NOTES FROM PIPEY'S CORNER

Volume III Number 1 February 1999





This marks the first anniversary of the website and this column - I hope to be a little more regular in my submissions in the future. Unfortunately I'm a piper, not a computer geek, as I keep explaining to my highly computer-literate colleagues out there. As the joker in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy said, "Keep banging those rocks together,guys!"



Slightly more seriously, guess what I found in my e-mailbox last week? The almost finished new BAGPIPE MUSIC WRITER GOLD. This new software promises to revolutionise bagpipe music writing and is going to be the definitive piping software for years to come. I know that there are those of you who haven't bought it in the past because it was too difficult and too expensive. The new release IS WORTH IT!



The new features are great - writing the music is easier, the playing can be adjusted to your sound card, the tone and pitch can be varied, speed, pitch, gracenote duration - all can be customised and saved with individual tunes. TO USE ATECHNICAL PIPING TERM, IT'S F**KIN' AMAZING! In addition, it now contains everything you need to transcribe and write Piobaireachd. I can't go into any further detail at this time, but the tentative release date is March 1. According to Rob MacNeill, BMWGold will have its debut competing at the BC Knockout!

I will have copies available as soon as possible, and I'll put a full review in the next column.



There are some new books out, one of which I can't help but recommend. The first is Jim McGillivray's great new exercise book, RHYTHMIC FINGERWORK. It is a MUST for every serious piper. Better than any other exercise book I've ever seen, andcertainly better than the one I had planned for next year. IT COMES WITH A CD,TOO, so there's no excuse for not buying it. Every competing piper and everyone whoseriously wants to improve his playing should get this book. I can't recommend it enough.


A new CD flew in yesterday - Bill Barrie's Volume III of ANCIENT PIOBAIREACHD. Produced and accompanied by his son Jim, the album contains re-recordings of some tunes on the first and second volumes, as well as new cantairreachd - The Old Woman's Lullaby, The Big Spree, Lament for the earl of Antrim, Donald Dughal Mackay. Great tunes well-expressed in Cameron cantairreachd, I know people who use this as bedtime music...yes, it's in stock.

That's about it for this month, kids. I look forward to getting your email and blasting holes in the piping world in the future. I'd like to thank those of you who have stimulated my feeble (and getting feebler) mind and asked questions which I, hopefully have been able to answer. As Dino used to say, "Keep those cards and letters comin', 'cause it's the only way I can afford stamps..."

Until next time,

Pipey



NOTES FROM PIPEY'S CORNER

Volume III Number 2 March 1999



So here it's March and Spring is almost here and the Games season can't be far behind, now, can it? Oy. Here we go again...

Sometimes I wonder if it's worth it to lug all this stuff off to some stinking county fairgrounds, set it all up, and then have to endure the inane questions of lard-bellied flatulant mouth-breathers for two days to try to make a buck - but I guess I'm just a masochist at heart...Okay, so I'm in a bad mood this time. I'm trying to do my books. I don't like accounting. at all. In addition it seriously looks like my friends Clyde and June Bullion won't be coming back any time in the near future. They moved to Alaska last fall on a trial basis and like it too much, I think. For two years Clyde's been my right-hand man at the Games, setting up, selling, tearing down, and generally being the best kind of friend anybody could have. We'll miss them both. Look for Tundra Piper's Supply (aka Clyde Bullion - little guy from Texas, yep they grow 'em kinda small down there) in the Anchorage area.

On a lighter note
The new BMWGold should be available by April 21. It's loaded with features that make the old BMW look like an Apple II computer. Great playing capabilities, with programmable smooth playing feature, easy pitch and tempo settings, choice of MIDI sources, everything that its predecessor wasn't. And it will produce a really professional-looking piobaireachd score!

In addition, BMWGold incorporates a lot of 'fine-tuned' features - like being able to set C and F natural notes in both the score and playing, AND having all parts repeated during playing. There are many new codes to learn, but the greatly (and I do mean GREATLY) expanded manual - seventy pages as opposed to eight in the old manual - makes the whole business a lot easier to learn. Tempo can be set for individual parts, making it possible to program a piobaireachd that actually plays the way it's supposed to. Gracenote values are adjustable with a pull-down menu, any tune configurations get SAVED when you change pitch, tempo, etc. It's really a gret improvement. We've been waiting four years for this, and it's finally here, thank all Piping Gods. There are a few things I haven't figured out yet, but give me a few weeks and I'll have those crunluaths and chedares on the run...Rob MacNeill tells me that BMWGold will have its competition début at the B.C. knockout this month. Using a Creative Labs AWE64 Wavetable sound card he hopes to produce a professional grade performance in both piobaireachd and light music...we'll see...

The Dan Reid Memorial is all set for May 1 at the St. Francis Hotel. Old and new faces will be there, including Roddy MacLeod, Ian MacDonald, Stuart Little, Bill Livingston, Bruce Gandy, and Mary-Ann MacKinnon, with Archie Cairns and P/M Angus MacDonald judging. Newbies Rob Crabtree from Toronto and Mike Rogers of Laurel, Maryland will be making their first appearance at the DRM. Stuart Liddell and Ian MacDonald have been bumped into the Masters' Competition after their previous Cameron-Gillies trials over the last years. Jack Lee of SFU Pipe Band returns after a three-year hiatus from the DRM; it will be great to hear him again. The competition should be top notch as always. Book NOW for seats for the dinner. It's always a sellout. You can find out more at www.jps.net/danreid .

...Don't forget the Woodland Games at the Yolo County Fairgrounds on the 24-25 of April. We'll be there, fending off the mouth breathers. Look forward to seeing you...

...stop press! NEWS FLASH! NEWS FLASH! stop press!...

Okay, so I got your attention. Just pulled an article from The Wall Street Journal (that encyclopedic resource for pipers) that sez Gore-Tex makes the best damn pipe bag in the world. Uh-huh. Jiveass honky stock analyst don' know nuffin 'bout no huffin' (that's Piponics, folks).

So, it seems that the W.L. Gore Co. of Newark, Delaware, has been tooting its horn again, and us 'Luddites' out in the sticks better get on the bandwagon. Sure. And my mother DID raise stupid people. Anyone with half a grain of sense knows that the Campro bag is shaped poorly, leaks, has fitting problems in the stocks, wears out in a couple of years, et-cetera, et-cetera-et-cetera (thank you, ghost of Yul Brynner). I'm sick of hearing about the damn thing.

In addition, they've resurrected the Ross bag (the old Kitty Litter special) that came out about ten years ago and was laughed off the planet. Why would anyone want to induce checking in a bagpipe by dessicating the wood? Duh. A pipe has to retain some moisture in order to keep the wood from splitting (I hate when that happens!) and the only way to do that is to retain some moisture in the bag in storage. Maybe it works okay in really dry climates, after your drones have really dried out, or if you put enough water in the bag to fill a camel (the real one, not the cartoon ad). Maybe if you're playing Waltzing Matilda on Polly the Penco pipes with Plasstic Ross reeds in the Outback. Not fair dinkum, sport. But not in any temperate climate. Not on this side of the planet (it must be all that standing upside down).

