Archive for December, 2011
31 Dec 2011

2012

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Hat tip to Mark Scott.

31 Dec 2011

And a New All-Time Record is Set…

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Hat tip to Theo.

31 Dec 2011

New Year’s Eve or Hogmanay

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Robert Burns, author of Auld Lang Syne

From Robert Chambers, A Book of Days, 1869:

NEW YEAR’S EVE, OR HOGMANAY

As a general statement, it may be asserted that neither the last evening of the old year nor the first day of the new one is much, observed in England as an occasion of festivity. In some parts of the country, indeed, and more especially in the northern counties, various social merry-makings take place; but for the most part, the great annual holiday-time is already past. Christmas Eve, Christmas-day, and St. Stephen’s or Boxing Day have absorbed almost entirely the tendencies and opportunities of the community at large in the direction of joviality and relaxation. Business and the ordinary routine of daily life have again been resumed; or, to apply to English habits the words of an old Scottish rhyme still current, but evidently belonging to the old times, anterior to the Reformation, when Christmas was the great popular festival:

    Yule’s come and Yule ‘s gane,
    And we hae feasted weel;
    Sae Jock maun to his flail again,
    And Jenny to her wheel.’

Whilst thus the inhabitants of South Britain are settling down again quietly to work after the festivities of the Christmas season, their fellow-subjects in the northern division of the island are only commencing their annual saturnalia, which, till recently, bore, in the license and boisterous merriment which used to prevail, a most unmistakable resemblance to its ancient pagan namesake. The epithet of the Daft [mad] Days, applied to the season of the New Year in Scotland, indicates very expressively the uproarious joviality which characterized the period in question. This exuberance of joyousness—which, it must be admitted, sometimes led to great excesses—has now much declined, but New-year’s Eve and New-year’s Day constitute still the great national holiday in Scotland. Under the 1st of January, we have already detailed the various revelries by which the New Year used to be ushered in, in Scotland. It now becomes our province to notice those ceremonies and customs which are appropriate to the last day of the year, or, as it is styled in Scotland, Hogmanay.

This last term has puzzled antiquaries even more than the word Yule, already adverted to; and what is of still greater consequence, has never yet received a perfectly satisfactory explanation. Some suppose it to be derived from two Greek words, άιαμηνη (the holy moon or month), and in reference to this theory it may be observed, that, in the north of England, the term used is Hagmenu, which does not seem, however, to be confined to the 31st of December, but denotes generally the period immediately preceding the New Year. Another hypothesis combines the word with another sung along with it in chorus, and asserts ‘Hogmanay, trollolay!’ to be a corruption of ‘Homma est né—Trois Rois lá” (‘A Man is born—Three Kings are there’), an allusion to the birth of our Saviour, and the visit to Bethlehem of the Wise Men, who were known in medieval times as the ‘Three Kings.’

But two additional conjectures seem much more plausible, and the reader may select for himself what he considers the most probable. One of these is, that the term under notice is derived from Hoggu-nott, Hogenat, or Hogg-night, the ancient Scandinavian name for the night preceding the feast of Yule, and so called in reference to the animals slaughtered on the occasion for sacrificial and festal purpose word hogg signifying to kill. The other derivation of Hogmanay is from ‘Au gui menez’ (‘To the mistletoe go’), or ”Au gui ľan neuf’ ‘ (‘To the mistletoe this New Year ‘), an allusion to the ancient Druidical ceremony of gathering that plant. In the patois of Touraine, in France, the word used is Aguilanneu; in Lower Normandy, and in Guernsey, poor persons and children used to solicit a contribution under the title of Hoguinanno or 0guinano; whilst in Spain the term, Aguinaldo, is employed to denote the presents made at the season of Christmas.

In country places in Scotland, and also in the more retired and primitive towns, it is still customary on the morning of the last day of the year, or Hogmanay, for the children of the poorer class of people to get themselves swaddled in a great sheet, doubled up in front, so as to form a vast pocket, and then to go along the streets in little bands, calling at the doors of the wealthier classes for an expected dole of oaten-bread. Each child gets one quadrant section of oat-cake (some-times, in the case of particular favourites, improved by an addition of cheese), and this is called their hogmanay. In expectation of the large demands thus made upon them, the housewives busy themselves for several days beforehand in preparing a suitable quantity of cakes. The children on coming to the door cry, ‘Hogmanay!’ which is in itself a sufficient announcement of their demands; but there are other exclamations which either are or might be used for the same purpose. One of these is:

‘Hogmanay, Trollolay, Give us of your white bread, and none of your gray.’

