Like Mother Like Son

Like Mother Like Son

Growing up my mom (Baylen’s) would frequently tell stories of her semester in Austria. Salzburg was her favorite adventure as a young person. She loved the castles and cathedrals, the grazing cows and inexpensive chocolate bars, and most of all the Kapeller Family that hosted her during her semester of study. The Kapellers were the quintessential Austrian family, against which my sister and I were constantly compared. Our childhood antics and American insolence “would NEVER be tolerated” at the heavenly cottage on the hill in Kasern, Austria. Needless to say, my sister and I shared many skeptical glances throughout the 90’s.
My mother’s description of Austria was the stuff of fairytales. It was our childhood bedtime story that helped us make sense of the dubious claim that my mother was once a young person in school. “You mean you studied other subjects besides being a mom and torturing children with piles of nasty tasting vitamins? I don’t believe it!”
Then, in the summer of 2016, I took a trip through Europe with my best friend and our string instruments. We saw Scotland, England, and Italy, before we landed in Austria. We arrived in Salzburg and immediately climbed a mountain to recreate our own Sound of Music photo shoot. You can read about that in our previous blog post.

 

The following day, I asked Ben to help me seek out some family history. He was doubtful we would find anything, and truthfully so was I, but he agreed nonetheless and I was grateful. He is a skilled navigator, and I am not. I pick up curious details of my surroundings and often deduce useful knowledge, but I usually can’t tell which direction we are traveling. It’s a weakness I’ve come to terms with.
Ben and I looked up the Lindner Haus, a hostel in Kasern, just north of Salzburg proper. We estimated the distance as a manageable hike so we set out. The Linder’s were a family that hosted my aunt, Corinne, just after my mother stayed with the Kapellers. If anyone would know the whereabouts of the Kapeller family, it would be a Lindner.
We hiked for roughly an hour along bike paths and small roads until we reached a steep hill dotted with houses. On our right a sign read, Lindner Haus. To our left a little further on was a train station (which we absolutely could have used to travel there faster, but we frequently forgo that kind of…intelligence.)

imageAs we climbed the hill an enchanting view of Salzburg was laid out to our left. I found myself wondering if my mother gazed on the same vista, and how different it might have looked decades ago. What does it mean to feel nostalgia for a place you’ve never actually seen before? Was it some trick of my inner child’s imagination. Was it something inherited that my mother passed to me in spirit or body? All I know is that a wave of surrealism hit me then and only continued to grow as the next few hours played out.

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We climbed to the top of the hill and found the Lindner House. We knocked and rang the doorbell, but much as we expected, no one was home. Ben was definitely ready to call it quits, his midwestern agitation at imposing on a strange neighborhood was visible. I could not allow myself such a quick retreat, though. It was far too momentous just to be in Kasern. My inner child would never forgive me if I did not exhaust my options.
I knocked on the next door, and introduced myself when a dark-haired man in glasses answered. He switched to English quickly and nodded vigorously when I mentioned the Lindners and the Kapellers. “Sure, sure,” he said, “The Lindners are not home, but let me go make a call.”
He stepped back into the house and in just a few moments, a bright-faced woman approached us from around the back of the house. She introduced herself as Ms. Christine. Her sister is the Lindner family member that runs the guest house next door. Hers is also a hostel. I quickly explained my reason for intruding and she took us over to see the back of the Lindner home. We snapped a few photos and explained ourselves a bit further.
Our explanation must have put her at ease, because next she invited us into her home and offered us some water. She got out her phone book to make a call and looked at me brightly when she finished. “Ms. Kapeller just got home. She would be happy to see you.” I was floored.
Ben and I offered to show our gratitude in the best way we know – with music. Ms. Christine asked if she could invite down her current guests to listen, and we immediately agreed. Wormwood played a set to our lovely host and her four Australian charges. We made a few friends and then packed up to go down and see Ms. Kapeller.

