Friday, July 31, 2009

United States of Wackiness

Do you ever wonder what people in other countries think of us? Like all those girls in China, locked into factories where they have to make beer-holder hats and St. Patrick's Day garden gnomes all day long? I wondered about this recently, when I snuck into the water park and encountered a bunch of Bulgarian teenagers. It would seem that nobody who works in that particular tourist attraction of a town is a native, and they all seem to be from Eastern Europe. The first girl I encountered, for example, responded to my query of: "Where will the fireworks be?" with the reply: "Nine-thirty." It struck me as highly unfortunate that what these adolescents see of our great country is this tourist trap of a town full of overpriced souvenirs and ridiculous attractions. What will they tell their friends when they return to Bulgaria? I can just hear them now: "Americans spend the whole day playing around in chlorinated water, wearing swimsuits that are two sizes too small, and they eat their ice cream in BB-sized beads, and they pay a fortune for giant foam gloves and bobble-head dolls!" And their friends will all be like, "Weird! Americans are crazy!" But while we may indeed be somewhat insane, I would hate to think other countries are judging us by our behavior at water parks. Yet, if that's all they see, what other data do they have to go on? And which is worse, that or the image they see on American TV, in which all Americans are tanned, drop-dead gorgeous, and incredibly rich and shallow?

So now I'm asking you, my three or four faithful readers: where should we take foreigners to show them the GOOD side of America? Please post lots of comments!

Famous Hat

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Magic of the Marimba

Last night was the final Outdoor Concert, which was billed as "The Magic of the Marimba," but I am sorry to inform you that there were only two pieces played on the marimba, including Rimsky-Korsikov's "Flight of the Bumblebee." Not nearly as much magic as I'd been led to believe! Rich brought a chocolate cake for Anna Banana II and the other July birthdays, but when he pulled out the candles, he realized that instead of saying "Happy Birthday" they spelled out "Happy Easter." So Astrochick and I sang, "Happy Easter to Yooooou!"

A couple of weeks ago Rich and Astrochick were going to the Outdoor Theater for a play about Galileo, and they talked me into going with them although I was feeling a little under the weather. (My cold was just starting that day.) We drove an hour west only to find that the play would be at the new, small, indoor theater which was already full, so they were turning people away. Never fear, I said, I know a really cute restaurant in an old round barn which is just down the road... but they were closed on Monday nights! So we ended up having driven an hour west to go to a 50's-style diner for burgers and malts. C'est la vie.

Here are some undoctored photos Palm Tree Fan took of the sunflowers she bought at the Mid-Week Farmers' Market yesterday. They are such a cheery color! I am unable to attend the Mid-Week Farmers' Market so I can enjoy it vicariously by looking at the photos... and now so can you!

Famous Hat

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What Do Wascally Wabbits Fwy and Dwive?

Palm Tree Fan is going nuts - coconuts!! Check out the latest batch of doctored photos she sent me. She's getting to be quite a pro at this!

First my girl bunny Cashmere was so jealous when Rich and I went to tour the B-17 bomber that she did us one better and rode on it.

Cashmere enjoyed that so much that she decided to fly on an F-16.

Then she decided to ride a monster truck!

And now she's been hanging out with celebrities! How did her life become so much more exciting than mine??

Famous Hat

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Where Do Fish Go on Vacation?

I am back safe and sound from training in Chicago, though it wasn't entirely clear we would make it back in one piece - the traffic was crazy! I even got back in time for Anna Banana II's birthday party! Training wasn't terribly exciting, it was just how to enter data into a system, prepare for site visits, blah blah blah. Palm Tree Fan, on the other frond, is taking Photo Shop training. Check out the sweet doctored images she made just for me!

Figure 1: Arphaxad and Amminadab on Vacation

Figure 2: Why Would a Llama Need Two Heads?

