... Ancient missives from our castle below the sea
JUNE, 2016— Rat laughter, singing spiders
JUNE, 2015— Wampum, Cat whiskers!
APRIL, 2015—Strange Shrimp
JANUARY, 2015—Space Diamonds
SEPTEMBER, 2014—Famous Crimpers
JANUARY, 2014—True Detective and the Talking Cactus
NOVEMBER, 2013—The Secret Pain of Boiled Peas
OCTOBER, 2013—Tesla hears distant fire
JUNE, 2013—Worm charming
APRIL, 2013—17-year Cicadas
OCTOBER, 2012- Haunted Houses
JULY, 2012- Sad News, Cockroach love
NOVEMBER, 2007-17th-century dinner party
SEPTEMBER, 2006-wyrding witches
AUGUST, 2006-animals attack
SEPTEMBER, 2005-18th-century health tonics
JUNE, 2005-spirit bottles
APRIL, 2005-psychic attack
FEBRUARY, 2005-Mr. Nobody
SEPTEMBER, 2004-current delusions
AUGUST, 2004-mysterious shoes
APRIL, 2004-xerxes and octopus
AUGUST, 2003-thousand-year old eggs, pyramid power
MAY, 2003-planet X
AUGUST, 2002-automatic writing
JUNE, 2002-current fears
MARCH, 2002-ghost tapes
DECEMBER, 2001-tour diary
SEPTEMBER, 2001-mountain-man diet
MARCH, 2001-chicago vs. albuquerque
FRIENDS— Can you learn to love the slimy FROG prince perched upon your pillow? Can you see the beauty in the dark, swamp where THE HANDSOME FAMILY slither? Read on and ponder....
NEW TOUR DATES!
AT THE SHOWS…
Check out Rennie's art for sale at the merch table. There’s always a FROG in the bunch. As well as foxes, horses, birds, dogs, spiders, snakes… Take a look at my ever-changing bestiary.
ON THE WEB…
LIMITED EDITION items are going fast. Get your copy before they’re gone!
“Wilderness” BOX SET
“Singing Bones” LP
We are still singing because of you. Thank you, truly, for keeping us in business,
Rennie and Brett
FROGS call out to each other through the humid air above a stagnant pond. They sing to let potential mates know their location and to let other males know they are ready to defend their territory. With each call there is a responding chorus of competing males. Most females are listeners. When they hear a pleasing voice among the din of croaks they seek out the male behind the melody. FROGS really do fall in love by listening to love songs!
There’s great competition to be heard among the men of these FROG choruses. Only the most gifted singers will find a space in which to solo among the hundreds of voices striving to be heard. FROGS develop a rhythm of call and response in this musical battle. Males that find themselves drowned out will change the frequency and tone of their call in order to be heard above their brothers.
The FROG Prince’s voice was repellent to the princess he sang to. She had dropped her golden ball into the FROG Prince’s muddy pool and needed his help to retrieve it. Sticking your arm into muddy water is not an option for a princess.
The slimy prince offers to retrieve the girl’s ball if she will promise to let him sleep by her side. She is utterly revolted by the little creature but agrees to his demands. Once her shining orb is back in her arms, though, the princess forgets her promise and runs away.
Late that night the FROG Prince comes hopping and dripping into the castle. He splatters his way up to her silken pillow. For three nights the princess endures the awful creature’s presence at her side, but finally she grabs the slimy FROG and throws its foul body at the wall. In that great ‘splat’ the FROG Prince transforms into a human prince of great beauty— or so the fairy tale insists. The princess falls in love.
I wonder though—could it be that it is the princess who changes as she throws the FROG at her velvet wallpaper? If the princess pulled her eyes away from her gorgeous prince and glanced into the mirror would she see a handsome couple reflected or two slimy FROGS?
There they go, the FROG lovers— hopping through the wet dirt back to the slimy waters of their kingdom.
Each night this magic spell is cast as virgin princesses hear their princes cry out across the swamp. In the darkness of the pond all is filthy, moist and full of love.
Tonight, royal friends, leave the windows of your castle open, the great doors ajar. Let the wind and rain come rushing past in torrents. Wet leaves will litter your bed and every creeping, crawling, slithering thing will come to claim you in the name of the prince of mud.
Lie down in this empire of muck. Let the dark water be the mirror of your throne.
—Excerpt from “Wilderness,” essays by Rennie Sparks written as a companion to the album “Wilderness.”
Dear FRIENDS, both far and near, herein find facts OLD and NEW,
rising up like smoke rings from the forbidden fortress of THE HANDSOME FAMILY…
Wilderness Box SetFOR SALE!Sadly our good old friend Carrot Top Records has closed up shop, but happily we now have new old stock for sale on our website. New treasures found in crevices at the old warehouse are...
Limited Edition 7”
Singing Bones LP
To celebrate our new old stock we also have some..NEW
on our website when you buy:ALL CDs
ANY 2 BOOKS
BOOK & CD
Spend $100 and get FREE WORLDWIDE SHIPPING!
How about coming to see
NEW TOUR DATES!
Hey, have you seen our NEW video for the song,
“THE RED DOOR”?
A rivulet of water 2.6 billion years old has been newly discovered in a mine shaft 2 miles below the surface of the earth. This drop of rain fell from the sky before there were creatures here alive beyond single cells— a puddle from a time when life was lived alone, adrift, silent. It was a good time for rain drops I think.
The oldest single tree is probably a bristle-cone pine in the mountains of northern California. There are trees up there that are 5 thousand years old. The scientist who bored into the trunk of the oldest tree has kept its exact location a secret. If you knew where the world’s oldest tree lived would you sit in its shadow? Would you like to taste 2 billion year old water? Do you know where your cells will be in 2 billion years?
The clam Arctica Islandica holds the record for the longest-lived animal known to science. Its age is measured by counting the bands in its shell. This is how a specimen was identified (now known as “Ming”) in Iceland that had lived for 507 years. I once found a clam at the beach and took it home. I kept it in a jar of sea water by my bed. I named him, “Sucker”. He didn’t live very long, but he surely saw and heard more than most clams ever do. I had a lot of posters of The Who on my bedroom walls. Also a unicorn leaping up over a rainbow. What other clam has ever seen a girl with so much black eyeliner?
