Saturday, August 23, 2008

Irish Music for Video Game Music Fans

I was submitting my Squidoo lens on Alexander James Adams to Digg, when one of the items they pulled up as a "possible duplication" was a new article from Wired Magazine called "Irish Music for Video Game Music Fans.

I've never been much of a video gamer, although I did spend some time messing around with a few in video arcades for a brief time in the '80s - got sort of good at "Battle Zone" the tank-blasting game. For the most part, though, I considered most video games to be "twitch games" and I don't have the fastest reflexes. I never got into role-playing games either, not that I have anything against them; I just had other ways of entertaining myself on the computer.

The connection between Irish music, and as the article makes clear, Celtic music in general, had eluded me. It doesn't strike me as all that unusual, though. A lot of video game delve into myth and fantasy, and the connection there is a lot stronger.

As I read the article, a lot of familiar names came up, including those I've made Squidoo lenses for, listed here in the order they came up in the article:

Other familiar names came up, suggesting lenses I should make:

  • Eileen Ivers
  • Sharon Shannon
  • Cherish the Ladies
  • Afro Celt Sound System

Cherish the Ladies is on a list of lenses I want to do, and now the list is three lenses longer. I could be busy for a while! And while I'm submitting stuff to Digg, I'll be sure to pay a bit more attention to the list of possible duplications they toss up at me.

It wasn't until after I posted this that I realized the bullets were going to look different due to the theme I chose for the blog. I like them.

Friday, August 22, 2008

A Lens for Alec

My newest Squidoo lens, one in the Celtic music category is for Alexander James Adams, an Oregon singer/songwriter and great entertainer who is the Heir to the musical and magical legacy of Heather Alexander.

The photo above was one I took of Alec at the Washington Renaissance Faire in August 2007 when the Canon camera was still pretty new to me. I used it on the lens in a Polaroid module, which shows photos at a 400-pixel width, the size seen here.

This was a lens I wanted to get right, and I hope I've succeeded.

I also hope the lens will result in some CD sales for Alec. He and his wife Kore live, along with a small menagerie, on 30 acres called Fae Hollow, located west of Portland. Financial stability can be elusive for musicians, and they're faced with possible foreclosure. Things are pretty tight for me right now, so I can't buy a whole bunch of CDs or donate, so I made the lens. See the lens for more info.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

From Clare to Here

Here's a post from my blog at

It was sad to learn today [Monday] of Ronnie Drew's passing on Saturday. I found out from someone in the chat room during Klara McDonnell's show.

It was also mentioned that there's some Ronnie Drew and Dubliners videos on YouTube, and that made me think of the documentary From Clare to Here with Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill that I'd seen there a while ago. So I decided if it wasn't already here at LI, it should be. It's in five parts, with a total running time probably a bit over 40 minutes. In addition to Martin and Dennis talking about the music, there's Paddy Molony of The Chieftains, Mairead Ni Mhaonagh of Altan and others. It's a good view of what Irish traditional music means on the world stage and what it means to a couple of musicians who help spread it all around the planet.

Here's a link to Part 1.

Any time you want your own private concert of Irish music, check out YouTube and search for the names of reasonably popular Irish performers and you'll probably find a bunch of decent videos.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Girls With Slingshots - Squidoo Lens

It's been very hot and somewhat humid since Thursday, but over Friday and Saturday I created a new Squidoo lens for the webcomic Girls With Slingshots by Danielle Corsetto. I published it yesterday.

The website for Girls With Slingshots has a lot to it besides the strip itself. Corsetto's got a store offering the first GWS book, cards, buttons, original strips and other artwork. She's got extensive information about the strip and its characters. And she's got banners, which I was glad to see because I was able to use them as graphic elements in the lens. It wouldn't be right for me to use any other graphics from her site because I don't have permission. Here's one, and it's a link, too:

That's Jamie McJack on the left, best friend of Hazel Tellington, the main character, in the middle, and McPedro the talking Irish cactus, on the right.

Visit the lens or the GWS website to find out more.

I wanted to send an email to Danielle yesterday and had it all written, then hit a wrong button and it all disappeared. Then I tried to send her a Twitter tweet, but I messed that up too. Since it was so bloody uncomfortable and my computer's fan started to sound really loud, I ended up not sending anything. Today, however, I looked up how to tweet a specific person and sent off one to "zee artiste" as she refers to herself on her site.

