Play the Recorder Month

March is play the recorder month. We most often now think of the recorder as a child’s instrument, but it was once an orchestral instrument, particularly in the renaissance and baroque periods. You will still find it used in musical groups which play music from that period.

Officially, the recorder is a woodwind musical instrument in the group known as internal duct flutes—flutes with a whistle mouthpiece. It is distinguished from other duct flutes by having a thumb-hole for the upper hand and seven finger-holes: three for the upper hand and four for the lower. Recorders are made in a variety of sizes. So, even though each recorder has a range of only two octaves, a recorder ensemble can play across seven octaves. The sizes are called soprano (the one most often used), alto (next most often seen), tenor, bass, great bass, contra-bass, subcontrabass, and sub-subcontrabass.

According to Miss Scherling’s Recorderama Website, there are several reasons children are taught to play the recorder.

  1. Learning how to play the recorder requires music reading. The language of music can be described as a foreign language that combines math, science, sounds, and symbols.
  2. Playing any instrument demands a tremendous amount of coordination. When children play the recorder they will be breathing with their lungs, reading music with their eyes, playing notes and songs by moving their fingers, while sitting up straight.
  3. They get a chance to learn how to compose simple music.
  4. The recorder helps children learn how to play wind instruments, with the skills being transferable to other instruments.

I encourage you to listen to some recorder music today. From You-Tube here is a link to “Let it Be,” from Frozen, where you can watch what notes the musician is playing by following along on the score, and also see his fingering as symbols on the side. It’s very interesting. But if you are more into classical music, check out this video of Handel’s Complete Sonatas for Recorder. The sonatas are both beautiful and soothing.

Patrick Troughton as Doctor Who

I couldn’t really find any quotes about recorders, so here are some about instruments in general.

It’s easy to play any musical instrument: all you have to do is touch the right key at the right time and the instrument will play itself.–Johann Sebastian Bach

I play a musical instrument a little, but only for my own amazement.–Fred Allen

Setting my mind on a musical instrument was like falling in love. All the world seemed bright and changed.–William Christopher Handy

The very same book, even if it is translated very accurately, let’s say from Hebrew into English or from English into Hebrew, becomes a different book because language is a musical instrument.–Amos Oz

Everybody in our family studied a musical instrument. My father was really big on that.–Madonna Ciccone

Not all activities are equal… Those that involve genuine concentration – studying a musical instrument, playing board games, reading, and dancing – are associated with a lower risk for dementia.–Norman Doidge

I’ve been traveling all over the world for 25 years, performing, talking to people, studying their cultures and musical instruments, and I always come away with more questions in my head than can be answered.–Yo-Yo Ma

I have learned that there lies dormant in the souls of all men a penchant for some particular musical instrument and an unsuspected yearning to play on it, which are bound to wake up and demand attention someday.–Mark Twain

In addition, help your children learn self-discipline by such activities as learning to play a musical instrument or other demanding skill.–Joe J. Christensen

I met a lot of amazing people whose lives were changed (for the better) by the power of music. Music gave them strength to get out of abusive relationships or to just pick up a musical instrument and learn to play.–Lita Ford

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American Crossword Puzzles Week

Although crossword puzzles are arguably the most popular word game played today, they are a relatively recent creation. A journalist named Arthur Wynne from Liverpool, England, created the first known published crossword puzzle, and most credit him as the inventor of the popular word game. On December 21, 1913, his puzzle appeared in a Sunday newspaper, the New York World. During the early 1920s, other newspapers picked up the newly discovered pastime and within a decade, crossword puzzles featured in almost all American newspapers. The first appearance of a crossword in a British publication was in Pearson’s Magazine in February 1922, and the first Times crossword appeared on February 1 1930. British puzzles quickly developed their own style, being considerably more difficult than the American variety. In particular, the cryptic crossword became established and rapidly gained popularity. A. F. Ritchie and D. S. Macnutt laid down the generally considered governing rules for cryptic puzzles.

