9 Mar
2017

I know you think you have a favorite instrument, but you’re probably wrong.

Well, it's that time of the year again. March 10th marks International Bagpipes Day!  I know most of us are (obviously) great bagpipe lovers already, but for anyone out there who has ever thought, "Wow, bagpipes are totally amazing, but I wish I knew more about them!" this post is for you.

The Pittsburgh Firefighters Memorial Pipe Band at a competition! (My dad isn't not in this photo...)

Let's start with some basic bagpipe facts.

Piper Bill Millin, badass extraordinaire of WWII

  • Bagpipes were invented in the Near/Middle East, evidence suggests some time before the Roman era.  The exact timeline is unknown, but references to bagpipes and bagpipers are made in ancient Greek plays and Roman writings. There are sporadic mentions of the instrument in earlier texts.
  • Although the Great Highland Bagpipe of Scotland is the most widely known bagpipe in the English-speaking world, bagpipes are actually fairly common across all Indo-European countries, with most every region sporting several examples.  In addition to the Great Highland Bagpipe, pipes from the British Isles include the Scottish Smallpipes, the Border Pipes, the Irish Uilleann Pipes, and others. In Europe, instruments include the zampogna of Italy, the biniou of France, and the Dudelsack (yes, really) of Germany.  There are also bagpipes indigenous to India, Iran, Greece, Turkey, Russia, Poland, Norway, Sweden, and pretty much every other European country you know.
  • Bagpipes were used on the battlefields of Scotland and England as early as the 16th century.  Bagpipes were used in a manner similar to the use of the bugle by the cavalries of Westerns, with different types of tunes to denote marching to battle, retreating, reveille, etc. The commonly known music of the Great Highland Bagpipes today comes mostly from the tradition of martial music; bagpipe competitions strongly emphasize marches specifically.
  • Gratuitously sexy bagpiper? Don't mind if I do!

    While different types of bagpipe vary greatly in their tones, the instruments have an underlying unity to their sound, which is due to the way they are played.  Almost all bagpipes consist of a chanter, which plays the melody, and at least one drone pipe, which plays a single note in the background (hence the name). The piper fills the bag with air, either blown in by mouth or pumped in by a bellows, and then squeezes the bag, which forces the air through reeds in the pipes, which produces the notes of the instrument.

    From Wikipedia (because I tried to say this as concisely and failed): "The chanter is usually open-ended, so there is no easy way for the player to stop the pipe from sounding. Thus most bagpipes share a constant, legato sound where there are no rests in the music. Primarily because of this inability to stop playing, technical movements are used to break up notes and to create the illusion of articulation and accents. Because of their importance, these embellishments (or 'ornaments') are often highly technical systems specific to each bagpipe, and take many years of study to master."

  • Bill Millin, personal piper to Simon Fraser, 15th Lord Lovat, piped British soldiers ashore at Normandy like a total badass.  After the battle he asked some captured German snipers why they hadn't shot him and they told him it was because they thought he had gone insane.  What other instrument has a story like that?! None other.

That's about enough of the educational stuff!  Here are some bagpipes for you to listen to!  Enjoy!

Pipe Major Brian Donaldson and Willie MacCallum, two of the best pipers living (and two of the nicest people you'd ever hope to meet!)

The late Pipe Major Alasdair Gillies, last Pipe Major of the Queen's Own Highlanders, and possibly the greatest piper of the 20th Century.  (Also a fantastic person.)

Here's some Italian bagpipes!  Wtf?!

Russian Bagpipes!  Ah!

That's all from your favorite bagpipe lover for today!  Haste ye back! <3

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8 Mar
2017

Nevertheless, She Persisted

Yeah, you heard me.

In honor of National Women's Day, I wanted to share some super cool cards we just got in that feature badass women. (Well, at least I think they're cool, I designed them.) It all started with Elizabeth Warren and what has become a battle cry taken up by women all around the globe. The women featured on these cards are personal role models of mine, each are strong in their own way.

Princess (and General) Leia Organa. My first role model. I so wanted to be like her when I grew up, confident and take-no-shit attitude.

Ellen Ripley. Surviving xenomorphs   AND mansplaining.

Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, First of Her Name, the Unburnt Queen of the... you get the picture.
Also, Mother of DRAGONS!

