Old-time music. I don't really have any time for n…

Old-time music. I don’t really have any time for new enthusiasms, but they keep coming anyway. The latest is old-time music. As I began listening to the sort of music that is commonly played in the South, Jonathan explained to me that there is a significant difference between the two most common types heard around here, namely bluegrass and old-time. In fact, bluegrass is more or less a commercialization of old-time music, losing some significant virtues and picking up some questionable properties in the process. So I’m learning to hear the difference, and to understand how techniques specific to old-time are employed (and how they are to be enjoyed).

If you’re curious, you probably couldn’t do any better than to pick up the latest CD by the Reeltime Travelers; it may not be the best introduction to old-time music, but it’s a recording you’ll enjoy for its own sake, even if you decide that old-time music holds no interest for you. Or you could read through some of these materials on the topic, written by Mike Seeger (Pete’s brother, and a formidable folk musician in his own right.)

Insurance. We're currently as grumpy about home in…

Insurance. We’re currently as grumpy about home insurance as we are about health insurance (see the forum). The hailstorm was, what, a month ago? We have yet to get an adjuster out to look at the damage. The fellow assigned to the case handles mostly one-story houses, and is not particularly enthusiastic about having to get up on our fairly tall two-story house. So he tells us he’ll come and then doesn’t come, and then offers rude excuses when we call to find out where he is. And so we’re in the dodgy position of having to put pressure on someone who can cost us a significant amount of money at the stroke of a pen if he decides he doesn’t much like us.

We’ve done what we could by already getting estimates for the work. We hope that if and when he does show up, he’ll be far enough behind in his work that he’ll just sign off on one of the estimates, and then we can get on with the repairs.

Feedback. I was informed by a constant reader (who…

Feedback. I was informed by a constant reader (who also happens to be my pastor and the only published occupant of Draught Horse Press’ stable of authors) that I am not diligent enough about updating this weblog. Not something I wasn’t aware of, but something I wasn’t sure that anyone would care much about. I stand corrected, and I’ll rededicate myself to putting something new here every day.

Homeschool convention. Yesterday our family made t…

Homeschool convention. Yesterday our family made the 2.5 hour drive to Winston-Salem, NC, to check out the book fair at this year’s NCHE homeschool convention. We weren’t particularly interested in the convention or its workshops (which were probably fine), just in seeing what the current state of homeschooling is, curriculum-wise. It was the first time I’d been to one, but Debbie has been to many and she made an excellent tourguide.

We arrived around noon, which was ideal; enough people had left the convention center parking garage at that point so that they could be just turning off the “FULL” sign as we drove up. We got a spot on the ground floor, and only had to walk across a city street and into the center to be standing before the registration desk. That was particularly nice at the end of our stay, as we struggled back out of the center to the car with our purchases.

Debbie says that the book fair probably wasn’t quite as big as those at the three major conventions (Harrisburg, PA; Richmond, VA; and somewhere in California), but it was the biggest of the second tier, right up there with the Denver book fair. It took us about two hours to make the rounds. It surprised me that half or more of the displays were devoted to either large mobile bookstores or publishers who also carried lots of books by other publishers; I had expected it to mostly be curriculum vendors or publishers who only displayed their own wares. As usual we couldn’t resist the easy availability of so many good and often hard to find titles, and so even though we arrived looking only for one book, we left with thirty-eight.

The hottest area by far was ancient Greek and Roman history; the number of books available was overwhelming, and just about every book vendor had them prominently displayed. This is apparently due to the influence of The Well-Trained Mind, which not only outlines a classical curriculum but also approaches history in a four-year cycle of ancient, medieval, early modern and late modern. The Well-Trained Mind is hot, and so lots of people are currently deep in ancient history, hence the abundance of available titles; Debbie says that three years back none of this stuff could be had. (Note that I have nothing to say about the quality of these titles, just that lots and lots of them are now being published.)

Character-focused material was also big, although usually as a component of some curriculum. I don’t recall seeing too many standalone titles (e.g. William Bennett’s books) that were focused on teaching character.

I expected to find more material on courtship issues, but there wasn’t much to be had. Most of the traveling bookstores had a few titles, but mixed in with other family-related titles; nobody was featuring them.

Many of the major presences in homeschool curriculum had very large booths: Bob Jones, ABeka, Alpha Omega. One of them had tables where you could sit with a consultant who would help you fill out your order for the year’s curriculum, it being a very complicated (and expensive) process. Alpha Omega was demonstrating their Switched-On Schoolhouse, a CD-based version of their workbook-based curriculum.

It was fun to see the kind of crowd in attendance; definitely not your average group of convention-goers. There weren’t an overwhelming number of children, but there were quite a few, and it was pleasant to see them; homeschoolers just have that homeschooled look, don’t they?