Crossword puzzle design has some unwritten rules. One such is that traditionally (in North America, India, and Britain particularly) the grid has 180-degree rotational (also known as “radial”) symmetry, so that its pattern appears the same if the paper is turned upside down. Also, the clues are generally consistent with the solutions. For instance, clues and their solutions should always agree in tense, number, and degree. If a clue is in the past tense, so is the answer; if the clue is plural, so is the answer; if the clue contains an abbreviation, so does the answer.

Older folks in particular, do crosswords to help keep their brains sharp. Since they appear in most newspapers every day, it is an easy exercise. Or, if you type the phrase crossword puzzles online into your browser, it will take you to a whole page of online crosswords from which to choose.

The graphic below is of the very first crossword puzzle. If you are interested in solving it, you can find a bigger picture of it and the clues here, as well as a link to the solution.

Quotes about crossword puzzles

The nice thing about doing a crossword puzzle is, you know there is a solution.–Stephen Sondheim

For many years, it seemed as if nothing changed in Norway. You could leave the country for three months, travel the world, through coups d’etat, assassinations, famines, massacres and tsunamis, and come home to find that the only new thing in the newspapers was the crossword puzzle.–Jo Nesbo

I would prefer to live forever in perfect health, but if I must at some time leave this life, I would like to do so ensconced on a chaise longue, perfumed, wearing a velvet robe and pearl earrings, with a flute of champagne beside me and having just discovered the answer to the last problem in a British cryptic crossword.–Olivia De Havilland

I don’t have any trouble memorizing lines because of the crossword puzzles I do every day to keep my mind a little limber. I don’t sit and vegetate.–Betty White

I get up, go and get a coffee, and go do the crossword – I’m loyal to one particular paper, the ‘Guardian’ – and that’s my idea of a perfect morning.–Laura Marling

People who work crossword puzzles know that if they stop making progress, they should put the puzzle down for a while.–Marilyn vos Savant

I do the “New York Times” crossword puzzle every morning to keep the old grey matter ticking.–Carol Burnett

I enjoy walking my dog and completing crossword puzzles.–Brian Jacques

I love doing the ‘New York Times’ crossword puzzle, even on the days I can’t finish it. Lauren Graham

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Women’s History Month

Growing out of a small-town school event, Women’s History Month is a celebration of women’s contributions to history, culture, and society. The United States has observed it annually throughout the month of March since 1987. It began as a weeklong celebration of women’s contributions organized by the school district of Sonoma, California, in 1978. A few years later, the idea had caught on within communities, school districts and organizations across the country. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued the first presidential proclamation declaring the week of March 8 as National Women’s History Week. The U.S. Congress followed suit the next year, passing a resolution establishing a national celebration. Six years later, the National Women’s History Project successfully petitioned Congress to expand the event to the entire month of March.

The 2017 theme, “Honoring Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business,” honors women who have successfully challenged the role of women in both business and the paid labor force. Women have always worked, but often their work has been undervalued and unpaid. Currently, statistics tell us that women earn about 80% of what a man does for a similar job. This varies by state, with New York and Delaware being 89%, all the way down to Wyoming, where women earn on average only 64% as much as their male counterparts. It also varies by race, with Hispanic or Latina women coming in at 54%, African Americans at 63%, white at 75%, Asian at 85%, native Hawaiians at 60% and Native Americans at 58%. The American Association for University Women estimates that the pay gap won’t go away until 2152. Although education helps women make more money, it doesn’t help them as much as their male counterparts.  Also, after a certain age, while men’s pay continues to rise, women’s falls. There are those in Congress now fighting for the Paycheck Fairness Act (in the House (H.R. 1619) and (S. 862) in the Senate), which will help to address some of these inequalities. Feel free to contact your congress people!

