Jan 29, 2011

Mab MacMoragh's Burns Machinima

I am pleased to share this wee video by Mab MacMoragh with you.

Address to a Haggis by Robert Burns from Mab MacMoragh on Vimeo.

I am pleased and honored that Mab desired to use Isle of Skye for this endeavor.


Jan 24, 2011

Burns Night Supper and Ceilidh, 2011

 The Gathering 

This past Saturday evening at 7pm SLT, many of us from throughout the Steamlands came together in the great hall of Caisteal Teanacadh on Isle of Skye to celebrate the life and works of Robert Burns, The Bard of Scotland.  (I shared some historical information on Robert Burns and this evening tradition in my previous post in the blog.)

What a joyful and meaningful time it was.  The castle was filled with the laughter of friends and neighbors.

 I greeted my guests along with Lady Rowan Derryth (l), my co-host for the night,
and Boyarina Kate Nicholas

Jarl Otenth Paderborn provided the very fine music for the evening.

Once the guests were seated, the program began.  First a welcome speech, then a reading of the Selkirk Grace selected by Otenth Paderborn.

Lady Kate paraded the haggis for the assembled guests as the pipes played and Victor1st Mornington recited (via recording) the Ode to a Haggis, as is the tradition.
(photo by PJ Trenton)

After we raised a glass of whisky to toast the haggis, we sat down to enjoy our meal and each other's company.  

The Head Table
The Head Table
(l-r) Soliel Snook, Rowan Derryth, PJ Trenton, Gabrielle Riel, Eva Bellambi,
Kate Nicholas, and Serra Anansi
(photo by PJ Trenton)
 Thadicus Caligari and Riven Homewood
(photo by PJ Trenton)
Mister Cee Edman and Miss Litta Nightfire
Lord Cee Edman offered the Loyal Toast to Miss Serra Anansi.
Lord Cee is pictured with Lady Litta Nightfire
(photo PJ Trenton)

At this point in the ceremony, I asked that all guests join me in the Immortal Memory of Mr. Robert Burns:
 Seneschal, My Lords and My Ladies, Ladies and Gentlemen.  Please join with me as I toast the memory of Scotland's National Poet and the person whose life and accomplishments we celebrate tonight.

Many thousands of Scots around the world celebrate Burns night on his birthday, January 25th.  It is perhaps extraordinary that there is a Burns Supper at all.  Why do Scots the world over participate in  "Burns Supper" to perpetuate the memory of their National Poet?  Why do not other groups gather annually to celebrate the memory of the famous writers of their nations?  Why for example is there no Dickens Dinner, Tolstoy Tea, Shakespeare Roast, or Balzac Barbecue -- or some other such event? 
It would be presumptuous to assert the answers to these questions.  But, perhaps by reflecting on Robert Burns and his life we can discover some of our reasons for celebrating his memory tonight.
Had Robert Burns lived today, his earnings from one song alone -- Auld Lang Syne -- would have made him a multi-millionaire on a par with writers as Irving Berlin and George Gershwin and performers such as Elvis Presley and Paul McCartney.  Yet, when he died in 1796, aged thirty-seven, he was poor and asking financial help of acquaintances.  So what was it then about the life of this fellow, born into a poor farming family and departed in poverty that brings Scots together each year to celebrate his memory?

Perhaps he was a Scottish "Everyman." Perhaps his writing spoke to the basic emotions, thoughts, desires and fears of every person regardless of nation or rank.  People frequently attribute certain traits to the Scottish character.  Primary among them are a down-to-earthness, a plain-ness, a directness, a fierecely independent spirit, and a common touch.  Perhaps these traits have more universal appeal than is often appreciated.  It is not possible to do justice to Robert Burns character in the time allotted.  Perhaps a few examples of his character, as seen in his poetry, will do.

Burns loved people despite their weaknesses, but hated hypocrisy.

One biographer stated that the Reformer, John Knox, had more in common with Burns than with the stereotype we have of Knox today.  He stated that Burns and Knox were desperate men of crisis who played their parts in opposition to false or abused authority.  Burns' biographer wrote that had Knox seen the abuses of the Church at the time of Burns, he would have allied himself with Burns against the established Church and many of its pillars of the community.
In the poem, Holy Willie's Prayer, Burns pointed his barbed wit at a self-righteous, member of the congregation as an example of the kind of hypocrisy that can poison any institution.  Holy Willie, by his own complaints and by church standards, is shown to be an example of what to avoid.  He enumerates his own misdeeds, mentioning some of them by their first names and frequency in the week.