Lady FUCKING Mormont!
(I don't know what her actual middle name is, but if it isn't this, it should be, cause that girl is a stone cold badass.)

Hermione Granger.
There is absolutely no way Harry Potter would've survived without her.

Maeve Millay of Westworld.
I wish I could be half as smart and cunning as this host.

 

Ladies, I salute you. You have, and always will, persist.

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4 Mar
2017

ITS GRAMMAR DAY OR IT’S GRAMMAR DAY!?

Your probably sitting their on you're couch reeding this like, "I'm a native English speaker I don't knead a lessen in grammer."

If that sentence made you want to die on the inside, then this blog is for YOU! Let's get some things straight though.

First rule of grammar club:

We DO NOT make fun of incorrect grammar usage by someone who speaks English as a second language (ESL) because

you probably can't explain why it's wrong. I've rarely heard someone laugh at a poorly written sign and say, "HAHAHAHHA MORPHOLOGY STRIKES AGAIN!"

A person who uses ESL probably knows more about English than you do; as a native English speaker we take the rules for granted and don't question them, but someone learning English is like "THIS IS THE STUPIDEST LANGUAGE" and in many ways, it is! Remember this old gem?

and this classic:

A lot of the rules we were taught growing up (and by we I mean 30-somethings and above who remember diagramming sentences in grade school. If you were me, it was the BEST! If you were a normal person, it was the worst...but if you're reading this, you're in the former camp).

But here's the thing (ack! I started a sentence with but! Shame!) the reasons we were told we couldn't do certain things are not relevant anymore. For example, one of these ancient rules is "you must not split an infinitive." WHY MUST WE NOT??????? Because (eeek I started a sentence with 'because'!! I FEEL LIKE A MILLENNIAL!!! I'M GONNA STAY UP PAST 9 TONIGHT!!!) Latin.  The infinitive in English takes the form 'to (verb)' as in "to go". So when Captain Kirk says "to boldy go" he is splitting up that sexy infinitive coupling with a motherfucking adverb. WTF amirite? Here's the thing though, in Latin, "to go" is only one word, "ire"...BUT WE DON'T SPEAK LATIN ANYMORE.

{Can I side track to nerd town for a sec? K thanks. Before I went to graduate school for Speech Language Pathology I had to brush up on some basics, but I realized that these basics weren't exactly basic to your average native English speaker. I fell so deeply madly in love with my Phonetics textbooks (and teacher, ahem) and as a result fell so SO back in love with language.

Getting outside the realm of grammar specifically, here's an example of a super awesome thing: an allophone! So in English, we've got these letters that makes sounds, let's take the letter /t/for example: it's called a phoneme; it represents a sound. When you weren't looking, /t/ went out and made a family! That's right, /t/ has it's own fucking family, and they are called phones. The [t] in tar is different from the [t] in star; if you put your hand in front of your mouth when you say "tar" you will feel a puff of air, and that is called an aspirated [t] and has it's own separate symbol! The [t] in "writer" sounds like a [d] when spoken, so that gets ITS OWN SYMBOL (called a flap) and this goes on, AND THAT'S JUST ENGLISH! These other /t/ sounds are allophones of /t/, aka, bastard children.

And don't get me started (yep I started a sentence with AND; screw you, Ann Landers) on how beautiful actual 3D depictions of spoken language are.}

End side track...you forgot you were in brackets didn't you! We're back to sassy town.

The 2nd rule of grammar club:


We DO make fun of the president of the United States if he makes a grammatical error, and here's why:

BECAUSE HE'S THE GODDAMN PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES AND HE SHOULD KNOW BETTER AND IF HE DOESN'T KNOW BETTER HE SHOULD HIRE PEOPLE WHO DO KNOW BETTER BECAUSE THAT'S HOW LIFE WORKS

Going to leave you with a couple wonderful links: one will take you to a twitter account called TrumpGrammar...no explanation needed, and the second is a link to a study by CMU that found Trump's grammar to be just below a 6th grade level, Aslan save us all.

PEACE OUT (that's right I'm ending on a preposition. EAT IT.)

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3 Mar
2017

I Think I Blue This Post

Life is hard. You're thrown into this world with no choice of what your name is, who your family is, or who you're attracted to. For George Michael Bluth, none of those things ended up in his favor. But every day he manages to get out of bed with a positive attitude. We can all learn a thing from George Michael, and thank God he's teaching us, or else we'd all be getting scared straight by a man with one arm. In honor of George Michael's Birthday on March 3, here are some helpful tips on relationships, business, and family.

