The READIN Family Album
Me and Sylvia on the canal in Qibao (April 2011)


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I was born with a mind that suffers from the incurable disease of worrying precisely about what could or might have been.

Cipriano Algor

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Saturday, April 30th, 2011

🦋 Heirloom

This is my grandfather's violin, which I've been playing (with significant interruptions) since I was 12 years old or thereabouts. Today I gave it away, to my daughter. A couple of thoughts --
  • Wow, Sylvia is playing a full-size violin now! It seems like the transition from ¼-size did not take a very long time.
  • I have really switched over pretty completely to the Stroh fiddle in the year or so I've had it. It feels like my native instrument now. I was playing this violin with Bob and Janis earlier today and noticing it felt a little foreign, the sound was not the Stroh sound which I have acclimated to.
I took the pickup off; if you're looking for a cheap Barcus Berry transducer to mount on your violin, give me a holler. It is nothing fancy but it served me well. Of the two stickers on the case, Sylvia will be keeping "Katze und Mädchen, ein komisches Paar" and getting rid of "Future Corpses of America" -- probably a wise decision. Need to get a better bow for Sylvia as I cannibalized the good bow for my Stroh fiddle.

Sylvia was going through the stuff in the outer pocket of the case and found sheet music for "Old Joe's Hittin' the Jug", which I had forgotten I had, and the dvd of Elixirs and Remedies. (Which, nice, I'm watching now.)

posted evening of April 30th, 2011: 2 responses
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🦋 4/30, 5/1

So tomorrow is May Day, International Workers' Day; it is also the anniversary day of St. Walpurga's canonization, making this evening Walpurgisnight. Hope the occasion finds you dancing naked and setting fires.

(I did not know this: St. Walpurga lived in the Ⅷ C. ad and was an English missionary for the Roman church in central Europe, evangelizing to the pagans of the Frankish empire. She is credited as being the first female author in England and in Germany.)

posted morning of April 30th, 2011: Respond
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Sunday, April 24th, 2011

🦋 Not understanding the dialog

While we were in China, 20th Century Fox's Rio had its premiere worldwide. By happy coincidence, Michael's House, where we were staying in Beijing, is right around the corner from the China Film Art Research Center and its attached first-run theater; so Sylvia and I got to watch Rio dubbed into Chinese. (To be specific, dialog was dubbed into Chinese; song lyrics were left in English and subtitled.)

It was, well, a really good movie to watch in a language you don't understand. The plot and characterizations were broad enough, the motivations and emotions corny enough, that we had no trouble following the story by just watching the zany, pretty charming animation -- and I'm pretty sure I would just have found the dialog and the non-visual jokes annoying, that they would have hampered my enjoyment of the movie.* And watching it in a language you don't understand is way better than watching it with the sound turned off -- the clues you get from gibberish dialog about who is speaking and what their mood is, and the clues you get from the soundtrack about the direction of the movie, are important.

(I wondered, and have no idea, whether the Brazilian characters were speaking Chinese with a stereotypical Portuguese accent.)

* (Sylvia enjoyed the movie in Chinese but wants to see it again in English. She will probably get more out of the jokes than I would.)

posted evening of April 24th, 2011: Respond
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🦋 The Hard Sell

A story idea (or, well, a character idea -- nothing happening in the story, yet) that developed in China as I interacted with vendors at the Shanghai textile market. I was not really there to buy anything, just keeping Ellen and Sylvia company in their hunt for silk...

So the idea is, there's this character, a sexually/interpersonally-frustrated American businessman who spends time in China working for his company. Not really sure of the details of this, possibly I would model him on a British expatriate we met in Suzhou who had lived there for several years doing marketing for a British telecommunications firm. I think the character's name is Morris Babel, just because I was reading 100 Years of Solitude recently and thinking what a great character name that would be, and it seems to work for this character. Babel's business does not involve textiles but he develops the kink of hanging around the fabric and clothing markets having people sell to him -- the salespeople, who are generally attractive young women, make eye contact, greet him, ask him to look at their wares, and if he pauses to take a look, aggressively market the merchandise, pulling him in and connecting with him, or creating the appearance of a connection. Babel finds this addictive and returns daily to the markets, buying clothing and fabric and trinkets he does not have any use for in exchange for this experience of feeling wanted.