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When I called hello, a kind-eyed woman came around a fence corner to shake my hand. I managed an awkward smile as I tried to prepare my words. It’s a strange thing to say, “Hello, my name is Baylen Wagner. I’m the son of Carlyn Hints, a young lady you hosted 38 years ago. You met her then-boyfriend, Duke Wagner when he came to visit. He’s my dad…errrrr…Nice to meet you?” But that is exactly what I did, and Ms. Kapeller couldn’t have been kinder!
She invited us into her yard and we talked about her family and mine. She remembered my mother and my father, how they got special permission to stay in the same room once, and how they climbed a nearby hill to a church and signed the guest ledger as a couple in love. She told me how her daughters, Ulli and Petra, whom my mother had mentioned many times, live in Salzburg still. One of them even owns the house next door and they both have children, some very close in age to Ben and me.

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We played music for Ms. Kapeller and we visited for at least two hours. In just that short amount of time, I could see exactly what my mother described. This woman was sincere and kind and well-mannered and strong. She told a story about a young child she met on holiday who was clearly spoiled. She told us how she set him straight in a very firm way and made friends with both the child and his mother. The fourteen-year-old in me was jumping up and down saying, “Your mom wasn’t lying! Listen to that kind-but-serious tone of voice!” The feeling of surrealism continued to mount.
I used the internet to show Ms. Kapeller pictures of my family and helped her download one picture to show her daughters later on. It struck me how unlikely it was my mother would have ever gotten word to this woman if I had not physically made a trip to Austria. She did not have a Facebook account, possibly not even an e-mail. Hers is not a global generation. The world is small, yes, but there are people that still remain out of reach.
After much talk and several hugs and photos, we parted ways and started our trek back to Salzburg proper. I smiled unabashedly the whole rest of that day. It was like a piece of my childhood had been recovered. This wonderful place that my mother praised so highly was real. The family that practically informed my mother’s parenting style was alive and well. I had travelled through time and space to bring a relic into focus. I’m grateful beyond words to unnamed neighbors, Ms. Christine, and most of all Ms. Kapeller for showing me and Ben such kindness. There are wonderful people the world over, and I’ve got stories to prove it.

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The Hills Are Alive

The Hills Are Alive

I am
Landscapes
Clouds
Flora
and the Light shining upon them

I am
Sky
Lakes
Mountains
and the Beasts thriving within them

We are
Earth
Sun
Wind
and Water manifest into Spirit
momentarily captured
between physical borders

-BD 7/5/16

On Saturday we successfully made our way from Peschiera del Garda to Verona to Brenner to Innsbruck to Salzburg. Four trains with a collective layover time of only around an hour. Twenty minutes after arriving in Salzburg, we were checked into our hostel and ready for an early night to bed. We have officially “leveled up” our international transit skills.

As we traveled, I was fascinated at how quickly the culture changed along with the landscape. From blazing sun, palm trees, and endless fields of vines quickly into mountains shrouded in clouds, cooler weather, and coniferous trees. Along with that, “Grazie” became “Danke,” leathered skin and loose fitting clothes became fair skinned and lederhosen (for those dressed more traditionally), and the architecture was transformed. It made me consider in a new way Dr. Suzuki’s words “Man is the child of his environment.”

On Sunday, we were successfully the worst Salzburg tourists, yet perhaps the best adventurers. We got a fairly early start and found a nice public garden to play a couple of sets to warm up for the day. We then followed our ears to discover something that was familiar to my (Ben) eyes and ears, yet in a new place. A community band! Growing up and continuing to play with the Oskaloosa City Band is/was always a treat. So, here’s an Austrian shout-out to those keeping the music alive.

Afterwards, we decided to pay our respects to Mozart by offering up my viola as a tribute.

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In the spirit of being the worst tourists, we decided not to do the paid tour of his home, rather to improvise a set of music across the street in dedication to this great 18th century improviser. We set up inside of a piece of public art and amassed a small, curious, and appreciative audience.