Burns was opposed to anyone being treated in a servile manner.

Robert Burns addressed his hatred of slavery in a poem, The Slave's Lament:

"It was in sweet Senegal

That my foes did me enthral

For the lands of Virginia, 'ginia, O!

Torn from that lovely shore

And must never see it more
and alas! I am weary, weary, O!
"The burden I must bear,

While the cruel scourge I fear,
In the lands of Virginia, 'ginia, O!

With the bitter, bitter tear,

And alas! I am weary, weary, O!"

Burns loved Liberty.

Robert Burns wrote of himself: "The first two books I ever read in private, and which gave me more pleasure than any two books I ever read again, were The Life of Hannibal and the History of Sir William Wallace.  Hannibal gave my young ideas such a turn that I used to strut in raptures up and down after the recruiting drum and bag-pipe, and wish myself tall enough that I might be a soldier; while the story of Wallace poured a Scottish prejudice in my veins which will boil along there Ôtill the floodgates of life shut in eternal rest."

Burns disliked superstition as a means by which people enslave themselves.  However, he drew upon the rich lore of Scotland and its legends and fairly tales to produce symbolism in his poetry.

Burns loved learning.

A Burns biographer once wrote that it "was parish gossip that, if you called on William Burness at meal-time, you found the whole family with a book in one hand and a horn spoon in the other."
Burns inherited his parents love of learning, a yearning that helped him to keep an open mind about himself, his Maker, acquaintances, and his surroundings.

The traits that seem to mark Burns' character all point back to the inescapable fact that he was a Scot.
The stereotype of the Scotsman, thanks largely to Sir Walter Scott and Sir Harry Lauder, is a fellow wearing highland attire.  In his life, Burns certainly did not fit that stereotype at all.  From reading his poems we gain the picture of a lowland Scot who dressed "English" according to the style of a farmer.  The book which contained most of Burns' poems, titled Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, made a favorable impression on the literati of Edinburgh.  I suppose we would call the literary critics of the time "Liberals" today.  They found their theories about the sensitivity of the common man confirmed by what they called this "ploughman poet." Burns spent the winters of 1786-87 and 1787-88 in Edinburgh as a national celebrity, but he disliked the condescension with which he was treated and so returned to farming.

No, Burns did not fit the stereotype of the Highlander in his own life or in the image he projected to literary society.  However, it is interesting to note that he penned at least one poem to sing of a displaced Scot:

"My heart's in the Highlands, 
my heart is not here,

My heart's in the Highlands a-chasing the deer,
A-chasing the wild deer and following the roe 
My heart's in the Highlands, wherever I go!
"Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the North,

The birthplace of valour, the country of worth!

Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,

The hills of the Highlands forever I love."

We now toast Robert Burns! Lover of people, lover of freedom and liberty, lover of truth, lover of learning, a lowland farmer, a Highlander at heart, a Scot.  

To Robert Burns!
providing the Immortal Memory toast

PJ gives us a toast to the Lassies

Mr. Trenton has graciously supplied the words of his toast on his blog, Virtually PJ

Miss Rowan Derryth Speaks
Lady Rowan Derryth responded (quite energetically) with a toast to the lads.

Lady Rowan has shared her witty words and recitations on her blog, I Derryth.

Several other toasts followed as the crowd got into the spirit of things  -  and after the spirits got into them a bit more.  :)  

As always, following the toasts, readings of Mr. Burns' works were provided.  Lady Gabrielle, Lady Rowan, Miss Homewood, and several others shared their favorite pieces with us.  Truly is was a joyful night as we listened to our friends recite and toast utilizing either voice or text (or both) in celebration of the Bard.

Lady Gabrielle ended the formal portion of the evening by reading the Grace After Supper.
To the ballroom and let the ceilidh begin!!

Even George came out to dance.
Jed Dagger dips me as the Pipers of Skye assemble

I will complete this post by simply saying that by the end of the night, my feet were bare, my hair completely loose, and my heart happy.  Thank you again for allowing me to celebrate this joyous night with you.

