She plays o' the viol-de-gamboys, speaks three or four languages word for word without book, hath all the good gifts of nature, knows a hawk from a handsaw, and can see a church by daylight. The rest is subject to fancy.

Elsewhere for September 11, 2016

You should read this for 9/11/2016:

Today’s workplace design asks us to be permanently on call—and demands that we vanish at a moment’s notice.“This anywhering of the office renders our attempts to disappear by implementing out-of-the-office replies instantly moot and futile. Work will fill the space available to it. And with no space spared, it will find you wherever you are: not just your work office, but also your home, your yoga studio, your children’s kindergarten. And what is more, in addition to our physical selves we now have to manage this professional avatar as well. And due to the ongoing metrification and financialization of work we are increasingly stripped of the clutter that makes us us. All of our quirks and idiosyncratic features have no use, as they can either not be numbered or would just make us look messy and thus unproductive.”

Researchers Confront an Epidemic of Loneliness“Researchers have found mounting evidence linking loneliness to physical illness and to functional and cognitive decline. As a predictor of early death, loneliness eclipses obesity.”

Mars Rover Views Spectacular Layered Rock FormationsIncredible new pictures of Mars landscapes; you really need to see them. They’re both strikingly familiar and strikingly alien.

Turns Out Even Being an Actual NASA Astronaut Won’t Stop Random Men From Mansplaining Space to You. The mansplaining phenom is growing. I had a guy explain to me, as Medievalist on Twitter, that Chaucer didn’t really have poor spelling (a joke I made in concert with another medievalist posing as Chaucer), he wrote in Old English [sic]. It’s getting worse, not better. Whether it’s because of a rising sense of entitlement, or a decreasing level of reading comprehension, or both, I do not know. But it is annoying in the extreme.

Elsewhere for September 4, 2016

You should read this for 9/4/2016:

Big History ProjectHistory study resource ready-for-the-classroom resource available to everyone, everywhere. For free

Rachel Maddow video on American History, nativism, and the original no-nothings.

Deep in the Swamps, Archaeologists Are Finding How Fugitive Slaves Kept Their Freedom“Marronage, the process of extricating oneself from slavery, took place all over Latin America and the Caribbean, in the slave islands of the Indian Ocean, in Angola and other parts of Africa. But until recently, the idea that maroons also existed in North America has been rejected by most historians.”

The Pill, the Condom, and the American Dream“The number of sexually active American teenagers using no contraception fell by 35 percent in just seven years. Meanwhile, the teen birth rate has fallen almost 50 percent since 1990. . . . Poor kids are finally narrowing the achievement gap with rich kids. Is contraception the cause? It might seem like a mystery at first, even a paradox: The income gap between rich and poor adults is growing, but the achievement gap between rich and poor kids is shrinking.”

In a hilarious series of comics, illustrator John Atkinson gives us some less-than-classic descriptions of the classic books you probably had to read in high school.In 1926, The New York Times described Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises/as “a truly gripping story, told in a lean, hard, athletic narrative prose that puts more literary English to shame.” Atkinson’s summary: “Lost generation gets drunk. They’re still lost.”

Elsewhere for August 28, 2016

You should read this for 8/28/2016:

Harvey Mudd College took on gender bias and now more than half its computer-science majors are women

How Twitter Got Angry: “Twitter is suffering from a systemic harassment problem. This isn’t news—it’s been written about over and over again, and has become a trope in the cultural mainstream.”

Puffin chicks in Gulf of Maine’s largest colony starve to death at record rate”In a typical year, 60 percent of the puffin nests with eggs produce chicks that fly off in late summer to begin their life at sea. This year the number was only 12 percent – 320 chicks – the worst result since researchers began monitoring the colony in 1995.”

Ophelia Settle Egypt ‘s “Voices of Slavery”:‘They Were Saving Me For A Breeding Woman’

After Two Years, Lost NASA Spacecraft Phones HomeUsing the Deep Space Network, mission control has reestablished contact with the solar observatory STEREO-B

Elsewhere for August 21 2016

You should read this for 8/21/2016:

Stark New Evidence on How Money Shapes America’s Elections New evidence showing that the more you spend, the more you get — and the more money and wealth shape policy.

How looting in Iraq unearthed the treasures of Gilgamesh Missing text for Gilgamesh recovered when an Assyriologist spots an unusual tablet in a collection of looted artifacts for sale.