We continued to explore Salzburg free of any paid tours and Baylen was once again able to afford us the opportunity to play in an enormous cathedral. We’ve come to discover that Baylen has a wonderful strength for approaching people and gaining permission for us to make music in spectacular public spaces or simply for finding the right people in the most unexpected of places (more on that in the next post). I, on the other hand, am learning of my midwestern roots and “don’t want to impose.” We certainly balance each other out as travel companions.

On the flip side of that coin, the balance that I’m able to offer is to say…

Ben: “Hey Baylen! Forget the Sound of Music Tour! Let’s make our own. Look at that place that is far away and up high with no clear roads, maps, or trails guiding us there. That’s where we’re going with our instruments!”

Baylen: “You’re crazy.”

Ben: “Yup, let’s go!”

And so began our 2.5 hour hike up Gaisberg. First on roads, then on trails, then back on roads, then on remote backcountry trails up to this…

We had an appreciative audience of two that stumbled across our performance on their way down the mountain. So appreciative that they even offered us a ride back down the mountain to our hostel. Thank you so much Joanna and Reinhold!! We polished off the day with boiled beef, potatoes, vegetables, and a delicious Weissbier (or two).

Needless to say, it was a full 12 hours in Salzburg. Stay tuned for an equally eventful day two.

Friendly Waters

Friendly Waters

Sailing

Flying in the face
of shy and
stranger
these friends extended
a rope to us
and we climbed aboard.

In body we spent
the day on the waves,
in mind we swam
amid the disorder
of mistranslations
and delightful queries.

Smiles
were the only
life-preserve
that counted.

BW 06/30/16

Yesterday Wormwood had a hearty breakfast of fruit and bread with bread and cheese and more toasted bread #Italy and then set out to play some music. We recorded a set in the grass beside a harbor at the center of town. We then walked up the coastline of Garda Lake and found a picturesque walkway to make a video for our friend Brian Lenz.

As we played, Baylen noticed small groups of children and adults gathering across the channel. They seemed intrigued, but he thought nothing of it until three young people approached in a small motor-raft. At first, they tried to greet us in Italian. NOPE! We quickly offered our eight-word vocabulary to indicate that we only speak English. The lead young man, who we later came to know as Umberto, did his best. “I like your playing. Have lunch with us? Pasta for some music?” Ben and I exchanged a quick look that said, “Sure! Why not?!” and we hopped into the small raft, instruments and all.

Lunch was a mushroom rotini and a fresh peach. We were even offered beer and wine, which we eventually accepted on the persistent generosity of Chicco. Come to find out that he and Donatella manage a sailing school. The host of multi-age Italians that greeted us were students or assistant teachers at the summer school. Some spoke broken English and many spoke none at all. It was the kind of hospitality we both had secretly hoped to encounter through our music.

After lunch and a round of wine, we set up near the lakeside and played a private Wormwood concert for everyone. Smiles were big and there was even some dancing. It’s good we didn’t have to try and explain our lyrics ūüėõ

The hospitality didn’t end there! Soon we got invited to go out in a sailboat and attend a birthday barbecue in the evening. We accepted on both accounts. Ben quickly donned three coats of sunscreen and we set out on the water. There was not much wind so the experience was relaxing and without a risk of capsizing. We even got a chance to try the rudder! Keeping conversation was a group dance. Some words were missed, but through their knowledge of English and our limited skills in Spanish, cognates were located and most questions answered. The important thing was humor and facial expression.

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Later that night, we met up with some of the teaching assistants and walked to a nearby home. One young lady was turning seventeen and her friends were convinced that our music would make a perfect gift. We were excited to see the non-tourist side of Peschiera del Garda and eat home-cooked food. Guess what?!?! No pasta or bread! The main course was a rice casserole with meats and vegetables. This gave us the perfect opportunity to spread the gospel of the Minnesota tater-tot hotdish. Google was critical to that endeavor. We played a few sets and Baylen even busted out some solo Bach on Felicity the Cello by request. When the sun set, we bid our young friends goodbye and thanked them for their spontaneous hospitality.

