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April 24, 2006

Star Wars Galaxies: Still Causing Heartburn in Folks Who Can't Walk Away

At the academic group virtual-worlds blog Terra Nova, IT associate professor Liz Lawley describes what she saw when she took her son to a Star Wars Galaxies "community summit" hosted by LucasArts and Sony Online Entertainment in Seattle. Interesting findings: of roughly 200 attendees few were under 18, many hated recent developments in the game but still played because of the social ties they had developed, and it's a good bet that gamer conferences will lead to one chauvinistic idiot grabbing a microphone.

I'm still astonished that my little-read blog is still receiving comments from strangers on my December article on the game's PR fiasco. I can't explain the passion, and the persistent hard feelings, for this game. Then again, I can't explain why I still look in on the game's forums from time to time....

April 22, 2006

Sean McCann's "Stay"

For a much better example of poetry than anything I can provide, check out "Stay" by Great Big Sea's Séan McCann. I understand McCann to be a Newfoundland nationalist, with fierce pride in a province that joined Canada on a narrow vote some 50 years ago. This is a powerful statement.

Poem: Downtown Asheville

This came out of an hour's inspiration, and only about that much time's perspiration. I may come back to this and actually polish it into a proper poem -- I generally feel like you ought to take lots more time with poetry than this. It may be hack-work, but I kind of like it.


Piercings, dreadlocks and earth tones
Earth tones on clothing, light earth tones on skin
With a sprinkling of darker tones
Walking the streets of the square
Dusk has come, and I hear deep tones,
Booming tones, booming beats
From the djembes and wood blocks
Nine men, two women
Led by the sandaled maestro
A dancer turns and sways
A hoop spins around her waist, her shoulders
At once performing for others
And lost to herself

A girl with a bodhran perched on the edge
Halfheartedly joins the beat,
Retreating after a few measures
She offers her drum to a tiny girl
Who pats it once with a tiny palm
Then whirls to her mother
Raising her arms in triumph

A crowd is answering the summons
A disheveled man slumps on a bench near the square
He doesn't hear the drums
No one offers him an invitation

We take a meal in a Moroccan restaurant
Seated on cushions, legs twisted beneath
A belly dancer punctuates conversation
There's laughter in Shannon's eyes

We emerge to find the crowd has sprouted
The drummers have doubled
And there's a confident beat from the bodhran
Children, lovers, the young and not so young
Follow the hoop dancer's lead
Stomping, stepping, swaying, circling
I wish I had the nerve to join them

Across the street, in the shadows of commerce
The old and broken sit blankly
Their numbers have grown as well
Canes, grubby coats, an oxygen tank on a cart
They are scattered and solitary
Showing no sign of sensing the drum circle
And the dancers dance on without them

My world is smaller too, tonight.
Celebrating ten years of a holy vow
Twelve years of passion and perseverance
A choice early made and daily renewed

Draw a circle around me and my bride
I look outside briefly, but return to the circle
With magnified focus and narrowed field
Even our child is outside our range
In the company of loved ones
Who have given us the time
To make for ourselves an island

Perhaps the dancers need an island too

Draw a circle around the community
Let trust and freedom and confidence grow
Music as shared soul
Dance as uplift
Conversation as bond
It is true, and real, and necessary and good

But in the shadows there are men
Who do not see the dance
Who do not hear the djembe
That's the mark of a community's honor
To gaze deeply and lovingly within the circle
Then go outside
Offer the invitation
Do the work
Be the love

April 3, 2006

Albannach: Clann an Drumma Offshoot Keeps Scottish Music Tribal

A little lunchblogging: Shannon and I had the pleasure of hearing Clann an Drumma a couple of years ago at the Blue Ridge Celtic Festival. One piper, one occasional vocalist, lots of drums -- it's not great background music for bar chatter, but a great soundtrack for a party. The band has since split in two, with at least three members having formed Albannach, which promises the same kind of tribal spirit to their music. Albannach performs Friday, April 21, at Raleigh's Tir na nOg Irish Pub; Saturday, April 22, at The Galway Hooker Pub near Charlotte; Monday, April 24, at Legends in Boone; and the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in July.

Shannon and I will be missing all the April dates due to our anniversary outing, which is a shame because these guys are a lot of fun to dance to. Check them out.