Figure 3: So It Can Look in Two Directions at Once

Figure 4: The Famous Pushme-Pullyou (or in French, Sacbut)

Famous Hat

Monday, July 27, 2009

Keegan to the Max

I am currently in Chicago for training. My coworker and I escaped the fortress where we are being trained (get this - they allow us access to the elevators but lock us out of the bathrooms) and sat outside, where we were joined by a lone, skinny little pigeon that I named Terry and fed crumbs. In case you ("you" being Hardingfele, of course) want more pictures of Minnie and Max for purposes of comparison, here is Max with Keegan, a full-grown cat.

Max and Keegan
Famous Hat

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Greetings from Chi-Town

Hello, Famous Hat readers! Just a note to let you know I have safely arrived in Chicago and am currently drinking a complementary Tom Collins at the swanky hotel where my coworker and I have a SUITE for $99... and free internet access in the business office!

Last night Richard Bonomo, Anna Banana II, Kathbert, Cecil Markovitch, and I were among the many guests at a 50th birthday bash/fundraiser for Haiti. Rich was asked to make two traditional Haitian recipes: red beans and rice, and a sweet potato pudding. I said I would make the pudding, which entailed peeling and then shredding a bunch of sweet potatoes. The pudding smelled WONDERFUL, but I was surprised to see five other people had made it as well when I arrived at the party. Apparently they had asked multiple people to make each recipe so that everyone would get to try some. One woman said she tried all the sweet potato puddings and mine was by far the best, so she wondered what I had done differently, but I had no idea. Then a priest from Haiti talked about the poverty in his diocese, and a local woman who had moved down there told us some harrowing stories about spirit possession she had witnessed. After that a contra dance band played (not my band) as people danced.

Earlier in the day I had said to Rich that there seemed to be an excessive number of military planes flying around lately, and he told me there was a B-17 bomber in town giving people rides... and just then it flew right overhead! We drove out to the airport, but it was $400 for a ride, so we just waited until it landed and paid $5 to go inside of it on the ground. They played World War II music in the background, and it was a really good time. Rich said he always felt something magical about airports. I said, "I know what you mean - for me, it's marinas."

Famous Hat

Friday, July 24, 2009

Minnie and Max

Minnie and Max are sister and brother. They are being fostered by my officemate's mother, but they are now getting old enough for a happy permanent home. Since my officemate has two cats and her mother has three, they cannot keep Minnie and Max, although they adore them. Of course, since I have two rabbits, a hedgehog, dozens of plants, and a severe allergy to cats, I cannot take Minnie and Max either. Do you know anyone who would like two clean, quiet, friendly cats? Let me know! Here are some pictures my officemate sent me, but since she is not sure herself which cat is which in every picture, I can only guess at the labeling.

Figure 1: Minnie or Max Asleep

Figure 2: Minnie Likes Affection

Figure 3: Minnie and Max

Figure 4: Minnie and Max (or Max and Minnie)

Famous Hat

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Vengeance of the Mad Tuner

You can tell we are living in strange times when your friends realize you are desperately ill not because they haven't seen you in days, but because you haven't blogged in days. Still, I appreciate people contacting me to ask, "Are you still alive? You haven't blogged in two days!" The answer: yes, now; previously, barely. At Early Music Camp I seem to have caught an Early Music Virus, probably from all the people who arrived on airplanes because, as everyone knows, airplanes are the #1 cause of colds. At least for me they seem to be! However, a coworker wisely pointed out that, instead of blaming the planes, I should be looking closer to home - at the didgeridoo currently giving out good feng shui in the corner of my bedroom. After all, it sat out in a bin full of didgeridoos during the three-day street sale extravaganza, and since it was the most attractive one, maybe lots of people tried to play it. Who knows? Maybe it was from my "instructor," a white girl with dreadlocks and a decorative piece of translucent melon-colored plastic through her nose. Who can say what germs she might have carried?