I've never met Danielle Corsetto online or off. I hope she takes a look at the lens and likes it. [Edit at 4:16 - just got a tweet from her - she likes it and said she'll link to it tomorrow, which is when the next GWS strip is published.)

I really like the webcomic. It's a slice-of-life comic. I'd previously followed Christopher Baldwin's Bruno, but he ended it a year and a half ago, although the archives are still up. GWS is quite a bit lighter in tone than Bruno, although Corsetto still deals with some serious issues in the strip.

I hope you'll visit both the lens and the webcomic, and I hope you like what you see.

Oh, the weather's supposed to be cooler tomorrow and the rest of the week.

Monday, August 11, 2008

New: Golden Bough, Update: Spoonerisms

When I went to the Portland Highland Games in July, I got a lot of pictures of the Celtic music trio Golden Bough. At the time I did some preliminary work to get a lens started. Yesterday I got the Golden Bough Squidoo lens published. It's got all their CDs available on Amazon in it, plus several of the better photos I took at the games.

Today I poked around looking at various Squidoo stuff, then decided to add another Spoonerized fairy tale to the Spoonerisms lens. So I wrote up the story of Beeping Sleauty. I'd heard it years ago from an LP by one of the performers at Northern Lights, but since I haven't had a turntable since 2000, I haven't heard it lately. I read over the version in Stoopnagle's Tale Is Twisted, but most of the Spoonerisms are my own. I borrowed one line I remembered from the LP because it is too good to pass up.

At one point, I took a long detour to join, thinking to use an image of a Sleeping Beauty print. But when I got to the point where I plugged it into the lens module, for some reason there was a huge amount of white space around it.
Sleeping Beauty

Buy at

You can see what I mean, sort of. The lens has a white background, so the border just looks like white space. It looks better here. Still, there's more space than I like around the "Buy at" In the lens, the text wrapping almost worked, but not quite. In the end, I found another image on Wikipedia and used that. I'm still going to do something with Allposters at some point.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Tricky Pixie, Squidoo & Flickr

During the week I'd worked on selecting pictures from last Saturday's trip to Faerieworlds (subject of my previous post). Today I added some photos and a new module to the Faerieworlds lens. It's about Tricky Pixie, a trio that started at Faerieworlds 2006 when Alexander James Adams asked S. J. Tucker (that's her in the photo) if she wanted a fiddle player. They were joined by cello player Betsy Tinney from the Gaia Consort. They weren't scheduled to play Saturday, but they did a jam session outside their merchandise booth and I got some decent pictures, including closeups of each that I thought turned out pretty well. One set of Flickr photos on the lens was from that session.

Mount St. Helens and treeLater I added photos to the Mount St. Helens lens I'd started a couple of days ago. Although I've had photos on Flickr since last year, it's only since talking with another photographer at Faerieworlds that I realized it would be a good place to store my photos that I want to use on Squidoo. First I had to upgrade to a Pro membership to get away from the three-set limit for free accounts. I thought I'd get around that by combining my two Faerieworlds sets into one and putting this year's photos in with them. I did that, only to find out, when adding Mount St. Helens photos, there was another limit - only 200 of the most recent photos will show on a free account. Once I encountered that, I forked over the bucks to upgrade the membership. It's $25 a year, and thanks to a promotion, I got another three months free so I won't have to pay again until early November 2009.

SeismographI discovered something else about Flickr, but only after tediously resizing photos to put there for use on Squidoo lenses. Photos are available in several sizes on Flickr, and the size they label "small" is just right for using in a Squidoo lens. The photos are supposed to link back to Flickr, so if people want to see a larger photo, they can just click on the photo on the lens.

There's some tricks I learned from a Squidoo lens about using HTML to place photos in text areas of lenses. I combined some of the coding so a photo is also a link, and realized that such coding can be used here in this blog. Flickr provides HTML coding for placing photos as links, and I used some of the coding from the Squidoo lens about HTML to modify it for margins and positioning for the two Mount St. Helens photos included in this entry. Of course, when I tried publishing this entry, it turned out the HTML coding needed a bit of tweaking to get Blogger to accept it.

