished wood and leather cases, who are interested in the obscure and the outdated and the ingenious. Yes, steampunks and makers. Why wouldn't they want to get in on, and add to, the not-so-secret lore of the mechanical music enthusiasts? What would they bring to the table?

A recent posting at bOINGbOING on a player piano performance drew enthusiastic comments, but my attempts to post something like this message there have simply vanished into space. I used to subscribe to the steampunk community, but apparently allowed that to lapse, and rejoining just to post a glorified want ad seems sort of cheap. But hey, if anybody who reads this felt like reposting it or directing their eyes to my page, I'd love to get the word out.

Pneumatic tubes! Mainsprings! Foot pedals! Escapements! Antique mahogany finish! Burnished metal! Jewel bearings! Ebony and ivory keys! AND when you do it right, MUSIC comes out!

Here's the home page. There are links to years of postings from members, photos, movies, and sound files (midi and mp3), and you can participate by getting a free account and logging in.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Car-Mangled Banner

Oh, say, did you see
On the truck that just passed?
Some poor star-spangled banner
Is waving its last.
With six stripes and nine stars
Threadbare on a stick,
Do they think it's respectful?
It seems kind of sick.
If they can't take good care of
The flag that they wave,
How can they care for the land
Of the free and the brave?

Toon River Anthology, part 10:


Edda and I were kids together
And she bugged and pestered me,
Put things in my desk and gave me wedgies
Until I gave in and loved her.
So we matured to ripe teenhood,
Two geeky musical prodigies.
(She was also a ballet prodigy
As well as several other kinds.)
Love of my life, we were fated for each other.
On that day in Belgium, we clinched it
Under the piano, and on the piano,
And possibly in it. It's hard to be certain,
And I couldn't bring myself to watch the video.
From there, the path of love ran hot and cold,
As did she. I mostly ran hot, but my feet
Sometimes ran cold. At the end
Of a series of misunderstandings,
I humped the question to her, and she said yes.
She was lovely in her gown. She said yes again
When the old nun asked, and the guests blew bubbles
And took pictures and threw birdseed
And we removed to our own love nest.
She was mine at last, and I was hers.
Tenderly, we removed each other's clothes
And looked into our eyes. She smiled
And came to me, and unhinged her jaw.
That's all I remember.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

walking it back

The greatest, most glorious retraction I ever read ran on December 17, 2003, on the front page of the first section of the Virginian-Pilot newspaper. It was part of my job to go through this paper each day. (On Sunday they had crossword puzzles from both the NY Times and the LA Times, and I'd save these pages for trips. I miss that!)

On this particular day, my eyes were greeted by a follow-up article to an original article I hadn't seen — I'd only been in the area since 1985:

A story and headline in the Dec. 18, 1903, Virginian-Pilot contained errors.

Orville Wright was the pilot for the first flight of the Wright Flyer. It was not Wilbur, whose name is not spelled Wilber.

The plane's wing span was 40 feet, 4 inches. The wings were 6 feet 2 inches apart vertically and 6 feet, 6 inches from front to rear. They were covered in muslin, not canvas.

The engine rested on top of the lower wing. It did not hang below it.

The propellers had two blades each, not six. They both were mounted on the rear side of the wings. There was no propeller providing upward force.

Rudders in the front and rear and warping of the wings controlled the plane. There was not a single, huge fan-shaped rudder that could be moved side to side and raised and lowered.

The pilot lay prone on the lower wing. There was no pilot's car.

The Wrights have always said they were equal inventors of the machine. Wilbur never took credit as the chief inventor. The brothers had no plans to build a much larger machine and never did.

Their success came after four years of work, not three.

They took one trip to the Outer Banks in the summer and two trips in the fall prior to 1903. They did not spend almost the entire winter, fall and early spring on the Outer Banks for three years.

They arrived on Sept. 26 in 1903, not on Sept. 1.

The plane took off under its own power after traveling 40 feet down a rail on flat land. It was not sent down a slope after Orville Wright released a catch. The engine was started before takeoff. It was not started after the plane had rolled halfway down a 100-foot hill.