I really don't see why everybody has to have a particular bag, or reed, or chanter, or blowstick, or whatever, just because a particular band won the World Championship (another highly rigged enterprise) using that particular bag, or reed, et-cetera, et-cetera, et-cetera (thank you again, Yul Brynner. Yes I did stop smoking). It just doesn't make much sense to grab on to some ill-conceived gimmick because FMM, or SFU, or Vicky Police, or any other Grade I Band uses/used/purports to use it. IT'S NOT GOING TO IMPROVE YOUR PLAYING. Occasionally there comes along something new that is well-engineered, functional, practical, good for your instrument, and makes sense. Neither of the synthetic pipe bags mentioned in this column make sense. End of sermon.

Seriously, cat squeezers, this is an article written by someone utterly ignorant of piping and who takes a few sources at their word. "Smelly sheepskin" yet. Quoting a jerk who has the 'smelliest bag in the band.' L&M, the world's largest pipe bag manufacturer, gets virtually ignored ("...claims to be the largest manufacturer of pipe bags in North America....") in favour of these joiks from Joisey who happen to be listed on the effing Dow. Gimme a break. I t'ink da haole be pushin' ma leg... Until next time, kiddies....

-30-

 

NOTES FROM PIPEY'S CORNER

Volume III Number 3 April 1999

SPRING IS HERE...

AND THE NUTS ARE OUT

 

So, spring arrived on the Left Coast and we're all still drenched. Maybe it will dry up by Woodland, but don't hold your breath. If you try to contact me in the next few weeks and don't get me, it's because I'm running between here and Santa Babawawa getting ready to open my Aht Gallery on the 15th in Montecito. Some commute...Just leave a message in the mailbox or on the phone and I'll get back to you ASAP.

I'm going to Pozo this weekend; haven't been in seven years. It should be interesting. After that we'll be packing up all the goodies and heading to Woodland on the 23rd for the Sacramento Games. Don't know why they call them that, as they haven't been in Sacramento for at least ten years...hope to see you there.

A few interesting things happened last month. Two weeks ago I received an email from the Quality Bagpipe Shoppe in Glasgow, demanding that I alter my comments regarding his sheepskin pipe bag. If you remember, cyberfans, my spiel said 'Mark Bennett sheepskin pipe bags - the Bagg better than Begg.' Which is true. The Bennett bag is better shaped, plays better, has better quality control, and IS PREFERRED by five out of the seven Scottish Regiments. The next night I got a message left on my phone machine at 12.30 a.m. - "...This is James Begg...don't you ever do that to me again...everyone knows I've got the best bag on the market..." and so on, much of it rather 'colourful' in that Glaswegian manner usually associated with poor diet and inbreeding. My response is very simple:

PROVE IT!

I express my opinion on products based on use. I've found Mark's product to be better. I also take umbrage with people who claim to have nonexistant 'Ministry of Defence' contracts. As far as I'm concerned, wee, wee boggles can just boggle off...

Locally, went to two concerts last weekend by two of the area bands, City of Sacramento and Alameda Sheriff's. No contest. CitySac is a fair Grade III band that has all the Grade III problems - mainly lack of personnel. I really think they should have held this show at the end of last season rather than a few weeks before their first competition - both their III and IV band people were nervous as hell up there, and it showed. There were sound problems as well, and they were recording the show for a CD. I hope the CD is better than the show.

The Sheriff's band, on the other hand, put on a REALLY GREAT SHEW as Ed Sullivan used to say. Helen Gladden has to have one of the best bands around, and one of the few Grade II's left. She and her husband Tim have put a LOT of work into this band, and it's really paid off. The pipe corps was seady, and their msr and medley were killer. With help from Ian Whitelaw of SFU their tone and tuning were excellent, and the drum line under Tim was awesome - fine drum salute, tight lines and really good syncopation. Having world-class instruction always helps. This band is definately going places, hopefully to the World's.

Oh, yes, speaking of the World's, it seems that the RSPBA is broke and looking for suckers, I mean sponsors, so that Certain Persons can line their pockets with Other People's Money. I'm sick of Inbred Infighting. Maybe if Pepsi takes over we'll get impartial judges for once!

More on this as the plot sickens. See you in beautiful downtown Woodland in three weeks.

 

-30-

 

NOTES FROM PIPEY'S CORNER

Volume III Number 4 May 1999

...AND THE RUMOURS ARE FLYING AND THE DAN REID IS OVER

1999 DAN REID MEMORIAL: Left :P/M Roddy MacLeod (Scottish Power), 3rd overall, Master's Competition (take the bloody picture, Iain); P/M Ian K. MacDonald. Toronto Police; Mike Rogers, (City of Washington Pipe Band) winner, Cameron-Gillies Competition; Mary-Ann MacKinnon (Vale of Atholl), winner, Cameron Gillies MSR; Rob Crabtree (Toronto Police); Stuart Liddell (SP again) keeping a straight face; Jack Lee (SFU) trying to juggle trophies; Bill Livingstone (78th) fanning himself with the pipe banner....Right, Karen looks wistful by the clock because it's ALL over and we have to drive back to San Leandro...

Yes, kids, it's May, it's May, the Piping Month of May and the Dan Reid has come and gone. A few surpises this year. Jack Lee's return to the DRM got him his third championship, with Bill Livingstone second and Roddy MacLeod third overall. The Masters Competition was filled out by Ian MacDonald of Toronto Police and Stuart Liddell, the Pineapple Gnome of Scottish Power. Great playing by great players. Willie MacCallum sat this one out, but he has promised to return next year for the 'DRMY2K.'

In the Cameron-Gillies competition, Mike Rogers squeaked past Mary-Ann MacKinnon with Rob Crabtree (also of Toronto Police) third. M-A won the MSR and missed the piobaireachd literally by a tenth of a second - her chanter choked momentarily. Again, a great competition and great players. Sadly, P/M Angus MacDonald, who was scheduled to judge, is in hospital. We send him our best wishes. Archie Cairns and Ronnie Lawrie at the tables, Ozzie his usual warm self...

left: Larry Streeter (without Larry we wouldn't be here...) and daughter Sarah (the Rabbit); right, Paul and Michelle Dunn having a great time at the Dan Reid (Hawaii? - nothing compared to this...)