Relationships 101:

Never fall in love with your cousin

George Michael has dealt with conflicting emotions about his cousin, Maeby, since the show's pilot episode. They shared a kiss, and it sent shivers down his once innocent spine. His love for her grows over the course of the show, though he's obviously troubled by the nature of this. It is hinted that they aren't biologically related, but they only find out the truth—Maeby’s mother is adopted—after they get to second base. Ouch.

                         Date someone memorable

Business Tips:

Find a void and fill it

George Michael has always been a good student. In college, he really came into his own, losing his virginity to a Spanish mother while abroad, and developing what is the best wooden block app on the market. "FakeBlock" started out as a small idea, a musical block app, but, after a white lie and a series of misunderstandings, everyone believed it to be a revolutionary anti-social network app. Though it was all a misunderstanding that got out of control, Netflix did make the app to promote the new season.

 There's always money in a banana stand

As Mr. Manager, George Michael has a lot of pressure on him. On his first day as Mr. Manager, Maeby thinks the whole, "take a dollar, take a banana and eat it" system works well until George Michael realizes they actually have to pay for the bananas they sell. George Michael isn't the only one we can learn from. His father, Michael, learned the hard way that there's always money in a banana stand when he burns it down, only to discover there was $250,000 hidden in the walls.

Bluth Life Lessons:

There is no right way to dance like a chicken 

Everyone thinks that they have the perfect chicken dance. But which way is best? The Bluth family has some very strong opinions.

Family comes first 

Throughout the series, George Michael learns that no matter how dysfunctional your family is, they're always there to fall back on. Even if they were the ones who fucked up the situation in the first place. No matter how many times you try to leave them, you can't escape them. The family that burns evidence together, stays together.

                       

 

1 Mar
2017

March 2017 Calendar of Events

Happy March, friends! Bulbs are coming up, days are getting longer, and we've got a whole new month of celebrations, of course! From Women of Color Day, to National Napping Day, to Won't You Be My Neighbor Day, and National Respect Your Cat Day, there's a whole lot to celebrate. Read on to see what's getting our panties in a bunch this month! Read more >>

24 Feb
2017

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Pride & Prejudice for a New Generation

It is a rare occasion that I give even a moment's thought to the question "Is this adaptation even close to as good as the source material?" So it is during these rare occasions that I must put a spotlight on the adaptation in question. Few stories are able to reach these heights. Aside from the focus of this blog, the only adaptations I can think of in this category are Matilda, Harry Potters 1-3, and Spider-Man 2, the movie and video game. To fit this category, an adaptation should not simply be a word-for-word recreation of the text, nor should it stray too far. It is, to me, most important to capture the energy and feelings evoked from the work. This criteria is what makes The Lizzie Bennet Diaries one of the strongest adaptations ever.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a retelling of the Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, using vlogging as the platform. It aired from 2012-2013 on YouTube. Produced by Hank Green, this adaptation tackles both the love lives and careers of a streamlined three Bennet sisters—Lizzie, Jane, and Lydia—and Charlotte, Lizzie's best friend. In modern day, Lizzie and Charlotte are media grad students entering their last year, while Jane works as an unpaid intern for a fashion line, and Lydia is finishing college. They all live at home, something very sympathetic to this blogger, and one of the small things that makes Pride and Prejudice an eternal story.

At its core, P&P is a story about family, love, life, and social advancement. These don't change when you add in a series of jump cuts and character twitter accounts. The social media and vlogs started by other characters add to the story in ways that other adaptations simply can't. As she comes to learn throughout the plot, Lizzie is a horribly stubborn character who can't reliably narrate her way out of a social formal. Because this is a modern story, other characters are able to give their opinions and thoughts on the happenings surrounding them. We get a fuller perspective on what's going on as characters like Gigi Darcy enter the stage much sooner through their social media presence than they actually appear on screen.

A great aspect of this story is the time given to individual moments. The original release had multiple episodes coming out every week for a year, ranging from three to ten minutes each. The result is the longest adaptation of Pride and Prejudice ever, in bite-sized pieces. It is easy to lose hours watching the series. "Just one more" only means another four minutes, but as you get lost in the Southern Californian lives of the Bennet sisters, you quickly forget what you were planning to do after you finish "just this episode."