It seemed to me at the market like this form of direct personal marketing was the primitive form of the advertising industry I have been exposed to all my life in America, probably (almost certainly) more effective on a per-exposure basis than mass media advertising but of course much less efficient in terms of money, since labor is involved in each exposure.

posted morning of April 24th, 2011: Respond
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Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

🦋 A few old memories

Rest in peace, Hazel Dickens. Ms. Dickens passed away yesterday, 75 years old. She has a thick catalog of songs; I will remember her especially for "Dark as a Dungeon".

posted evening of April 23rd, 2011: Respond
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Friday, April 22nd, 2011

🦋 Various places in China

你好! We spent the past two weeks in China. Some scattered notes about being there, below the fold; and click on the picture of us at the Confucian temple in Shanghai for a photo album.

read the rest...

posted evening of April 22nd, 2011: 1 response
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Saturday, April second, 2011

🦋 Mountain Station

photo by Sylvia

Well out of a year and a bit of jamming together, John and I have put together something worth listening to (IMO obviously). You can download our demo tape from if you'd like to check it out. (Click the "Download Folder" button to get the tape as one big .zip file.) Streaming here:

Track list

  1. "Highway 61 Revisited" by Bob Dylan (with a bit of fooling around with the lyrics from yours truly)
  2. "NJ Transit" by Jeremy
  3. "Dancing Barefoot" by Patti Smith
  4. "Revelator" by Gillian Welch
  5. "Shady Grove," traditional
  6. "California Stars" by Woody Guthrie and Wilco
  7. "St. James Infirmary," traditional
Mountain Station is John Hicks on guitar and vocals, Jeremy Osner on Stroh fiddle and vocals. Follow us on Facebook to see new songs when we record them, and works in progress...

Update -- I am thinking with this post I'll be taking a brief hiatus, a couple of weeks. Thanks for reading, those of you who stop by regularly -- I'll be back, just want a little time off.

Please help us find our audience! If you are reading this post and you like the music, I would greatly appreciate links back, from your blog or your rss reader or Facebook, whatever. Help get the word out...

posted evening of April second, 2011: 4 responses
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Thursday, March 31st, 2011

🦋 Portraiture

Eddie Fitzgerald has a funny site. I'm never quite sure what to make of Uncle Eddie's Theory Corner, beyond that Eddie has a wonderful eye for faces, for photos and drawings of faces. Today's post is no exception to the rule -- a bunch of great images tied together with a thread that I don't quite get.

posted evening of March 31st, 2011: Respond
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🦋 From Tromsø down to Christiansand*

Slicing Up Eyeballs reports that another new Norwegian disc is coming our way from Robyn Hitchock. (or possibly from the Venus 3? They do not say.) One track is available for listening now! (And another one!) Another track is on the soundtrack of a movie coming out next month! Anticipation...

Update: The record will be coming out next weekend and will feature 8 new songs, a re-recording of "Raining Twilight Coast," and a Norwegian-language recording of "Goodnight Oslo."

*(Note: I had never actually bothered to look at a map and see what this lyric means. Tromsø is at the very top of Norway, inside the arctic circle; Christiansand is on the southern tip of Scandinavia.)

posted evening of March 31st, 2011: Respond

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

🦋 High Points

100 Years of Solitude is a pretty engaging book overall. What is really making the reading experience work for me though, what I'm thinking of as the high points, is the 2-to-5-page narrative sections told in long, quickly flowing paragraphs, anecdotes from Macondo's history. The journey leading up to the founding of the village was one such portion, another is the epidemic of insomniac amnesia which ends when Melquíades returns to the village. It would be worth while to compile a list of these passages, they seem like the heart of the story to me but I'm not really sure what proportion of the book they make up. It is impossible to stop reading in the middle of one of these passages. Very difficult to quote from them, too -- I want to pick something from the insomnia passage which will communicate its feeling, but I can't quote one sentence without everything around it -- the passage is atomic in a way. Its impact lies in the flow of narrative from image to image rather than in any particular image. Well maybe this: Úrsula has been running a business selling candies shaped like little animals; these animals are how the plague of insomnia is eventually transmitted from the Buendía family to the rest of the village --

Children and adults sucked happily on the delicious little green roosters of insomnia, the exquisite rosy fish of insomnia, the tender little golden horses of insomnia, and when the sun rose on Monday, the whole village was still awake.
And, and look at this: Aureliano and his father have been fighting the amnesia by labeling everything in the village with its name and function -- "This is a cow. One must milk it every morning, and must warm the milk and mix it with coffee to make café con leche." A sign in the middle of town states "God exists." After months of this, when Melquíades (as yet unidentified -- no one remembers who he is) returns,
José Arcadio Buendía found him seated in the hall, fanning himself with a worn black hat, compassionate and attentive, reading the notes taped to the walls.

posted evening of March 30th, 2011: 2 responses
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