As sponsors we had a great time. I'd like to thank Paul and Michelle Dunn, Ellison and Nancy Dunlap, Nick Keihner, Sarah, Debbie, and especially Larry Streeter, and my lovely Karen for all their support this year. Next year's Millennium Blowout is going to be a corker. Time limit - 45 minutes to play MSR (2 each), hornpipe/jig (2 each), and piobaireachd. And when you're done you get to do the Farmer's Walk...4 judges, 2 minutes between sets, and no pit stops. "May you live in interesting times...."

So, what else is new? Lots of nasty things flying around Scotland. World's or no World's? - maybe yes, maybe no. A few years ago Bell's Whisky stepped in and sponsored the World Championships, but they bowed out after getting their noses bloodied. The Three Witches of Fife and their Glaswegian cronies are looking for someone to foot the bill and pad their pockets this year. As yet no one sucker, er, sponsor, has stepped forth, the BOYS are scabbling for coins, and Budweiser certainly isn't interested. "Hey, there, Bubba, maybe we could use it as a between crashes feature for Talladega on the NASCAR circuit..." Unfortunately there just isn't enough marketing interest in the World Pipe Band Championship to justify the participation of a big-name sponsor. Now if there were nekkid wimmens involved, I'm sure Skoal Bandits would like to kick in a few mil, or how about The Hawaiian Tropic World Pipe Band and Bikini Championships???? Huh? We'll certainly have more on this in the future as it decays.

In addition, what's on the front page is unfortunately true. For some reason the Melbourne Police authorities have decided that their World Champion pipe band was not fulfilling its original function, so Victoria Police have been 'degraded' and relegated to playing local parades in Australia and promoting police goodwill. Needless to say, numerous players have decamped to Canada, Scotland, and the US - maybe Bill Livingstone's band will be playing 'Waltzing Matilda' this year...it's really too bad when a band gets going really well and then has to quit because of some official bull. They should have just changed their name to the Didge and Drone Pipe Band and gotten another sponsor.

Quite a few little snippets are emanating from the Fife area - home of you-know-who-and-what. A smear campaign has begun against Sharpie on the East Coast. First, certain persons are saying that "...Sharp & Co. are through - they've had it - they've overshot the mark and are packing it in...." Nothing could be further from the truth, fun seekers. A firm which employs ten full time bagpipe makers and five apprentices is hardly on its last legs. They're working SATURDAYS now (when was the last time you ever heard of a Scotsman paying overtime?). My only problem is that all the East Coast dealers sell Sharpie's pipes like crazy; I'm trying to build the market out here in Left Coast Land, fighting tooth and Naill. The new pipe chanter from Fife has real problems - thin top hand and overbalanced bottom; the F double tones to boot...ooops. Back to the drawing board, laddies. After the Ballymena concert on the 17th of April, I hear FMM' Richard Parks dumped all his brand new Shepherd chanters in the trash...maybe he'll finally give Sharpie a jingle.

The Three Witches of Fife (Teeny, Weenie, and Meanie) are now touting the McCallum pipe chanter - which I'm told is made by the firm that makes the chanters for Shepherd...just put the McCallum name right there, please... Mark Bennett told them "By the Right, Piss Off!"

Sad to say, Gillanders and MacLeod has folded, and manufacture is now taken over by Ian Murray (gee, where have I heard that name before); MacLeod Highland Supplies is going out of biz, too. When those witches get to brewing the pot, watch out...you might find a Canmore bag Nailled to your door and a piper doll with thorns stuck in it by your pillow...

Second, the old 'green wood' and 'dyed cheap wood' claptrap is making the rounds again. To dispel this for the LAST TIME:

1. You can't make anything out of green wood. It can't be successfully turned, bored, folded, spindled, mutilated, or chewed when it's green. Trying to do so ruins tools and causes those little industrial accidents that keep the Workman's Compensation people in shit fits.

2. By the time the wood gets to Scotland from Tanzania it's already fairly well dried out and seasoned - try spending six months on a freighter some time and you'll know what I mean. By the time it's sold to the bagpipe makers it's had the opportunity to sit for even longer. In the old days they let billets season for up to a hundred years supposedly; it's ridiculous and utterly impracticle to let it sit that long. What they really mean is the tree was allowed to grow a hundred years before they harvested it. In hardwood trees it takes a long time for the heartwood to develop - that's the old wood at the center of the trunk that pipes are made of. Occasionally you'll see a set of pipes that has sapwood (the younger outer layer) along one side of a drone section or on the edge of the chanter ball and foot. This is because the wood is 'quarter-sawn' from the section just outside of the center, where the grain is the most stable.

Wood typically loses enough moisture to make it workable in four months to two years. Wholesalers in Britain (and there are only one or two that deal with ALL the pipe makers) typically keep stocks for six months before sale. In this combined time of at least a year the wood attains a workable moisture level and stabilises sufficiently. At this point it can be made into bagpipes. To ensure that the finished pipes don't check (crack) or split, the makers varnish the outside to retain moisture. If the wood is left unfinished, the pipes must be oiled and waxed regularly to keep them from checking.

3. Blackwood when it's newly worked is not black, but a dark brown with golden highlights in the grain. The wood oxidises with age and becomes 'black.' All the pipes I sell are made by Sharp and Company from Blackwood. Only Blackwood. No stained cocus (which is now impossible to get anyway), no maple, walnut, or cocobolo (which is a GREAT wood for making pipes - same genus, western hemisphere species - and it's even heavier, but not used in Britain). Just good ol' blackwood.

4. There exists an Oriental Gentleman in the London area who claims to be selling 'Kintail' bagpipes. These are NOT Kintails! They are cheap Paki imitations! Do not buy them - they're ripoffs like Zeckley's $900 microbiology specials (how DO they get all that fur in those bores?)! Buy only from a reputable Kintail dealer (ME!).

...speaking of pipe bags, the annoying popup reveals that over fifty-five percent of responding pipers play L&M elk, with a ratio of six-to-one over Gore-Tex. Take that, Wall Street Journal...Bllllffffffft!

Many thanks to the slaves at Woodland - and our Mystery Guest, John Partenan. Old buddy of mine, great piper, and all-around fellow Pirate, he was invaluable for our two day sojourn into the Valley Of...What? You Want Fries With That? We had a great time, although once in a while I'd like to go to a Games and actually see something. Maybe at Modesto....

Until next time....

-30-

 

NOTES FROM PIPEY'S CORNER

Volume III Number 4 June 1999

SO WHAT ELSE IS NEW?

So, we got through May without too many letter bombs. You know, people, the only reason I write this crap is to make you THINK!

Case in point. A guy buys a pipe chanter from me at Woodland, then ten days later asks if I would exchange it "for the 1999 model...I don't usually like Kintail chanters...." and so on. First, he originally bought it because it sounded GREAT and he liked it over what he'd been playing. Second, what this guy knows about pipe chanters I could put in my left small toenail and still have room for the World Book. Look I'm not trying to denigrate 'learning pipers' but Jeez, gimme a little respect! First I wouldn't knowingly sell someone a lemon unless they deserved it. Second, our chanter doesn't have year models -We're not Toyota. The year stamp on the chanter indicates WHEN IT WAS MADE, not a 'model year.' Duh. Third, you buy something because it sounds good, not because of the name. If the name is good, then the chanter should be good, right? YOU HOPE! Unless the chanter is made by one company and sold with another company's name on it...

