Sunday, November 30, 2008

Joined CD Baby Affiliate Program

MAGGIE SANSONE: Sounds Of The SeasonLate Friday night I was poking around on the website for Maggie's Music, which has some very nice Christmas CDs I've featured in my Celtic Music: Christmas lens. Maggie has links to CD Baby, an online seller of independent music. The links allow you to listen to samples of the music, and in many cases you can hear two-minute samples instead of the usual 30-second samples. It gives you a much better feel for the music, in my opinion. The only drawback is you can really get into listening and then the two minutes end. Overall, though, it's a great idea.

MAGGIE SANSONE: Sounds of the Season IIEarlier last week I'd discovered CD Baby is right in Portland, out near the airport, which made me even more interested, so I started reading about it, and through Wikipedia I was even able to listen to a couple of stories NPR had done. I'm not sure how (probably Google), but I found out they had an affiliate program, which really got me interested. It was late and my eyes were getting tired, so I decided to look into it Saturday morning.

In the morning, I found the link to the affiliate program again and signed up. I already knew they had at least a few artists of interest since all of the Maggie's Music folks seem to sell through CD Baby in addition to her website.

BROBDINGNAGIAN BARDS: Real Men Wear KiltsThe Brobdingnagian Bards have about a dozen CDs on CD Baby, and I decided I'd create a new Squidoo lens for them. They're from Austin, TX and performed at Renaissance Faires, SF conventions and other venues starting in 1999. If you like Celtic, Ren, filk and humor, you'll probably find them interesting.

Buy the CD CD Baby makes it pretty easy to create links with HTML code which can be modified as I've done to get text to wrap around the cover images. The images are clickable, btw, so you can go to CD Baby, order some stuff, and I'll make a buck for every item you buy. The button at the beginning of this paragraph will take you to the Bards CD Real Men Wear Kilts. In the affiliate screen, all I have to do is enter an artist's name to get a list of everything they have, then add it to a screen that shows what the links will look like. They have three sizes of covers - I'm using the largest at 200 px. There are three sizes of buttons - I'm using the smallest at 100 px.

I started my first Squidoo lens without Amazon links, Celtic Music: Brobdingnagian Bards, although as I'm writing this, it isn't published yet. I want to have it done before Sunday's over. If you click on the link and get an "under construction" page, please check back later. It's mostly done.

DERVISH: A Healing HeartIn addition to working on that lens, I also added some links to several other pages as I found I already have some lenses featuring artists with CDs available through CD Baby. That includes Dervish, the Irish trad group. CD Baby even sells one of Dervish's CDs, A Healing Heart, which Amazon doesn't have. So I added CD Baby links to the Dervish lens, by making a whole section of the lens using CD covers and buttons as links just to CD Baby, with the Amazon sections below.

I've got a good reason for giving the CD Baby links prominence: at a dollar per CD I would make 6.25% of the price of one selling for $16, which seems a typical price. That's more than I can make splitting commissions from Amazon with Squidoo. If a CD sells for $10, I still make a buck, so that's 10%. Even from my own website, I'm not going to get 10% from Amazon, and I'd have to see more items credited to my links on Amazon than I've been seeing to beat the 6.25% although that could happen in the future.

FIONNUALA GILL: Whispers of LoveCD Baby is a very good deal for artists, who deal directly with the company. CD Baby keeps $4 from the sale of each CD, with money paid to affiliates coming out of the $4, not out of the artist's cut. So if an artist sets the price of a CD at $16, CD Baby sends them the other $12. The company does charge a $35 setup fee for each CD an artist wants to sell through them, but selling just three CDs at $16 can cover that. Once it's in the catalog, according to CD Baby, it can remain there as long as an artist wants it to regardless of how few might be sold. Also, it's not just a place that sells physical CDs. Most of the catalog is available in MP3 format for downloading. In putting together the Bards site, I only found one that wasn't offered for download, Real Men Wear Kilts.

