Worldly Wednesday: “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” Vân-Anh Vanessa Vo



Vo is a Vietnamese musician who specialized in traditional music.  The instrument she is playing is called the đàn bầu.  The đàn bầu is a single-stringed instrument whose pitch you change by pulling it with the bar on the end, which is made of buffalo horn.  Vo is an incredibly cool person for a whole variety of reasons, not least of which is that it is a seriously big deal to play traditional music as a woman – it’s (now almost) entirely dominated by men.  After she emigrated to the U.S., she collaborated with a number of groups, most notably Kronos Quartet (one of the major interpreters of Steve Reich’s music), and won an Emmy for her music in the documentary film, “Bolinao 52.”  Vo is a a big fan of blending eastern and western music, and this interpretation of the Johnny Cash song is touched with genius.  A hearty thanks to a friend and colleague who sent this to me.


Termagant Tuesday: “Semper Fidelis March,” Bob Crosby



What with all the hoo-hah happening in the world (yes, I am a defense analyst, hello), it occurs to one, especially this American one, that there are certain things we all count on to maintain order and stability.  Among these things, which would include trade and commerce, diplomacy, and a worldwide dislike of Justin Bieber (at least among those old enough to make powerful decisions), is the United States Marine Corps.  Say what you will about the use of American power abroad, you can’t deny that there is a reason why “Marine” has a powerful ring to it.  To salute my male and female friends in the Corps, most especially one friend in particular who is welcoming his first child into the world, I offer up this zippy Bob Crosby number.  Semper Fi!

Modernism Monday: “Touch The Sky,” Julie Fowlis



Oh, Tuners, I am on such a high.  I ran the Nike Women’s half-marathon yesterday and I can’t believe I did.  I honestly can’t.  It’s going to be an experience that I’m going to lean on for years to come.  This song came on my iPod just as I was getting into a sweet cruising zone, and so now whenever I hear this, I’m going to remember that feeling of, “holy crap, I can do this!  I am doing this!” Every now and again, it feels really, really good to see what you can do when you really push it.

“Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.”  – R.W. Emerson

Salubrious Saturday: “Conquering Lion,” Souljazz Orchestra



Someone once asked me what my motto was.  And by “someone once asked me,” I mean I wish someone would have asked me once.  Except then I wouldn’t have been able to come with one on the spot, so thanks, everyone, for holding off until I could think of one.

Actually, ok, I lied.  I have a few.

  1. “Don’t be mean, don’t be stupid.”  – High school art teacher
  2. “Keep Calm and Don’t Suck.”  – A sign I saw once
  3. “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”  – R.W. Emerson
  4. “If there’s a can of whoopass in the room, I open it.”  – Brian Williams (yes, the NBC News Brian Williams.  Yes, he really said that.)

I like to think this song encapsulates all four.

Throwback Thursday: “La Bouree (With Racketts),” Michael Praetorious



For my next trick, I will now turn back into my six-year-old self hearing the rackett for the first time and laughing so hard I hyperventilate because I envision a flotilla of angry and obese ducks.  That is all.

…No really, guys.  That’s the entire post today.  I have no interesting backstory, no history about this piece, nothing.  It just makes me laugh.  Really, really, really hard.

Worldly Wednesday: “Farewell to Stromness,” Peter Maxwell Davies



This has already been a tough week for me and a lot of people I know, so I thought I would share a piece that has helped me recenter myself when things get a bit much.  Davies wrote this for a play, “The Yellowcake Review,” which was a work of protest against a possible plan to build a uranium mine in Stromness, in the Orkney Islands of Scotland.




“I will not walk backward in life.”

– J.R.R. Tolkein

Termagant Tuesday: “Jolie Coquine,” Caravan Palace



Let’s list the things I want and can’t have, because that’s fun and healthy:

  • longer legs
  • thousands of dollars in disposable income per month for clothes
  • a bi-monthly trip to Europe (Paris, Prague, Munich, London, Barcelona, and Rome – on rotation)
  • internal organs that regenerate every night so I can indulge my vices scot-free
  • feet that can handle four-inch heels without pain
  • a mint green Vespa (I can’t have this because I would absolutely get pasted onto the side of a bus)
  • be best friends with Stephen Fry, P.G. Wodehouse, Dorothy Parker, Fred Astaire, George Plimpton, and David Rakoff, and have them over for dinner weekly
  • lots of glamor and very little responsibility
  • a metabolism like a bullet train so I can finally have a fettucine alfredo-centric diet
  • fluency in the theories of particle physics and epistemology
  • a microwave that doesn’t sound like a Zamboni when it heats up my turkey meatballs (I could have this if I didn’t have a fundamental belief that home appliances should cost about $10)
  • a castle
  • be guest conductor of the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra
  • be able to play the shawm (my neighbors would kill me)
  • basically be the most interesting woman in the world.  With really long legs and undead friends and absolutely incredible clothes.

I can’t have any of that.  But I can listen to this song and daydream about it.  That’s something.

Modernism Monday: “Don’t Carry It All,” The Decembrists



I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what we require of ourselves and what we require of others.  What can we reasonably expect from other people?  What can we reasonably expect from ourselves?    And are our standards different?  I’ve always been aware that my standards are a bit skewed for certain emotions, by which I mean that I think I expect other people to be happy and allow myself a bit more breathing room.  Whereas, when it comes to sadness, it’s the complete opposite.  It is sometimes – most times? – easier for me to bear my neighbor’s burden than to ask them to help me bear my own.

But once we figure out what ratios are healthy for us, then the trick is sticking to it.  As my mother likes to say, “people don’t change – they just stand more clearly revealed.”  We have all had friendships sour because the person never stopped leaning on us, never started carrying their own weight again.  And maybe we’ve lost friends because we’ve done the same to others.  Do we slough off those friendships?  Or do we keep them?  It’s hard.

In the midst of all of this weird back-and-forth, this constant assessment, is the central fundamental truth that the only thing about a relationship that you can rely on is that it will change.  The Rector at my church, Luis Leon, gave a brilliant sermon on Easter Sunday in which he said that there is no such thing as absolute security.  I think that’s right, and I would gently bend that statement to fit this blog post by asserting that there is no such thing as an immutable relationship.  The best we can do, really, is to offer up an educated guess and see what happens.

This is what “Don’t Carry It All” reminds me of.

“So raise a glass to turnings of the season
And watch it as it arcs towards the sun
And you must bear your neighbor’s burden within reason
And your labors will be borne when all is done.”