Jan 15, 2011

Celebrating Burns Night on Isle of Skye - January 22nd at 7pm SLT

Burns Night is celebrated on January 25th with Burns suppers around the world, and is still more widely observed than the official national day of Scotland, Saint Andrew's Day, or the proposed North American celebration Tartan Day. The format of Burns suppers has not changed since Robert's death in 1796. The basic format starts with a general welcome and announcements followed with the Selkirk Grace. Following the grace comes the piping and cutting of the Haggis, where Robert's famous Address To a Haggis is read, and the haggis is cut open. The event usually allows for people to start eating just after the haggis is presented. This is when the reading called the "immortal memory", an overview of Robert's life and work is given; the event continues with many toasts and some presentation of a selection of his works and usually concludes with the singing of Auld Lang Syne.

I am most pleased and honored to host another Burns Night celebration in world, this year with Rowan Derryth.  Happily, we also have Soliel Snook providing hours of wonderful Celtic music for us, creating a wonderful aural atmosphere on Isle of Skye.  Additionally, a number of our friends will be giving toasts, reciting stories or poems, and assisting in the preparations.  
**If you would like to provide a toast or reading during the supper, please email me :  evabellambi@gmail.com. **

This is another of those unique, more prescribed, events which bring a little pomp and circumstance into our virtual existance.  Brilliantly the formality of tradition builds in humor and joy by way of the toasts, and stories, and poems/songs of the night.

But just who was this Robert Burns?

Robert Burns (25 January 1759 – 21 July 1796) (also known as Rabbie Burns, Scotland's favourite son, the Ploughman Poet, the Bard of Ayrshire and in Scotland as simply The Bard) was a poet and a lyricist. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland, and is celebrated worldwide. He is the best-known of the poets who have written in the Scots language, although much of his writing is also in English and a 'light' Scots dialect, accessible to an audience beyond Scotland. He also wrote in standard English, and in these pieces, his political or civil commentary is often at its most blunt.

He is regarded as a pioneer of the Romantic movement and after his death became an important source of inspiration to the founders of both liberalism and socialism. A cultural icon in Scotland and among Scots who have relocated to other parts of the world (the Scottish Diaspora), celebration of his life and work became almost a national charismatic cult during the 19th and 20th centuries, and his influence has long been strong on Scottish literature.

As well as making original compositions, Burns also collected folk songs from across Scotland, often revising or adapting them. His poem (and song) Auld Lang Syne is often sung at Hogmanay (New Year), and Scots Wha Hae served for a long time as an unofficial national anthem of the country. Other poems and songs of Burns that remain well-known across the world today, include A Red, Red Rose, A Man's A Man for A' That, To a Louse, To a Mouse, The Battle of Sherramuir, and Ae Fond Kiss.
from the Wikipedia entry on Robert Burns

As is always my tradition, we will conclude our night of revelry with a Ceilidh.  Laugh, dance, remember, and love each other.
For in the works of Robert Burns we see the whole cosmos of man’s experience and emotion, from zenith to nadir, from birth until death.
Len G. Murray
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Jan 12, 2011

Embarking on a Sentimental Journey

Winter, a lingering season, is a time to gather golden moments,
embark upon a sentimental journey, and enjoy every idle hour.

John Boswell


Five Snowflake Balls have now taken place in the Steamlands.


Each year I wonder at the special nature of this event. There truly seems to be some magic surrounding the annual formal winter event.  Somehow the Snowflake brings out the best in us all.  Somehow we are all brought together, despite lag, despite dance machines maxing out, despite any drama or disagreement, and despite some lethargy about this vitual world we live in.

The first Snowflake Ball was part of the first Social Season in Caledon back in January 2007.  The first Duchess Loch Avie, Shenlei Flasheart hosted it in the relatively new sim, and Gabrielle Riel was the musical director.  Caledon was growing and people were stretching their role playing legs.  Things were very proper and congenial.  The dance was incredibly fun as neighbors and friends came together in their winter best.  New friends were welcomed into the community, and we all left the night feeling so good about Caledon and her citizenry.