Does technological analysis destroy the romance of art history? Increasingly the use of new technologies, like computer assisted digital analysis of texts, or spectroscopic examinations of painting uncovering alternate versions or older works on re-used canvas, is changing the way we look at familiar works of art.

NPR Website To Get Rid Of Comments. The announcement notes that there were “clues that indicate those who comment are not wholly representative of the overall NPR audience: They overwhelmingly comment via the desktop (younger users tend to find via mobile), and a Google estimate suggested that the commenters were 83 percent male, while overall users were just 52 percent male.” See also Chris Cillizza’s comments in the Washington Post: NPR is killing off comments. That’s great news!

The Duo That Dominates Dressage Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin, an “outsider athlete” riding Valegro has revived the ancient equestrian sport of dressage. Here they are riding and scoring an unprecedented 93.857 in the Grand Prix 2016 Olympics freestyle in Rio.

Elsewhere for August 14, 2016

Barack Obama accuses Donald trump of founding The Village People

Autism, OCD and Attention Deficit May Share Brain Markers

Print your own high-quality topographic map from National Geographic (via Life Hacker)

Earliest population of America not through Bering Land Bridge In a research study published in Nature “researchers conclude that while people may well have travelled this corridor after about 12,600 years ago, it would have been impassable earlier than that . . . If this is true, then it means that the first Americans, who were present south of the ice sheets long before 12,600 years ago, must have made the journey south by another route. The study’s authors suggest that they probably migrated along the Pacific coast.”

Whale wars: Why Humpbacks save other species from Orca attacks Recent whale-watchers in British Columbia, CA witnessed Humpbacks fending off Orcas interested in a humpback calf.

Elsewhere for August 7, 2016

You should read this for 8/7/2016:

Dear Hillary: How Very Dare You!“I bought into a narrative about Hillary Clinton that has been produced, packaged, and perpetuated by mostly the GOP with the help of many democrats and independents.”

For the love of stuff: I am my things and my things are me. I don’t want to give them up: they are narrative prompts for the story of my life

Campaign to help archaeologists search for an Iron-Age broch in Scotland

An Artist’s Pet Dog Photobombs the Middle Ages Elizabeth Morrison at The Getty: The same charming dog appears in illumination after illumination by late-medieval artist Simon Bening. Was it possibly his own pet?

Elsewhere for July 31, 2016

Hillary Clinton Helped Me Realize That Powerful Women Deserve Love

Trump: Clinton should have congratulated me for making history

Nature published a Neolithic DNA study revealing “three genetically distinct farming populations living in the Near East at the dawn of agriculture 12,000 to 8,000 years ago: two newly described groups in Iran and the Levant and a previously reported group in Anatolia, in what is now Turkey.” The data suggests that “agriculture spread in the Near East at least in part because existing groups invented or adopted farming technologies, rather than through population replacement.”

The British Library has just added digital facsimiles of manuscripts related to the Roman de la Rose, Christine de Pizan, and what scholars call La Querelle des Femmes. See
Metaphors, Misogyny and Courtly Love for back ground and links to some stunning medieval manuscripts.

Muslims across France have attended Catholic Mass in a gesture of solidarity after the murder of a priest on Tuesday.

Thousands of tricolored Blackbirds saved by California farmers

Archie Fisher, A Silent Song

I should confess right up front that Archie Fisher is one of my very favorite song writers and performers. It isn’t overstating the case to say Fisher (along with Jean Redpath and NPR’s Fiona Ritchie and Thistle and Shamrock) had a lot to do with my interests in the Child ballads, Scots, Middle Scots, and ultimately, medieval literature.

A Silent Song is Fisher’s latest album, one of at least a dozen I can name. For those of you who don’t know who Archie Fisher is, he was producing albums, playing guitar, and performing with people like Bert Jansch and Tommy Makem and producing for groups like Silly Wizard for the last thirty years or so. He has at least six previous solo  albums. Fisher comes from a family of musicians, including a Scottish Gaelic speaking mother, and two sisters (Rae and Cilla Fisher) with albums of their own, not to mention a joint album featuring the Fisher family. He’s toured with Bert Jansch, John Renbourn and Garnet Rogers. His songs have been covered by all sorts of people, including Tommy Makem and Garnet Rogers. His most famous song is probably “The Witch of the West-Mer-Lands,” a song which for years I thought was a traditional ballad that Child just missed, because Child did miss some. But no, “Witch of the West-mer-lands” is Archie Fisher’s own (“The Final Trawl” is his too). Fisher worked on several documentaries for BBC Radio Scotland and from 1983–2010 was the host for the folk and traditional music program Travelling Folk. That, in turn led to Fisher directing the Edinburgh Folk Festival from 1988–1992. Those achievements led in part to Archie Fisher being awarded an MBE by Queen Elizabeth II in 2006.

