Thursday, June 30, 2005

Weekly Folk Music Quiz (30jun05)

The cymbaly is a type of: a) Polish hammered dulcimer, b) Thai snakeskin drum, c) Apache shaker percussive, d) Belarusian violin.

Weekly History Quiz (30jun05)

The Berbers traditionally are associated with: a) the Baja Peninsula, b) medieval England, c) medieval Germany, d) northern Africa.

Weekly Amusement (30jun05)

A stern father, admitting into the living room his daughter’s date for the evening, began grilling the lad while they waited for her to appear.

“Where do you work?” was the older man’s predictable first question.

“I’m a rock guitarist,” replied the youth proudly. “We get a booking every week or so.”

“I’m a banker,” observed the father coldly. “I don’t get out much to listen to rock bands.”

“Actually,” responded the young man, “I don’t get to the bank very often, either.”

The Little Bighorn: A Post-Post Analysis

Why did “Custer’s Last Stand,” or the Battle of the Little Bighorn, (fought in the Black Hills of modern-day Montana, 25 June 1876) mushroom into such a mammoth, enduring American tragedy? Why has it been sensationalized, analyzed and scrutinized repeatedly, even to this day?

All the to-do arose in the first place not just because of what happened, but because of when it happened: just before the nation’s centennial July 4th celebration. As all America was preparing for its glorious independence party, from the remote Dakotas spread news of one of the most stunning, unexpected defeats of an American military force in the nation’s hundred-year history. Some 265 soldiers were slain -- a mere fraction of the toll killed in numerous Revolutionary and Civil War battles. Yet, Americans were numbed. It was (relatively speaking) peacetime. The national pride was crushed. In many regards, it never would recover. Later generations still shudder at the visage of yellow-haired Custer’s gory demise on the eve of the Independence Day centennial.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Weekly Folk Music Quiz (23jun05)

James Galway, the popular flautist whose recordings have encompassed varied forms of music from jazz to classical to folk, is a native of: a) Aberdeen, b) Belfast, c) Galway, d) Liverpool.

Weekly History Quiz (23jun05)

What statesman was mortally wounded by Aaron Burr in an 1804 duel in New Jersey? a) John Adams, b) Thaddeus Franklin, c) Alexander Hamilton, d) Philip John Schuyler.

Weekly Amusement (23jun05)

Newspaper headline: “Horse Bites Off Baby’s Finger as It Sits in Buggy.”

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Coming in July: Classic Mystery Stories

The formal announcement will be made in July, but I’d like to “clue” you to an exciting (to me) new mystery e-book project. Hornpipe Vintage Publications is developing a series of classic short stories in the genres of mystery, crime, gothic and intrigue. These period works, now in the public domain, were written by authors both famous and obscure. Each story will be available to the public in e-book (PDF) format for online retrieval.

Authors represented in the series will include Ambrose Bierce, Charles Dickens, Amelia B. Edwards, Guy de Maupassant, Bram Stoker, Leo Tolstoi, H.G. Wells and many others. Most of the tales are set in the 19th Century -- the period of my own “Harper Chronicles.” My hope in offering these story selections is twofold. Foremost, I want to introduce new mystery fans to a timeless body of quality reading which they may have overlooked. Second, I want to add to existing e-book libraries in this literary vein for the convenience of dedicated aficionados.

Look for more details shortly at this blog, and keep an eye on my Web site.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Folk Posts

The new Hornpipe Post page at my folk music Web site ( offers a forum at which southern (and other) folkies may post inquiries, news and other items. Those of you interested in various forms of acoustic music, particularly in the southern half of the U.S. (but with connections far afield) may want to check in occasionally to see what’s going on. Please let me know if you have news to share or questions to ask.

"Founding Father" of America's Cavalry

His name hardly registers amid those of the nation's famous leaders on horseback, e.g., "Light Horse Harry" Lee, J.E.B. Stuart and George Armstrong Custer. Nevertheless, Michael Kovats de Fabriczy is regarded by many military historians as "the founding father of the U.S. cavalry." Notably, he wasn't even an American.

Kovats was a dashing, decorated Hungarian Hussar commander who joined the colonial revolutionary cause thanks, in large part, to the foreign diplomacy of Benjamin Franklin. The Continental Congress placed him in charge of the Patriots' fledgling cavalry, and he proved quite worthy of the trust. By Summer 1778, the unit was praised by a Maryland newspaper editor for its "exemplary discipline," among other qualities.