If you're interested in making Squidoo lenses about something you're interested in, take a look at this:

Join Squidoo and create your own lenses. They're free and you might even make some money at it. Lenses are web pages, but the Squidoo folks call them lenses because the pages focus in on topics. Everyone's an expert on something. Music, humor, books, travel, collectibles, movies, photography -- anything that interests you probably interests someone else. Ready to start? CLICK HERE

If you do click there (please!), and eventually make $15.00 from your lenses, Squidoo will send both you and me an extra $5.00. Unless you're already very knowledgeable about making money online (I don't consider I am yet), it may be a few months before you make that $15.00 from Squidoo, but that's OK, I won't be holding my breath. It took me about six months before I reached the payout minimum of $10.00.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Faerieworlds 2008

This year I made my third trek to Faerieworlds at Secret House Winery, Veneta, OR, about 15 miles west of Eugene. Because of gas prices and the expense of a motel room, the latter being the major consideration, I only attended on Saturday. It's the first year they've expanded to three days, with Friday, August 1 being Good Faeries Day, Saturday was Bad Faeries Day, and today, Sunday, was Family Day.

Although I didn't care to spend money for a room, it seemed wise to bring along stuff in case I didn't want to drive home if I stayed late. It was slated to be a long day in any event. I left just after 7:30, knowing I'd be early. Because of that, I got off I-5 in Salem and went over to pick up 99W, a route I knew wouldn't be as fast as the interstate, but would position me further west and avoid Eugene entirely. It took me through Monmouth, Corvallis, and Monroe. In Monroe I picked up the Territorial Highway, which brought me to Route 126 in Veneta. A short drive west got me to the Faerieworlds entrance. Surprisingly, this route took no longer than going down I-5 to the Beltline Highway around Eugene to 126. I drove onto the winery grounds not long after 10:00.

With a change into my wizard outfit, I got up to the admissions area and plunked my quad chair down in front of the Will Call section. Once that opened, I became first in line to get in to Faerieworlds itself and sat in the chair, with many people thinking I was "official" although I let anyone who asked know I was just first in line. Even before we were let in, I got one or two requests for pictures. I think I was a bit more convincing as a wizard this year because the beard is real. It took a while to get the long white-hair wig under control, but I got the hang of it after a while. I got to watch a steady stream of vendors, most in costume, enter. I greeted world-famous faerie and goblin artist Brian Froud as he entered carrying a bag of ice.

When the rope blocking the gate opened, I held my staff up and cried out, "Faeries, ho!" and went in. I walked briskly to get ahead of everyone so I could turn and get a shot of the other early birds walking down the main avenue with vendor booths on each side. I did a quick scouting out of the area close to the entrance and made my way around to where Brian and Wendy Froud had their booth. I had a couple of his books that needed autographs. I exchanged a few words with Brian, mentioning the "stain" on the cover of "Strange Stains and Mysterious Smells" (10 3/4 Anniversary Edition), he did with Monty Python's Terry Jones. I'd just noticed the other day that there's a clear "stain" that's only visible if it catches the light just so and reflects it off the cover. Brian's autographs aren't just a signature; he includes a quick faerie/pixie/goblin sketch as well. I got a few photos and made sure to thank him.

I made a trek back to the car to shed some weight. There are places to sit on the grounds, so I didn't need the chair, and although books don't weigh much, the two autographed hardcover books would be better off in the car. On the way, I walked by a guy getting names for a petition to establish a Department of Peace in the US and promised to sign on my way back, which I did. I was back on the grounds looking around when a small boy asked me if I was a wizard - a reasonable question since one seldom encounters one on the street or in the supermarket. I thought I'd make a comment about my staff, which is far from straight, when I realized I didn't have it. It was lying on the ground in plain view where I'd put it while I deposited the chair and books in the trunk. I wasn't too concerned, but I made a second, and more rapid, trek back to the car. It was right where I left it. I may have decided to be Cabra d'Abra, the Wurst Accizard who spooks in Speenerisms, but absent-mindedness wasn't planned.