Draught Horse Press. There's a bunch of DHP-specif…

Draught Horse Press. There’s a bunch of DHP-specific business pending.

Three new titles have arrived, and I’m torn between rolling them out individually so as to showcase them, or making them available all at once so that people can get their hands on them. Last week I had the same problem with the new books from Canon Press; I announced them all at once, and was pleased to receive orders for them right away. Still, I have a lot I’d like to say about these books, and I wish I could find the time and the opportunity to do it.

I’m also finishing up the edit on Basement Tape #6, this one on reading good books. It’s turning out very well, I think. I need to trim another ten minutes, to add the intro and ending bits, and–hardest part–come up with a cover.

Men's breakfast. A pretty good crowd at Bonnie's t…

Men’s breakfast. A pretty good crowd at Bonnie’s this morning: R.C., Laurence, Kevin, Jonathan, Dakota, Michael, and recent arrivals Ken Griffith and John Vernot. Topics included: Stevie Ray Vaughn and B.B. King; the sexual nature of the blues; CPAP machines; recent forum discussions; Peruvian carne cruda (raw beef salad); Mormon missionary tactics; getting the latest newsletter to the mailing house; gold; child protective services.

Autoharp. I'm challenging myself (and taxing the f…

Autoharp. I’m challenging myself (and taxing the family’s patience) by providing accompaniment during family worship. Our habit is simply to cycle through our homemade hymnal, singing four hymns at a time; now when we come to one that has the chords written out, I’ll give it a go. Which makes for some pretty slow and arhythmic singing right now, but they are gracious enough to indulge me, and I think it is pushing me to play better. Still waiting on that instructional video.

Fawlty Towers. This is too good to be true. My all…

Fawlty Towers. This is too good to be true. My all-time favorite television show is John Cleese’s Fawlty Towers. But I never knew until today that the situation and characters were based fairly closely on a hotel in Torquay that the Monty Python folks once stayed at for an extended period. Suddenly the widow of Donald Sinclair, the basis for Basil Fawlty, decides that enough is enough and tells a newspaper that Donald was nothing like Basil.

Except … now the newspaper is being flooded with reminisences of Donald Sinclair, all of them sounding exactly like episodes of the TV show. One woman tells what it was like to work for him. And here’s a guest’s memory:

Sir – In the 1970s, my late wife booked a holiday for four of us at the Gleneagles Hotel. We arrived on the evening of the Thursday before Easter and went for a pre-dinner drink. Donald Sinclair (the original for Basil Fawlty) poured the drinks, remarking: “You had better drink up – my wife doesn’t spend her life in the kitchen preparing good food to have it spoilt because you can’t get here on time.”

It wasn’t the welcome we expected. On the Saturday morning, he explained that there would be two sittings for dinner because they had a dinner-dance. If we wouldn’t mind having the second, we could pre-order to ensure that we received our choice.

When we arrived at the bar that evening, the band was in a heated discussion with Mr Sinclair, after which two of them packed their instruments and left.
In the dining room, we found that some of the items we had ordered had run out, and we had to take alternatives.

On complaining to Mr Sinclair, I was told that the kitchen was not his responsibility and I should speak to his wife. It was clear from her that our order had not been passed on. It then took three attempts before we found a wine on their list that was in stock.

By this time, we had decided our holiday was turning into a mini-war and we might as well call it a day. On the Sunday morning, we calculated how much we owed and packed our bags. Mr Sinclair said that, unless we paid for the full period, he would sue.

In due course, my wife received a summons.

New gizmo. My hands are somewhat twisted from a tw…

New gizmo. My hands are somewhat twisted from a twelve-year bout with arthritis (who knew that arthritis could go away? but it did last year, and all praise and thanks to God for that) and so I’m intrigued by musical instruments that don’t require much in the way of fingering; hence the harmonica. And last week I ordered an autoharp, which arrived yesterday.

What a cool gizmo! It took awhile to get it in tune, since there are 36 strings and there is no fine-tuning mechanism, just a wrench turning a peg; but once I had tuned it, it sounded quite nice. Our home-made hymnal, a collection of photocopied hymns collected during our year at Redeemer Presbyterian Church, has chords for about half of its 100 hymns, and I could find or substitute chords for most of those, so I spent the evening with the autoharp on my lap, strumming and humming.

Until recently being introduced to old-time music by Jonathan, my only exposure to the autoharp had come many years ago, when an elementary school teacher would pull one out during music class and strum along as we sang simple songs. But with just a bit of poking around I found that it is an important instrument in old-time music, and that there are techniques for playing it that go far beyond simple strumming. I’ll be learning a bit more about this from John Sebastian of Lovin’ Spoonful fame, as soon as his instructional video arrives.