Quotes by women about women

Men, their rights and nothing more; women, their rights and nothing less.–Susan B. Anthony

I have the right of education. I have the right to play. I have the right to sing. I have the right to talk. I have the right to go to market. I have the right to speak up.–Malala Yousafzai

We still think of a powerful man as a born leader and a powerful woman as an anomaly.–Margaret Atwood

I am an example of what is possible when girls from the very beginning of their lives are loved and nurtured by people around them. I was surrounded by extraordinary women in my life who taught me about quiet strength and dignity.–Michelle Obama

Women will have achieved true equality when men share with them the responsibility of bringing up the next generation.–Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve.–J. K. Rowling

As you enter positions of trust and power, dream a little before you think.–Toni Morrison

I am not here for women only, but also for women.–Angela Merkel

The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it.–Roseanne Barr

Feminism’s agenda is basic: It asks that women not be forced to “choose” between public justice and private happiness.–Susan Faludi

Toughness doesn’t have to come in a pinstripe suit.–Dianne Feinstein

If society will not admit of woman’s free development, then society must be remodeled.–Elizabeth Blackwell

I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is. I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute.–Rebecca West

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World Poetry Day

March 21 is our day to celebrate poetry in all its forms. UNESCO, who declared this holiday, says about it: “The observance of World Poetry Day is … meant to encourage a return to the oral tradition of poetry recitals, to promote the teaching of poetry, to restore a dialogue between poetry and the other arts such as theatre, dance, music and painting, and to support small publishers and create an attractive image of poetry in the media, so that the art of poetry will no longer be considered an outdated form of art, but one which enables society as a whole to regain and assert its identity.”

When some people think of poetry, they remember something that they had to do in school that didn’t seem to relate to real life. Others think of some beautiful words which have moved them deeply. Poetry is the language of the old stories, such as The Iliad, The Odyssey, and The Aeneid, of Psalms in the Hebrew scriptures, the Eddas of the Germanic lands, the old hymns spoken or sung in ancient Egypt. From tales of history to tales of great love to those of battles and warriors, poetry has been around to inspire us for a very long time.

Poetry doesn’t have to be big and important, though. One of my very favorite ones is this simple poem by Shel Silverstein;

Listen to the MUSTN’TS, child,
Listen to the DON’TS
Listen to the SHOULDN’TS
Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then listen close to me-
Anything can happen, child,

So I hope today you tried your hand at writing a poem of your own or curled up with a book of poetry to celebrate.

Though I usually try to find some nice, beautiful picture to go with the blog, I couldn’t resist the old joke about poetry in motion. Enjoy! 🙂

These quotes about poetry are from the Website of the International Business Times.

Robert Frost- “A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness.”

William Wordsworth – “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.”

Alice Walker Read – “Poetry is the lifeblood of rebellion, revolution, and the raising of consciousness.”

Ezra Pound – “Use no superfluous word, no adjective, which does not reveal something. Don’t use such an expression as ‘dim land of peace.’ It dulls the image. It mixes an abstraction with the concrete. It comes from the writer’s not realizing that the natural object is always the adequate symbol. Go in fear of abstractions.”

Robert Graves – “A perfect poem is impossible. Once it had been written, the world would end.”

Carol Anne Duffy – “You can find poetry in your everyday life, your memory, in what people say on the bus, in the news, or just what’s in your heart.”

Erica Jong – “What makes you a poet is a gift for language, an ability to see into the heart of things, and an ability to deal with important unconscious material. When all these things come together, you’re a poet. But there isn’t one little gimmick that makes you a poet. There isn’t any formula for it.”

W.H. Auden – “A poet must never make a statement simply because it is sounds poetically exciting; he must also believe it to be true.”

Percy Bysshe Shelley – “Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar.”

Henry David Thoreau – “Poetry is the only life got, the only work done, the only pure product and free labor of man, performed only when he has put all the world under his feet, and conquered the last of his foes.”