CD Baby isn't exclusive. Artists can sell on their own sites, Amazon, etc. Fionnuala Gill, for instance, sells her Whispers of Love CD on her own website as well as through iTunes, and

CD Baby's affiliate program does work like Amazon's in one way: if you click through one of my links, anything you buy counts toward my commission. It doesn't even matter if you change your mind and don't buy the item you clicked on; if you buy anything, it counts. So even if the links I've got in this post aren't for items that you might buy but you want to look around, go ahead and click anyway. My links happen to be for Celtic artists, but Celtic music is only a small part of what CD Baby offers. The company is one of the largest, if not the largest seller of independent music.

So go ahead. Click on the link and Buy the CD. Any CD. Look around and you're sure to find something intriguing. Oh, and keep me in mind for future trips to CD Baby. Find one of my links on this blog (the Blogspot one for anyone reading from Delphi) and use it to go to CD Baby. If it's been more than 12 hours since your last visit through one of my links and you go back, I won't get a commission. It's the same with Amazon, although there it's 24 hours.


Friday, November 28, 2008

New Printer from Staples

My Canon S330 printer died recently. I turned it on one day and instead of getting a steady green light once it did all its initial stuff, the light would blink green followed by seven amber flashes. It was a print head problem. I found information online about stuff to try, tried it, and for a very short time the printer worked again. Earlier this week, though, the amber flashes were back, and the same tricks had no effect. A new print head would cost almost as much as a new printer, plus I was out of color ink (this had never caused the printer to stop printing in grayscale before). I'd had it for several years and had gotten it on sale, so I figure I got my money's worth out of it.

I went printer shopping online, and the best deal I could find for what I wanted was an HP C4480 all-in-one printer for $49.98 (half the usual price) at Staples on sale the two days after Thanksgiving. Amazon states it has been discontinued by HP, so this is obviously a clearance item.

I wanted an HP because I'd read their printer cartridges don't start indicating they're running out when the cartridge still has a whole lot of ink left, nor do they
just stop printing when the cartridge still has a lot of ink. Also, the C4480 uses fairly common ink cartridges and even the standard ones are bigger than those for the Canon S330. They cost more, but overall I think I'll be getting more ink for the buck with them. Even better, there are large-capacity cartridges available.

Staples was opening at 6 a.m. today (Friday), so I decided I'd get up early and be there.
The printer mission was successful.

I wasn't prepared for all the cars in the parking lot when I got there at around 5:45, or the line that went around the corner of the building (probably 50 people or more) and continued to grow. Staples had someone out there with tickets for certain items, probably because there weren't that many in stock. I didn't need one.

They opened the doors about three minutes early and because they'd blocked off certain areas to funnel the crowd, I found myself going right to the printer aisle where I spotted the sign with the large-type price right away, and it was for the C4480. Perhaps they had more in back because there were only two in boxes under the display model. I picked up a box and headed for the checkout. The woman at the checkout suggested buying ink cartridges. She said the supplied ones were "only one-third full." I suspect what she meant was the standard cartridges are one-third the capacity of the larger ones. At least, I hope so. One of each larger ones would've cost more ($69.98) than I was paying for the printer. Even one each of the standard cartridges would total $33.98 at Staples, or 68% of the cost of the printer. It's easy to see the profit is in the ink, not the printers. Online prices are close to half of what Staples charges, so that's probably how I'll be buying ink in the future.

The whole buying process was so fast I was out the door and headed for my car at 6:01. Staples really lived up to its motto of "That was easy." I went home and back to bed for a while before getting up to unbox and set up the printer.

I must have put a little too much paper in the input tray because my first printing attempt for a page to do an alignment test resulted in a jam. After taking out some paper, everything was fine.

The test photo print of a parrot's head closeup looks pretty decent. The 4x6 print
is cropped a bit more than I'd like, but I may have chosen a photo that was sized for 8x10. I'm not concerned as it was just a test to see what a print would look like, then what a scan of that print looks like when saved to the computer and added here.