Anyway, I am currently on the mend and pondering a new raison d'etre as the Scarlet Pimpernel of Tuning. After all, who would be better qualified? I already know how to tune pianos - wrong - so if I can master extended sixth-comma meantone, I can stealthily retune every piano I come across. Maybe then Beethoven will finally sound good! One of the most excruciating two hours of my life was attending a Beethoven Piano Concerto Contest, but all those people were playing a piano tuned to equal temperament, which was not a concept Beethoven would have been familiar with. He was long since deaf by the time anyone even proposed the idea, so he never had to hear his music played in such an awful temperament. Would that we were so lucky!

Famous Hat

Monday, July 20, 2009

No Tiki Tumblers but Plenty of Plastic Papyrus

I survived Early Music Camp and am now back at work. What I learned about tuning confirms so much of what I have observed about music over the years, like why I preferred minor key music or harmonies in fourths and fifths over major thirds, yet in folk music and early music major keys seemed fine. What I propose is that either we return to a more sane tuning system, such as extended sixth-comma mean tone, or that we stop using the major third which is so decimated in equal temperament, and go back to using only fourths, fifths, and minor thirds. Why major-key music gained such ascendency in modern music when it sounds so awful in modern tuning is beyond me, but I guess it fits with the general preference for ugliness in art during the 20th century, so obvious in visual art and architecture. It's time we stand up and fight this scourge upon modern music! Especially when there are so many remedies.

Yesterday Tiffy and I went downtown to the sidewalk sales and bought really practical things like jewelry, Hawaiian shirts, and a didgeridoo that I will someday figure out how to play, even if currently I can only get it to make a sound like a conch shell. Ah well, at least it has stylized carvings of geckos and turtles on it, and the saleswoman (who patiently tried to teach me how to play it) said I can set it in a corner because vertical bamboo in a corner is good feng shui. (As if my house has any kind of feng shui going for it!) Then we sat outside drinking tropical drinks, and then we went to the Random Store, which sells everything. Among its various wares it has tiki wind chimes and tiki candles, but - can you BELIEVE it? - no tiki tumblers! My parents have some attractive tiki drinking glasses that are quite old, but when I inquired about them, they said my brother had already asked for them. Bummer. The most surprising thing I saw was a plastic papyrus plant complete with plastic clover growing around the base, which shocked me because my Nola (the papyrus plant that came back with me from New Orleans) has a trefoil plant growing around the base. I didn't think it was actually clover but some sort of oxalis, but internet research revealed no connection between papyrus and either clover or oxalis. However, there is a kind of fern called "water clover" because of its resemblance to clover, although it is typically four-leafed. I will have to inspect my "New Orleans shamrock" more closely, because it does unfurl each new leaf like a fern, but I could have sworn it had three leaflets, not four.

Also, the banjo player does not want to be known on this blog as "the banjo player" but she has no suggestions for an alternate name. Does anyone else?

Famous Hat

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Downfall of Western Music

At Early Music Camp I took a class with Ross Duffin, who wrote the book How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony (and Why You Should Care), which I highly recommend. All three of my faithful readers have been listening to me rant about this all week, so now it's officially time to blog about it: Equal temperament is Pure Evil. It completely destroyed the major third, and if you don't want to take my word for it, read the book. This explains why I have hated major key music all my life!

The greatest revelation for me was when Dr. Duffin played a piano piece by Schubert in extended sixth-comma meantone, which is not only the tuning system he recommends (and I concur!), but also actually what most of these composers were writing in. It actually sounded GOOD! I am not a big fan of the Romantic era composers, but maybe it is our modern tuning system I object to and not the music itself. After all, Schubert probably never meant for his music to be played in equal temperament. Though many were advocating it at that time, it seems most musicians were still aware of other meantone systems and preferred them well into the early 20th century. It is laziness and convenience that makes us now favor equal temperament. It divides the octave into twelve equal sections, so that G# and Ab are the same note when Ab should be higher than G#. It makes for a simple 88-key piano that is fairly simple to tune... as long as you are willing to tune it out of tune! (Trust me on this - I studied piano tuning for several semesters.) The human ear is more forgiving of the stretching of the minor third for some reason, which explains why, until I discovered music in historical tuning, I only liked minor key music.