I became the Duchess of Loch Avie in April of 2007 and felt very strongly about continuing and expanding the social season activities.  I did not do this alone, of course.  As Gabrielle Riel discusses in her blog post on the Snowflake Ball, there were several of us who worked on events throughout the next year or so.  Now the Duchess, I hosted the second Snowflake Ball again in Loch Avie (January 2008).  It proved to be a very fine event indeed, this time specifically including friends from other Steamland nations.

The next year brought some heartache to me personally as well as to many in all of our virtual world - the changes in the open space sims. I had to leave the lands that I so loved in order to continue to host events of any size.  The script and avatar limitations on the new homestead sims were just far too restrictive to meet my needs.  Her Excellency, Kamilah Hauptmann, allowed me to host the ball on her land and (frozen) water in Port Caledon.  It was a healing and sentimental event.

Last year's event was formal, but took us traveling through time musically.  Thanks to Mr. Icarus Ghost for the musical collaboration. As well, each guest was invited to wear a costume from one of their favorite periods in time.  What a wonderful and powerful night it was.  Honestly, each year I wonder how it can get better.  How can we continue to experience the revival of the "good old days" and yet feel new and fresh and improved?

And it happened again this year.  

There were so many of us this year - so many we had to have the parcel avatar limit lifted within the first 40 minutes of the event.  Old friends, new friends.  It was so good to collaborate with Gabrielle again on a formal event.  Steelhead.  Caledon. Winterfell. Babbage. New Toulouse.  Seraph City.

I am incredibly honored to have been able to share my home with you for so many years now.  Thank you for your friendship and love.

More pictures of the event may be found in my Flickr set.
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Jan 5, 2011

Even Wandering Knights Find The Way Home

- More Often Than One Might Think

As has long been my custom, I was walking the perimeter of the Isle again this week.  Perhaps I was simply taking in the winter-tide glory around me.  Perhaps I was making a security sweep prior to the Snowflake Ball.  Most likely it was a little of both.  The habits of a woman trained as a warrior duchess and an intelligence operative are as strong as her romantic & beauty-seeking heart.

Something caught my eye near the edge of the water on the south end of the island.  Upon closer inspection I discovered an arrow fletching in Sir Tele's colors.  I grasped the feathering just as a small wave attempted to take it out into the deeper channel - a smile beginning to form on my lips.  Telemachus Dean is extremely mindful of allowing his presence to be known.  This fletching would not be here, were he not wanting me to know he had been here.  It is not uncommon for me to find messages from him somewhere on the property letting me know that he has passed through Isle of Skye, ensuring my safety and that of the clan even as he moves on to another foreign adventure.

"Fair winds, dear Knight,"  I whispered into the fletching as I climbed back up the rocky pathway on my way to the house.

Snow began to fall again just as I reached the doorway.  I placed his arrow's feathers on the desk in my private offices, changed out of my hiking gear, and headed back out to prepare the grounds for the ball.  I was just using the steam crane to lift the ice chandelier into place over the dancing area, when I sensed something watching me.  A presence nearing.

I did not have Claidheamh Flath, the sword of my forebears - the Sword of the Chief, with me since I was merely working in the yard.  I mumbled curses under my breath as I felt the presence growing closer.  The hair on my arms and the back of my neck began to prickle madly.  Thankfully I recalled that I had been working on the steam crane a bit earlier in the morning and had left the large wrench laying nearby.  I grasped the wrench in both hands as I knelt down.  I rapidly stood and deftly swung the wrench around at chest level.


I struck a very large claymore and looked up to see Sir Tele grinning down at me.

"I see ye've kept up your swordplay and defense practice, Your Grace."

I'm sure I stood momentarily with my mouth agape as the truth of him sunk in.  "Och! ye great, bloody man!  Sneaking up on me like that!!"
His smile widened and he dropped his sword.  At that, I promptly whacked him in the stomach with the wrench, and then gave him a hug.

"I can't stay long, Duchess.  But I could not pass nearby without ensuring that you were well.  When I saw that the preparations were underway for the Snowflake Ball, I knew that I needed to stay to request a dance.  I will not be in the area on the night of the event."

I smiled.  "Ever the gallant, Sir Tele.  Then let us dance while you tell me of your most recent adventures."

We danced for what seemed only a short while before he said he needed to be on his way.  Apparently he had a ship to catch on the high tide.  

It is always bittersweet to have him go off on another quest.  But I always know he will return.

"Fair winds, dear Knight.  Fair winds."