Back on the grounds, I continued looking around at various vendor booths. People with cameras asked if they could take my picture. I soon realized if I could've gotten a dollar for every picture, I could've easily paid for my ticket and the gas to drive there and back. By the end of the day, I probably could've not only paid for that, but for the entire weekend including two nights in a motel, if you figure in the addtional requests I would've gotten on Friday and Sunday. But of course, I never seriously entertained the notion of actually charging. It was fun and made for some brief and pleasant exchanges. Even people without cameras would smile as they passed by me.

It being Bad Faeries Day, there were lots of people in costumes that reflected the darker theme, although not everyone had on such an outfit. No doubt many costumed folk had been there on Friday, Good Faeries day, and given the elaborate nature of some costumes, they were wearing the same outfit both days. My wizard outfit was suitable for both. I saw many other costumed folk honoring requests for pictures, and often joined those who'd requested them by getting a shot myself, as did many others. Like them, I noticed my own pauses for a pose resulted in other folks taking the opportunity for photos. One thing to note about Bad Faeries day and the costumes reflecting that theme: if you've always thought of faeries as sweet and cute little darlings like the Disney version of Tinkerbelle, think again and remember that even in the Disney version of Peter Pan, there's a dark side to Tink. One of the better Bad Faerie costumes I saw was worn by Betsy Tinney, cello player for Gaia Consort and Tricky Pixie. That's her at left, and yes, that's a cello - an electric one.

While Faerieworlds is a paradise for people looking to buy faerie art and craft items and to meet world-famous artists like Brian and Wendy Froud, Jessica Galbreth and Amy Brown, it's the music that really draws people. The Main Stage, with speakers that projected sound throughout the grounds, featured four acts during the daytime, with three more after dark. During the day the Village Stage, located in a new expanded area for vendors, featured shorter acts while the larger stage was being reset during the day.

The first band on the Main Stage was The Wicker Men. One of the striking features of their music is the deep gutteral sounds of lead singer Patience Yanderling, who at times gets his voice to sound a lot like Tibetan or Tuvan throat singing minus the overtones. He also plays a double-necked guitar so he doesn't have to switch instruments between 12- and 6-string.

Next on the Main Stage was the Gaia Consort, a pagan rock band from Seattle that has featured many Northwest musicians over the past decade. Heather Alexander was their first fiddle player. There were more people in the Main Stage area, and a lot of them were dancing and/or bobbing about, with some incorporating costume elements into the dance. There were two or three people going around spritzing water to try to keep down the dust and cool off the dancers. It wasn't really hot, but the area was in the sun, and by early afternoon the clouds had dissipated.

The next Main Stage act was Kan'nal, who call their music "Shamanic Rock." Like the Gaia Consort, they'd been Main Stage acts the previous two years. People were still arriving, since the music was to go on until midnight, so there were even more dancers in front of the stage.

The fourth act on the Main Stage was Zilla, a trio who perform improvisational music. They have no idea themselves at the start where the music will take them; they just follow its lead. They put out a great deal of musical energy on the stage, and it was matched by the dancers note for note.

In between those sets and after Zilla, the Village Stage was used for shorter sets by lesser-known groups. This year the lineup included Land of the Blind, whose music incorporates a shruti box and a didjiridoo, Omiza River, Beltane, and the pirate-themed Man Overboard.

While I took in parts of all the musical acts mentioned, I did a lot of wandering around taking pictures of people in their costumes, vendors and their wares, posing when asked, and checking out some of the other entertainers in various parts of the grounds. If you thought the hula hoop had its day in the 1950s, you might be surprised to know it still has its place at events like Faerieworlds, Ren Faires, and the Oregon Country Fair. There were folks wandering about on stilts and jugglers. There was also a group of three people who had on footgear that appeared to be a combination of stilts, leaf springs and pogo sticks. They could bound around from place to place pretty quickly, and they also did some hoop tricks and juggling while on them. I managed to get some pretty good pictures, with one shot showing a guy about to leap, with the springs fully compressed, followed by a shot at the top of his arc.

