I sometimes think that I am a pretty strange person. Take, for instance, yesterday when I made Martha Stewart’s yeasted pancakes and a pound of bacon and very strong coffee for three Ogalala Lakota Medicine men who were travelling through on their way back to  Pine Ridge.  We had a wonderful discussion about the stresses and universality of healing. They spoke of their “Uncle Russell” Means, who they knew well.  He was a traditional healer, too, and they said he spoke very eloquently at funeral ceremonies,

I also wonder about myself when I hear a piece on MPR and say without having to think,  “Oh, that is the Polka and Fugue from Schwanda the Bagpiper, an opera by Jaromir Weinberger”.  Who knows things like this? I played  the piece in concert band in college.  It is the sort of music that just sticks with you. Look up the synopsis of the opera. It is the silliest thing imaginable.


What arcane knowledge do you possess?

34 thoughts on “Schwanda”

  1. I’m like you with being a musician and recognizing songs, symphonies, jazz tunes, etc. just from hearing a few bars. I also played “Schwanda” in college and/or community band and enjoyed it more than most band pieces.

    I also know way too much about wine. Plus, I’m good at trivia, which means I have the equivalent of a post-graduate degree in “Arcana,” if that’s a word. “Arcane-ology?” My wife gets borderline annoyed when a drop an obscure fact on her in casual conversation.

    “Just how do you know THAT?” she’ll ask. “I dunno,” I reply, “It just stuck in my brain for the past 50 years. Go figure.”

    Chris in Owatonna

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Rise and Wear Your Baboon Uniqueness Proudly, Baboons,

    I think anyone who listened to the LGMS for years knows any number of weird factoids. How else would anyone know there is “talk like a pirate day.”

    For years I thought I was the only person who knew how to can tomatoes, how to make a cloche from a plastic milk carton, how to keep a tidy house by picking up twice a day, that vinegar or soda are effective cleaning aides, etc. No one wanted to know this stuff from about 1975-1995. Then Martha Stewart and other professional “homemakers” had success and this became valuable knowledge. And after that, environmentally sensitive cleaning/organizing blogs became a thing, and now everyone knows these things.

    P.S., I also know how to make cornmeal from actual corn dried on the cob, how to make my grandmother’s laundry soap, and her “yeast foam”, all recipes I collected. Her tatting gizmo is made from animal bone, but I never learned to tat. But I gave the tatting supplies to my niece who taught herself to do this.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. It seems that most of my knowledge is arcane. I couldn’t tell you anything,for example, about any of the current Grammy artists or indeed about much of pop music from the last half century but I know quite a few songs from the twenties and thirties. I don’t know anything about professional sports or athletes but I could name from memory probably 100 of the most popular actresses and actors of the nineteenth century and identify many of them from a photo. I know the names of dozens of authors writing humor in mid-nineteenth century and what they wrote and their pseudonym, if they used one (many of them did).

    I could tell you about many of the utopian/socialist experiments that cropped up in the U.S. in mid-nineteenth century, many in response to the Panic of 1837, and what they stood for and what happened to them and I could tell you about the self-styled bohemians of Manhattan and San Francisco at midcentury, who were some of their members andwhat became of them.

    You could say that I know more about nineteenth century popular culture than I do about my own and with some justification.

    I also know the name of Ken Maynard’s horse (Tarzan), Lassie’s trainer (Rudd Wearherwax), John Wayne’s real name (Marion Morrison) and, as I have indicated recently, Paul Whiteman’s first clarinet (Ross Gorman).

    The stuff I remember is no good for trivia. It’s too arcane.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. But fun Arcane knowledge, right Bill? I know absolutely next to nothing about actresses during your favorite time. But I do know about Nelly Ternanand I was happy to know it last week when I was reading a book in which Charles Dickens was featured.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s fun arcane knowledge…for me. But it’s a little bit lonely in that I’ve no counterpart with whom I can share nineteenth century gossip. There’s a guy who is a researcher for Brooklyn College in New York and who is every bit my equal with regard to nineteenth century humor but our communications are irregular.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. I was surprised a few years ago to realize that nobody I know has any idea who Lucretia Borgia was. I made a joke about having a final night dinner in the Borgia room at a hotel in Washington DC and was met with blank stares all around. I’m guessing in this group however there might be a couple you know who she was.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. This is a true story. I was working with a hotel a small group going to Washington DC and the hotel did have a Borgia room. It’s a lovely room. And our last night dinner was scheduled in this room. That’s why I made my joke because I wouldn’t want to have a last meal in a Borgia room. But no one else in my entire department had any idea what I was talking about.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Didn’t we just have a Blog about memory in the last couple of weeks? Because in trying to figure out what hotel in Washington DC I was working with I’ve been reminded that it wasn’t in Washington DC . It was actually in San Francisco — The Westin St Francis. I’ve also been reminded that I actually wrote about this on the blog back in 2011.