Although the workers in a termite colony only live a few years, a termite queen can live half a century down in her fortress of dirt. She spends her time in that dark nest dreaming of the few moments she spent in the air as a princess awaiting a winged prince. No worker termite dares look the queen in her eyes. They know without knowing that if they should see even a flicker of her sky memories they would burst into flames.
FRIENDS— As American whirlwinds whirl we are filling old sheets with dark winds and riding them up through clouds, eastward, to old lands. Herein find curses and prayers whispered to ancient gods hidden in rocks and trees and air. Herein find TOUR DATES, and SUNDRY OTHER HANDSOME FAMILY EPHEMERA ….
FROM THE ANCIENT STORY OF GILGAMESH….
Enkidu was happy running with herds of wild antelope and eating grass until he was lured into the human world by a temple prostitute Shamhat. Poor Enkidu! Soon after becoming human he is marked for death.
SEE THE HANDSOME FAMILY
SINGING —> USA and Europe, February through May...
"I curse you!” Enkidu says to Shamhat, “I curse you with the ultimate curse. May it seize you instantly as it leaves my mouth…. May your man beat you like a housewife beats a rug! May you never acquire shining silver or delightful alabaster! May your roof keep leaking! May wild dogs camp in your bedroom! May owls nest in your attic! May drunkards vomit all over you! May a tavern wall be your place of business! May you be dressed in torn robes and filthy underwear! May thorns and briars make your feet bloody! ...May all this be your reward for seducing me in the forest!”
VISIT OUR MERCH TABLE
AT SHOWS TO SEE:
Artwork made by Rennie as well as both Brett and Rennie standing around with golden sharpies begging to sign things.
The sun-god Shamash reminds Enkidu that becoming human wasn’t all bad… “Wasn’t it Shamhat who gave you beer fit for a king and splendid Gilgamesh as your friend? Gilgamesh will lay you down on a bed of honor when you are dead and he will roam the wilderness with matted hair in a lion’s skin.”
HEY NOW—> —>
CAPPELENS FORSLAGS CONVERSATIONAL
LEXICON vol. II!
Looking for the most puzzling and entertaining book you’ve seen in a good long while? Looking for Rennie Sparks’ definitions for ‘soap bubbles’, ‘ghosts’, and ‘salamanders’?
Have a look at this strange and wonderful LTD. EDITION BOOK. Purchase them while they last!
Enkidu apologizes to Shamhat and now wishes good things for her... "Two miles away from you may your lover tremble with excitement. One mile away may he bite his lip in anticipation...May Ishtar bring you generous lovers whose treasure chests brim with jewels and gold! May the mother of seven children be abandoned for your sake!"
SUBSCRIBE to our YOUTUBE CHANNEL and be the first to see our next homemade videos
After Enkidu's death Gilgamesh cried through the long night for his lost friend. "Oh, Enkidu, may the paths that led you through the cedar forest mourn you constantly day and night. May the hills mourn you and the mountains we climbed. May the pastures mourn you as their own son. May the forest we slashed in our fury mourn you. May the bear mourn you, the panther, the hyena, the jackal, the lion, the gazelle. May the rivers mourn you. May temple priests mourn you by loosening their hair... I will mourn as long as I breath. I will sob for him like a woman who has lost her only child. Oh, Enkidu you were the axe at my side, the knife in my sheath, the wide belt around my loins. You were my glorious robe! Beloved friend, swift stallion, wild deer, leopard ranging in the wilderness, together we slaughtered the bull of heaven. Oh Enkidu what is this sleep that has silenced you?
HAVE YOU HEARD our latest record, “Unseen”?
MOJO called it “our masterpiece”! How about buying a copy from us (CD or LP) and getting that old fashioned thrill of supporting the arts?
Gilgamesh touched Enkidu's heart but it did not beat. He veiled Enkidu's face like a brides and circled him like an eagle. He paced back and forth like a lioness whose cubs are trapped in a pit. He tore out clumps of his hair and tore off his magnificent robe as if it were cursed. After the funeral Gilgamesh went out into the wilderness with matted hair in a lion skin. Bitterly he wept through the wilderness. How can I bear this sorrow?
From Stephen Mitchell’s 2004 translation of the "Epic of Gilgamesh”—an ancient Mesopotamian poem written on stone tablets. It is one of the oldest pieces of surviving literature (c. 1800 BC)
We are still singing because of you. Thank you. Thank you, truly, Rennie and Brett
GOOD PEOPLE… At last the day is here. Starting today, July 15, you can pre-order our new record, “UNSEEN” in both CD and limited edition transparent green vinyl LP. It officially releases on September, 16, 2016. On that day you will be among the first to hear our new songs...
“UNSEEN” continues our search into the shadowy edges of life. The album was recorded in our home studio at night with only the hawk moths listening. It features a few of our faithful desert friends: David Gutierrez (mandolin, dobro), Alex McMahon (guitar, baritone guitar, pedal steel), and Jason Toth (drums). Mostly it was written and wrought in our pajamas with prickly pear needles and large bugs crawling the cracked floor beneath our slippered feet. We truly hope you enjoy our new songs. We hope they expand your universe. We hope you will consider purchasing them in any form that pleases: a CD, an LP, a download and/or consider coming to one of our shows. All these contributions to our cause mean the world to us. TRULY.
Read on, friends and know all… xo Rennie and Brett
SALE! SALE! SALE!
We have several BIG DISCOUNTS offered for a limited time...
🐞 All orders come with a FREE set of 6 Handsome Family
POSTCARDS (even postcard orders)!
🐞 Buy any two BOOKS for $15 (+ shipping)
🐞 Buy ‘Wilderness’ CD & BOOKS together— only $20 (+ shipping)
🐞 Buy ‘Smothered & Covered’ and ‘Scattered’ CDs together—
only $12 (+ shipping)
🐞 We are happy to sign anything you order. Just email us and ask.
I finally learned how to use iMovie! In the coming weeks we’ll be premiering 5 NEW VIDEOS for 5 NEW SONGS all made by me and Brett! Subscribe to our channel and be among the first to see them.
🍊MY FIRST ART SHOW!
Underwater Vines / Rennie Sparks / paintings & collections presented by Aron Packer Projects, 2416 W. North Ave (at Western), CHICAGO, IL 60647 —TUES, 9/20/16. 6 - 9 PM. Brett and I will play a few songs to start the night. On view will be a bunch of my paintings, also handmade guitars, dogwood can collection and found cat whiskers!
