Monthly Archives: January 2009

revisiting Mr Eliot

We know too much, and are convinced of too little. Our literature is a substitute for religion, and so is our religion. ~T. S. Eliot


Happy Birthday Rabbie!


Robert burns.jpg

 January 25 2009 marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of Scotland’s best-loved poet (and sometimes scoundrel) Robert Burns. Scotland designed this year’s tourism extravaganza Homecoming Scotland around the event. Touted as “a year-long celebration of Scottish culture, heritage, and contributions to the world,” the folks at VisitScotland are hoping the romantic aura surrounding the famous Ayrshire bard will lure travelers to their bonny banks throughout the year. 

The British press are falling all over themselves to get in their fifteen minutes of Burns. The Times’ Brian Pedley takes us on a tour of Burns Country.  The Times Literary Supplement ran a wonderful essay in praise of Burns—a refreshing respite from the negative press he’s been receiving of late. Not to be outdone, Charles Moore puts in his two pence (and the reader comments don’t disappoint as the centuries-long English vs. Scottish ideological battle rages on). 

Burns was a prolific writer, and music lovers everywhere are grateful that many of his poems translated so beautifully into songs. My favorite version of “Ae Fond Kiss” is this one by Eddi Reader.

Of course, Scots, descendants of Scots, and wanna-be Scots everywhere will be celebrating this coming Sunday in a big way at Burns Suppers all over the world. The Independent’s John Walsh summed up the average Burns Night Supper thus:

“Wherever large, sentimental men in tartan skirts are gathered together with glasses of Talisker 18-year-old in their hands, someone will declaim Burns’s “Address to a Haggis” and whip a skean dhu from his sock and stab the inoffensive oatmeal pudding to death.”

For more on the bard:

Christopher Tait performs as Robert Burns here.

The Ultimate Burns Supper site.

Linn Records is offering a 12-volume set of the Complete Songs of Robert Burns.

Be sure not to miss the Celtic Zone episode in honor of the Bard at BBC Radio Scotland.

Will Gerard Butler ever finish filming the long-promised biopic of Rabbie’s life?



Address to a Haggis

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin’-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye worthy o’ a grace
As lang’s my arm.

The groaning trencher
there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o need,
While thro your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An cut you up wi ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin, rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an strive:
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
The auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
‘Bethankit’ hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi perfect scunner,
Looks down wi sneering, scornfu view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither’d rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Thro bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He’ll make it whissle;
An legs an arms, an heads will sned,
Like taps o thrissle.

Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies:
But, if ye wish her gratefu prayer,
Gie her a Haggis.  


Shall I or shan’t I…?

“They change their climate, not their soul, who rush across the sea.” ~Horace

Archie Fisher is back!

Woo hoo! Archie Fisher (host of Travelling Folk) is back on BBC Radio Scotland tonight after a month-long (TOO long) hiatus. I am so excited to be at home, hearing it live for once, instead of via the “listen again” option.  (Photo courtesy of  The Official Archie Fisher MySpace page.)


” Do you not know that there comes a midnight hour when everyone has to throw off his mask? Do you believe that life will always let itself be mocked? Do you think you can slip away a little before midnight in order to avoid this? Or are you not terrified by it? I have seen men in real life who so long deceived others that at last their true nature could not reveal itself; I have seen men who played hide and seek so long that at last in madness they disgustingly obtruded upon others their secret thoughts which hithero they had proudly concealed. Or can you think of anything more frightful than that it might end with your nature being resolved into a multiplicity, that you really might become many, become, like those unhappy demoniacs, a legion, and you thus would have lost the inmost and holiest thing of all in a man, the unifying power of personality? Truly, you should not jest with that which is not only serious but dreadful. In every man there is something which to a certain degree prevents him from becoming perfectly transparent to himself; and this may be the case in so high a degree, he may be so inexplicably woven into relationships of life which extend far beyond himself, that he almost can’t reveal himself. But he who cannot reveal himself cannot love, and he who cannot love is the most unhappy man of all.”  ~Soren Kierkegaard,Either/Or”

what is real?

“There’s no need to talk, because the truth of what one says lies in what one does.” 
   ~ Bernhard Schlink

This solitary life

I’ve been romping around Blog World for several years now, and I’ve come to the conclusion that a disproportionate number of bloggers are introverts.

So I’ve been wondering: How is blog writing connected to being an introvert?

We introverts have an irritating propensity for believing we’re unique. Ask an introvert to describe her experiences in childhood and here are some of the answers you are guaranteed to get:

  • I felt different from everyone else.
  • No one understood me.
  • I didn’t understand anybody else.
  • I was always on the outside looking in.
  • I never fit in.
  • I always felt excluded.
  • Kids teased me because I was different.
  • I rarely raised my hand in class because I didn’t want to draw attention to myself.
  • I used to wish for just one person to “get” me.
  • I was usually the last one chosen for teams/clubs/groups.
  • I dreaded going to birthday parties (but my mother made me go).
  • I was accused of being “too shy”.
  • I was accused of being “stuck-up”.
  • I preferred blending in to the background.
  • Sometimes I wished I could just disappear.

And on and on….

When I first became aware that people were keeping journals (“blogs”) online, I was immediately captivated by the idea. I’d started writing at a relatively young age, and had kept diaries and, later, journals for most of my childhood and adolescence. The ability to record one’s day-to-day experiences—not to mention thoughts, dreams, fears, and losses—in such an accessible venue seemed an enchanting enterprise. But it also scared me to death.

Of course I assumed that these people who were blogging—the early adoptors, you might call them—must all be extroverts. Who else could allow themselves to make their most intimate thoughts and feelings available for public consumption? I convinced myself that they were confident, colorful, first-one-into-the-fray kinds of folks. I likened the boldest amongst them to a herd of wild buffalo, thundering across the plains of Blogland. And of course I envied them. How brave and fearless they were to put themselves out there the way they did, to expose themselves to scrutiny and judgment and, worst of all, possible ridicule.

Now I myself have taken the plunge into the blogging sea (actually, “dipped my toe into the edge of the puddle” is a more apt depiction), and the more blogs that I read, the more that I suspect that many bloggers, maybe even the majority of them, are introverts like me.

The bloggers at Introvert Retreat have posted a glowing description of the introvert temperament.  Mel, the blogger at Mental Indigestion, compiled an excellent composite of the INFP, which is a personality type identified by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. (INFP is described as the “Healer-Idealist”. It happens to be my type.) Elizabeth Svoboda wrote about the introvert’s need for solitude here.  Elizabeth A. Meckstroth wrote a very insightful paper on the apparently large number of gifted introverts. Lee Ann Lambert blogs on both the delights and difficulties of the introvert’s world.

Being an introvert in an extrovert’s world has never been easy. But now that we have more understanding and knowledge about differences in temperament, those of us who are introverts feel a little less like fish out of water.

Not sure of your status?  Take the quiz “Are You an Extrovert or an Introvert?” here. You can also type your blog—no, seriously! Go here, enter the URL of your blog, and it will tell you what personality type your blog is. It worked for mine!