The parrot was at the 2007 Portland Pirate Festival as part of the Pirate Parrot Show. The photo was taken with my Canon PowerShot S3 IS.

It's nice having a scanner as part of the printer because now and then it will come in handy for building Squidoo lenses. I can scan in book covers, for example. The printer also has slots for memory cards, but the LCD screen is only 1.5" so it makes more sense to put the card in the computer and work from there. But if I ever wanted a quick print and the computer was off, the slots on the printer might come in handy.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

SF Awards Lens Revisions

I've got another large project in the works, and this time I think I'll spread it out a bit. It all began when I got the idea of adding a Table of Contents module to each of my Hugo and Nebula Awards lenses so people who want to look up a winner or the nominees for a particular year could click on the links created in the ToC. Then I got more ideas for making the lenses more informative.

I first thought about those books that might have won one award and been nominated for the other. I've got blurbs for all the winners of both awards, so I thought I'd go through the lenses and add the blurbs from the winning books to their listings on the lens for the other award. For instance, Greg Bear's Darwin's Radio won the Hugo and was nominated for the Nebula. I wrote a blurb for the Hugo entry and felt it should also appear on the Nebula lens where it appears as a nominee.

Of course, things didn't stay that simple. I began to think it would be a good idea to also add to each book's entry on either lens about it having won or been nominated for the other award. There are a fair number of books that have been nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula but won neither, so there's no blurb, but I could add a mention of the nomination. That still wasn't too complex. It would just mean going through the lenses with the Hugo and Nebula lenses for each decade open and cross-referencing. Things might get a little more complex at the beginning and end of the decades because the way a book is nominated can mean it might be nominated in two different calendar years.

Then I decided just listing Hugos and Nebulas on the opposite lenses wasn't enough. Why not look up all the awards - major ones, at least - and list them as well. I decided that would be the most informative short of writing blurbs for every bloomin' book that has been nominated since the 1950s for the Hugos and the 1960s for the Nebula.

That, of course, requires looking up each book. Wikipedia is pretty handy for most of them, but it can be a bit erratic. So I found myself starting on the Hugos for the 2000s, using Wikipedia, and also checking out author websites as well. Sometimes that meant making decisions about whether to list some of the less prestigious awards. It also meant having the corresponding Nebula lens open to copy stuff from one to the other, making sure I didn't repeat on the Hugo lens that the book had been nominated for or won the Hugo, and saying on the Nebula lens it had been nominated for or won the Nebula. It gets a bit confusing when both lenses are open and the screen is only showing a part of the middle of the lens.

I worked my way through the Hugo lens for the 2000s, with some of the information being added to the Nebula lens for those books on both. When I tackle the Nebula 2000s lens next, it'll be easier since some info is already there and I'll just have to add stuff for those books nominated for the Nebula but not the Hugo.

There are 11 lenses and I'm not going to try to do more than one a day, nor will I hold myself to doing one every day, so this could take a couple of more weeks. At least once the information is added it shouldn't change except for books in the latest year where a book might get additional awards.

Also, with only a few days left in November, I'm hoping my Spoonerisms lens stays high enough in the ranking so it'll be in the top 2,000. It's still well above 1,000, but the effect of Lens of the Day is fading. It has been rated by 100 people and that's the most ratings for any of my lenses by far. And the Kit Cat Clock is the first of my lenses to get over 1,000 visits. Spoonerisms is close behind with over 900.

And since it never hurts to ask, if you're going to be doing any buying from or, please keep this blog and my Squidoo lenses in mind. Even if the item you're looking for isn't one I've linked to, you can click on any Amazon link and then look around from there and I'll get credit if you buy within 24 hours of clicking through via my link. Also, I've got search boxes on the left side of this blog for both the US and UK Amazons. Remember, it costs you nothing extra to go to Amazon through my links, but I'll make a commission if you buy something.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Christmas Sweater Controversy?