And another favourite rhyme is:

    Get up, goodwife, and shake your feathers,
    And dinna think that we are beggars;
    For we are bairns come out to play,
    Get up and gie’s our hogmanay!’

The following is of a moralising character, though a good deal of a truism:

    Get up, goodwife, and binna sweir,
    And deal your bread to them that ‘s here;
    For the time will come when ye’ll be dead,
    And then ye’ll neither need ale nor bread.’

The most favourite of all, however, is more to the point than any of the foregoing :

    My feet’s cauld, my shoon’s thin;
    Gie’s my cakes, and let me rin!’

It is no unpleasing scene, during the forenoon, to see the children going laden home, each with his large apron bellying out before him, stuffed full of cakes, and perhaps scarcely able to waddle under the load. Such a mass of oaten alms is no inconsiderable addition to the comfort of the poor man’s household, and enables him to enjoy the New-year season as much as his richer neighbours.

In the primitive parish of Deerness, in Orkney, it was customary, in the beginning of the present century, for old and young of the common class of people to assemble in a great band upon the evening of the last day of the year, and commence a round of visits throughout the district. At every house they knocked at the door, and on being admitted, commenced singing, to a tune of its own, a song appropriate to the occasion. The following is what may be termed a restored version of this chant, the imagination having been called on to make up in several of the lines what was deficient in memory. The ‘Queen Mary’ alluded to is evidently the Virgin:

    ‘This night it is grid New’r E’en’s night,
    We’re a’ here Queen Mary’s men;
    And we ‘re come here to crave our right,
    And that’s before our Lady.

    The very first thing which we do crave,
    We ‘re a’ here Queen Mary’s men;
    A bonny white candle we must have,
    And that’s before our Lady.

    Goodwife, gae to your butter-ark,
    And weigh us here ten mark.

    Ten mark, ten pund,
    Look that ye grip weel to the grund.
    Goodwife, gae to your geelin vat,
    And fetch us here a skeet o’ that.

    Gang to your awmrie, gin ye please,
    And bring frae there a yow-milk cheese.

    And syne bring here a sharping-stane,
    We’ll sharp our whittles ilka ane.

    Ye’ll cut the cheese, and eke the round,
    But aye take care ye cutna your thoom.

    Gae fill the three-pint cog o’ ale,
    The maut maun be aboon the meal.

    We houp your ale is stark and stout,
    For men to drink the auld year out.

    Ye ken the weather’s snow and sleet,
    Stir up the fire to warm our feet.

    Our shoon’s made o’ mare’s skin,
    Come open the door, and let’s in.’

The inner-door being opened, a tremendous rush was made ben the house. The inmates furnished a long table with all sorts of homely fare, and a hearty feast took place, followed by copious libations of ale, charged with all sorts of good-wishes. The party would then proceed to the next house, where a similar scene would be enacted. How they contrived to take so many suppers in one evening, heaven knows ! No slight could be more keenly felt by a Deerness farmer than to have his house passed over unvisited by the New-year singers.

The doings of the guisers or guizards (that is, masquers or mummers) form a conspicuous feature in the New-year proceedings throughout Scotland. The favourite night for this exhibition is Hogmanay, though the evenings of Christmas, New-year’s Day, and Handsel Monday, enjoy like-wise a privilege in this respect. Such of the boys as can lay any claim to the possession of a voice have, for weeks before, been poring over the collection of ‘excellent new songs,’ which lies like a bunch of rags in the window-sill; and being now able to screech up ‘Barbara Allan,’ or the ‘Wee cot-house and the wee kail-yardie,’ they determine upon enacting the part of guisers. For this purpose they don old shirts belonging to their fathers, and mount mitre-shaped casques of brown paper, possibly borrowed from the Abbot of Unreason; attached to this is a sheet of the same paper, which, falling down in front, covers and conceals the whole face, except where holes are made to let through the point of the nose, and afford sight to the eyes and breath to the mouth. Each vocal guiser is, like a knight of old, attended by a sort of humble squire, who assumes the habiliments of a girl, ‘with an old-woman’s cap and a broomstick, and is styled ‘Bessie: Bessie is equal in no respect, except that she shares fairly in the proceeds of the enterprise. She goes before her principal, opens all the doors at which he pleases to exert his singing powers; and busies herself, during the time of the song, in sweeping the floor with her broomstick, or in playing any other antics that she thinks may amuse the indwellers. The common reward of this entertainment is a halfpenny, but many churlish persons fall upon the unfortunate guisers, and beat them out of the house. Let such persons, however, keep a good watch upon their cabbage-gardens next Halloween!