An entire discussion of tuning systems and the evils of equal temperament is not possible right now, since I have to go sing in a minute, but it is much like always eating fast food and then trying REAL food for the first time: initially it may seem a little strange, but you quickly realize how much better it is, and then you can never go back. Extended sixth-comma meantone is like gruyere; equal temperament is like Velveeta.

Famous Hat

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Confessions of a Ghetto Kitten

Here is a story about SACKBUTS just for Hardingfele: one of my teachers at Early Music Camp told us his friend went to Germany and was at a tiny old church where they had a sackbut choir. When he asked them afterwards how they afforded such lovely antique instruments, they were confused and said, "These are our church trombones." They did not realize the trombones had been sitting around at the church, being played by various musicians, since the Renaissance; they just knew the trombones played more softly than the "jazz" (i.e., modern) trombones they played with bands outside of church. How cool is that?

Early Music Camp is so much fun! I'm studying period tuning and period notation. And last night we all went to the observatory to see a binary star. This was part of the celebration of "500 Years of Galileo," so there was cake and coffee and, yes, a sackbut ensemble. Because really, what is a party without a good sackbut ensemble? Not just for church anymore!

On the way home I told the banjo player, her husband and kid, about the neighborhood restaurant of "Jerkns." The banjo player then noted the natural food store called "Hole Foods." You know the economy must be bad when businesses cannot fix their signs that burn out in such amusing and faintly off-color ways.

Proof that you can take the girl out of the 'hood but you can't take the 'hood out of the girl: after a long day of Italian Renaissance music, I was driving home in Erin Caitlyn O'Honda, who is really turning into a hooptie these days with her dented side and dying muffler. Then "The Humpty Dance" by the Digital Underground came on the radio and I cranked it. Good thing none of those Early Music types could see me in my beat-up, loud hooptie with the bass thumping! But I have to drive through kind of a hood to get home, so I fit right in.

Famous Hat

Friday, July 10, 2009

Blog Forecast

Faithful readers: the blog forecast for the upcoming week is intermittent blogging with a 20% chance of complete lack of posts due to the fact that I will be at the Early Music Camp. I may have access to computers while at Early Music Camp, but whether I will have any time is debatable. I will let you know the week after next how it all went if I am completely unable to post a quick note now and then.

Hardingfele came with me to the hardcore Mideastern group practice Tuesday night, since she was so curious about "quarter tones." Then Wednesday night after the Outdoor Concerts, Rich, Kathbert, and I were talking about tuning and what the difference is between "well-tempered" and "even-tempered." And then of course there is mean-tone tuning, which is even older than the well-tempered tuning. I have never really cared for even temperament myself, which is a compromise and seems so artificial, just dividing the octave into twelve even increments like that. What's the point, so that you can play in F# minor and not have it sound awful? But then D minor and E minor sound just the same. In well-tempered tuning, they each have their own distinctive sound. Anyway, I will be able to answer more questions about tuning after Early Music Camp, where I am taking a class on tuning. Everything you have ever wanted to know about mean tone temperament vs. well-tempered vs. even-tempered, I'll be able to tell you.

Famous Hat

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Scanned Images: Plushy Stuffies

I have absolutely nothing to say today, so I'm just posting some scanned images of my plushy stuffies. Here is my little tropical hula bear.

Figure 1: Hula Bear

Below are two of my three ePlush creatures (unfortunately, I never thought to scan Bellamy the Horse):

Figure 2: Sylvia the Porcupine

Figure 3: Josquin d'Onyx the Poodle

And this is a fuzzy germ! It may look like a sunshine, but it is actually herpes simplex, which would not be such a sunny thing to have infect you. It sure is an adorable plushy stuffy though!