Glenn Beck, the until-recently CNN Headline News (and soon to be Fox) commentator, isn't someone I know except by reputation. Since I tend to follow left-of-center sources, it's not surprising I haven't heard much about him that makes him look good. He seems to be part of the right wing crowd that includes Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly and Michael the Savage Weiner (in case you didn't know, hatemonger Michael Savage's real last name is Weiner).

So it was a bit of a surprise to see Beck's name pop up with the #1 hardcover fiction book on the Publishers Weekly list last Friday morning, especially with a book that sounds, based on description alone, like something Robert Cormier (The Chocolate War, I Am the Cheese) or some other popular writer for young adults might have written. But over the weekend, I read a blog post by Squidoo's Seth Godin, who remarked that Oprah Winfrey's popularity and her book club can have ten times the effect on a book's sales as being on The New York Times best seller list. Since Beck has his own show on both TV and radio and a large right wing following, it makes sense his book would shoot to the top on both the PW and NYT lists.

Still, I wanted to check something on the NYT list. On that list, a dagger (†) beside a book title indicates booksellers report bulk orders. This happens often with books put out from the various right wing publishers as an attempt to manipulate the ratings. This morning (Monday) I went to the NYT list to see if Beck's book had a dagger. Nope, no †.

But there was something I hadn't seen on Amazon's page, which is where I go both to list the book in an Amazon Spotlight module on my Squidoo lens, Best Sellers - Fiction - Hardcover and to get information for the blurbs I write about each book. The NYT list entry isn't for just "The Christmas Sweater by Glenn Beck." It's for "The Christmas Sweater by Glenn Beck with Kevin Balfe and Jason Wright." Interesting.

I started doing some checking around to find out who these other two guys are. Balfe is a co-author with Beck on a previous book Beck got a lot of attention (something he seems very good at doing) for, An Inconvenient Book. He's also the creative director of Fusion magazine, for which Beck is editor-in-chief. Wikipedia says this about Beck's involvement in the magazine: "Beck is credited as the magazine's editor-in-chief, with Kevin Balfe as creative director and Liz Julis as managing editor. Beck himself writes little or none of the material, but is involved in overseeing the process to make sure it matches his 'voice.'"

Jason Wright showed up in my searching. Amazon has a bio page on him that notes: "He also edited and appeared in Americans on Politics, Policy, and Pop Culture: The 101 Best Opinion Editorials From (2005)." And he's the author of several young adult novels, including one called Christmas Jars published in 2005.

Then I went back to Amazon's page for The Christmas Sweater. I did a search for "balfe" and got no results. Same thing for "wright". Searches are not case sensitive, by the way. It's rather interesting that in an extensive page of publicity and reviews, which includes Beck crowing about beating out Stephen King and Oprah-recommended author Wally Lamb for the #1 spot, there is no mention at all about two people who contributed to the book and who are listed along with Beck on the NYT list and many other places as contributors.

Word is that the book is based on a personal experience of Glenn Beck's. OK, I'll take that as true. But I have to wonder how much of the writing is really his. Also, it bugs me that Amazon doesn't mention his two collaborators.

Here's a link to the Amazon page:

Friday, November 21, 2008

Giant Squid Awards Nomination

My Spoonerisms lens has been nominated for the 2008 Giant Squid Awards in the Humor category. Today it's ranked #2 in Humor and #149 overall.

I added a box of text with a linked graphic to the introduction for the lens:

This lens has also been nominated in the Humor category for the 2008 Giant Squid Awards. Logged in Squidooers can vote by clicking on the image to the right.

Please vote by December 21, 2008!

I'd appreciate it if you'd visit the Spoonerisms lens, which gives me a page view, then click on the graphic from there. But if you're in a hurry and still want to vote, clicking on the graphic in the box above will take you right to the Humor category on the voting lens.