Although the love story of Lizzie and Darcy, dubbed "Dizzie" by fans (I kind of hate name-smashing as a ship name. Whatever happened to the good old days of MSR? And why can't people be fine with a simple slash or x between names? I digress.), is still quite the presence, it's not the dominating story line as it is in many takes on the tale, and in people's minds. Darcy is, of course, still the incredibly prejudiced, but incredibly loving, socially-awkward, hot dude he's always been meant to be, but more of the plot is dedicated to exploring the dynamics of four young women striving to advance their lives and careers. I cried more over the fights and arguments between the girls than I ever did over the heartbreak and love lives, and I'm sure most viewers did the same.

I implore you, dearest reader, whether you have loved Pride and Prejudice for a long time or have never even thought about picking up the book (as I had not before watching this web series), to watch The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. As for my original question, I don't know that The LBD quite stacks up to the power of the original novel, but no adaptation truly can. It is a worthy adaptation all the same for being able to even start the conversation, and it is my favorite adaptation of Pride and Prejudice for the same reason. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is patient and kind when the title character is less than so. It loves its characters and wants to tell everyone's side of the story even when she does not, and especially when she cannot. You can start with episode one, following along with all the associated social media in chronological order by following this link (click it, click it please!).

20 Feb
2017

Find Someone to Love You Unconditionally on National Love Your Pet Day!

February 20th is National Love Your Pet Day!  Aka the best and most beautiful day of the year!  We love pets.  They are cuddly and adorable and the actual best.  Pet ownership has been scientifically proven* to make your life better.  Taking care of a creature other than yourself not only imparts responsibility and makes you a less narcissistic crazypants, but it is also the essential ingredient for a perfect meet-cute.  Basically what I'm trying to say is that you should have a pet.  Because if you don't have a pet, you will get pregnant.  And die.

Nevermind that, though!  Let's look at pictures of the various and sundry pets of Kards Unlimited!

Pennyyyyyyyyyyyyy.

Speck is so amazing and majestic.

 

Ate and Ursula! Cuddling kittens of DOOM!

Baby Ursula was the best Ursula.

 

Oh Watson. You goofball.

 

Ha, Sipper. Too cute. Look at her little crossed eyes.

This is Rick. She clearly takes after her owner Dale

And this is Clover! I love her so much and I haven't even met her yet!

*I don't really think that science has proven anything of the kind, but it sounds reasonable.  Pets are the best.  Just trust me.
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19 Feb
2017

Son of a Bat: The Story of Damian Wayne

Not every superhero is lucky enough to have a family. In fact, it's often the lack of loved ones that propels a "Mask" into the battle, as it were, and what pushes them to keep searching for justice.

We know Bruce Wayne lost his parents at a very young age due to violence, and Batman has never been one to show much emotion. He's reserved and quiet when it comes to his feelings on...feelings. However, every now and again we get a peek into the softer side of the Bat. Especially when it comes to his son, Damian.

There's a father-son bond between these two that isn't often seen in the many worlds of comics. Bruce was unaware of his son's existence; Damien was brought up by Talia al Ghul and trained by the League of Assassins to be able to destroy Batman. The plans went awry and Damian ended up being adopted by Bruce and trained as his next Robin. Bruce worries about his son in the way only a man who has lost his whole family can, and vice versa. They keep each other in line. It can be quite dramatic and even adorable to see their interactions together.

But where Bruce is very strict and straight-laced, Damian is easy-going and loves to laugh. Damian's sassy attitude is quite amusing and his rule-breaking can often get him into trouble with Bruce and the other members of the Bat-family. There was always a conflict within Damian that had him, on one hand, looking to Batman as his father and mentor, but on the other hand, looking to his grandfather Ra's al Ghul (the Demon's head) as an influence. It's all too easy to kill your enemies and walk away. Damian struggles with his inner demons on a daily basis.

Because Damian has chosen to stay with Bruce and chosen the path of not killing, Talia and Ra's want revenge. They feel that he has betrayed the family and all of their teachings, so they set out to assassinate him and to hurt Bruce in one terrible moment.

The assassination plot a success, Damien is killed, but as long as the Multiverse flourishes and the Lazares Pits boil, all is not lost...