Friday, June 11, 2004


No Politics Today.

The Piper to the Laird of Grant, by Richard Waitt. He's playing Amazing Grace, of course.

PSONG.8.5. At the final Reagan funeral event today, there will be a piper. Death and pipers seem to go together. The Scots always used to bring them along in their various wars, because nothing made them feel more like killing than the piercing wail of wind passing through a sheep bladder. This tradition endured all the way through to D-Day, when pipers played on Sword Beach seemingly unmindful what a mesmerizing target they made. Sanity and bagpipes do not seem to go well together. You can confirm this to yourself by watching the greatest bagpipe movie ever made, Tunes of Glory, which refers to the 'music' played by you-know-what. And it's only when Alec Guinness starts picking the tunes for the big funeral at the end of the movie that we know he has gone completely crazy. It's scary because we can hear the pipes playing in his head, and we know he isn't ever coming back to the here and now.

Why are we talking about bagpipes? Because there are many wondrous things in life that we stop seeing, blinded by our habitual belief in the commonplace. Every once in a while it's good to yank something we take for granted out of context and observe just how amazing it is. Bagpipes are a wondrous thing, archaic, barbaric, irrational, and hideously beautiful. There is no other musical instrument that is bound up with so much pure nuttiness. You can play a violin in white tie and tails or in a cowboy hat and buckskin jacket. To play the bagpipes you have to wear a plaid skirt, no underwear, and an unspeakable hat. If you search the internet, you will find more such nuttiness: a page devoted to bagpipe jokes, a page devoted to bagpipe art, and even a very odd page, in French, of bagpipe animations. Steep yourself in this weird world for a bit, and maybe when the pipes play in the final Reagan service tonight, you will hear Amazing Grace in a new way and pay the piper in wages of wonder.

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