AND THE LATEST FROM SCOTLAND:

...NO, NOT THE SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT, THE SCOTTISH INQUISITION!!!...IN ADDITION, that same chanter that the abovementioned character wheezed about IS TEARING UP THE BOARDS IN SCOTLAND. Mark Bennett's (yes, the pipe bag maker) Dumbarton Pipe Band took Grade II at Gourock two weeks ago (and placed 4th in Grade I), and second at Dunbar the day before, playing the same Kintail PLASTIC pipe chanters they've used for the last two years!!! The European Championships were May 22 in Ayr, and Mark's band got shafted. Piping and ensemble had them second, drumming judge scored them tenth, so they came in fourth overall. Once again the KINTAIL CHANTER has proved its tone is superior. Pity the Grade I yobs have to play Shepard (HA! - when are they going to quit sucking up?) Really, the sound from the Kinty chanter is great - full on the top hand, bell-like clarity and great tone! Unlike some we know....As to grade I, it was Shotts, SFU, Scottish Power, Strathclyde, Field Marshall, and Vale of Atholl, in that order. Look for the exact same lineup at the World's in August. YES, IT IS ON.PITY THEY DIDN'T GET THE MESSAGE...the RSPBA looks like the Scottish Inquisition these days.

speaking of the Scottish Inquisition:

Once again, Scotland basically blew it. The Scottish people had the chance to make a definitive statement for independance and blew it because it rained - wasn't the first time!The new 'coalition' government between Donald Dewar (the Nippy Sweety - really he looks like he just swallowed an entire bag of Lemon Balls) and Jim Wallace (the Toom Tabard of the 21st Century) of the Lib Dems is just a sellout of everything the Liberal Democrats have been fighting for since their inception. The ScotNats are sitting there waiting for the tea to be poured...Oh, well. Next they'll be pushing that yob who calls himself Prince Michael of Albany for King! Won't be the first time a phoney sat on the throne...

and more on the Scottish Inquisition:

It seems that Mr. Shepherd & crew have had so many complaints about their Mark III chanter that they're shelving it and working on a Mark IV. Pity it takes so many efforts to get a chanter that sounds good without MAJOR reworking...once again, Kintail proves that if you get it right, you shouldn't have to mess with it! Chris Hamilton of City of Washington is raving about the Kinty chanter - again, when will these Grade I idiots get the message?

Okay, enough of that. Serious matters, children. There is a great need for an autonomous governing body regarding the playing, regulation, and certification of Piobaireachd and Piobaireachd competitions in this neck of the woods. There exist out there unqualified judges who know little or nothing about this music except what's written in the Kilberry Book - okay for beginners, but, let's face it, not the Encyclopaedia Bagpipica. These judges routinely misjudge events due to their ignorance of the music, but, because they're 'certified' by the Pipe Band Association, they have final say in grading pipers. Now this may not have much effect on Grade II, III, or IV players, but you can be damn sure that Grade I and Professional players should be steamed by this, and a few out there are burned. Look, I'm no Professional player, and never claimed to be, but even I know that there's more than one way to skin a crunluath. And there are plenty of people out there who do NOT ascribe completely to the standards of play established by The Piobaireachd Society in Glasgow, and perpetuated here. There are many different interpretations of tunes; some tunes have as many as five different styles, all acceptable as 'authentic' and should be judged equally. Many current judges are only acquainted with one or two styles at most, and cannot be considered adequate to judge top competitions. Even judges imported from Scotland or Canada can be sorely lacking in the encyclopedic knowledge needed to properly evaluate a competition performance.

So, what do we do?

For a number of years there have been complaints about inadequate judging in ALL solo events because the judges all came from the pipe Band Associations. The time has come for things to change. A number of professional players, aficionados (now THERE's a Gaelic word) and interested parties are trying to form a Piobaireachd Society in this part of the world, and we could use all the support we can get. The main objectives of this proposed society are EDUCATION for players AND judges and STANDARDS for judging. We are open to any and all suggestions from you; if the music is going to flourish, or even SURVIVE as a legitimate form we have to TEACH IT to people and they have to make it PUBLIC.

If you're interested in more information or would like to help out, please call me at 510-569-1689 or write me at pipey@netwiz.net. We can use all the help we can get.

So keep them cards and letters comin', and we'll all be better off for it.

THAT REMINDS ME! You may have wondered about the young lady who's appeared in the column last month and has been helping out at the games. She's Karen Winkler (aka PipeyGirl), new Media and Accessories Manager and, folks, we're involved, she said yes, and this HAS become a Ma and Pa Pipey operation. Here I am looking grim and she's looking cute, again at the DRM last month:

The photo on the right kind of gives it away, don't it - I don't even really look grim - okay, now for the really scary ones, with Ron Schutte clowning in front of the former Mayor of Santa Barbara (who came down to the courthouse at the last minute) and Chip Robinson looking only slightly amused at it all:

We really want to thank the Hon. Sheila Lodge for performing a very nice last-minute ceremony, and even though it was hardly a traditional wedding we had a lot of fun. Many thanks also to Fabienne, Daniel, Domenic, and Patrice of Bistro de la Gare for the great dinner. We WILL be doing this for all our friends in the fall, and yes, Karen WON'T look like a band slave at that one! - so please don't feel left out, there will be plenty of carousing to come!

Look for Karen at the Pleasanton booth; she's a hell of a lot better to look at than I am...speaking of Pleasanton, we may have Mark Wygent back with us again, hopefully for BOTH DAYS. Also John Partanen will be around, and, who knows, maybe I can get Sharpy to cut Steven loose for a weekend in Gomorrah-by-the-Bay !

.

Until next time....

-30-

NOTES FROM PIPEY'S CORNER

Volume III Number 4 July 1999

PIPES, PIPES, PIPES, AND WHAT?

Ah, yes, summer's here and your pipes are cracking because you left them in the car...ooops! I HATE IT WHEN THAT HAPPENS. Actually, I like it, because then you have to buy new pipes from me! HA!

Ennyhoo it seems that last month's column (released early) generated quite a flap in the WUSPBA, and I'm on their shit list along with John P. Our complaints were regarded as 'unprofessional' and yet they needed to be said. Okay, so I'm about as diplomatic as an airstrike, but look, people, if nobody stood up and screamed nothing would ever change in an organisation like the WUS-PBA. After all, what do the first three letters spell?