The more important doings of the guisers are of a theatrical character. There is one rude and grotesque drama which they are accustomed to perform on each of the four above-mentioned nights; and which, in various fragments or versions, exists in every part of Lowland Scotland. The performers, who are never less than three, but sometimes as many as six, having dressed themselves, proceed in a band from house to house, generally contenting themselves with the kitchen for an arena; whither, in mansions presided over by the spirit of good-humour, the whole family will resort to witness the spectacle. Sir Walter Scott, who delighted to keep up old customs, and could condescend to simple things without losing genuine dignity, invariably had a set of guisers to perform this play before his family both at Ashestiel and Abbotsford. The drama in question bears a close resemblance, with sundry modifications, to that performed by the mummers in various parts of England, and of which we have already given a specimen.

Such are the leading features of the Hogmanay festivities in Scotland. A similar custom to that above detailed of children going about from house to house, singing the Hagmena chorus, and obtaining a dole of bread or cakes, prevails in Yorkshire and the north of England; but, as we have already mentioned, the last day of the year is not in the latter country, for the most part, invested with much peculiar distinction.

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Marred by an annoying advertisement, but still moving, the Scottish Parliament (with Sean Connery present) sings Auld Lang Syne.

31 Dec 2011

Security Camera Footage Shows Armed Robbery Foiled

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Islamic armed robber picked the wrong convenience store in the wrong part of the country: Hendersonvile, South Carolina. Fox News Phoenix was rather gleeful about how things turned out.

Video: Store Clerk Fights Back Against Robbery Suspect: MyFoxPHOENIX.com

31 Dec 2011

Good Grief, Charlie Brown’s Become a Jihadist!

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From Denis Leary, a 3:05 video described as “jaw-droppingly Islamophobic.”

Hat tip to The Blaze.

30 Dec 2011

Best Book of 2011

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The best new book I’ve read this year was Paul Hendrickson’s Hemingway’s Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost, 1934-1961.

Ernest Hemingway was not only the generally recognized greatest American writer of fiction of his time, Hemingway seemed to have deliberately crafted his life to parallel and underline his art, emphasizing and exemplifying the same themes of manliness and confronting the same life and death questions. Hemingway became thusly, not only the great novelist, but a code hero, the equivalent of Achilleus or Beowulf as well as Nick Adams, in his own right.

When the great man, at 7 AM one July morning fifty years ago, crept out of bed, found the key to the closet where his wife Mary had locked away his firearms, took out his Boss best-grade double-barreled 12 gauge, inserted two rounds of high brass number 6s, braced the gun butt on the floor of his house’s foyer, placed his forehead against the barrels, and reached down and fired both barrels, Hemingway’s vast audience of readers and admirers experienced an international catharsis as the epic suddenly concluded and the curtain came down the tragedy.

Paul Hendrickson takes Hemingway’s 38-foot Wheeler cabin cruiser, the Pilar, built for him in 1934, as the metonymic focus and symbol of the final 27-year 3-month trajectory of the author’s literary career and life.

Few great writers have received such a tribute, featuring massive and intensely focused research (Hendrickson can lovingly describe the details of the room where Hemingway used to stay in the Ambus Mundos Hotel as well as tell you which models of Vom Hofe and Hardy reels he fished); ground-breaking criticism (Hendrickson argues very persuasively that it was Hemingway, in Green Hills of Africa (1935), who invented the non-fiction novel, not Capote or Mailer thirty years later); or anything like this sympathetic and deeply personal tribute in finely crafted prose worthy of its own subject.

In the final analysis, Hendrickson is writing to explain and to defend Hemingway’s crack-up, all the famous outrageous incidents of egotism, bullying, and vainglory, all the drink and all the damnation. His prologue’s title, “Amid So Much Ruin, Still the Beauty,” could have been the title of the whole book.

Hendrickson writes:

I have come to believe deeply that Ernest Hemingway, however unpost-modern it may sound, was on a lifelong quest for sainthood, and not just literary sainthood, and that at nearly every turn, he defeated himself. How? “By betrayals of himself, and what he believed in,” as the dying writer, with the gangrene going up his leg, says so bitterly in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” one of Hemingway’s greatest short stories. Why the self-defeating betrayal of high humanistic aspirations? The seductions of celebrity and the sin of pridefulness and the curses of megalomania and the wastings of booze and, not least, the onslaughts of bipolarism must amount to a large part of the answer. Hemingway once said in a letter to his closest friend in the last two decades of his life, General Buck Lanham, whom he had come to know on the battlefield as a correspondent in World War II: “I have always had the illusion it was more important, or as important, to be a good man as to be a great writer. May turn out to be neither. But would like to be both.”