🐞🐞🐞 TOUR DATES! 🐞🐞🐞
THE TAROT CARD FOR THE CURRENT STATE OF THE MUSIC INDUSTRY….
Far-flung FRIENDS, hear our happy cry— It’s our 28th wedding anniversary and also the arrival of new HANDSOME FAMILY TOUR DATES and A NEW RECORD! Also herein find important thoughts on SINGING SPIDERS, RAT JOKERS and a man who heard PEANUTS WHISPER….
At long last our 10th Handsome Family record will be released September, 16, 2016. PRE-ORDERS BEGIN JULY 15, 2016. We will let you know the second the gates are open if you subscribe to our newsletter list.
FROM LEAF TO LEAF THEIR LOVE SINGS….
Scientists have recorded a purring sound from the male wolf spider. He smells the presence of a female and sings a seductive song by dragging a special comb-like organ across whatever surface he’s on. Leaves seem to work best and amplify the vibration enough that an air-born sound is carried to the listening lady spider. Hark! She also stands on leaves when looking for love— all the better to hear her suitor’s call. The lovelorn spider maid hears her man’s call by feeling sound vibrations run up all her many limbs. How pitiful two ears are in comparison to such full-body hearing.
OH, PITIFUL EARS…
Rats laugh, but we can’t hear their snickering because it is too high in frequency for our dull ears. Rats don’t seem concerned that we don’t hear their jokes. Human scientists feel differently. With special ultrasonic microphones we now can hear joyful rats make chirping noises that are quite distinct from other rat vocalizing. The gleeful sound most-commonly occurs when two young rats play together. Scientists discovered they could induce chirping in rats by gently tickling them. The tickling causes chirping especially in young rats and in females. Over time the tickled rats bonded with the hands that tickled them and sought those hands out when offered a choice of human hands to approach. Ah, to think of the pure love a young rat feels for a scientist's tickling fingers! What whispering rat sonnets do our deaf ears still miss? Can the wolf spider hear the rats laughing? Does the rat know how humans feel about spiders? Have you ever felt like the entire world was laughing at you at an ultrasonic level?
TODAY’S HANDSOME HERO—
GEORGE WASHINGTON CARVER...
Born into slavery in Missouri in the 1860’s, he later became a botanist and an inventor.
“All flowers talk to me,” Carver said. “As do hundreds of little living things in the woods. I learn what I know by loving and watching everything.”
“Be too brave to lie,” Carver advised. “Be too generous to cheat.”
While Carver did not ‘invent’ peanut butter (it was already known to indigenous people of the Americas) he concocted many new peanut recipes including: peanut mayonnaise, peanut cheese and peanut coffee. He also came up with peanut substitutes for asparagus, cocoa, goose, chicken, oyster, pig and veal. The peanut flowers themselves, Carver said, whispered to him all the ways they could be used as well as how the plants could enrich soil. Oh, to hear a single whisper from the weeds! Oh, to hear the spiders sing! The Handsome Family song, “Gravity,” from the album “Twilight” was inspired by George Washington Carver (with a splash of Johnny Appleseed).
SSSSSSHHH, FRIENDS and LISTEN!
Hear our rental van approach. Meet us at a show near you and whisper secrets in our ears.
Fondly we call from the far reaches of Handsome Family Forest. There are whispers in the branches. There are voices in the roots. Read on, Brave Reader, know the truth...
NEW RECORD! TOUR DATES! ANCIENT TREE STUMPS!
WHEN A TREE FALLS IN THE FOREST… For reasons unknown, ancient stumps are kept alive for centuries by their companions, fed by a sugar solution through their roots. What strange longing leads a tree to feed the stump of the fallen? What does a century feel like to a stump? These are the questions that stop me as I’m walking across dimly lit parking garages.
AT LAST... We are nearing completion of a recording of ten new songs entitled, “Unseen.” The release date worldwide is September, 2016. More details as we find them— though nothing is easily found inside this over-turned canoe we call home. Pre-ordering will begin as soon as we find our paddles. You will be notified!
GIANTS OF THE FOREST...
There are more than roots connecting trees. Forest dirt is also home to a network of fungal trails that run between hundreds of trees, even those of different species. In summer birch trees use the fungal web to feed excess carbon to shaded firs. In winter the firs return the favor when leaves above them drop and their needles find the sun. The black walnut spreads poison through the fungal network in order to keep other plants from growing nearby. The strangest truth of this secret dirt network is that there are giants beneath us: fungal webs can be immense. An enormous fungus living in the soil of Oregon’s Blue Mountains is said to be the largest organism alive today. It is four square miles in girth and estimated to be thousands of years old. Is this where the feeling of being watched comes from as you walk through a forest? There are invisible giants beneath your feet and they have taught the trees to talk. Teach me, oh great fungus, to speak the language of the branches!
WHISPERINGS… I am slowly amassing a series of very softly spoken podcasts called whispercasts. Each one is a softly spoken talk about a single Handsome Family song, beginning with the songs from our 1998 record “Through the Trees”. I have posted three so far. Have a listen on headphones and you’ll feel like I’m whispering in your ear as we huddle beneath an overturned canoe.
Adieu friends, may the branches hear your call…
Hi Ho, friends and neighbors. Have I ever told you how much I enjoy turning a random squiggle into a snake? Have I mentioned that THE HANDSOME FAMILY is going to be in Europe soon? Read on, dear heart…
Sometimes when the very walls seem to be breathing hard and the blood threatens to boil over in my head I draw a squiggle. I turn the squiggle into a snake. By the time I’m finished with my snake I feel a lot better. I feel calmer, smoothed out, sorted. There is peace in finding that even the most random lines can become a living creature. I do a lot of snake drawings when we’re on tour. I spread my markers out on hotel bedspreads and follow my squiggles into the land of dreams. Ambien helps.