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Edgar Rice Burroughs

It might seem strange to be doing a post on the creator of Tarzan, but in his own way, Burroughs was significant in the development of the popular imagination. There probably isn’t a person alive in the developed world who hasn’t heard of Tarzan. He has appeared in not only books, but all sorts of media, including comics, radio, television, action figures, computer games, and of course, films. The first was a silent film in 1918, and the most recent 2016’s The Legend of Tarzan. The stories gave me hours of escapist pleasure growing up. Although Burroughs wrote dozens of novels and non-fiction on various subjects, I’m not really going talk about any others, except to touch on his John Carter of Mars. Because of those stories, when I was a young teen, I found the first quote that really touched my emotions because it expressed something I had felt but never put into words. Ray Bradbury said of this series, “[Burroughs’] greatest gift was teaching me to look at Mars and ask to be taken home.”

Burroughs was born in 1875 in Chicago to a family of British ancestry. This shows up in his stories, from Tarzan actually being Lord Greystoke, to John Carter being very much a British gentleman, though from Virginia. Discharged from the army because of a heart condition, Burroughs had several jobs before finding his place in pulp fiction. His stories were an immediate success, and he soon became quite wealthy.

His books are very much a product of his time, however. They are racist and women are treated as beings to bring civilization to red-blooded men, and to be rescued by them. Tarzan is also completely unscientific with a baby being brought up by apes educating himself and finding his place among human beings when an adult. But that doesn’t stop them from being fun escapist fare.

Burroughs died on March 19, 1950, and is buried in Tarzana, California.

Quotes by Edgar Rice Burroughs

If you write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favor.

I have been successful probably because I have always realized that I knew nothing about writing and have merely tried to tell an interesting story entertainingly.

If I had followed my better judgment always, my life would have been a very dull one.

You are here for but an instant, and you mustn’t take yourself too seriously.

It is a characteristic of the weak and criminal to attribute to others the misfortunes that are the result of their own wickedness.

I write to escape … to escape poverty.

I do not think that I am ever overconfident. I am merely wholly confident, and I maintain that there is all the difference in the world there.

No fiction is worth reading except for entertainment. If it entertains and is clean, it is good literature, or its kind. If it forms the habit of reading, in people who might not read otherwise, it is the best literature.

Fortunate indeed are those in which there is combined a little good and a little bad, a little knowledge of many things outside their own callings, a capacity for love and a capacity for hate, for such as these can look with tolerance upon all, unbiased by the egotism of him whose head is so heavy on one side that all his brains run to that point.

I have ever been prone to seek adventure and to investigate and experiment where wiser men would have left well enough alone.

I knew nothing about the technique of story writing, and now, after eighteen years of writing, I still know nothing about the technique…

I presume that it is the better part of wisdom that we bow to our fate with as good grace as possible.

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St. Patrick’s Day

Of course, March 17 is Saint Patrick’s Day. You probably all know the story, that Patrick was taken as a slave to Ireland, and that he escaped, then went back as a missionary. So many myths and legends have grown up around him, that it is difficult to separate fact from fiction, but here’s what we do know.

Patrick was born in Britain to wealthy parents near the end of the fourth century. He is believed to have died on March 17, around 460 CE. He was about sixteen years old when he was taken as a slave, and escaped six years later. Once back in Britain, an angel in a dream told him to return to Ireland as a missionary. Soon after, Patrick began religious training, a course of study that lasted more than 15 years. After his ordination as a priest, he was sent to Ireland with a dual mission: to minister to Christians already living in Ireland and to begin to convert the Irish. Although commonly people believe Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland, this isn’t true. Most Irish were part of a nature religion, but there had been Christians there for many years, long before Rome took over as the arbiter of orthodoxy. What Patrick did was bring Roman Catholicism to Ireland, which eventually took over from the kinder, gentler Celtic Christianity.

Patrick preached for forty years in Ireland, very successfully. He often used the shamrock to explain the holy trinity, and in his pictures, he is often seen holding one. In spite of legend, however, he did not drive the snakes from Ireland, as there were never any there in the first place. Never officially canonized by the Catholic Church, Patrick was proclaimed a saint by the people, and the Irish claim him as their patron saint.