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To all those that were there that day, thank you for your generosity of spirit and for showing us a different side of Italy!

Shout Outs!

Shout Outs!

We’ve been making a lot of music and meeting a lot of people these past couple of weeks. This hasn’t left us a lot of time for getting all of our shout-out videos uploaded. So, here are 6 performances dedicated to 6 wonderful people that helped us out during our IndieGogo campaign!

Tom Alane – This video was taken during our night in Turin. Cheers!

Bonnie Anderson – This performance was from our favorite busking stairwell in Edinburgh.

Andrew Burgdorf – From Queen Mary’s Gardens in London to Buffalo, MN. Here’s to you!

Aaron Lockridge – Taken during our cello/viola hike on the Cinque Terre in Italy.

Kleinman Family – Near the harbor at Peschiera Del Garda, we sat down to play a set for you. You’ll see a charming young family from Bruges, Belgium enjoying the music and the day.

Brian Lenz – Here are the whitest thighs you’ll ever see at the edge of the lake at Peschiera Del Garda, Italy.

Little Big Connections

Little Big Connections

I speak
the message is lost
You speak
I haven’t a clue

I sing
melody meets ears
You sing
harmony is born

I play
rhythm is shared
You groove
the dance begins

-BD 6/28/16

Music has been opening doors in little big ways. In Turin, we played a set to the audience of a mother and daughter. They spoke no English, we speak no Italian. The girl was clapping along to our rhythm and fully present with the music. Afterwards we invited her to approach to pluck the strings of our instruments to see what they were like (mostly by smiling, offering out the instruments, and demonstrating plucking). She shyly and curiously approached with the encouragement of her mother and tested out the strings with her small fingers. The mother thanked us, “Grazie!” and they continued about their day.

Here’s a video from the Parliament building in Genoa and is dedicated to Michelle Hoyt. We have several dedicated videos that will be coming soon as their own separate posts.

Serendipitude

Serendipitude

We are only
so strong
and so weak
as when we
dream together.

Seven times seven
men could
stand abreast
and cover the
Earth with love,

But just so many
men could
dash the hopes
of nations.

When we strive
for grandeur
we find cages of
bone and
nets of expectation
that might catch
fish if not
for all the
loopholes.

Yet I say,
stand with me,
nod to my dreams
and I will
honor yours
in my words
and my deeds.

BW 06/24/16

 

We’re finally¬†here in Genoa, Italy!¬†We’ve been attempting to get here since Thursday morning…here’s a brief look at our efforts to get out of the UK and to the Mediterranean.
Wednesday night in London:
Ben: “Baylen, look at these flights to Turin!! 60 pounds a seat! We could get 3 seats to Italy for the cost of one Eurostar ticket to Paris!”
Baylen: “That’s awesome, especially considering that the EuroCup, which we didn’t know was happening, is being hosted in France making everything booked up and extra expensive. I think we should skip over France and come back later in life.¬†Let’s roll a handful of 20-sided dice, each assigned to a different element, to see what the fates say.”
Ben: “Would you look at that, the dice say we should go to Turin, except why is the “spirit” die a 2? Apparently our spirits will be crushed?? Naaahhh. Let’s swing by the airport tomorrow morning to purchase these 60 pound flights and get out of here!”
7:00am Thursday morning at Luton airport outside of London:
Ben: “We would like three tickets on the flight to Turin please, one for me, Baylen, and our friend Felicity the cello.”
Blue Air Staff: “Great, that will be 183 pounds….”
Baylen: “That sounds about right.”
Blue Air Staff: “per seat.”
Ben/Baylen’s Mind: “AAAAAGGGHGHGHGGAAGGGGHGGGGHHHHHGGAGGAAGHH”
Ben/Baylen’s Words: “Thank you, we’ll have to think about that for a moment.”
*Ben and Baylen get a nearby hotel, purchase tickets online at 60 pound price for Friday morning and chill out all day..*
Friday:
Ben: “I’m so glad we are finally on this plane! Genoa, here we come!!”
Baylen: “You’re telling me. Uffdah!”
Felicity the Cello: “……………..”
*Plane lands and we make our way to the train station with only moderate confusion.*
Baylen: “Uh, Ben. Look at the departures board. My Italian isn’t the best, but I think I know what ‘cancellato’ means.”
Ben: *Facepalm!* Let’s get a ticket at the customer service counter to see what is up.
*Waiting, waiting, 90 minutes of waiting.*
Customer Service Staff: “Oh yes, no trains to Genoa, or pretty much anywhere today. There is a national strike until 9pm tonight. You can get a train to Genoa tomorrow.”
Ben/Baylen’s Mind: “AAAAAAAGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Ben/Baylen’s Words: “Thank you very much, have a lovely day.”
Baylen: “Well, let’s get a place to stay in Turin and see what this place is all about…”