The plane flew 120 feet, 8 to 10 feet off the ground in a straight line on the first of four flights. It did not soar 60 feet in the air. It did not circle and fly 3 miles over breakers and dunes. It did not tack to port, then to starboard.

The plane's ground speed was 8 to 10 mph. Its air speed was 30 to 35 mph. It did not fly at 8 mph.

The plane hit the ground nose-first after its fourth flight, damaging the front rudder mechanism, and was later destroyed by a gust of wind. It did not descend gracefully and rest lightly at a spot chosen by the aviator after one attempt.

Five onlookers helped the brothers and watched the flights. A small crowd did not run after the plane and give up after it outpaced them.

The flight took place at the foot of Kill Devil Hill. Orville Wright did not declare the flight a success before a crowd on the beach after the first mile. The flights were not on the beach.

Wilbur Wright was 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighed 140 pounds. His eyes were blue-gray and his hair dark brown. He was not 5 feet 6 inches tall and did not weigh 150 pounds. He did not have raven-hued hair. His eyes were not deep blue.

Orville Wright was 5 feet 8 inches tall and had blue-gray eyes and dark brown hair. He did not have black eyes. He did not have sandy blond hair.
The article referred to can be seen here, thanks to the Smithsonian.

It's possible I have the article among my boxes. I found it today with a search at the Pilot Online, then I bought the article for $1.95, then I searched on a phrase in it and found that the article was carried by many other newspapers, so I copied the text from the Floridian of St. Petersburg.

I find it entirely commendable that a news organization can clear up the record this way, without fear of looking foolish. Indeed, I suspect they were saving the article for the anniversary of the original occasion. The Virginian-Pilot account of the flight was pretty much the first, and can be found at the Smithsonian's web site as part of a lesson plan for the historic event.

Footnote: Driving through Dayton, I saw (and photographed) the present-day incarnation of the Wright Brothers' firm, which (if I understand correctly) was sold quite a few years ago, but which continues to be a going concern. I'm sorry that we have lost Neil Armstrong today, but at least some names are still with us whose bearers have helped us in the ongoing quest to (in whatever degree and for whatever duration) get off the Earth.

Edited to add: I wrote to the Smithsonian and told them about the correction, and got a nice answer back to the effect that they might revamp the lesson plan and include the corrections in the update as an interesting sidelight. Tickled, I am. (September 17, 2012)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

buckwheat cakes!

Here's two minutes of, for me, pure unadulterated joy from an old LP of songs from the Mickey Mouse Club. Buddy Ebsen, just then working on the Davy Crockett series, teams with Mouseketeer Darlene Gillespie in a homespun paean to the humble buckwheat pancake. Accordion and pedal steel guitar figure prominently in the accompaniment, along with clarinet, and unobtrusive rhythm.)

Buddy & Darlene:
Buckwheat cakes, buckwheat cakes, along with crispy bacon!
Yes it is your buckwheat cakes that sets my heart to achin'!

(The accordion echoes the word "bacon!" Buddy and Darlene sing in harmony.)

It can't be your chocolate cake, or your Irish stew
It can't be your chocolate cake that makes me fond of you!

(Listen to the warmth Buddy can put into a recital of foods. He twinkles with his voice, just enough that I can feel it in 2012, and not so much as to cloy.)

It's buckwheat cakes, buckwheat cakes, along with crispy bacon!
Yes it is your buckwheat cakes that sets my heart to achin'!

What about my girlish ways, and my purty hair?
What about my girlish ways, or maybe you don't care?

(Darlene's voice is clear, with a melodious hillbilly accent that doesn't interfere with her diction.)

No, it ain't your girlish ways, or your purty hair.
No, it ain't your girlish ways that makes me set and stare.

(It's not as if he's rejecting her here. He just has different reasons.)

It's buckwheat cakes, buckwheat cakes, along with crispy bacon!
Yes it is your buckwheat cakes that sets my heart to achin'!

(A sprightly instrumental solo follows, with some tasty work on clarinet and pedal steel guitar. It goes around twice.)

How about my friendly smile, 'specially for you?
How about my friendly smile? I see you're smilin' too.