Kovats served under George Washington's command in the mid-Atlantic theatre of war until 1779. In the defense of Charleston, SC, in May of that year, he was felled in battle. A British officer acknowledged Kovats' achievement, calling his force "the best cavalry the Rebels ever had." Kovats is commemorated today at The Citadel museum in Charleston.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Weekly Folk Music Quiz (16jun05)

“Armstrong,” a pop song about the first moon walk in 1969, was recorded by a solo artist who previously had been a member of a famous folk trio. Who was he? a) John Phillips, b) Scott McKenzie, c) Paul Stookey, d) John Stewart.

Weekly History Quiz (16jun05)

The Penobscot tribe inhabited what region of North America? a) New England, b) Ohio Valley, c) Mississippi Delta, d) Canadian Rockies

Weekly Amusement (16jun05)

Science teacher: Who discovered oxygen?
Student: Adam and Eve.

Excessive Billiard Notes

In researching my article on billiard history for the Spring issue of Blithering Antiquity, I was absorbed in reading of people who’ve been affected by the game during the past five centuries or so. Mary, Queen of Scots, was a billiard player, as was French King Louis XI. Even more interesting to me were little-known players like Jack Carr, who made a lot of money shystering others into buying his “magic” cue stick chalk. And Louis Fox, whose death in 1865 apparently was brought about by a fly distracting him during a high-stakes tournament.

Here are a few points I didn’t have space to work into the Blithering Antiquity piece:

* One of pioneers of modern billiards was a Capt. Mingaud. A political prisoner in Paris during the late 1700s, he was allowed to play pool while incarcerated. Ultimately, he refused to be released from confinement because he wanted to continue to have access to the prison’s billiard table.

* Billiard historians claim it not only is a game of science but one which requires excellent physical fitness, particularly in the legs and abdomen. It’s said that during the course of a tournament, a player might walk around the table a total of one to three miles.

* Numerous American presidents have enjoyed the game, beginning with Thomas Jefferson.

* Perhaps the “greatest all-around billiard player of all time” was American Willie Hoppe. At 18, he raised the funds to sail to France and challenge unofficial world champion Maurice Vignaux in 1906. His triumph is regarded as one of the greatest in sports history.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

New Mystery E-Books

I've just announced this at my Mysterious Expeditions blog site and thought some of you here might be interested in it, as well. Hornpipe Vintage Publications, my own publishing handle, has a couple of e-book projects in the works which, to me, are very exciting. Launched this week is the Quick Reads From "The Harper Chronicles" series, which offers in e-book format each of the short stories from Volume One of my "Harper" historical mystery series. Check out the details here. These story books are in PDF format for viewing in Adobe Reader. You can read them on your home PC or take them with you on a mobile unit for enjoyment in transit.

The second project, which will go public in July, will be described in a subsequent blog. Please check back here next week. . . .

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Weekly Folk Music Quiz (9jun05)

You would expect to hear a folk group performing son jarocho-style music in: a) Tangiers, b) Prague, c) Manila, d) Vera Cruz.

Weekly History Quiz (9jun05)

Approximately how many casualties did the Allies suffer on the first day of the D-Day invasion in June 1944? a) 5,000, b) 50,000, c) 500,000, d) 5 million

Weekly Amusement (9jun05)

Pete: “How’d you bruise your shins? Rugby?”
Marshall: “Naw, my wife talked me into being her bridge partner.”

A Serendipity Blessing: Foster!

My, oh, my! Out of the blue, I received this week a massive collection of the songs and compositions of one Stephen Collins Foster, republished in the 1930s.

As a child, I used to think Foster’s music was borderline boring. As I entered my 30s, some of his works began to stir my very soul. They do that now, more than ever.

When a friend at church asked me recently if I might have any use for a collection of Stephen Foster sheet music, I said maybe. What it turned out to be was a 30-pound box of files she’d acquired at a library auction some years ago. She was “tired of tripping over them” in her house, but she didn't want to throw them in the garbage. If she could find someone who appreciated Foster’s works. . . . (Sort of like putting a pet up for adoption, I suppose.)

Wow! Am I looking forward to digging into this! You’re liable to find Foster lyrics quoted at this blog for many months to come. . . .

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Weekly Folk Music Quiz (2jun05)

The Pakistani dholak is a kind of: a) drum, b) fiddle, c) bassoon, d) trumpet.

Weekly History Quiz (2jun05)

Which army won the Battle of Hastings in 1066?

Weekly Amusement (2jun05)

How do you catch a rabbit?
Hide in the briars and make a noise like a carrot.