In honor of the day, some Irish blessings

May all your skies be blue ones
May all your dreams be seen,
May all your friends be true ones
And all your joys complete.
May happiness and laughter
Fill all your days for you
Today and ever after
may all your dreams come true.

May good luck be your friend
In whatever you do
And may trouble be always
A stranger to you.

May joy and peace surround you,
Contentment latch your door,
And happiness be with you now
And bless you evermore

May raindrops fall lightly on your brow;
May the soft winds freshen your spirit;
May the sunshine brighten your heart;
May the burdens of the day rest lightly upon you;
And may God enfold you in the mantle of His love.

May the blessings of each day
Be the blessings you need most.

May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
The rain fall soft upon your fields
And, until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

May the roof above us never fall in,
And may the friends gathered below it never fall out.

May there always be work for your hands to do.
May your purse always hold a coin or two.
May the sun always shine on your windowpane.
May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain.
May the hand of a friend always be near you,
May God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.

May your blessings outnumber
The shamrocks that grow
And may trouble avoid you
Wherever you go.

May your glass be ever full.
May the roof over your head be always strong.
And may you be in heaven half an hour
Before the devil knows you’re dead.

May your troubles be less
And your blessings be more
And nothing but happiness
Come through your door.

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Ides of March

We’ve all heard the phrase “Beware the Ides of March!” Why beware of March 15? We actually get the phrase from Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar (1601), where a soothsayer tells Caesar to beware that day. It was, of course, the day he was assassinated in 44 BCE. As a person who took four years of Latin in high school, I couldn’t let the date go unremarked.

According to The Phrase Finder, the months of the Roman calendar were arranged around three named days – the Kalends, the Nones and the Ides– and these were reference points from which the other (unnamed) days were calculated:

Kalends (1st day of the month).
Nones (the 7th day in March, May, July, and October; the 5th in the other months).
Ides (the 15th day in March, May, July, and October; the 13th in the other months).

I also read that March 15 was the original day taxes were due in the US until that was pushed to April. Another good reason to beware!

Of course, you can find things of historical significance on any day of the year, but here are a few things that have happened on March 15

  • In 1889 a cyclone struck in Samoa destroying six warships, killing 200 sailors.
  • In 1917, Czar Nicholas II abdicated his throne.
  • In 1941, a blizzard struck the Great Plains, leaving more than 60 dead.
  • In 1952, the highest amount of rainfall in a 24 hour period fell on the Indian Ocean – over 73 inches!
  • In 1971, CBS canceled the Ed Sullivan show. (For those of you who didn’t grow up with this show, it is important if only for introducing the Beatles to an American audience.)

So a happy March 15th to you!

Quotes by Julius Caesar

Many of you wished me dead. Many of you perhaps still do. But I hold no grudges and seek no revenge. I demand only this…that you join with me in building a new Rome, a Rome that offers justice, peace and land to all its citizens, not just the privileged few. Support me in this task, and old divisions will be forgotten. Oppose me, and Rome will not forgive you a second time. Senators, the war is over.

And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind is closed, the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry infused with fear and blinded by patriotism, will offer up all of their rights unto the leader and do it gladly so.

As a rule, what is out of sight disturbs men’s minds more seriously than what they see.

I came, I saw, I conquered.

In the end, it is impossible not to become what others believe you are.

He conquers twice, who shows mercy to the conquered.

I love the name of honor, more than I fear death.

All bad precedents begin as justifiable measures.

The difference between a republic and an empire is the loyalty of one’s army.

A coward dies a thousand deaths, the gallant never taste of death but once.

What we wish, we readily believe, and what we ourselves think, we imagine others think also.

Men willingly believe what they wish.

I had rather be first in a village than second at Rome.

Which death is preferable to every other? The unexpected.

I came to Rome when it was a city of stone … and left it a city of marble.

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