It was fun figuring out how to make the graphic, which I uploaded to Flickr, into a clickable link that opens in a new browser tab. You can bet I saved that code so I can use it again!

In other Squidnews, I updated the Best Sellers lens with the new format. The one tweak I made was to put the number representing a book's position on the list into the title of the module instead of on the line with a book's previous position and number of weeks on the list. By doing that, it shows up when I hit the "Rearrange Modules" button and I just move the modules up and down until they're in order.

I still save book titles, ISBNs, and text in a Notepad++ file, but with the individual modules, I should only have to enter stuff once for the entire time a book is on the list. That way, if editing gets messed up, the information is still available to be plugged in. The modules used for books that drop off the list get recycled for use by new books.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hay Visage form Sane Ticklish

It was probably back in the '70s when I was looking at The Next Whole Earth Catalog. That was the one that made the title of The Last Whole Earth Catalog a bit inaccurate, sort of like Douglas Adams did to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy when he expanded it to four, then five, books. Anyway, what I saw in The Next Whole Earth Catalog was a story called "Ladle Rat Rotten Hut," written in something called Anguish Languish. This "language" was the invention of Professor Howard L. Chace, who used it to illustrate to his French language students that intonation is an important part of understanding another language. The story looks strange in written form, but makes more sense when read aloud.

In the early '90s I had some time on my hands, and I must've read "Ladle Rat Rotten Hut" again because I got the idea of translating Clement C. Moore's classic Christmas poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" into Anguish Languish.

When I got a website through an ISP, I made a couple of pages for the Anguish Languish and English versions of the poem. I found some nice graphics to use as a border and background, plus some Thomas Nast illustrations. Moore's poem and Nast's illustrations have a lot to do with the way Americans think about Santa Claus. Both are in the public domain, and I think the pages I made then look pretty nice.

I was on Squidoo last year at this time, but I didn't make a lens for my Anguish Languish version. It's probably just as well. I've learned a whole lot more about making lenses look good, and I incorporated them into the lens I made today (Thursday). Hay Visage form Sane Ticklish on Squidoo doesn't have graphics quite as fancy as the earlier web pages, but I did find more Nast illustrations. I uploaded them to Flickr, and found that they fit nicely with either eight or twelve lines of the poem without breaking any lines. I had to adjust the size of the text a bit after the lens was first published because the editing window is a little wider than the published lens window. There were enough illustrations to allow for some to be used in the Anguish Languish version, and different ones to be used in the English version.

One line in the Anguish Languish version mentions "Sane Tick." You'll have to take a look at the lens to see how I incorporated that idea into it. Da-da! Da-da-da dwee dow!

In other activity on Squidoo, I put five additional videos into my Celtic Music: Alasdair Fraser lens and deleted the Alasdair Fraser video showcase. Alasdair is an incredible fiddler in the Scottish tradition who has teamed up in the past few years with one of his former students, Natalie Haas. The fiddle and cello go back a long way in Scottish music where they were frequently used to provide music for Scottish dancing. Under Natalie's bow, the cello really comes alive.

Tomorrow morning I get to do my first update for the recently made over Best Sellers lens. It'll be interesting to see how that works out.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Extreme Makeover for Best Seller Lens

I've made some changes to my Best Sellers - Fiction - Hardcover lens on Squidoo that should be big improvements. It started out small with the decision to add one line just above each book blurb that would give the book's previous position on the list and the number of weeks on the list. Fairly easy, but then I had another idea.

The Amazon Spotlight module has a much bigger image, so I added 15 of them and transferred all the information into each one, then deleted the three Amazon module that had listed five books each. That meant adding each book's current position on the list. Also, the Spotlight module allows the use of italics in the blurbs, so where I mentioned an author's other books, I italicized them.

