Accents: North and South of England

I’m fascinated by accents, by the differences between them, and by means of detecting the differences. Perhaps it’s because I’ve lived in different parts of England (having been born in Scotland), now live in New England, and still have an English accent?

But which English accent? Some Americans think I sound like Michael Caine, who has a very strong London (hence southern) accent, while I think have a more northern English accent.

Erik Singer. a dialect coach and one of my favorite Youtubers, gives an account of differences between northern and southern accents. He first discusses differences between Australian and New Zealand accents, which I sometimes find difficult to detect.

I was surprised by a few things about Erik’s take on English accents. First, his north/south line on a map goes through, not only England, but also Wales: a different place with very different accents. Second, he considers Birmingham to be in the south of England. Perhaps it is according to the accent test he uses, but for many Brits, it’s very much in the “midlands”.

Third, I’d have used a different test. If I wanted to see if someone had a northern or southern English accents, I’d ask them to say the word “grass”. I regard a long “a” as northern, and a short “a” as southern.

Any thoughts? Feel free to leave them in the comments, in whatever accent you prefer.

End of Summer 2019

Yesterday was Labor Day, today the kids went back to school. I used to sing “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” when the schools restarted, but the kids didn’t seem to like that somehow. So I don’t do that any more.

The highlight of the summer was our trip to Asia. I must get some pictures and posts up about that.

I hope you had a great summer, and have a great autumn, or whatever the seasons and names for them are wherever you are.

Minding the Gap in Hong Kong

We were in Hong Kong for just a few days earlier this year. One of those days was July 1, the anniversary of the Handover of Hong Kong. We knew that there would be demonstrations, and stayed away from them.

We did our tourist things. We ate excellent dim sum, bought notably inexpensive goods in markets, and so on. We got around by boat, on foot, by taxi, and on the excellent MTR.

On the MTR, I had to photograph the Mind the Gap signs. They are on the sliding doors, in Chinese on one door and in English on the other. The announcement is made in Cantonese, in English, and in Mandarin.

Since we were there, the gap between Hong Kong and mainland China has become more dangerous. Violence has increased, from both sides, and verbal threats have escalated.

I wish I could see a way to peaceful resolution of matters between Hong Kong and mainland China. The principle of “one country, two systems” seems to mean different things on different sides of the gap. The same principle officially applies to Macao (which we also visited) and China, but may be difficult to implement there as well.

I’d love to hear any ideas as to how this gap can be managed.

2018: It wasn’t all bad…

But it was one of the toughest years of my life. My father passed away just before Christmas. My own health wasn’t too good either.

There’s good news to report, though. Our family now includes a puppy. We named her Mochi. She’ll get her own post soon. In the meantime, here’s a photo of her telling us that her bowl is empty.

Other highlights of the year include some precious time back to England with parents and other family. The kids made good starts at their respective new schools (high and middle).

All in all, I’m not sorry to see the end of 2018. I’m hoping for a better 2019.

Music 2018

Sorry, but I have to start with the death of Scott Hutchison, even though I posted about it at the time. There was no 2018 album that hit me like Midnight Organ Fight, the masterpiece from Scott’s band Frightened Rabbit.

Among the albums I enjoyed were Lucy Dacus’ debut Historian and Mitski’s Be the Cowboy. Here’s a sample from each: Night Shift and Nobody respectively (links to YouTube).

But my two heartiest recommendations are videos of old guys. My favorite musician Richard Thompson was on tour with his electric trio (which at times had three members, but often had more).

I love this video of the set at Shrewsbury–particularly the song selection, with material from the new album, from Fairport Convention 50 years ago, and many points on the timeline in between. The performance is great, as is the sound quality.

The other video is Tower of Power’s Tiny Desk show. ToP started 50 years ago, but are currently fronted by a powerful young singer. Everyone in the band can really play, and play together.

The reasons to be happy about music in 2018 are many and diverse. It’s a long way from Lucy Dacus to Tower of Power, and a very good journey indeed.

Rails to Trails, Coffee at Station

We are now even closer to the East Bay Bike Path, having recently moved. That wasn’t the main reason for the move, but being closer to the path, and to Providence, is an excellent and intended consequence.

We’re also closer to Borealis Coffee, one of the many refreshment stops along the way. I love their coffee and their cafe.

Borealis Coffee is located in the old Riverside train station. As you can see, they have a cool building, with seating outside as well as inside.

I love repurposed buildings. I just checked to see that one of my favorite such buildings is still going. Yes, the Bookmill is still a bookstore in a gristmill, selling “books you don’t need in a place you can’t find”: said place is near Amherst, Massachusetts, where I went to graduate school.