          Liked by 3 people

  5. In college and grad school my official major was “American studies.” What I found most intriguing about it was the history of concepts about various topics such as war, justice, “the West” or race. If you study what people believe you see changes over time. Those changes are driven by many different influences. A common descriptor for this field of study is “intellectual history,” the history of changing ideas.

    When I became editor of a magazine about outdoor recreation the world of fishing was in turmoil. There were “revolutionary” new ideas coming out about how to catch fish. Predictably, I was fascinated by the sources of the new ideas.

    That led me to trace the evolution of thinking about fishing. In other words, I became expert in the intellectual history of sport angling. What amuses me now was that I was very likely the only person on earth who thought there was an intellectual history in sport angling. Bill has only one person who knows his arcane field well enough to permit a conversation. I didn’t even have that!


    1. Did your research into the intellectual history of sport angling go further back than Izaac Walton and his ilk? There is, of course, a whole body of literature on hunting and fishing in the nineteenth century and it would comprise an intellectual history but I’m not familiar with the earlier stuff.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Bill, legend has it that the first author of a book on sport fishing was a woman–a nun, actually–named Juliana Berners. There is debate about whether she actually existed, but someone writing under that name put out a book called A Treatyse of Fysshynge With an Angle. It was published in 1496. Izaak Walton, whom we know to be real, published in 1653. Some at the time accused him of plagiarizing Berners. The tone of her work, like the tone of his, is gentle and respectful.

        Small side note: Berners wrote of fishing with an “angle.” That’s probably a short version of “angled iron” or hook. So that’s the origin of the word “angling.”

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Funny how many of the early writers about fishing were connected with the clergy. Maybe they were the only ones besides nobility who had the leisure to sport fish.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. “In the first chapter of At Home, Bill Bryson surveys his own home, an old Norfolk rectory, and considers the career of the young rector for whom it was built in 1851. Thomas JG Marsham would have enjoyed an income of around £500 – £400,000 today. He was, Bryson writes, one of “a class of well-educated, wealthy people who had immense amounts of time on their hands. In consequence, many of them began, quite spontaneously, to do remarkable things”.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. That makes me think of Gilbert White of Selborne. I’ve read At Home but didn’t remember Bryson specifically mentioning fishing. (Or is sport fishing just one of the “ remarkable things”?)


        4. When we were in Wales, we stayed twice in places called “The Old Rectory” and we were aware of others. Ivthink one could travel the country staying in old rectories. The two we stayed in were quite palatial. Here’s one:

          Liked by 3 people

        5. He did not mention fishing. He mostly wrote about how men associated with the church did architecture, research and biological studies. Men drawing money for their work in churches were often leading scientists with vast collections of bird eggs, fossils or other such stuff.

          Liked by 2 people

  6. I know stuff about music theory from a college courses, i.e. the harmonic modes like Phrygian and Locrian… mind you, at this point I just know which book to look in for the details (but I still have the book).

    I know, from my job at the Nutritional…Wellness business, details of misinformation the media glommed onto about eating eggs, butter, etc.

    I have some Ogden Nash poems rattling around in my head (forgot about them when we had that memorization day last week)…

    I have some Feng Shui tips at my disposal that I’m sure you’d all be interested in.

    There may be more…


  7. I used to have an encyclopedic knowledge of the real names of many musicians. A lot of the blues guys like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Bo Diddley, etc. The advent of the internet made this knowledge much less impressive, since everyone can now look up such information in about six seconds.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Did you know that the reason letters are designated as either upper case or lower case is that in print shops, the letter molds are kept in wooden cases or drawers, with the capital letters always stored in the upper cases, and the non capital letters stored in the lower cases. I just learned that this weekend reading about Gutenberg and his print shop.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That was in the old style print shop setup. Since the 1870s, type has been distributed in California job cases, where both upper case and lower case is in the same compartmentalized tray. It reduces the amount of reaching that a typesetter had to do. It also made it easier to transport a given font, especially because each tray provides a cover for the one under it.

      Liked by 1 person

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