Maybe drawing snakes is about pondering infinity in a finite way. I’ve always found a strange peacefulness in between thinking of very large things and very small. There is space in there for all things to find their order. Some people say eating a banana before sleep helps encourage good dreams. I recommend drawing a snake before bed. I don’t recommend actually trying to draw on a living snake. They are not receptive to this sort of treatment. It’s hard, also, to find snakes hiding in hotel rooms. They’re there, of course, coiled into the darkest recesses of these anonymous spaces. We once stayed at a hotel room that had a live goldfish in it to keep us company. I was nervous the whole night about whether the goldfish was happy or unhappy, restless or euphorically gliding round and round the infinity of its tiny glass world. It’s hard to tell with goldfish.
All the snakes I draw on tour are for sale at our shows. If I didn’t sell my snake drawings I would have a serious stockpile. Make room in my unconscious for new squiggle shapes by taking one home. Please look through my book of snakes before you leave our next show even if you’re not an art-buyer. I hope my snake images help you find the secret pathway to your best dreams. I hope our songs and live show do the same. See you soon friends in Europe.
GREETINGS TO ALL—
in neighboring tribes, far-flung countries, underground lairs, hiding in our hall closet. Herein find inspiring history on a CLAMSHELL-BASED ECONOMY as well as the latest doings of THE HANDSOME FAMILY...
TOUR DATES: NEW MEXICO
Wampum are tube-shaped beads that native Americans carve from the shells of channeled welk and quahog clam— shells found along the beaches of the Long Island Sound and north along Cape Cod. The beads were once strung into jewelry or sewn into clothing and traded between people and tribes. Wampum beads have been found as far west as Oklahoma and there are beads found that may be a thousand years old. It's hard for those of us born into a money-based world of shopping to understand how a wampum-based society functioned. Giving wampum was not meant as ‘payment’. It was given to calm arguments, to add meaning to exchanges and to mark a moment as important. More aggressive tribes received tributes of wampum from their neighbors to prevent war. Wampum was used to ransom prisoners and make reparations for crimes. It was awarded to winners and offered with marriage proposals. It was also exchanged in remembrance of the dead and used as a pictorial language. Long wampum belts with thousands of beads were woven to memorialize important events. Darker beads (purples and blacks) were associated with war and grief. White beads were associated with life and light. For hundreds of years the wampum system was used by natives all along the northeastern coast of North America.
TOUR DATES: NORWAY & SWEDEN:
In the 17th-century Europeans arrived on the shores of what became New England. These colonists had no context to understand wampum, but they were happy to pay natives a handful of carved shells in exchange for fur pelts which they then sold at great profit across the ocean. The colonists began to make their own wampum using metal tools instead of the native’s stone drills. The colonists built wampum factories that turned out enormous quantities of wampum at far greater speed and with greater delicacy than the natives could have ever imagined. The glut of wampum now available caused it to rapidly lose meaning and value.
TOUR DATES: EUROPE
We’re still trying to organize some shows for Europe in late September/early October. Details to come.
Desperate native wampum-makers now had to spend all their time making enough wampum to appease aggressive neighbors. Children were kidnapped and ransomed for huge amounts of wampum. Ancestral burial sites were robbed of memorial wampum. Still wampum continued to lose value until it was worth nothing. Hunting tribes no longer accepted wampum for pelts. Instead they wanted food, clothing and tools from the colonists, but the colonists did not pay well (there was, at the same time, a decline in European demand for fur). Desperate tribes hunted the fur-bearing animals of New England almost to extinction in attempts to trade for food and clothing. There were so few deer that some natives were forced to beg duffel cloth from the colonists. Eventually these hunting tribes were forced to pay for cloth, food and tools with parcels of land. Aggressive tribes began to steal territory from less-aggressive neighbors. War began between the tribes and with the colonists.
In America we sometimes refer to dollars as ‘clams’. This is a forgotten reference to the days of wampum.
You can now buy 20 Quahog purple wampum beads for $11.59 (plus shipping) on Amazon.com. You can also buy a water bottle that says, “Got Wampum?” There was musical entertainment in Wampum, PA on March 26th at Ferrante Upholstering from 7-8pm.
I know that we can’t easily return to an age of shell-trading. Can we move forward to something else— a kind of commerce where the goal is a peaceful balance not the accumulation of riches? Can we only find abundance at the expense of another’s poverty? I continue to collect fallen cat whiskers in the vain hope of garnering a new kind of wealth. The black whiskers are worth far more than the white at my trading post. My white cat drops too many.
USA, West Coast, April 2015
(All dates with Wildewood as support except Stagecoach Fest)
April 24 Indio, CA at Stagecoach Festival TICKETS
April 25 San Francisco, CA at The Chapel TICKETS
April 28 Arcata, CA at The Playhouse TICKETS
April 29 Cottage Grove, OR at Axe & Fiddle
April 30 Portland, OR at Doug Fir Lounge TICKETS
May 1 Seattle, WA at The Triple Door TICKETS
May 2 Bellingham, WA at Green Frog Acoustic Tavern TICKETS
June 6, Albuquerque, NM at The Albuquerque Folk Fest!
August 2, Santa Fe at The Cocteau Theater (ticket info to come)
Rolling Rootsy Revue23 Jun – BERGEN, Ole Bull
The Handsome Family + Justin Townes Earle in NORWAY AND SWEDEN
24 Jun – OSLO, Pokalen
25 Jun – TRONDHEIM, Royal Garden Hotel
26 Jun – ÖSTERSUND, Gamla Teatern
27 Jun – UPPSALA, Katalin
28 Jun – STOCKHOLM, Mosebacketerrassen
30 Jun – FALKENBERG, Hwitan
**Possibly a few more Swedish dates TBC
THANK YOU for making it to the bottom of our newsletter. How about joining us as we venture out in the coming months? We are frightened by flashing lights, but singing to friends helps keep us sane.
PPS. Coming soon: tour dates in Europe
Greetings shining friends. 2015 brings us to ponder the strange light of DIAMONDS and the persistence of THE HANDSOME FAMILY. Read on, intrepid reader….
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NEW MEXICANS: January 24
Saturday, Albuquerque, The Launchpad. Help us celebrate a CD release from our friends, Next Three Miles Doors at 8pm. Show at 8:30 pm. We should be on-stage round midnight. Get there by 8:30 pm to see Wildewood.
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Diamonds can be up to three billion years old. They are extremely scratch-resistant, but can easily be smashed with a hammer. Diamonds are so dense they actually slow down the speed of light as it travels through them. This creates their sparkle. In a raw state diamonds are rounded and do not shine. They must be faceted to shine. Brazillian gold miners of the 18th century are said to have tossed away a fortune in diamonds because newly-unearthed the jewels looked like lumps of coal. I once thought a crow flying overhead was a hole in the sky.
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EUROPEANS: March 2015
Support for shows: DANIEL KNOX (London thru Norwich)
BARRY McCORMACK (Belfast through Cork)
Fri 6 London St Giles In The Fields—SOLD OUT!
Sat 7 Birmingham The Institute
Mon 9 Stirling Tolbooth
Tues 10 Edinburgh Pleasance Theatre
Wed 11 Glasgow St Andrews in the Square
Fri 13 Bristol St Georges
Sun 15 Gateshead Gateshead Old Town Hall
Mon 16 Leeds Irish Centre
Tues 17 Reading Sub 89
Wed 18 Sheffield Memorial Hall
Fri 20 Liverpool The Leaf
Sat 21 Manchester The Martin Harris Centre
Sun 22 Cardiff Globe
Mon 23 Norwich Norwich Arts Centre
Wed 25 Belfast Empire Music Hall
Thrs 26 Limerick Dolans
Fri 27 Dublin Whelans
Sat 28 Cork Crane Lane Theatre
available thru Plugd Records +353 (0) 21 427 6300
Sun 29 Cork Crane Lane Theatre
available thru Plugd Records +353 (0) 21 427 6300
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About 50 light years from us there’s a gigantic white dwarf star that is believed to have at its center a diamond weighing 10 billion trillion trillion carats. White dwarf stars are the burnt cores of dying stars. A white dwarf's light is about a 2000th as bright as a living star. Our own sun will eventually burn up all its hydrogen, collapse inward and solidify into a diamond. During its death throws our sun will swallow the earth, vaporize it then radiate its ashes outward toward the edge of the universe. Pack lightly for the trip, fellow earthlings. We can buy what we need when we get there.
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WEST COAST AMERICANS: April 2015
April 24 Indio, CA at Stagecoach Festival
April 25 San Francisco, CA at The Chapel
April 28 Arcata, CA, The Playhouse
April 29 Cottage Grove, OR at Axe & Fiddle
April 30 Portland, OR at Doug Fir Lounge
May 1 Seattle, WA at The Triple Door
May 2 Bellingham, WA at Green Frog Acoustic Tavern
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In Buddhist practice the 'diamond mind' refers to a sense of limitlessness gained by stopping all thought (even while asleep). It also refers to the Boddhisatva Vajrasatva who reached a state of perfect wisdom in which his mind was an infinite mirror reflecting the pure truth of reality. There’s a 100-word mantra you can repeat to get in touch with him. I prefer to practice the skeleton meditation in which you visualize your skeleton bone-by-bone then visualize the bones collapsing into pieces then crumbling to dust then blowing away. Pack lightly for this trip too. Nothing fits the same once you have dispersed into dust.
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Have you heard Andrew Bird’s record of Handsome Family covers— Things are Really Great Here Sort Of.
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Some scientists believe that diamonds rain down on Saturn and Jupiter. Lightning storms high above these planets turn the existing methane gas into carbon soot which hardens as it falls and turns into diamonds. Huge regions of these planets may be inundated with diamond hailstones. All of our planet's diamonds may not have originated here. Scientists believe there are also ‘space diamonds’ which appear to be much older than other diamonds and are usually not found near diamond mines. Experts (and conspiracy theorists) believe that space diamonds were deposited here by interstellar meteorites that crashed into our planet about 3 billion years ago. Did jellyfish arrive here in this manner? Did the first humans? Are dinosaurs hibernating at the center of the hollow earth? Walk lightly friends. We don’t want to wake them.
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Through the Trees and Singing Bones are both now available as vinyl LPs!
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Marie Diamond offers a Diamond dowsing seminar at her own Quantum University. She also sells “Professional Brass Dousing Rods” for $48. One testimonial on her website reads, "“I have a rental property that had been nothing but trouble. Every couple that has ever lived there has had terrible marital problems and split up. The yard was always a mess and the house a disaster. The length of time the tenants stayed was getting shorter and shorter with some lasting only 3 months. The last woman left her 9 year old child in the house and left town… I took the Diamond Dowsing course and the transformation was amazing! The next tenants cleaned all the garbage from the yard and they started phoning me to see if there was anything else they could do for me. The inside of the house is well-kept and everyone seems very happy. Another amazing thing is the outlets on the kitchen counter started working again and they hadn’t worked for years. The air in the house feels warm and comfortable. Thank you!”
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Best wishes for the new year from fellow diamond dowser, Rennie
How do, fellow travelers through time and space, herein find the latest schemes of THE HANDSOME FAMILY as well as a look at the terrible age of CRIMPING. Be well-warned of poisoned drink and The Handsome Family's approach...
The terms ‘crimping’ and ‘Shanghaiing’ refer to the practice of forcing men to work on ships by trickery, violence or intimidation. The practice flourished in port cities of the UK and America during the late 1800’s. Once a sailor was signed to a ship he faced imprisonment if he tried to leave. All the crimp had to do was forge a man’s signature and get him on a ship. The ‘boarding masters’ of ships were often paid by the body and so it was in their best interest to get as many sailors on board as possible. The payment per body was called ‘blood money’. The most common way of crimping was to render a man unconscious, forge his signature then dump him in the hold of a ship. By the time the man awoke he was out to sea. Often these men were not able to return home for many years. To prevent the escape of their crew such ships often anchored 5 miles out to sea and carefully monitored who was allowed ashore. Even this did not stop desperate men from fleeing. One boat anchored off the cost of Alaska found that several men jumped off into the freezing sea.
HANDSOME FAMILY— EUROPEAN TOUR DATES!
James Kelly, better known as "Shanghai" Kelly, was an American crimp. In the early 1870s, Kelly was reported to have Shanghaied 100 men in a single evening. Renting a paddle steamer, he announced that he was hosting a free booze cruise to celebrate his birthday, and to say thank you to his fellow crimps who had helped him over the years. After leaving port, his bartenders served opium-laced whiskey to the guests and then offloaded their unconscious bodies onto awaiting ships.
VAGUE PLANS… In MARCH, 2015 we’re planning a return to the UK and Ireland
In APRIL, 2015 we’re heading to the west coast of USA
More details to come.
Joseph “ King of Crimps" Kelly of Portland, Oregon claimed to have crimped over 2,000 men and women during his 15-year career. Kelly was known for providing a crewman that turned out to be a cigar-store Indian wrapped in a tarpaulin as well as for selling off several unconscious prostitutes (whom he had dressed as seamen). One night Kelly happened upon a group of dead and dying men in the cellar of Johnson & Sons Undertakers. They had broken into what they thought was the cellar of the saloon next door and mistakenly drank formaldehyde thinking that the wooden kegs held beer. Instead of calling for help for the poisoned men, Kelly sold them all.
SHIRTS… We have a NEW T-SHIRT featuring my art of an alchemical salamander potion.
WHEN INSOMNIA STRIKES… I've been making late-night art, especially in hotel rooms while on tour. I’ve been selling these small, colored-marker pieces exclusively at the merch table during live shows. Come out to a show and get a chance to buy an original work or to see what runs through my mind late at night. Laugh at the marker stains across my wrists and palms!
A Laplander named Nikko would lure his mark into Miss Piggott’s saloon and maneuver him until he was standing over a trapdoor. Miss Piggott would then pour a cocktail "composed of equal parts of whisky, brandy and gin, with a goodly lacing of laudanum or opium," While the victim was reeling from the impact of the drink Miss Piggott would hit him over the head then pull a lever to drop him into the basement. Miss Piggott provided a mattress below to break the victim’s fall, but only so that these men would remained uninjured before their sale.
VINYL… We are excited to announce that very soon (hopefully by November 4) Carrot Top will be releasing our albums 'Through the Trees' and 'Singing Bones’ on vinyl LP. You can pre-order your copies here and now and we’ll send them out when they arrive here from the factory.
One victim, Robert Hay, was walking in London when he was accosted by a person in seamen's dress who tapped him on the shoulder and asked, “What ship?” Before Hays could even respond the man whistled and Hays found himself surrounded by 8 men who dragged him through the streets and onto a ship. Another victim said he met a man in a dark street near the Spokane train station. They chatted briefly and then the man drew something from his pocket and struck the victim on the head. "I must have lost consciousness,” the victim said. “For when I awoke I was in a box car in the railroad yards at Tacoma. On leaving the car, I was accosted by a stranger, who invited me to eat with him, and being hungry and without money, I accepted the invitation. We went into a restaurant, and while eating I noticed that the coffee had a peculiar taste, and remarked about it to my companion, who assured me it was all right. I do not remember anything from that time until I awoke on board a ship three days out at sea.”
Be wary of strong drinks and trap doors, my friends. See you at a show! I’ll try to clean the marker off my hands. XO RENNIE
Welcome FRIENDS, old and new, to a tale of ancient oceans & future tour dates. Herein find the story of the TRILOBITE as well as the little waves made by THE HANDSOME FAMILY as we sail the invisible sea of song....
Half a billion years ago, long before the age of humans or of dinosaurs, our world was covered in TRILOBITES. For 300 million years they were the dominant species on Earth. In comparison, there are only traces of humans going back about 200,000 years. It's hard to imagine that we might continue on for another 299 million years or even for another one million years when already it seems that all the trees along the highways of America are fluttering with plastic bags. Trilobites were marine invertebrates with hard exoskeletons covering rows of segmented legs. They may have been the ancient ancestors of the horseshoe crab. I grew up on a stretch of the Long Island shore that was teeming with horseshoe crabs. We often found carved stone arrow-heads lying in the sand and once I found the remains of a covered wagon in the woods. I also found a stolen ten-speed bike and a half-drunk bottle of vodka.
Researchers have found evidence that TRILOBITES were highly social creatures. They migrated long distances in a head-to-tail procession and gathered in huge numbers to mate. It appears that trilobites molted off their carapaces to copulate. Sexual selection was competitive. Scientists believe that some of the more extreme features found in trilobite fossils— oversized head horns, curlicued shoulder spines, eyestalks that extend upward like periscopes — were male features designed to do nothing else but attract the female eye. Speaking of eyes— trilobite eyes had a unique structure not found in any other living creature. Their lenses were built of calcite crystals. They literally had, 'a stony stare'. Each of their eyes held hundreds of tiny crystals, arranged in a honeycomb pattern. Trilobite eyes worked best in low light. Scientists believe this was because trilobites often retreated into deep water and mud to escape predators. I wonder if perhaps it just felt good to dive down into the mud? I used to love to bury my legs in the sand at the beach and then slowly pull them free
Time passed quickly for TRILOBITES. The length of Earth days has been increasing ever since our moon was formed. Before we had a moon it is estimated that our days lasted only 2-3 hours, but the moon's tug has gradually slowed down the Earth's turning as the moon pulls away. A trilobite-era day probably lasted about 20 hours. One day in the future the moon will break free of us. I don't know how long days will be after that, but I do know that we are all destined to be reunited— trilobites, dinosaurs, humans, plastic bags and moons— at the edge of infinity when our universe is done exploding.
TRILOBITE bodies were segmented so they could roll up into protective balls to defend against predators or rough sea currents. Three-banded Brazilian armadillos can curl up into a ball to protect themselves from predators, but most armadillos instead jump into the air when threatened thus making them even more likely to be hit by oncoming cars. Armadillos the size of small cars once foraged prehistoric South America. This was long after the trilobites had passed into fossils and long after the great ocean retreated that once covered the New Mexican desert where I am typing these words. You can still find seashell fossils embedded in the high cliffs of the Sandia mountains around Albuquerque. On a clear day you can see for hundreds of miles. The sky is blue the whole way.
PS: Hope to see you at a show
Buy it: iTUNESGreetings to far-flung friends and cactus lovers...
If you've seen the HBO show "True Detective" then you may have noticed that they've chosen our song, "Far From Any Road" for their opening sequence. Many new fans have written asking us to explain the 'meaning' of this song. There is, of course, a simple answer to this question, but it involves imbibing the boiled pulp of the hallucinogenic San Pedro cactus. Herein find our latest TOUR DATES as well as a guide to what you may expect with your first San Pedro cactus experience (recipe not included)...
USA TOUR DATES:
The San Pedro cactus has been used since ancient times. In Peru the tradition is unbroken for over 3,000 years. The earliest depiction of the cactus is a carving from about 1300 bc. The Quechua name for it is 'punku' which means ‘doorway’. One user described his San Pedro experience this way at erowid.org: "We decided to visit the cactus greenhouse. What met us was a buzzing flux of life that held us spellbound for about half hour – we literally stood leaning over the handrail stroking various cacti in mute appreciative silence. It was like we could tangibly feel their life force – they somehow seemed wise and at the same time sad, as if being in such an artificial environment had sapped them of some vital force. They reminded me of caged animals in a zoo. All of them appeared to be moving and vibrating and whispering to us and to each other – I got quite a few spines in my fingers as I stood there stroking and marveling at them..."
EUROPEAN TOUR DATES
San Pedro cactus, according to its users, is a teacher plant. It teaches the user that there is no such thing as an inanimate object. Everything in the universe is alive and has a spirit. I hope our songs can be 'teachers' too (and without the need for extensive boiling of cactus pulp or the risk of many small needles embedded in your skin).
Thanks to all of our friends, old and new, for the kind words regarding our foray into HBO land. May we all (even those without premium cable channels) find ourselves listening to whispers in the moon's light tonight. We need not sip magic cactus juice in order to see the beauty of the stars.
Greetings fellow traveler, today THE HANDSOME FAMILY embarks on a journey down the west coast of North America and considers deeply the heart of the carrot and the pea...
Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose was born in 1858 in what is today Bangladesh. Bose was a physicist, a biologist, a botanist, and an archaeologist. He was the first person from the Indian subcontinent to receive a U.S. patent, and is considered one of the fathers of radio science. Around 1900, Bose began his investigations into the secret world of plants.
Bose invented a machine called the crescograph which recorded the minute movements of a plant's leaves or roots in reaction to various stimuli. He found that all plants, and all parts of plants, have a sensitive nervous system not unlike that of animals. Some plant reactions can be seen easily in plants like the Mimosa, which, when irritated, will react with the sudden shedding or shrinking of its leaves. But when Bose attached his crescograph to plants from which it was more difficult to witness a response he was astounded to discover that they, too, became excited when vexed. All around us, Bose realized, plants are communicating. We just don't see it...
NOVEMBER, WEST COAST TOUR DATES:
Bose discovered that an electric death spasm occurs in plants when they die, and that the actual moment of death in a plant could be accurately recorded. The electromotive force generated during the death spasm is sometimes considerable. Bose calculated that a pea, for instance, could discharge up to a volt of electricity as it died. Thus, if 500 peas were arranged in a series, the electric pressure would be 500 volts, enough to seriously injure a human being. Bose wrote. “It is fortunate for [the average cook] that boiling peas are not arranged in series!”
His 1902 paper “Responses in the Living and Non-Living” contains a chapter comparing the electrical impulse response of the skins of a frog, a lizard, and a tortoise to the skins of tomatoes and grapes. He found few differences. Bose found that plants grew more quickly when exposed to nice music and gentle whispers, and more slowly when exposed to harsh music and loud speech. Plant growth was also slowed by exposure to polluted air or even the passing of dark clouds across the sky...
DEC 4: Rennie's lecture at The New School, NYC
Rennie will talk about wildebeest, termites and the songs of Stephen Foster with
special singing guest, Brett Sparks!
Bose believed in the fundamental unity of all life, both plant and animal tissue as well as the fundamental unity of all matter. Bose was the first scientist to study inorganic matter in the same way a biologist examines a muscle or a nerve. Bose found that, just like plants, the “non-living” responded when subjected to mechanical, thermal, and electrical stimuli.
Bose never sought to convince humans of some fundamental 'humanness' within all matter. Rather he sought to show humans that considering the commonalities between all matter in our universe offers us a deeper sense of the real connections between our own living cells and that of the particles that surround us.
NEXT YEAR: Dates in Europe for March and May are in the works!
PS. parts of these amazing Bose facts were taken from an article by Stefany Anne Golberg at www.thesmartset.com
Gentle Reader, herein find HANDSOME FAMILY TOUR DATES & DOINGS as well as strange symptoms of genius that plagued NIKOLA TESLA...
**************My sight and hearing were always extraordinary. I could clearly discern objects in the distance when others saw no trace of them. Several times in my boyhood I saved the houses of our neighbors from fire by hearing the faint crackling sounds which did not disturb their sleep... In 1899, when I was past forty and carrying on my experiments in Colorado, I could hear very distinctly thunderclaps at a distance of 550 miles...In Budapest I could hear the ticking of a watch with three rooms between me and the time-piece. A fly alighting on a table in the room would cause a dull thud in my ear. A carriage passing at a distance of a few miles fairly shook my whole body. The whistle of a locomotive twenty or thirty miles away made the bench or chair on which I sat vibrate so strongly that the pain was unbearable. The ground under my feet trembled continuously. I had to support my bed on rubber cushions to get any rest at all...The sun's rays, when periodically intercepted, would cause blows of such force on my brain that they would stun me. I had to summon all my will power to pass under a bridge or other structure as I experienced a crushing pressure on the skull. In the dark I had the sense of a bat and could detect the presence of an object at a distance of twelve feet by a peculiar creepy sensation on the forehead. My pulse varied from a few to two hundred and sixty beats and all the tissues of the body quivered with twitchings and tremors ...A renowned physician who gave me daily large doses of Bromide of Potassium pronounced my malady unique and incurable...
HANDSOME FAMILY TOUR DATES!
EEL GUITAR & FROG GUITAR: Hopefully by late November Rennie will have for sale the first in a series of painted electric guitars that feature creatures from, "Wilderness" (also a few paintings for sale). As always, Rennie still accepts commissioned portrait work of beloved animals and humans. You can email her for further info.
EUROPE: We're working on tour dates in March and in May of 2014 for many areas of Europe.
**************One afternoon I was enjoying a walk with my friend in the City Park and reciting poetry. At that age I knew entire books by heart, word for word. One of these was Goethe's "Faust." The sun was just setting and reminded me of the glorious passage:
The glow retreats, done is the day of toil;
It yonder hastes, new fields of life exploring;
Ah, that no wing can lift me from the soil
Upon its track to follow, follow soaring!
A glorious dream! though now the glories fade.
Alas! the wings that lift the mind no aid
Of wings to lift the body can bequeath me.
As I uttered these inspiring words the idea came like a flash of lightning...I drew with a stick on the sand the diagrams shown six years later in my address before the American Institute of Electrical Engineers...The images I saw were wonderfully sharp and clear and had the solidity of metal and stone, so much so that I told my companion: "See my motor here; watch me reverse it." I cannot begin to describe my emotions.
from, "MY INVENTIONS" by Nikola Tesla, 1919, Electrical Experimenter Magazine
Greetings Surface Dwellers! Herein find subterranean news of THE HANDSOME FAMILY as well as a beginner's guide to the ancient art of WORM CHARMING....
WORM CHARMING, worm grunting, and worm fiddling are all methods of attracting earthworms up from the ground. Methods of worm charming usually involve vibrating the soil to call worms to the surface. Often this is done by sticking a pitchfork in the ground and rocking it back and forth. One contestant at the World Worm Charming Championship in Cheshire, UK; however, was seen tap-dancing on a wooden plank to the theme from Star Wars in attempts to call worms. Another contestant hit a xylophone with glass bottles. The current world champion worm-charmer is 14-year-old Sophie Smith of Willaston, UK who raised 567 worms during Britain's 2009 World Worm Charming Championship. All worms were returned to the ground after the contest.
HANDSOME FAMILY TOUR DATES...JUNE, JULY, BEYOND
WORM GRUNTING refers to the use of a wooden stake that is driven into the ground, and a piece of metal which is used to rub the stake. Worm grunting can be done with a chain saw. The chain is taken off the saw and the blade is stuck into the ground to vibrate. Worm fiddling involves sticking a pitchfork into the ground and then 'twanging' the handle. It is also called, 'worm snoring'. These days, large earthworms are not generally caught at the two worm fiddling contests held in Florida. Jack Palmer of Alabama explained, "When I was a little boy they were huge, don't know what happened. of course, in those days there weren't no armadillos. I just don't know what happened to them, they just aren't there no more. I call them little sand worms now, the ones snored up now."
Rennie's article on SONGWRITING in the New York Times!
DOWNLOAD Rennie's book, "Wilderness" for Kindle
Take a gander at our new merch....
POSTER, POSTCARDS, TROUT SHIRT
SCIENTISTS theorize that vibrations made by worm charming mimic the sound of digging moles and so cause a 'pronounced escape response' in earthworms. Moles eat earthworms and so, the worms, hearing what they think is an approaching mole are actually running for their life (or as close to running as worms can get). Both wood turtles and herring gulls also vibrate the ground to elicit worm flight response. Wood turtles stomp on the ground. Gulls paddle their feet in muddy pools of water. Both the gulls and the turtles eat earthworms. Humans who have eaten earthworms are reported to have developed parasites causing extensive organ damage. Other known side effects of eating earthworms are low mood, occasional vomiting and what one doctor could only describe as, 'wordlessness'. Earthworms eat dirt. They pull nutrients from the soil that are pieces of decaying roots and leaves as well as animal manure, bacteria, fungi, and decomposing flesh. Some earthworms come up out of the earth at night and pull fallen leaves down into their burrows. They wait for the leaf to soften and then eat it. I once ate the apple of a prickly pear and heard voices whispering just behind my ear for nearly two hours. What did the voices say you might ask? I believe they were saying, "Worms, worms, worms... Sometimes even worms are afraid."
PS. Please tell friends about our upcoming tour dates! Hope to see you at our next show! Unlike the earthworm that survives on dirt. We survive on word of mouth, one ear at a time, passing our songs along. Thank you!
PPS. The 34th World Worm Charming Championships are being held at 2pm on Saturday 22nd June 2013 at Willaston County Primary School, Willaston, Nantwich, Cheshire, CW5 6QQ. Good luck!
APRIL, 2013... THE NIGHT OF EMERGENCE APPROACHES...
Across the eastern USA CICADAS will soon emerge from the soil after 17 years of life underground.
THE HANDSOME FAMILY, too, is preparing to leave off its diet of liquid extruded from tree roots and emerge, at last, into the air. Herein, friends, find tips to differentiate between these two naturally-occuring phenomena as well as NEWS and TOUR DATES for THE HANDSOME FAMILY...
Wilderness... released May 14, PRE-ORDER NOW!
WILDERNESS, THE CD: the new Handsome Family album (or VINYL LP w/ free digital download). Tall tales, mountain legends, amazing animals and historic figures all twine their way through our new forest of songs.
WILDERNESS, THE BOOK: Essays and art by Rennie that expand on the songs of "Wilderness" and lead off on further journeys through ant spirals, octopus dances, immortal jellyfish, and more.
WILDERNESS, THE BOX SET: Includes "Wilderness" LP (with free digital download) as well as a full-color, 12" x12" version of "Wilderness" book, exclusive poster and postcards, all with art by Rennie.
NEW SHIRT: as if that isn't enough we also have a new jumping trout shirt for sale with art drawn by Rennie!
While both THE HANDSOME FAMILY and the CICADA are spotted above soil only in cycles of prime numbers, are not able to sing merely by popping muscles in their abdomen as is the THE HANDSOME FAMILYCICADA. Females of both species flick their wings in response to song, but only the 17-year CICADA is capable of laying 600 eggs within a small crevice dug into tree bark. While THE HANDSOME FAMILY will not damage tree bark, it will ruin a suitcase fairly quickly and is often found attempting to check into B&Bs at 3am and then dragging said suitcase up three flights of narrow stairs lined with milkmaid figurines on a fruitless quest to find its ground floor room.
MAY TOUR DATES IN THE UK AND USA
While both CICADAS and THE HANDSOME FAMILY have red eyes, only the CICADA has a smaller groupings of three, jewel-like eyes situated between their two main eyes to help to detect light and dark. THE HANDSOME FAMILY can not see a guitar pick dropped on the floor in broad daylight. Do not stare directly into the eyes of either creature. Victims of such impromptu staring contests have found themselves 'coming to' high in the creaking branches of old sycamores with no ladder in sight.
JUNE AND JULY TOUR DATES IN THE USA
CICADAS do not sting or bite. If caught, males make a loud defensive buzzing sound that may startle. THE HANDSOME FAMILY is equally defenseless and will emit a high-pitched keening when cornered and asked, "How's the tour going?" Such catca