Back to Rhode Island: I’m glad that the route is now a bike path rather than a disused railway line. (I haven’t researched the rail line or its closing, so I’m not sure how good or bad a the closing was.) I’m glad that the old station is now a coffee company rather than a tanning salon with a Coke machine outside it. Here’s a link to a photo of the building in 2013, and to a historical note.

Any favorite repurposed buildings, trails, or similar you’d like to share?

Bass: Electrifying

I bought an acoustic bass guitar, rather than an electric, in part because that meant I wouldn’t need an amp right away.

I bought an amp today. I went back to Guitar Center in order to: try a few amps; make sure that the electric components of my acoustic electric bass (AEB) actually work; buy an amp if it seemed like a good idea after trying a few; try out a few electric basses, since I suspect I’ll get an electric at some point.

I did try a few amps, my bass played just fine through them, and I did buy one of the amps I tried. It was a second hand Acoustic B15 15W Bass Combo Amp. By the way, the link is to Guitar Center. It’s not an affiliate link, so I don’t get anything out of it, but I did spend a while in the bass room of the the North Attleboro store trying stuff out.

A 15W bass amp can prevent an acoustic bass being drowned out by an acoustic guitar or two. It can annoy immediate neighbors, but not the whole neighborhood. It is an example of a “practice amp”: it can be used by an electric bass player for practice, but is not powerful enough for performance anything but the smallest and quietest of venues and ensembles.

I did play a few electric basses through the amp I was about to purchase. They are a lot smaller, and in particular slimmer, than the acoustic I have. Short scale electric basses seem tiny; I didn’t try any of them.

If I’d bought any of the electric basses I tried, it would have been the $200 Yamaha. I wasn’t able to play a similarly-priced Squier bass. I did try a couple of Squiers in the used and dinged categories. I don’t think that a P-bass neck is for me.

After trying the electric and before buying the amp, I plugged in my AEG again. I was nervous about doing so. Would my visit to the electric wonderland show me that I should have got an electric bass and an amp in the first place?

I’m glad to say that I like the sound of my AEB at least as much as that of any of the electrics I tried. It also felt good to play after the slimmer electrics.

My time in Guitar Center was well and enjoyably spent. I know not everyone likes the chain, but I appreciate being able to try out a variety of instruments and equipment. Similarly, not everyone likes acoustic bass guitars. Not everyone likes to buy used gear. I felt more confident buying a used amp than I would buying a used instrument: a solid state amp has very few moving parts to go wrong.

Thanks for reading this far. Even more thanks if you comment.

About That Bass

What do I need to learn bass guitar? A bass, obviously. But what kind of bass? And what else?

I asked myself those questions a month or two ago. How about an acoustic bass guitar? That would mean that I didn’t need an amp. I could spend almost all my first burst of money on the bass itself. At least as important, an acoustic would be consistent with my musical tastes, which tend toward the folky.

I went with an Ibanez AEB5E from Guitar Center. Guitar Center allows trying before buying, and there is a branch in Rhode Island, little though my new home state is. There’s also a branch in nearby North Attleboro, Massachusetts.

AEB stands for Acoustic Electric Bass. The E means that the instrument can be plugged into a bass amp: it incorporates a pickup and preamp.

All I needed, apart from the bass itself, was a means of learning bass. I went with a book: yes, one of those old-fashioned things printed on paper. To be specific, I got the Hal Leonard book.

Now, I should stop posting and resume practicing. More about the bass in future posts…

Scott Hutchison RIP

Scott Hutchison was Frightened Rabbit. That was the nickname given to shy young Scott by his mother. That was the name under which he started making music.

Frightened Rabbit became a duo when Scott was joined by brother and drummer Grant. Frightened Rabbit added members over time.

Midnight Organ Fight, FR’s breakthrough album, came out in 2008. The band recently completed a tour marking the 10th anniversary of the release. It is for me a truly great album. As Kieran Devlin recently wrote in The Guardian:

A classic heartbreak record, Midnight didn’t navigate the travails of young love and lust so much as trip over them and mutter an unnecessary apology.

Here’s an acoustic version of my favorite track.

Scott recently took his own life. Here are his last two messages to the world.

Be so good to everyone you love. It’s not a given. I’m so annoyed that it’s not. I didn’t live by that standard and it kills me. Please, hug your loved ones.

I’m away now. Thanks.

They are quoted by Stephen Thompson at NPR, along with some words from Scott’s family.

Now please, be good to everyone you love. And to yourself.