Also, I decided I would add a paragraph in the introduction module about the changes for the week, something I'd been doing all along, but only in SquidCasts, which are brief notes sent out to people who have marked the lens a favorite and people who have joined my fan club. I wanted to put most of the text in the intro module into a box with a colored background. It looked OK on the edit page, but when the lens was published, the photo (the one you see here) intruded into the box. So I found a free image, cropped it and replaced the other one.

I don't know if this will result in any more visitors, but I think it makes the lens a bit more useful and it looks a whole lot better.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dougie MacLean Lens - Almost

Last night after I'd signed off, LindaJo Martin, one of the Squidoo people on Twitter, sent me a tweet asking if I'd done a lens for Scottish singer/songwriter and fiddler Dougie MacLean. When I saw the tweet this morning, I wondered how I'd manage to miss doing one for him so long. So I got started.

MacLean is probably best known for his fiddle tune "The Gael" which was featured in the movie The Last of the Mohicans, and his song "Caledonia" which is regarded by many as Scotland's unofficial national anthem.

It took a while longer than usual because also this morning I got an email forwarded through Squidoo from Maggie Sansone, hammered dulcimer player and founder of the record label Maggie's Music, which is the label Bonnie Rideout records for, mostly. The forwarding indicated she'd seen my Spoonerisms lens, although her actual message referenced my Celtic Music: Christmas lens. She was interested in the possibility of using Squidoo to promote Maggie's Music and wondered if it might be too commercial. So I emailed back and let her know a little about Squidoo and no, it certainly wouldn't be too commercial.

After taking time out to watch Keith Olberman and Rachel Maddow, I got back to the Dougie MacLean lens. Sometimes I leave the biographical stuff at the top of a lens to last, but this time I'd gotten it done earlier and mostly just had to add in the links to Amazon for his CDs that are available there. Not all of the stuff available through his website is also on Amazon. I got a video of "The Gael" from his 2007 Perthshire Amber Festival performance added. Almost there.

Then when I went to add what links I could for CDs available from, Squidoo crashed. After I'd finally determined that yes, it was Squidoo and not anything I was doing, I spent some time reading posts on Delphi, then started this post. I figured unless something was really wrong, it wouldn't be too long before Squidoo came up and I could finish. And just a minute ago, a tweet from Chef Keem indicated it's back.

So my Dougie MacLean lens should be ready to publish soon. If it's Friday or later as you read this, no problem.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

New Lens for Bonnie Rideout, Scottish Fiddler

Bonnie Rideout is one of the best fiddlers in the Scottish tradition in the US. She grew up in Michigan and Maine, discovered a fiddle in her parents' home when she was eight, trained classically, then immersed herself in Scottish fiddle tradition. She's the subject of my latest Squidoo lens, Celtic Music: Bonnie Rideout.

I'd come across her name before, but it wasn't until I was putting together the Celtic Music: Christmas lens that I learned more about her. Several years back, she recorded A Scottish Christmas. That CD was turned into a performance, which resulted in a second CD and a DVD.

In checking her website, and, I found she had enough material out there for a lens, and that was just published a few minutes ago.

Earlier today I decided that my Christmas music lenses, Celtic Music: Christmas, Celtic Music: Christmas Compilations and Nowell Sing We Clear, might do better if submitted to some Christmas groups on Squidoo, so I found about a half dozen or so and submitted them. It'll be interesting to see how that goes.

Today was a perfect day for making a lens - outside it was mild, but it was also windy and rainy, with the rain sometimes rather heavy. There's not a whole lot of sun in the Portland area during November, December and January, and February and March aren't particularly noted for sunshine either. I decided to buy some sunshine by ordering one of those natural light lamps from Amazon. I found one on sale, then decided to use most of the difference between the regular price and the sale price on one-day shipping so it'll be here tomorrow instead of sometime next week. I probably should have gotten one soon after I moved here. Not only are winters much cloudier here than in New England, I'm also living about three degrees latitude further north than I was back East, so days are just a bit shorter.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Nowell Sing We Clear - New Squidoo Lens

Some Coffeehouse History

From 1976 to 1989 I helped run a coffeehouse featuring first local, then regional, national and international folk musicians. It took place in a meeting room of the First Parish Church (Unitarian Universalist) in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. It was started by my friend Ed Visco. He got the idea to have a one-time coffeehouse. I wanted to be there, but I was also involved in what turned out to be my one and only play at Stratton Players, the local community theater. I had maybe three lines. I did help out with preparing for the coffeehouse, but couldn't be there while it was going on.