Figure 4: Herpes Simplex
Famous Hat

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Bagpipe Spam

Here is a piece of spam Hardingfele sent me. I'm glad to know these guys don't use child labour in the manufacturing of their bagpipe supplies, and they won't waist your time! And they will even let you remove your email in bulk list. So Don't forget Them.

Safe your money!

Famous Hat

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Having a Good Heirloom Day

Funny how in this country a "family heirloom" means something that might be a century old and often doesn't look like much. If you are my crazy uncle, family heirlooms are simply things you take to antique shops to see how much you can get for them. When my maternal grandmother died, she left me a beautiful porcelain watering pot hand painted with roses; I have no idea what it might be worth because to me the sentimental value is higher than any monetary value. Grandma left each of us grandchildren something, and one cousin got an old cookie jar that wasn't much to look at, but which people thought might be worth a great deal. My brother, who had a habit of not writing thank-you notes to Grandma, got an ugly little table with two chairs that looked like it was worth nothing, but people have told me Formica tables can be worth a fortune. I guess you can't judge an heirloom by its looks.

Some heirlooms turn out to be very useful. If I had not managed to convince my mother that the old taterbug mandolin would be better off being fixed up and played rather than just sitting on top of the piano she also doesn't play, I would probably not now have a semi-career as a semi-professional musician. It was my mother, after all, who kept pestering me to find out if I actually USED the mandolin and violin, because if I didn't, she wanted them back. (Not that she knows how to play either one, but presumably they would be better off sitting idle at her house than at mine.) Now that I have played both instruments in a variety of groups (Renaissance, mariachi, bluegrass, folk, and Mideastern, not to mention KlezKamp and the Early Music camp), she has conceded the point.

A coworker from a Latin American country sent me this picture of a family heirloom. He said it dates back to the Middle Ages and it came from Spain. Of course, knowing this coworker, he could be pulling my leg, but it looks authentic. Anyway, it seems funny how nobody in this country has family heirlooms like this. Why not? Didn't our ancestors come from Europe too? My people were island people, but my family has no nautical heirlooms. Where did they go? Not that I would have any idea what to do with this; I may be able to play the old violin and mandolin, but I'm not so experienced with Medieval weaponry, at least not enough to make a semi-career out of it.

Some Other Family's Heirloom

Famous Hat

Monday, July 6, 2009

Nobody's Role Model

This weekend proved, once again, that I am a role model for nobody. This will come as a HUGE shock to my regular readers, I'm sure, since I've already bored you with stories of getting thrown out of a bar in Greece, taking a hostage in the church parking lot, and impersonating my friend Ethel just to take a photography class. So why should this weekend be any different? I'll tell you - it wasn't. I snuck into a water park and didn't pay a cent!

My brother and his family were staying at a water park about an hour from my house, and since they are usually more than three hours away, I thought we should try to get together. Friday night Richard Bonomo and I drove around forever in the woods, which were beautiful, unaware we were barely half a mile from the kiddie mecca of water parks and other random tourist attractions (including alligator feeding and an upside-down White House) where the restaurant was. We finally found it, and when I told our Bulgarian waitress that it was my half-birthday, she obligingly brought me a free sundae. A whole one, even... but I did have to share it with my youngest nephew, who pointed out that his half-birthday had been just this past Tuesday.

Saturday Rich and I went to a neighborhood picnic with my neighbor Hardingfele and her family, then I called the water park to find out how much it would be to join my family there. (They had weekend passes via their hotel.) They told me it was $40 for a pass or $9 for the mere privilege of entering the water park and watching other people go on the rides; this was after I was on hold for 20 minutes and transferred to five different people. It was the guy at First Aid who was able to give me an answer, so if you call a water park, my advice to you is to ask for First Aid right off the bat. It will save you a lot of transferring. I decided to wait until the evening and go out for the fireworks but was annoyed to see when I got there that they were having "Double Days," which First Aid had neglected to inform me of. So if I had bought that $40 pass, it would have been good on Sunday too! $20/day for a water park seems much more reasonable. Ah well, I thought, too late now - I'll pay the $9 and watch the fireworks. However, they wanted $5 just to allow Erin Caitlyn O'Honda to use their parking lot, so I went off in search of free parking. Free parking was easily obtained across the street, but then I couldn't figure out how to get to the main entrance, so I simply entered an open gate that said: "Authorized Personnel Only." (Sometimes the superpower of invisibility comes in handy; men may not notice me, but neither do water park personnel!) Anyway, I bought overpriced flavored ice and ice cream in little beads to share with the niece and nephews, so it's not like they got no money out of me. The fireworks were very fine, and then I headed home and arrived about midnight.

Sunday after Mass a bunch of people were visiting town, including Bella Maryella, the friend who left me her hedgehog and electric mandolin before she headed to the East Coast. We all went out for brunch, and then several of us went for a walk in the zoo. In the evening I went hiking at a county park with Cecil Markovitch and the single B-Boy, then we went to a Mexican restaurant Cecil had tried with another friend - he loved it and the friend hated it - to see what the B-Boy and I thought of it. Cecil thought the mojitos were too weak - although he allowed that they were very flavorful - but we all enjoyed our food. They had three desserts on the menu: plantains, flan, and tres leches cake, and we couldn't decide, so Cecil got plantains, I had the cake, and the B-Boy had the flan, then we tried each other's. They were all delicious, but in a happy coincidence we each liked our own dessert best. Then I had to stop by the grocery store to buy bananas, because I had run out, and the rabbits would have revolted this morning without their daily banana fix. And who wants to deal with revolting rabbits?

Famous Hat

Friday, July 3, 2009

The 1812 Overture in 2009

Sorry for lack of post again yesterday. For anyone wondering what a rebec actually looks like, here is a picture of my rebec, which I stole off the website of the woman who built it. Her name is Kate and her business is called "Unprofitable Instruments," in case you would like a rebec of your own. If you already own one and would like to join an early music group called Pulp Incunabulae (or possibly Macrame Theorbo), be sure to let me know.

Famous Hat's Rebec

The weekly outdoor concert was postponed this past Wednesday because it was very cold and windy, but most of my peeps were busy last night so I sat out on my balcony with Plant World and did my word game puzzles. Suddenly the phone rang: it was my old friend Astrochick, from my days in the all-girl dorm, wondering where I was. Apparently she did not realize I am a Luddite who still does not own a cell phone, so if I answered the phone, I must be at home. She was up at the outdoor concert and had been led to believe by Richard Bonomo that I would be there too, so I hopped in Erin Caitlyn O'Honda (not enough time to take Eusebius at that point) and drove downtown. On the way I stopped to pick up a kiddie meal at a fast food restaurant - that's how much of a hurry I was in! (I prefer the kiddie meals because they are the right serving size for me.) I asked what a mysterious item on the menu was, and the cashier shrugged and mumbled something about how it was listed on the menu. The bill seemed kind of high, but I was in too big a hurry to stop and check it out.

Astrochick is a very tall person, yet she spotted me first. Probably because of my famous hat! I tore into my kiddie meal and found that the "toy" I'd been given was a pair of perfectly good sunglasses that fit me just fine. Maybe I have a child-sized head...? They had also given me the mysterious item I'd asked about on the menu, which explained the high price. So that was breakfast today! Astrochick was very excited about the 1812 Overture, which to me just sounds like so much noise (an opinion apparently shared by Tchaikovsy himself), but we really got into it, going, "Oh no, the French are coming!" every time Les Marseilles returned. Then there is the happy peasant part, the French approach menacingly again, the cannons fire (I plugged my ears in the nick of time!), and then the church bells ring and the famous theme comes back - those Russkies kicked some Gallic patootie!

Afterwards I set both pairs of sunglasses on my Famous Hat, but nobody gave me a second look. This town is crazy, after all, which is why I like it so much. Just in front of me was a little girl who had a pony tail on the left side of her head while on the right side her hair was French braided. What's a straw hat with two pairs of sunglasses on it compared to that?

Have a great Fourth of July weekend! My brother and his brood are in town so I'll let you know how that goes the next time I blog. (Which, at the rate I'm going, will be a fortnight from next Tuesday.)

Famous Hat

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Instrumental Lowdown

Gentle readers: I apologize for the lack of a post yesterday; I had no lunch break because I was busy being a guinea pig for science. To make it up to you, I will reveal two juicy secrets to you:

1. Although the triathlon is later this month, I have not yet officially registered for it.

2. Although my hatred of reggaeton is world renowned, I do love Pitbull. He's not really reggaeton but crunk, so maybe that's not that juicy a secret. Also, Rockstar Tailor likes him too. I not only enjoy his music but think he's a fine-looking specimen. However, I have no actual desire to meet him in real life.

Wow! Can you believe it? You'll never be able to look at me the same way again!

I am very tired today because last night was practice for the hardcore Mideastern band again, the one that plays in quarter tones. It was so much fun! The oud player would give me instructions like: "On this song, the F# is not as sharp as in Western music, and the Eb is not as flat." I just copied his F# and Eb. I'm flexible - that's what a lack of frets can do for you.

You may be wondering, just how many instruments do you own, Famous Hat? Or you may not, but I will tell you anyway. I have two violins, a good family heirloom one and one I found in a trash can at the music school. The family heirloom is a copy of a Guanarius that was made in Germany early last century. The cheap one was made in China and probably sold at a big discount chain for $69.95, according to the violin repair guy. I have gut strings on the good violin and have removed its chin rest, so I can use it for Renaissance, Baroque, and Mideastern music. The cheap violin has steel strings so I can use it for fiddling, mariachi, etc.

I also have two mandolins. One is a very fine Neapolitan style (also known as taterbug), with a round back like the ones in old paintings and lovely mother-of-pearl inlay. It is a family heirloom as well and was made in Chicago at the end of the nineteenth century. It has such a lovely sound. The other one is an electric Fender A-style mandolin a friend left me when she moved to the East Coast. (She also left me Sylvia the Hedgehog.) She left me an amp too. I use the old mando in my folk group and the electric mando in the plugged-in Mideastern group. (Clearly they do not play in quarter tones, since both the mando and the guitar have frets, and the other instrument in that group is an electric keyboard.)

Then I have a handmade rebec I bought at Early Music Camp one year. That is the only instrument of any value that I ever bought. Tiffy, another friend, and I were going to form an early music group called Pulp Incunabulae, but that never happened, so I had no use for this poor little, expensive rebec until joining the hardcore Mideastern group. If you know anyone who would like to be in an early music group called Pulp Incunabulae, let me know. I am flexible about the name, too - I am also willing to call it Macrame Theorbo.

I also have a mountain dulcimer that a coworker twisted my arm into buying from her for a whopping $17. Her boyfriend in college had made it, and it had been sitting in her basement ever since, so it isn't in stellar shape. I currently have it tuned C-G-G-G and can play some songs on it. Cashmere my girl bunny is fascinated by its buzzy, droning sound. The other instruments don't have names (although I do call the taterbug mando "Mandy"), but my folk group said the mountain dulcimer should have a mountain name, so I dubbed it Bubba Sue.

Otherwise, I have some random small instruments, like an alto recorder from my days in the Medieval reenactment group and a fife my parents gave to me when I was ten, two ocarinas (one is a necklace from my parents and the other, which I bought at Teotihuacan, looks like a statue of a folk dancer), and a set of pan pipes also left to me by the friend who moved to the East Coast. Now and then I mess around on them, but woodwinds are not my thing - strings are.

Oh, and I have a cheap baby toy dumbeck that barely makes any sound when you play it. Oh well, I'm not a drummer either.

Famous Hat