Fisher’s first solo album was the 1968 Archie Fisher (Transatlantic Records), but while there have been a handful of albums since then, A Silent Song is his first new album since 2008’s Windward Away (also from Red House Records). Its 15 tracks feature not only Archie Fisher on guitar and voice but also Luna Skye on cello, Linda Richards on vocals, Phillip Mazure on guitar, Isaac Alderson on flute, and Rob Norris and Joel Sayles on bass. A Silent Song is a mix of new songs by Fisher, traditional songs, and songs by others. Some of the songs are partly old, and partly new, like Judy B. Goodenough’s “The Parting Glass,” (middle verse added by Fisher) of which Fisher notes “The finale song that I joined in on in my time with Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy, with an added middle verse for the lads and my late buddie [sic] Alan Barty.”

This is a meditative album, thematically, with songs about loss, about parted friends, and the passing of time setting the tone. Four of the songs (“Waltz into Winter,” “Half the World way,” “Song for a Friend,” “You Took the Day”) are new songs by Archie Fisher. Two (“Mary Ann” and “Bonnie Annie Laurie”) are as Fisher puts it in the PR material “revived historical favorites.” “No Way to Treat a Friend” was written by Kirsty McGee, “A River Like You” is by Ian Davison, “The Gifts” is from Richard Berman, all three contemporary singer-song writers. But, aside from the overall theme of contemplation about time and relationships, there’s also a common thread in that even the modern songs like “The Gifts” are comfortable with tradition, albeit linguistically contemporary, as in this verse from “The Gifts”:

My father gave to me a saddle of tooled leather
A restless horse, a well-honed blade passed down by his father
He asked me if I knew the way
I answered I will find mine
Just come back is all he’d say
So long ago so far away

The first two lines might almost, like so much of Fisher’s repetoire, be pre-1800, even if the rest of the song is clearly later. And that brings me to what, for me, is the highlight of the entire album; the track Fisher titles “The Lord of the May.” Fisher’s album notes for the song say “I found the words on an old Xerox text in a book of Robert Burns poetry and it had a kinda banjo feel to it.” The tune is Archie Fisher’s own. This is a song with the chorus “Rede ye beware of the hunting young man.” It is, as Fisher notes in this video from 2012, a shape-changing ballad, wherein a father inadvertently kills his daughter in a hunting accident. It is reminiscent, in terms of motifs, of the extended version of “Orfeo,” Fisher wrote and performed that was based loosely on Child # 19 “King Orfeo” (Decca 1970/. The lyrics in “The Lord of the May” include

For the lord of the May has sorrow for aye
His daughter away by the fairies was ta’en

This is the song that will stick with me the most; it made me sit up when I first heard it on YouTube, and again when I first played the CD of A Silent Song.

the Red House Records website features videos of the tracks on the album as well as audio samples. You’ll also see the dates for Archie Fisher’s current concert tour, starting on 9/18/2015 in Minneapolis, and ranging through New England and Pennsylvania. Some of the shows feature Garnet Rogers along with Archie Fishers. I’ve seen them both in concert; if you possibly can, you should too.

(Red House Records, 2015)

Supreme Court Declares Same-Sex Marriage Legal In All 50 States


The Opinion is here.

Credit: @bustle

Credit: @bustle

In a 5-to-4 vote the Supreme Court decided, as Justice Kennedy put it:

These considerations lead to the conclusion that the right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty. The Court now holds that same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry. No longer may this liberty be denied to them. Baker v. Nelson must be and now is overruled, and the State laws challenged by Petitioners in these cases are now held invalid to the extent they exclude same-sex couples from civil marriage on the same terms and conditions as opposite sex couples (23–24 OBERGEFELL ET AL. v. HODGES, DIRECTOR, OHIO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, ET AL).

And finally:

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it , respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right (p. 28 OBERGEFELL ET AL. v. HODGES, DIRECTOR, OHIO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, ET AL).

In other words, there is no more same-sex marriage; there’s just marriage.