The serendipity of all this is that, without each unfortunate mistake or mishap, we would have passed right through Turin without a second glance and thereby missed one of our best nights so far this trip!

Turin is an old city and used to be a capital.  The architecture is gorgeous. Every building has countless windows and every window has a balcony. The streets are wide and friendly and the cafes have a stylish but inviting design that made even a couple of smelly vagabonds like ourselves feel welcome.

As we wandered we stumbled suddenly into a magnificent church, complete with golden statues and mural domes. It was lavish but tasteful, with perfect marble. We could tell immediately that the acoustics were phenomenal.¬†We were both thinking the same thing, but Ben was skeptical of our chances. I (Baylen)¬†approached the woman on staff and asked her if she was at all open to the idea of some cello and viola music. After an initial moment of translation shock, she smiled and went to see if she could turn off the feint music piping through the speakers. Soon Wormwood played a few sets under the marvelous arches. Ben also played some solo Bach suites. He is quoted saying, “Bach makes so much sense in a place like this!” The whole experience was a bit surreal. Antonella, the wonderful woman keeping watch on the place, explained that the church was built by the Jesuits in the 16th century. Nothing like 500-year-old acoustics to boost your tone! We are so grateful to Antonella for her generosity. She even offered to host a little concert for us if we wanted to come back in a few days! The takeaway for both of us, is¬†not¬†to assume things. It never hurts to ask! (Unless you’re as Midwestern as us; then it is literally painful to push social boundaries, haha.)

 

 

Soon after we dined on cured meats and a bottle of Chianti at a little meat and vino cafe at the heart of the city. The salami and ham, which was served on a wooden board, tasted just as good as we imagined it would. With stomachs full and cheeks flushed, we played music on one of the main thoroughfares of the town. Thousands of people walked by and many really enjoyed our sound. One gentlemen threw a crumpled note into our case that we mistook for garbage, but later realized was 10 Euro! The generosity of the evening was unprecedented.

After a bit, we packed up our cases and followed the tide of faces towards the main piazza and the grand castle. We began hearing fireworks as we approached, and what we saw when we arrived drove home the magic of the city. Thousands of people were gathered on the piazza and down a street for at least a half-kilometer. The sea of people must have been at least eight thousand! Everyone was watching the fireworks on the river, laughing and smiling. We could only guess as  to the cause, but it was certainly a Friday of celebration. We smiled the whole way home.

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Did we mention our hostel room had air-conditioning? Yeah, we slept like kings…slightly sunburned kings.

Solstice at Edinburgh Castle

Solstice at Edinburgh Castle

Familiar faces
in foreign places.
Spirits seeking outward
hoping to find
the essential within.

All have questions
actions
convictions
more questions
overflowing from sincerity
and an earnest hunger
to understand
one’s place
in the unfolding epic.

We are all lost.
Together.