The only real loser in all this is the band John used to play with - he'll be marching with Prince Charles in the World's in August. Speaking of the World's, yes, it's going to happen AGAIN. Bobby Shepherd will be judging Grade II. Wonder whose chanter you'll have to play to win? Collusion is such a wonderful thing. Pity I can't try it, due to that little thing known as a CONSCIENCE! ALSO Cuillinn Craft and West Coast Arts will be publishing John Partanen's Piobaireachd Tutor later this fall - look for a feature on our front page in the near future!

And, yes, Karen and I DID get married June 1 in Santa Barbara - we'll be having a REAL wedding-type occasion for all our friends later this year - more as this unfolds. remember, we're broke bagpipe dealers and have to do this on a shoestring (like there's something new in that?). Uh-oh, she's calling me again...

You really think I'm going to sit here writing a stupid column when she's looking like this? NOT!

...after a considerable interlude....

Didn't make it to Modesto, but had a warm time at Campbell on the 19th - you know, I really hate to carp on this, but WHY do organisations set rules for competition and conduct and then regularly break them? There were THREE competitors in Grade IV medley at Campbell and they awarded THREE prizes. Do they think people can't count? There are supposed to be four bands for three prizes, or at least one more band competing than prizes awarded, according to WUSPBA rules. This sort of crap has been going on for years, and when is anybody going to do anything about it?

Several years ago I judged a local competition and there was only one competitor in a grade. His PARENTS wanted to know why he wasn't getting a medal. I tried to explain the rules to them, but they got huffy and wouldn't listen. Look, I like to reward peoples' efforts as much as the next guy but rules are rules, aren't they? Or are they? Nobody seems to want to live by the PBA rules, do they? THEY MIGHT AS WELL NOT EXIST.

Games organisers justify bending the rules by saying, "If we don't offer full prizes we won't get any competitors. If they show up and we invoke the rules, they'll walk." When are these effing bands going to get the picture? The only events where this sort of thing DOESN'T happen are large games like Pleasanton, Costa Mesa, and San Diego, which draw enough bands for full competition - sometimes more bands than can be easily handled! Even so, often there are only three bands in Grade I at Pleasanton. It seems that the only time rules are taken seriously in this game is when they're being questioned by yobs like me...

...Alistair Gillies, the Carnegie Mellon, beat Bill Livingstone to take the USPF championship in Newark, Delaware on the 26th of June. Gillies won both the light music and piobaireachd in a surprising shutout...

Did my semi-annual gig for the Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem last month, always a pleasant evening wearing enough starch to thicken a swimming pool. Many faces missing. Oh, well, can't please everyone. Looks like they might make me some sort of Honorary hooha. Gadzooks, Batman, it's Gongs for all!

On a very sad note we heard that P/M Angus MacDonald died on 25 June, after a four-month battle against pancreatic cancer. A great player, teacher, and judge, he spent thirty years in the Scots Guards; the last few years had seen him as Chief Instructor at the Piping Centre in Glasgow. Many pipers in this country owe a great deal to his tutelage at the Summer Piping College in southern California, and Canada. Many of the top competing pipers today benefitted from his knowledge and skill. To say he will be missed is gross understatement. Our heartfelt sympathy goes to his family and colleagues who knew him best.

 

DON'T FORGET THE PLEASANTON GAMES THIS YEAR.. We'll be there in our usual space with bells on. Some of you haven't been able to find us in past years. We're close by the Grandstand in Small Commercial Hall #1. We hope to have one of Larry Streeter's antique cars parked outside the hall with a sign on it. We'll also have John Partenan and Mark Wygent with us to answer questions, help out, and generally make your lives miserable.

In addition, I will officially become an Old Fart on the 6th of August, so, all of you out there, WATCH IT! The kinder, gentler Pipey is going on vacation until he adjusts to Middle Age...

...until next month

 

-30-

NOTES FROM PIPEY'S CORNER

Volume IV Number 1 August 1999

OH, GOD, I'M FIFTY

And I really hate it when that happens. No, this isn't going to be one of those"...yeah, and my life has gone to shit...." columns. At least, not yet...

Interesting news from Monterey. The Open competition consisted of six players, three of whom were playing sheepskin, two elkhide, and one Ross bag. One sheepskin couldn't get it up for the competition and the player decided not to compete; the other two kept having problems, resulting in one competitor disqualifying. That's two sheep screwed out of three...In two events there was one disqualification by the judge and one withdrawal by a contestant (gee - what's wrong with THIS picture?). AND this was in cool, damp, foggy weather, just like...WHERE? The elk sets sounded beautiful as did the (shudder) kitty litter set. Mmmm - what's the point here?

ELKHIDE RULES, TURKEYS!

All this bullshit about how sheepskin keeps the reeds dry, better tone, fewer problems, blah, blah, blah, is all just a load of dingo's kidneys. Elk is easier to maintain, performs better in a wider range of climatic conditions, and STAYS AIR TIGHT. The Ross bag seems to work well so far, but has yet to show how it's going to perform over time, when possible damage to an instrument can occur. I fail to see its advantage over the good old elk-tanned cowhide we've been using for over thirty years now. Ross may have a technical marvel, but I still don't like its characteristics, and I'm afraid that the amount of fussing, farting, and screwing around with compartments filled with cat poop absorbant doesn't effect a significant improvement over anything elk. Unless you're a technopiper, more interested in farting around than making music...and anyway what's the whole point again?

IF IT WORKS, DON'T FIX IT.

I really think that many pipers suffer from that old recto-cranial infarction, causing blockage at both ends and a really interesting world viewpoint...besides, most pipers aren't engineers, they're musicians, or at least claim to be...ALSO there are those in pipe bands who insist on treating band members as children - whether they are or not - '...well, you know, that's the way WE do it...' just because they're control freaks. Let's face it, unless you're in a Grade I band nobody takes you seriously, and there's a tendancy to patronise players who are overqualified for the group they're playing in...

WARNING: THE NEXT BIT WILL PISS YOU OFF:

There is a very disturbing trend in the bagpipe business these days, an 'end-run' ploy being perpetrated by several makers. These people are selling pipes at cut-rate prices through dealers, or direct to the public. YOU, the unsuspecting consumer, are supporting the workings of underhanded and unscrupulous individuals by purchasing their products. These people intend to build up their business and eliminate the dealers in the next year or two, leaving a customer base of bands and individuals whom they will supply directly, ELIMINATING ALL RETAIL DEALERS. That's me. And many others like me. Now I hear you say, '...yeah, but why should we pay YOU more money?...' - it's because of the INTEGRITY and SERVICE I provide my customers. You want crap, buy crap - these yobs will leave you high and dry in the future. You'll be stuck buying cheap goods at cheap prices from cheap bastards who have no interest in improving the art, just raking in coin for shoddy merchandise. BUY FROM QUALITY MAKERS AND QUALITY SHOPS! You'll do better in the long run...speaking of bagpipe makers...

...NOW FOR THE CHILDREN'S HOUR...

...There seems to be a serious vendetta going on between the adherants of two American bagpipe makers. Let's face it, boyzngurls, life's too short to spend all this time berating the shortcomings of someone who (a) is a professional instrument maker and (b) has more knowledge of his craft in his small toenail than all of these critics have collectively. Admittedly there are differing opinions of different makers; everyone has a preference. Among the top three or four makers in the world, there isn't much difference, except in finish, shape, mounts, and of course, PRICE! I'm sick to death of hearing how this one's using green wood, or that one makes pipes that warp, or split, or whatever. I've addressed the issue of 'green wood' so many times I want to hurl. As far as warping and checking go, these things can happen to ANY set of bagpipes; many factors can cause this. The two most common causes are no finish on the wood and POOR HANDLING BY THE OWNER. There. NO MORE. And fer chrissake, leave it alone on the Internet, will ya, guys? You all sound like a bunch of ten year olds having a pissing contest behind the gym, and at least one of you sounds like a serious drunk on top of it. Hoover it all in and listen for a change. Nobody ever learned anything by flapping their gums. Real bagpipe makers don't have time to answer stupid worthless questions from people who can't follow a logical train of thought...

ENOUGH WITH THE BAD VIBES, ALREADY.

Also at Monterey, Alameda Sheriff's and Prince Charles traded victories in Grade II Saturday and Sunday, with Helen's band winning the MSR and Bill Merriman's MerryBand taking the Medley on Sunday. Both are leaving for Glasgow shortly; good luck going up against the Big Kids. It will be interesting to see how well the American drumming style goes over with the judges.

Just in on August 8 - Mark Bennett's Dumbarton band took Grade II at the bridge of Allan Games on Saturday. Just one week before the world's Mark's lads put paid to the critics of Sharpy's chanter. Canadians were second, Argyll Dunoon third, and Boghall fourth. Good luck next week, Mark!

And, yes, it's true, I'm now officially an Old Fart and not too damn pleased about it thank you very much. Never thought I'd make it this far, but getting old IS a pain in the ass. And the knees, shoulders, and everywhere I've broken a bone. But, as they say, it definately beats the alternative...Karen and I have been married for TWO MONTHS NOW and the Dragon is no longer pissed off at us. Spent a thoroughly enjoyable birthday for the first time in about twenty years, doing absolutely NOTHING to do with piping - driving a catamaran, flying a kite, hanging out on the beach, yet - doing all that stuff I haven't really done in thirty-three years...now we've got to spend the next few weeks getting ready for PLEASANTON, and then the Games season will be done for us. In the mean time, I've got to sell some paintings, so take a look at our other site at GORDON MURRAY FINE ARTS...more in September, when I can breathe again. We will be having a Gordon Murray Fine Art show in Santa Barbara in Sept., so look for us in Gomorrah-by-the Sea...

...yes, I look really stupid in the last one. It's because the kite is out there 1000 feet and I'm wondering if it's going to take me off to Cabo for the weekend...

...don't forget to stop by and see us at Pleasanton in the Small Commercial Hall next to the Grandstand...we hope to have one of Larry's classic cars parked by the building, so look for us there!

LAST BUT NOT LEAST: LOCAL KIDS DO GOOD!

August 14: Alameda Sheriff's placed SECOND in Grade II at the World Championships in Glasgow, a surprising showing for this first-time competitor. Congratulations to Helen, Tim, and the Band! City of Washington WON after being squeezed out last year, Hamilton (Texas) third, Bucksburn and District (Scotland) fourth, Niagara Police (Canada) fifth, Prince Charles sixth, and Mark Bennett's Dumbarton out of the money. Four out of the top six are from the US - that makes TWO BAY AREA BANDS in the top six in the world! And they said there's no piping in San Francisco...HA!

Simon Fraser won Grade I for the third time, a vindication of last year's disappointment; Shotts second, Field Marshall Montgomery third, Scottish Power fourth, Strathclyde fifth, Vale of Atholl sixth. The 78th Frasers, heavily favoured, were out of the list at eighth, and the LA Scots finished eleventh...

...until next month

 

-30-

 

NOTES FROM PIPEY'S CORNER

Volume IV Number 2 September1999

ALL OVER BUT THE SCREAMING

So, here we are again, the season over - almost - Scottish Power won at Cowal, Chris Armstrong is wiping the competition off the boards, Mark Bennett has a new band, Michael Grey has left Peel Police to make some money, and Pleasanton is over and done with.

Speaking of Pleasanton, two days of utter madness, great to have Mark Wygent and John Partanen with us; many thanks to Lance Hallgren for his invaluable aid. Karen soaked her feet for two days afterwards, I counted cash...what there was hehe. Down a bit from last year, small turnout on Saturday had a lot to do with it, also the geeks in the Callie Club still have us stuck in the back of beyond so nobody knows where the flog we are...bitching gets you nowhere, though. Nice to meet Bill Fletcher, Tina Berger, the fellow from Isle of Mull, many others who stopped by including the guy with the almonds - thanks again I still can't remember your name. Larry provided the T shirts again, the 'Blow for Money...' shirt sold out (of course - we're really sick bastards in piping) - many thanks to him as always. SFU put on a great performance Saturday but the heat on Sunday had its usual effect and everyone was wilting by 2 p.m.

SPEAKING OF MARK WYGENT - It's true, the patent finally came through after two years of legalese; the new Wygent Duatone reed is shipping on the first of November; we'll have a review of its performance shortly thereafter. Also, the Mark II Synthe-Drone (new and improved) will be available - at a slightly higher price than the original. New PATENTED features - a first for pipe reeds!

Scottish Power took the Cowal Championaships with Shotts second; vindication for their getting slammed at the World's - Bill Livingstone is still smarting after the disappointing scores in Glasgow and I don't blame him. Chris Armstrong did very well indeed at Cowal and Oban, placing well at Cowal and winning over Alasdair Gillies at Oban - not bad for a 19-year old. Chris really has all the talent and concentration to be the next Burgess. I shit you not. He's in the studio cutting his long-awaited second album to be released later this fall.

Mark Bennett and Chris have left Dumbarton to re-form Torphichen and Bathgate Pipe Band, to debut next year, 18 pipes and 10 drums, Grade II, watch out COW and Alameda....provided Shepherd stays out of the circle, that is. Chris Armstrong is now Pipe Major of Seafield and District Pipe Band adding to his P/Sgt status with Torphichen and Bathgate. And no, they're not running between two or three bands. Seafield is a Juvenile band that Chris is running, gearing up for next season.

As you might be able to tell, this column was late getting up because I've been hard at work on the other business. Three days after the screaming stopped at Pleasanton I was down in SB getting things lined up for our art show at Bistro de la Gare on October 23rd-24th. Those of you in SouCal, we'll look forward to seeing you there for our opening. Details will be up on the GMFAS site October 10. Meanwhile you can feast your eyes on some of the goodies at

www.cuillinn.com/gordonmurray

and you'll have to basically live without me until November when I can breathe again. HA! Seriously, the art biz has GOT to take up all my time for the next month or two, otherwise we'll be on the street! NOBODY ever made any money selling pipes!

Last minute - some serious problems concerning BMWGold - not with the software itself but with the guy who wrote the code. Seems he's put MY name and the names of others who contributed to it (except Rob MacNeil's of course) onto a website promoting the progream hiumself without benefit of or to partners. Seems Doug Wickstrom wants all the glory for something that's been around for seven years longer than he's been involved with the project, claiming it was his idea, and not Rob's. Only one thing I can say about Wickstrom:

Asshole.

Everyone who's ever seen BMW knows that Rob MacNeil has put his heart and soul into this project since its inception over ten years ago. Anyone with a grain of sense knows that the amount of money involved in the whole project is so small it's not worth the arguement. All I know is that the lawyers are going to win, the pipers are going to lose. Period.

JUST IN OCTOBER 9:

Alameda County Sheriff's Folds Its Grade II: In a surprise move, D/S Tim Gladden has announced that Alameda Gr.II is no more. On Oct 6 the band decided to bring up a juvenile band over the winter, having lost several players to college in September. After a brilliant two-year run, the band with the best chance at the World's for Grade II next year has had to pack it in due to attrition and lack of a home resource base. We sincerely hope that this band will reappear in the near future. You can be sure that bands all over Scotland are breathing easier...I seriously feel that Alameda had the potential to go ALL the way to the top. I know exactly what it takes to get there, and what the cost is. I can only say "Great run - you guys BETTER be back to kick butt!!!" Many congratulations due to Helen, Tim, Ian Whitelaw, Vic Agpalo, and all those who made Alameda Sheriff's a CONTENDAH! We'll all be looking for you again in a few years.

BTW: Ringo Bowen, whose book IS back in stock, has a GREAT site at www3.sympatico.ca/ron_bowen/ - check out the 1855 pic of Donald Muir of the Black Watch.

In retaliation, here's a few disreputable characters from MY collection: William Ross, Queen's Piper (he replaced Angus MacKay who went nuts and was put in an asylum - wonder why?); Donald MacBeath and Willie Duff, Athollmen (family regiment, doncha know); and James Sutherland, Adam Sutherland, and Neil MacKay. These watercolours were commissioned by Queen Victoria in 1863. The book from which these are taken reproduces the paintings in their original size. Painted by Kenneth MacLeay in meticulous detail, they are probably one of the finest collections of Highland Dress portraits ever made; particularly of the Victorian period. The scans here are hardly representational of the quality of the work. I'm going to try to put up larger pix on links when I get back from SB.

 

...until next month

 

NOTES FROM PIPEY'S CORNER

Volume IV Number 3-4 November 1999

PORNOGRAPHIC DRONE REEDS

Gotcha, didn't I?

OKAY, NOW FOR THE BIG GUN: taken at Edinburgh Castle in 1846; the first known photograph of a piper, with other members of the XCII Regiment (Gordon Highlanders). Taken by David Octavius Hill & Robert Adamson, this picture was recently part of a show at the Getty Museum in LA. THIS is truly an awesome picture. The negative was PAPER, and was also displayed.

 

-note the Sergeant reading orders r. center; the brass-shell drum; the NEW Enfield muskets; and all that wonderful pipeclay. Wait a minute! I remember this one! It's last year after the World's - (LtoR) Willie MacCallum, Rob Crabtree, Antoine de Sade drinking in the shadows, Chris Armstrong holding his new Kintails, Bill Livingstone filing a tort, Ringo Bowen, John Partanen sharpening his bayonet, and ME! HA!

 

So, what's the headline about? Wygent's new DuatoneTM drone reed, that's what.

INSTANT TONE

I shit you not. After fiddling with the screws (two on each reed) and looking over the tongues (yep, two on each reed), I reset them the way Mark had them in the box (DUH!) and put them in the Glens and oh my god it's gotta be love. They have an INCREDIBLE sound. Better than cane. In the thirties in the movies they said Technicolour was 'more real than colour.' Mark's reeds are like that, and should be X-rated to boot. Yep, we're talking pure sex from a bagpipe. They are truly the 'technicolour porno drone reed.' They'll get all the naughty parts engorged and tingly when you play them. Tune in a heartbeat, tone like you haven't heard for twenty years - or more! It's been a long wait, but this reed is worth it. They're going to cost about $120 when they're in stock BUT you'll never need another reed again. I mean it -

THIS IS THE REED FOR THE MILLENNIUM.

When Bill Livingstone got the first Synthe-Drone reeds several years ago, he remarked "...you've tamed the beast...." - now, with the Duatone reed, the beast is on its knees and begging. All you need is the leather kilt and a whip...Hmmm..? BTW, if you don't believe ME, see what Ringo Bowen has to say in December's column...

...A few words of caution: these reeds are NOT for everyone. This is a PROFESSIONAL grade reed, requiring STEADY blowing and a STEADY chanter reed. If you play gutbusters or are new to the instrument, try the new MARK II SYNTHE-DRONE, also soon to be in stock; has many of the DUATONE features, including the adjustable ferrule. The MARK IIs are much more forgiving of overblowing. Oh, one more thing - THEY'RE PATENTED - a first for any bagpipe reed. Additionally, some of you are going to balk at the cost. This is not a cheap reed; neither is the Synthe-Drone Mark II, which has many of the same features as the Duatone, particularly the new tuning pins. These reeds are built to last for years, literally. Hell, I've played a set of Mark's first model reeds for two years - and they're still great! So in reality they are CHEAPER than buying two or three sets of other reeds over that time period.

A FEW MORE THOUGHTS:

Last month AND this month numerous people made posts on the NG regarding Mr. Robert Shepherd and the possible duplicity in his judging. This is an issue that has long begged for exposure. Bob Shepherd is not the first bagpipe maker to be accused of collusion; he certainly won't be the last.

There are too many people out there who know who's who and what's what. Favouritism, pork-barrelling, and market control games have no place in the piping world - let's face it, the pond's too small. The RSPBA is too gutless to do anything about it with its current makeup. We can only hope this sort of collusion will soon disappear, but I'm not going to hold my breath.

Just heard from KRL records - Chris Armstrong's album will be out sometime in January - no reason for delays, but you can be sure we'll get it first! Also, Fred Morrison has a new one, just out last week, called Song of the Sun - we'll be getting it ASAP.

In addition, the latest issue of Words and Music hit my desk last week and it finally crawled out from under the sludge and got my attention. Nice editorial from Jan Ritchie re: adult learners, always good to see that others are promoting the art to older enthusiasts. That's the good news. The 'Member's Forum' page, however, knocked me laughing on the floor. We're talking serious whine here. The article is half-page diatribe against 'Flatlander' judges who knock points off for high pitch, thin tone, and the myriad of ills found playing at 7,000 feet above sea level. A whining plea for understanding the problems of piping in the mountains. Give it a loss, kiddies, they ain't going to buy it.

Yes, playing pipes at altitude is a challenge. I know, I did it in Colorado for four years, and it was a pain in the ass trying to keep the pitch reasonable - and this was in the day of flat Hardie chanters. But I did it. The article claims that 'Flatlander' judges should acclimatise themselves to 'Colorado' pitch before hearing contestants, and take it into consideration. What's next?

Oooh, judge, I have a hangnail today, and my birl's gonna be a little sloppy...

Let's face it, if a judge marks someone down because the pitch is out around Pluto, it means that the pitch is out around Pluto. It also means that every player whose chanter is pitched way up WILL be marked down for it. In public High Schools it's called a 'grading curve.' In piping competitions it means that the guy who hits the boards with a well set-up pipe is going to clean up because the judge is going to like his tone better.

As JP sez - quit whining and fix it!

It might be a good idea for these nosebleed bands to play older flatter chanters in high-altitude competitions rather than debate the physics of reed instruments at high altitude. In addition, if this is so prevalent, why is it that concert orchestras in Denver, Salt Lake, and other cities DON'T shound shrill? They have the same problem, yet they are capable of tuning to concert pitch. If you have good reeds, a good chanter, and some TAPE you can fix most pitch problems.

Or you can move to a more piping-friendly area...with the rest of us 'Flatlanders.' Sheesh.

...until next month

 

-30-

NOTES FROM PIPEY'S CORNER

Volume IV Number 5; December 1999

HO! HO! HO?

So it's Christmas time and we'll pause and reflect on our first year at the new digs and six months of marriage and blahblahblah...NOT!

JUST IN FROM RINGO BOWEN - the first review of Mark Wygent's new DUATONE reeds (other than mine):

Arrived home from Edmonton yesterday to find the reeds waiting for me. I plugged them in and....awesome! Now I can say that I may never go back to cane. No fiddling. No fuss. Instant tone. They behave like cane and sound close enough that the difference doesn't matter. Much more refined than any (other) synthetic reed. A real joy. Thanks!...

Ringo

...What more can I say??? Duatone is THE reed. We will be posting more testimonials as they come in. .

Something strange flew in the other day from Glasgow (di-da da-di di-da da):

Is this not the biggest load of dingo's kidneys you've seen since they redid the band grades last month? Allergic to ebony? Admittedly, ebony is toxic, but so are all hardwoods - the dust wreaks havoc with your skin; and can seriously damage your lungs if inhaled - that's why everybody wears a mask when turning or milling. In this day and age who uses ebony except for student sets? Who's this joker trying to fool? And just who the hell is this pipe maker in Stirling? And why does Mr. Shepherd (hmmm-something fishy about THAT name) have to illegally commute forty miles from Lochore when there are bagpipe makers in Dundee, St. Andrews, and Cardenden, all in Fife? And why is every sentence in this paragraph a question (oh, man, too much time in the valley...)?

The whole thing sounds like an episode of 'Soap.' The prosecuting attorney should get a pipe maker on the stand to blow this jerk out of the water. George Shepherd shouldn't be banned from driving because of an allergy; he should be banned because he's STUPID!

Sounds like sniveling to me...Of course, you realize the Record has its finger on the pulse of piping across the world...kind of a cross between the National Enquirer and toilet paper - truly degrading.

SPEAKING OF DE-GRADING: Although it doesn't take effect until the first of the year, the RSPBA has jumped the gun by downgrading Lothian and Borders Police to Grade II, right after Colin MacLellan took over as P/M. A little premature, we say. Polkemmet also gets degraded, but, hey, where's the band? No drum section. Won't that look good in the circle? Mark Bennett, now at the helm of Torphichen and Bathgate, would LIKE to be in Grade II, but they're still in Grade I in a rebuilding period. With any luck Colin will be able to appeal the downgrading, and Mark will be able to drop Torphichen to Grade II. If they ruling sticks, however, Grade II is going to be REALLY nasty next year - former Gr. I bands fighting to get back on top, edging out the Grade II stalwarts. Hell, the Yanks won't have a chance in 2000- maybe it'll be a Scottish band's 'turn' to take Grade II again. HA! What's with the Keelie Cowboys (RSPBA) anyway? They're too arthrosclerotic for words...almost as bad as the WUS-SIES!

ON A SAD NOTE: just in December 13 - Calvin Biggar, long an important figure in piping on the Pacific Coast, died last Monday. I first met Cal in 1967 when he was stewarding at the Santa Monica games - knew him for years on the games circuit - a fine gentleman. Our sincere sympathies to his wife and family. Best wishes and speedy recovery to Bill Merriman, soon to be home from the hospital.

NEW YEARS' RESOLUTIONS: 1) make a buck in this bidness; 2) lose weight (yeah, I know, heard it before - try it when you're fifty); 3) put a band together - NOT! 4) get the shoulder working; 5) learn six piobaireachd....and it goes on and on...

...until THE NEXT MILLENNIUM....OR NOT???

really, sports fans, this whole millennium thing is bogus. A hundred years ago they Powers That Were figured it out that the new century didn't begin until 1901. Duh. why hasn't everyone figured it out yet? There was no 'Year Zero' to begin with, SO doesn't it fall that 2001 is the beginning of the next millennium, not 2000? Kubrick got it right thirty years ago! I don't see, myself, why there's all this hooplah going on for this New Year's Eve when they're celebrating a year early - unless they want to spend the whole year partying. Cool. Must have something to do with the water...not enough whisky in it!

As a parting shot, here's another Hill and Adamson picture from Edinburgh Castle in 1846 - the woman and child are blurred because the kid wouldn't sit still during the seven-minute exposure.

picture courtesy The J. Paul Getty Museum, Las Angeles, Ca; D.O. Hill & R. Adamson, Group of Gordon Highlanders at Edinburgh Castle 1846, calotype

see you in January, whatever happens....

-30-

...Merry Christmas ... Mele kalikemaka...Nollaig Chridhal...Got Jul...Bon Natale...Joyeux Noel...Geseende Kerfees...Nedeleg Iouan...Glaedelig Jul...Bon Nadal...Natale Hilare...Meri Kehirimete...Nollick Ghennal...Feliz Navidad...Mata Ke Te Rangi...Buon Natal...Gut Veynachtn...Have a F**kin' BRILLIANT Christmas!!!!