No, it ain't your friendly smile, or your dimpled chin.
No, it ain't your friendly smile that brings me back again.

(Listen to Buddy: "nnnnNNNO!!" He finds something that's probably not in the music; a little moment where he can make something out of nothing, adding to the song without even slowing the flow. And he doesn't waste it in an early verse, either. The second "no" suggests, but doesn't repeat, the first snap. And it's still playful.)

It's buckwheat cakes, buckwheat cakes, because I'm only human.
I just love the buckwheat cakes, made by a purty woman!

I just love the buckwheat cakes, made by a purty woman!

(spoken) Aw, Pa, quit your kiddin'!

(And Darlene rescues the song from what could have been seen as creepy by a cynical 21st century listener, putting it back squarely into the heartwarming category. Darlene may be eclipsed somewhat by Buddy's innate talent honed by decades of experience, but make no mistake: these are a pair of pros at the height of their powers. How much time do you suppose they had with this? A quarter of an hour? A half hour, from the time they were given the music to when the director said it was a wrap? I'm guessing closer to the former. This is star power, and it works for me every time I hear it.)

Music, lyrics, performance and recording ©Walt Disney Studios. If you liked this sample, go buy something.

Monday, May 07, 2012

The Dust is Whirling in the Dust

Arthur Kraft - Soldier with Death before a Carousel

Arthur Kraft — Private First Class Arthur Kraft, at the time — painted this during World War II. It was part of an exhibition called "Soldier Art," from which came one of those oblong GI paperbacks of the same title. In fifth or sixth grade, I saw the small, black and white photo of the picture and was struck by the technique and the infinitely sad subject matter. I looked online and couldn't find a color copy of it. I know now that it is probably because the picture is now known as "Soldier with Death before Carousel" instead of the Oscar Wilde quote that was with it in the book.

Kraft, who died in 1977 at age 55, lived in Kansas City, Missouri, and according to a website dedicated to his life and work, Kansas City has many examples of his work to be found, including several murals. This painting hangs in the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, which I'd like to visit some day.

I pride myself on having gotten the best scan I could from the halftone picture in the book, but this color version (which I've adjusted slightly to correct for a yellow cast) has shown me much more detail. Interestingly, my mental image has been off all along — the color choices I'd imagined, such as a rich purple robe on Death (and I didn't know that was Death!), turn out to have been mistaken. Soon, I probably won't even remember what they were.

Also, the canopy of the carousel is interesting to me for personal reasons: I drew a graphite scene with an awning that was similarly striped, and viewed closely, it's a lot like the one in this picture. Was that unconscious inspiration? Or just the best way to draw a striped awning? No idea. At the risk of comparison, here's my drawing (graphite on copy paper):

Window Shopper

Well, they're not that much alike after all. I've been flattering myself. Anyway, I'm putting it there for my audience to enjoy. Last one out turns off the lights.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Toon River Anthology, part 9:


Why am I summoned
To return to the world
To be among men?
Years ago, I wanted to be
The center of attention,
The phrase maker,
The hero of song and joke.
When I was slowly pushed aside
By a one-note bit player,
I was angry and resentful.
Tried to reassert myself,
Tried to push back in
To no avail. As time passed
I realized what a blessing it was
Not to stand center stage,
Not to carry everything on my shoulders,
Not to play the clown.
But I am summoned,
So for this brief time, I return
Smile at punch lines,
Google my eyes,
And wait for the time
I can depart again,
A thing without aspect,
Without time,
Just like the world outside.


Oh, I were bodacious.
Tiny waist, nice apples,
Blond hair that fell lak
Water ripplin' down a hill
All the way t' my li'l cut-offs,
Then it were laigs, all th' way down
T'mah big ol' bare feet.
Snuffy caught me 'hind th' hen coop
An' we trysted, an' Paw caught us both.
We said our I Dos in front o' his sawed-off,
An' I started a-swellin' up right away,
Not 'cuz I had a bun in th' oven, mind,
It's jest what wimmen hereabouts do
When we're married, er fifteen,
Whichever come first.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

by Randy and me, from 1980 (odd panels by me; more detail at flickr):

The Shoe

Blog Archive