Words can only hint at the energy of that evening. New friends who in many ways were total strangers came together with their souls on their skins. The city had grown silent as the moon rose full. The music of the spheres, of an aged city, and of present seekers was thick in the air.
It is times like these that I do not feel like a musician, rather a primitive human hoping to use this strange, yet powerful gift of music as a conduit connecting things and selves which so frequently give the illusion of separateness.
To all that were there, thank you for your presence and full participation in shared time and space.

-BD 6/23/16

Here is a video dedicated to Duke and Carlyn Wagner from atop Arthur’s Seat. Wormwood’s most adventuresome performance to date!

We Did That on Purpose!

We Did That on Purpose!

No, we really didn’t. We haven’t done much of anything as planned the last few days. We’re calling these days “Strugglefest 2012!!!” More to come on that soon. We woke up at 5:00am today to catch a train to take a bus to get on a plane to get on another train in a different country. The first few routes were successful (trains are ridiculously comfy in Europe!) but the plane travel was a bust. We opted to wait another day for non-last-minute prices to Italy. While none of this even remotely resembles any kind of plan that we’ve had before the last 12 hours, it should end up saving us about 500 US Dollars! Good life choices.

Now we are camped out at a hotel in Luton, just outside the airport. The WiFi is exceptional, so that’s a plus, and the hotel staff gave us breakfast for 2.5 pounds a person! Very generous. We must look disheveled ūüôā

But we have tickets on a plane! Three of them. Not to Venice, but to Turin, where we will hop a train and get to Genoa for our Mediterranean fix. In the meantime, we will shower/bathe and probably wash our clothing in the bathtub. Should we use hand soap or shampoo???

P.S. Continuing with the theme of unplanned happenings, we stumbled upon the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace yesterday.

Here is a video of Wormwood in Edinburgh. This one goes out to Adam Conrad. Somewhere along the Royal Mile there is a hidden garden known as Dunbar’s Close. Its immaculately trimmed hedges reminded us of Adam’s Royal Beard.

When in Rome…go to Venice

After a fantastic first week in the miserable foggy chill of the UK, Ben and I have decided we’ve had enough. While originally we planned to spend some days in London and Paris, our blood needs warming and we’ve committed ourselves to whatever travel is necessary to get our gooses to the Mediterranean. Ben has found he can’t really sleep on a bus, but maybe trains will be different. Or MAYBE he’s committed himself to a future state of sleepless delirium. Either way I’m proud of his leadership in this spur of the moment planning. There’s a good chance we will buy plane tickets to Venice.

We are a bit haphazard in mood after our first week. Sitting in a non-moving bus outside London for 40 minutes at the crack of dawn did not help. Thankfully our emotions went silly instead of sour. We think either some huge accident blocked the highway or London itself decided to play a joke on us. Prayers for the former. Curses for the latter.

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I would love to someday return to Scotland and especially Edinburgh. It’s a fantastic city with a unique layout. We didn’t do many museums, but we got a very good sense of the culture and the layers of history. I’ve never seen so many ascending and descending streets that passed over and under one another. Then there are “closes” and “wynds,” which are essentially hidden courtyards and winding staircases. One such staircase was our preferred busking spot (for acoustics and charm). Walking through Edinburgh almost felt like stepping into a Dr. Seuss book. There are countless twists, turns, and underpasses.

We tried some excellent whiskies, and even smoked some “old Toby” tobacco, courtesy of Bob Latchaw, on the slopes of Edinburgh castle. The food was nothing exceptional, but we didn’t go out of our way to find any affordable fine dining. Mostly pub fare and grocery stores kept us fed. We found Tesco had the best selection, but a little co-op had the best fresh foods and gluten-free options. The beers on tap at pubs were very good, and there are many ciders available at most places. It seems to me like a city for all ages. Many generations could enjoy living in or visiting that place. That goes double if you consider the dark age and how defensible the castle remains to this day, haha.
The UK was good to us. Don’t mistake our mock cynicism for true unhappiness. We had one great day of sun and many great days of drizzle, and we enjoyed all our time. London is a bit busy for Wormwood’s artistic pace, but it’s quite impressive. