Phineas Finn

And, in a break from political videos, I should report that I finished Anthony Trollope’s Phineas Finn, which introduces yet another misguided, modestly dissipated youth who doesn’t know his own mind, in this case the title character. There are also three rather wonderful female characters: Lady Laura Kennedy, for whom the plot is a tragedy; Miss Violet Effingham, for whom the book eventually turns out to be a romance; and Madame Max Goesler, for whom the book may or may not be a comedy. I hope very much to see each of these characters (even young Mr Finn) in a future book.

Can You Forgive Her?

I continue my Anthony Trollope kick, this time starting the Palliser series of novels. Can You Forgive Her? is a rhetorical question that quite obviously is intended to be answered, “of course.” But I found Alice Vavasor to be tediously headstrong as well as foolish. I suppose it is to be expected when one is reading a soap opera.

Fine article on Lee Hays

A really fine article on Lee Hays, singer and songwriter, a favorite of mine from The Weavers. The People’s Singer

At the end of 1955, the Weavers held a reunion. Their manager beat the blacklist by renting Carnegie Hall for a nameless quartet and then selling it out before anyone could complain. Their opening number was “Darling Corey.” If you’ve ever wondered what the Left once was in America — the Old Left that organized American labor and did FDR’s heavy lifting and fought fascists in Spain in 1936 and in Peekskill in 1949 — listen to “Darling Corey” as the Weavers sang it in 1955. It’s a ghost, a memory even then, but still it’s more thrilling than anything that played on the radio that year — or last year, for that matter — a punk battle hymn for four voices. Pete tears it open with a single note, spitting bullets out of his long-necked banjo. He was mad and proud and bitter, playing for the fallen and the falling, for Leadbelly and Woody — who was two-thirds gone now, dying of Huntington’s Disease in Brooklyn — and for the Weavers themselves. It was a new sound for Pete, Woody’s sound. Not the jokes, but the anger. The difference between Pete and Woody could be seen on their instruments. In a neat circle bordering his banjo, Pete wrote, this machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender. Across the hips of his guitar, Woody scrawled, this machine kills fascists. That night in 1955, Pete turned his banjo into Woody’s old killing machine. The first spray of notes is followed by a plummeting spiral like a man stepping — leaping — off a cliff. Enter four voices: Wake up, wake up, darling Corey!

A Handbook of Norse Mythology

While in Portland for the UUA’s General Assembly, I of course went shopping at Powell’s City of Books. I’ve been there once before, and what a treat it is. (They also do mail-order of new and used books.) Among the books I bought was a Dover reprint of Karl Mortensen’s 1912 A Handbook of Norse Mythology, translated from the Danish by A. Clinton Crowell. I remember D’Aulaire’s Book of Norse Myths quite fondly from childhood, and I was looking for a good source of northern-European names and folklore for, erm, “inspiration” in Second Life. (Part of the modest role-play I engage in has me a part of House Heidrun. Heidrún is a goat at Valhalla that produces never-ending mead.)

This slim book lays out the basic mythology of the nordic peoples in a very straightforward way, including some assessment of the layers of mythology and the changes over time–like the promotion of Odin to the head of the pantheon following earlier focus on Thor. A happy purchase.