The collateral damage of nice

June 16, 2017 on 6:13 am by Michael Grey | In From Piping Today Mag | No Comments

To be clear and direct in communicating – getting across what you really feel to your fellow person – must surely be one of the rarest of human traits. In my experience, it’s the norm for people to often do whatever can be done to avoid saying what might be said in the most concise and unvarnished of ways. In our use of words, in our lexicon, we’ve even invented a special category for words that are indistinct, words that soften the impact of a purer, more literal alternative. We have the euphemism.

Death and dying are taboo discussion subjects in much of the world. Rather than to die or to have died you’ll know it’s much better to have “passed away”. To have passed away must be among one of our most common euphemisms. Like quietly leaving a big party, easing away from a large dinner table or fading from sight at the end of a long road, people just “pass away”. So much nicer to think of death that way, isn’t it?
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Damn you short attention spans

April 3, 2017 on 7:48 am by Michael Grey | In From Piping Today Mag, Stories | Comments Off on Damn you short attention spans

“It was the moon on nights like this, it was nights like this, it was the wind as it pawed at you or cried as it approached, the sound of the river, the clotted stars against the dark sky, the way a horse will snort at the sight of you, the way pine needles seemed to rust as they died. It was too much to be named. It was all that could not be taken away until it was taken away at last. It was given before you knew what to make of it and taken before you’d had a chance to understand its extent and beauty.”

These words by writer André Alexis come from a short story of his – “On Such a Night” – published last week in Canada’s Globe & Mail. These beautiful words especially resonate; they passed through my screen only a couple of days after the passing of my old friend and mentor, Reay Mackay. The last line, in particular, stays with me and has caused me to reflect. Unless you’re a Buddhist monk or of that rare ilk – of the deeply thoughtful and self-aware – the norm, surely, is for us to not savour and appreciate the present.
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Humblebragging, narcissism, neediness and sanctimony

January 27, 2017 on 11:04 am by Michael Grey | In From Piping Today Mag | Comments Off on Humblebragging, narcissism, neediness and sanctimony

ANYONE that uses Facebook will know that from time to time there are interesting bits of information that break through the often unfiltered cringe-making that is the backbone of social media. And so it was last week, smashing through a sea of humblebragging, narcissism, neediness and sanctimony (and pictures of food) – some likely of my own making – came Helen Keller. Her name is one from days gone by but like most great examples of humanity, Keller’s, I think, is one still generally known.
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The Best I Ever Played

November 15, 2016 on 7:43 am by Michael Grey | In From Piping Today Mag, Solo Piping, Tips | Comments Off on The Best I Ever Played

When I first starting competing in Scotland and going around the competitions, there was no shortage of fun to go along with the games. Like today, only it seems to me that then there were more eccentric, larger-than-life types around the whole of the scene. It may have been my youthful, wide-eyed interpretation of what I experienced that makes me think this. But then, on reflection, I don’t think so.
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A Jig is a Jig

September 9, 2016 on 6:01 pm by Michael Grey | In From Piping Today Mag, Music, Solo Piping, Stories, Tips | Comments Off on A Jig is a Jig

THERE was a time when I thought that one of the hardest things I’d ever done in my life was to play Peter MacLeod’s tune Donald MacLean, twice through in the jig final at the Northern Meeting.
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Our Aunt Ethel

July 17, 2016 on 2:46 pm by Michael Grey | In From Piping Today Mag, Pipe Bands, Solo Piping, Stories | Comments Off on Our Aunt Ethel

IT’S estimated there are over seven billion people inhabiting our dear blue place — planet earth. That’s a seven and nine absolute zeros. To me, an unimaginable number of anything, let alone a measure of human souls. And yet, time and again, in the face of big numbers, we encounter a small world.

“It’s a small world — though I wouldn’t want to paint it,” said comedian Steven Wright. And there’s nothing like a looming, inestimable paint job to put something in perspective. Sure, we know the world is massive. I think it’s knowing this that has us easily imagining cosy comfort when some serendipitous happening meets our day. Like finding your neighbour is sister to your high school English teacher’s mum. “It’s surely a small world.” “Awww, we’re all connected,” you might groan. Or not.
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Piping Today: You’re the reason our kids are ugly

May 3, 2016 on 9:33 am by Michael Grey | In From Piping Today Mag, Humour, Music, Solo Piping | Comments Off on Piping Today: You’re the reason our kids are ugly

The highland bagpipe can create some of the most rhythmically amazing music imaginable. A well-practised set of mitts can rattle off near endless streams of reels, jigs, strathspeys and hornpipes.

Highland dancers would be lost if not struck dead still without a piper’s tunes. The undulating groove inherent in any good-going reel has the power to move even the most rigid and uncompromising of feet. Dancing can reveal all the mystery that music conceals, wrote French poet, Charles Baudelaire. And on that, like drum and stick, wind and waves, bed and breakfast, music and dance are inextricably linked.
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Piping Today: A magical winter week in Glasgow

February 24, 2016 on 5:03 pm by Michael Grey | In From Piping Today Mag, Pipe Bands, Tips | Comments Off on Piping Today: A magical winter week in Glasgow

I once read something somewhere about the spiritual power of making music in a group. The words I recall spoke to group music creation in a sacred sort of way. Making music with others joined energy and life forces and, well, made magic. Magic a word used here, I think, to describe the indescribable. And the indescribable, to me, usually stands as the best and worst things in life and, from time immemorial, inspirational fodder for the poet. Anyway, these hazy recollections stayed with me and it was only in the last week of January did they again burble up.
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The Gift that Keeps on Giving

December 22, 2015 on 8:01 am by Michael Grey | In From Piping Today Mag | Comments Off on The Gift that Keeps on Giving

These days we hear more and more about “ground-breaking” studies trumpeting the health benefits of one thing or another. News in tandem equally pronounces the many things that are seemingly bad for us. One day it’s a daily glass or two of wine that will add years to a body, the next your favourite Vino Collapso is marked as toxic organ-hardening poison. It’s all, in part, I’d wager, thanks to the wave of ageing “baby boomers” washing over the Western world. Perhaps more than others before it, the post-war generation wants to live forever — or, at the very least, not get old. There’s a trick.
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The Struggle for Originality

October 17, 2015 on 8:09 am by Michael Grey | In From Piping Today Mag | Comments Off on The Struggle for Originality

YONGE Street is one of the City of Toronto’s most important thoroughfares. It dissects the whole of the metropolitan area along north-south lines. From Lake Ontario north over 50 kilometers, Yonge covers a lot of diverse, sometimes gritty ground and on its path walk a lot of diverse people: the rich, the poor, the fat, the thin, the fit and the down-and-out. The part of the street I was wandering through was near glamourous Yorkville and the University of Toronto, so an eclectic mix of people, including lots of women in designer duds, some even holding wee dogs like in the movies, and students heaving massive knapsacks and at least one clever piper – that’s me (I try never to assume).
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