I also believe there was so much more fear inside Hemingway than he ever let on, that it was almost always present, by day and more so by night, and that his living with it for so long was ennobling. The thought of self-destruction trailed Hemingway for nearly his entire life, like the tiny wakes a child’s hand will make when it is trailed behind a rowboat in calm water—say, up in Michigan.

Many years ago, Norman Mailer wrote a sentence about Hemingway that has always struck me as profound: “It may even be that the final judgment on his work may come to the notion that what he failed to do was tragic, but what he accomplished was heroic, for it is possible he carried a weight of anxiety within him from day to day which would have suffocated any man smaller than himself.” The great twentieth-century critic Edmund Wilson, a contemporary of Hemingway’s, who admired him early and had contempt for him late, wrote in his journals of the 1960s: “He had a high sense of honor, which he was always violating; he evidently had a permanent bad conscience.”

I repeat: best book of 2011, and best Hemingway biography/appreciation out there.


Hemingway’s Pilar

29 Dec 2011

New York Daily News, November 4, 1949

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From Steve Hayward at Power-Line.

29 Dec 2011

“Such, Such Were the Joys!”

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A great anecdote from Christopher Hitchens’ Hitch-22: A Memoir.

At Stanford, back in 1987, Christopher Hitchens was introduced by the egregious Edward Said to the estimable critic of the novel Ian Watt.

Watt pointed out the window to the large number of Japanese students visible on Stanford’s campus, and remarked thoughtfully: “I know it’s silly to say so, but it still makes me feel odd sometimes.”

[Ian Watt, you see, was ] one of the few survivors of The Bridge On The River Kwai, The Burma Railroad, Changi Jail in Singapore, and other Hirohito horrors that I still capitalize in my mind. He admitted later that, detecting other people’s reserve after returning home from these wartime nightmares, he had developed a manner of discussing them apotropaically, as it were, so as to defuse them a bit. And he told me the following tale, which I set down with the hope that it captures his memorably laconic tone of voice:

    Well, we were in a cell that was probably built for six but was holding about sixteen of us. There wasn’t much food and we hadn’t been given any water for quite a while. The heat was absolutely ferocious. Dysentery had begun to take its toll, which was distinctly disagreeable at such close quarters…

    Added to this unpleasantness, we could hear one of our number being rather badly beaten by the Japanese guards, with rifle-butts it I seemed, in their guardroom down the corridor. At this rather trying moment one of my young subalterns, who’d managed to fall asleep, started screaming and flailing and yelling. He was shouting: “No, no—please don’t… Not any more, not again, Oh God please.” Hideous noises like that. I had to take a snap decision to prevent panic, I so I ordered the sergeant to slap him and wake him up. When he came to, he apologized for being a bore but brokenly confessed that he’d dreamed he was back at Tonbridge.

28 Dec 2011

Hazardous Job

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Twice a week an employee of the Dushanbe Zoo (Tajikstan) walks with a lion cub, Vadik, while holding a piece of meat to attract his attention so that he heels.

Via Fred Lapides.

28 Dec 2011

More Tiger Parenting

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Amy Chua, in the Wall Street Journal on Saturday, explained that her tiger parenting involved no interference with her kids when they are at college. That is very much the opposite of the father-in-law’s parents’ early 1940s approach. They dictated his major at Yale, and even told him what sports he could pursue.

What I really liked in Amy Chua’s piece, though, was this story:

Here’s an example of real tiger parenting for you. When I was 15, my father, a professor of chaos theory at Berkeley, took our whole family with him to Europe for his sabbatical year. For one semester, he threw my sisters and me into a local public school in Munich.

When I mentioned to him that we didn’t speak any German and couldn’t understand the teachers, he told me to check out some language books from the library, and reminded me that mathematics and science employ universal symbols. “This is an opportunity,” he said. “Make the most of it.” It ended up being one of the best years of my life.

No wonder she wound up a professor at Yale Law with that father.

28 Dec 2011

Falconry, Large-Scale

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Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) attempting to detain roe deer (Capreolus capreolus).

Falconer Steve Bodio has traveled to Kazakhstan in order to witness Central Asian falconers using Golden Eagles to take deer.

Next time, Steve won’t have to travel so far. The Daily Mail recently reported on hunting with Golden Eagles in Slovakia.

0:12 video

27 Dec 2011

Viral Image: Simple English

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27 Dec 2011

Millionaires For Higher Taxes Won’t Donate

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Is anyone really surprised?

From Glenn Reynolds.

27 Dec 2011

Harvard Exposed

I recently learned that there is a web-site used by Harvard men to expose themselves. This site is definitely NSFW.

It just confirms, I suppose, what people at Yale have been saying about Harvard for years.

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