A group that formed at Faerieworlds 2006, Tricky Pixie, was on the bill this year. Their Main Stage shows were on Friday and Sunday. It consists of S. J. Tucker, who is part of the group Skinny White Chick, Betsy Tinney, who is also the cello player in Gaia Consort, and Alexander James Adams, heir to Heather Alexander's music. I'd brought a CD of pictures I had of Alec from the past two Faerieworlds (only a few of those) and a fair number of photos I'd taken of him at the Washington Renaissance Fantasy Fair near Gig Harbor, WA last August. The Ren Faire pictures were taken with the Canon, and some of them turned out very nicely. I gave the CD to Kore, Alec's partner and manager, and she let me know Alec, S. J. and Betsy would be jamming by their booth around 5:30 or so. I wanted to get some good shots of all three individually and collectively, so I kept snapping away and think I managed to get some pretty decent photos, including some nice closeups. One challenge was to catch Alec with eyes open since he tends to close them a lot when doing instrumental bits.

There's no excuse for going hungry at Faerieworlds. There are a lot of food vendors, many featuring vegetarian and vegan items, although there's plenty for meat-eaters as well. My unexpected second trip back to the car put off lunch a bit, so I was ready for something tasty, and the veggie burrito was pretty decent (I still much prefer the ones Shelly makes up in Pioneer Courthouse Square, though!). Secret House had several varieties of wine for sale by the glass or bottle, and there was a small selection of beers. I got a couple of beers during the day, supplemented by a bottle of water. It was pretty warm and I was moving around quite a bit, so I needed the liquid.

There were a lot of tempting things to buy, but I had to resist as much as I could, and since I'd been there the past two years and have gone to Ren Faires as well, that wasn't too hard. I did relent enough to get Tricky Pixie's debut CD. It's a recording of their first "official" gig at Soul Food in Redmond, WA last year. I highly recommend it. S. J. Tucker's "Alligator in the House," done to a tango beat, is wonderfully whimsical. They do a "Wendy Trilogy" in which three tunes are adapted somewhat to fit in with the Peter Pan story, although definitely not the Disneyfied one.

About the time the light began fading, I realized I was too. My thoughts of staying until perhaps 10 or 11 for some of the after-dark stage shows gave way to the 2 1/2 hour drive back home. So I ended up leaving about the same time I'd left on Sundays the previous two years, about 8:30. I'd enjoyed the day a lot, and saw no need to push myself. The drive back, this time east on 126 to the Beltline Highway to I-5, ended up taking the same amount of time it took to drive down, so the mileage must be a bit more.

Once home, I really wanted to get to bed, but I couldn't resist downloading the 244 photos from the camera and taking a quick run through them on the computer just to see what worked and what hadn't. On Sunday I thought I'd get things posted, but my energy level was pretty low all day. And now it's late on Monday. I've put up 30 pictures on Flickr, but I've got maybe 40 more to go. Looks like I'll make another post tomorrow (Tuesday) when that's finished.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Cabra d'Abra

Tomorrow (Saturday) is the day I'll be at Faerieworlds at the Secret House Winery west of Eugene, OR. I'll be dress as a wizard, wearing the white-hair wig and big pointy hat like I did last year. This year, though, I can dispense with the fake beard.

My wizard name is Cabra d'Abra, the Wurst Accizard. The idea is I'm under a spell and any time I try to speak about magic, I find myself spooking in Speenerisms, like when I do Rindercella and the Prandsome Hince. That makes it hard to do any magic, because of course all the spoons get Spellerized.

I made up some business cards to hand out - double sided, and here's what they look like:

The background image is spirals from the Newgrange burial mound in Ireland. The image was done in Paint Shop Pro and printed onto Avery business cards, 10 to a sheet, using Avery's wizard and MS Word.

I used the same image to make a modification to the cover of The Secret Sketchbooks of Brian Froud. I printed it 8 1/2 inches wide with The Spook of Bells centered, trimmed the paper to fit over the title area of Froud's book, and taped it on. I hope he doesn't mind. He probably won't since he's got a pretty decent sense of humour.

The camera's ready - the memory card is empty, and I've got a bunch of batteries. It's going to be a pretty long day, what with driving about 2 1/2 hours each way, and I'll have to see how far into the evening I get. Just in case, I'm going to take stuff so I can check into a motel if I get too tired to drive back, but I'd rather not spend the money. I hope I can get some pictures posted Sunday or Monday.