It went well enough that Ed thought it would be worth trying again in a couple of weeks. Since the play would be over by then, I could be more involved and volunteered to be the emcee. I had no idea I'd still be doing that nearly thirteen years later.

For the first few years, we found local performers willing to play for free to get a little exposure, then after Ed suggested we call it the Northern Lights Coffeehouse, we took it a step further and formed the Northern Lights Folk Arts Society. The main focus was the coffeehouse and we also started a contra dance once a month with New Hampshire caller Mary DesRosiers, Alan Block on fiddle and Peter Barnes on piano.

With a new focus on professional musicians in the coffeehouse, I also took on booking musicians. I got some advice from Gene Petit, the station manager of WICN-FM, the Worcester, MA National Public Radio affiliate. He provided me with a number of contacts. One of my first calls was to Sally Rogers, a midwestern singer/songwriter who had recently relocated from Michigan to Connecticut. My friend Joanna and I had seen her at what turned out to be the last Fox Hollow Folk Festival and she'd bought Sally's album. When I let Sally know we were just getting started with hiring professionals, she was extremely helpful.

Northern Lights and Nowell Sing We Clear

Ed was involved with the local Community Concerts association, something my parents had been interested in some years earlier. Things were winding down with that group. They had some money left over, and Ed, who had heard of English performers John Roberts and Tony Barrand and their show Nowell Sing We Clear, suggested presenting the show as a joint venture of Community Concerts and the Northern Lights Coffeehouse. The CC group approved the idea and so did the folks of Northern Lights, so the first of several presentations of Nowell Sing We Clear at the coffeehouse, using the church sanctuary, was set up. I don't recall exactly what year it took place, but it was in the early 1980s. We got the word out through local radio stations, including some in the Boston area and WICN, of course. We also used a very nice small poster and flier illustration by Joanna - and I certainly wish I had a copy, but if there's still one around, it's 3,000 miles away.

So what is Nowell Sing We Clear? Glad you asked. It's billed as "A Pageant of Midwinter Carols" drawn from English traditional music. The performers in the Northern Lights days were John Roberts, Tony Barrand, Fred Breunig and Steve Woodruff. John and Tony, both from England, had met as graduate students at Cornell University and began performing sea ballad, drinking songs, and songs of the working people. When the idea for Nowell Sing We Clear was conceived, they got together with New England performers Fred and Steve. The first Nowell Sing We Clear performance was in 1975. By the time they came to Northern Lights, the performance was already becoming a tradition in several communities. It's a presentation of old songs and tunes as played and sung in English villages for generations and handed down. Fortunately some of the music was preserved in written form by folklorists, so John and Tony had a lot of material to draw on. Even today, after more than 30 years of performing the show, they're still finding "new" material.

A Lens Is Born

On Monday morning, while I was updating my Loreena McKennitt and Celtic Music: Christmas pages because Loreena's latest album was now available, I played the video of Loreena doing "The Seven Rejoices of Mary," in which she uses the melody of the Irish traditional song "Star of the County Down." That got me thinking of the versions I was previously familiar with, one done by the Silly Sisters, Maddy Prior and June Tabor, and I also recalled it was part of the Nowell Sing We Clear show. That got me wondering if the show was still around, and when I found out it was, I spent the rest of the day alternating creating a lens about it with other things I found to do, including cutting back on some of the politically oriented forums on Delphi now that the election is over.

Usually my first criteria for creating a lens about performers is whether they have CDs available at, but this time I was more interested in creating the lens to let folks know about Nowell Sing We Clear. It includes the performance schedule for the shows they'll be doing in December. They're all in the Northeast, ranging from New Hampshire down to just outside Washington, DC. I was pretty pleased to see a couple of folklore societies, a coffeehouse and the Old Songs group presenting the show. Old Songs, of course, puts on the annual Old Songs Folk Festival in late June west of Albany, New York. That was started by Bill and Andy Spence who used to run Front Hall Records, a label John and Tony recorded on and home to the first three Nowell Sing We Clear albums.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Squidoo Lens of the Day!

I got up pretty early this morning and decided to check if the Publishers Weekly best seller list had been updated yet. It had, so I went about updating my Best Sellers - Fiction - Hardcover lens. It was easier than usual this week because there are only two new books on it.

I'd noticed the lens rankings on Squidoo had been updated as well, and this time my Spoonerisms lens was my top-ranked one. That was nice - it had been rising lately. As I was puttering around with my dashboard listing of lenses, I noticed that the Spoonerisms lens had been rated 26 times. That was a big surprise, since the last time I'd checked, I think it had only been rated maybe ten times or less, so this was a huge increase. A lot of times when people rate a lens (you have to be a member of Squidoo for that) they'll leave a comment, so I pulled up the lens and scrolled down to "Feeder Readback for Spoonerisms."

The most recent comments appear at the top, and among them was one from "aj2008" who included "Congrats on LOTD." That means Lens of the Day, or as a couple of commenters, "spirituality" and "Susan52," wrote, "Dens of the Lay." That explained why suddenly the comments were five pages long as people leaving star ratings also left comments. A few other folks also included a Spoonerism in their comments.

One of the neat things about a lens being Lens of the Day is it shows up in the left panel of every lensmaster's dashboard - the Squidoo page lensmasters go to to see how their lenses are doing. The lens is currently ranked 1,487 overall and 17 in the Humor category.

This is my first time being honored with Lens of the Day. I'm chight ruffed about it, as my Aussie friend Vickie might say if she were given to Spoonerizing.

Hmmm...maybe I should add another tairy fale or one of Aysop's feebles to the lens.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

A Celtic Christmas Snowball

A couple of days ago I published my Squidoo lens Celtic Music: Christmas which features Christmas CDs by artists I've made lenses for. Around mid-morning I got a Twitter tweet from active Squidooer badmsm who said she'd visited the lens, rated it five stars and she left a comment. The comment mentioned Windham Hill's Celtic Christmas CDs.

I'd considered creating a lens of Celtic Christmas compilation CDs, but hadn't thought much about it after doing the first Christmas lens. So I revisited the idea and found Windham Hill has a series of at least seven Celtic Christmas CDs. That seemed like a very good start for a Celtic Music: Christmas Compilations lens, which I've just published. That's led to other lens possibilities.

In reviewing the first lens, I decided to check out other CDs by Moya Brennan of Clannad. She's got enough out for a lens. Then in looking up CDs on Amazon, I saw one by Scottish fiddler Bonnie Rideout, so there's another possible lens.

Next I came across a CD put together by Brian O'Donovan, host of A Celtic Sojourn on WGBH, a public radio and television powerhouse in Boston, MA - if you watch public television, you've no doubt seen the logo of WGBH on programs like Nova. So there's another lens possibility for Brian's show, which can be listened to anytime online: A Celtic Sojourn. I'm listening as I type this. If there's not enough for a lens for Brian's show alone, it can be part of a lens on other Celtic radio shows.

I ended up adding two Bonnie Rideout CDs and one Ashley MacIsaac CD to the Celtic Music: Christmas lens. I also found a second volume of Brian O'Donovan's Christmas music from his show, which I added, and then there's a DVD of the live A Christmas Celtic Sojourn that is presented each December in Boston and Worcester, MA and Providence, RI.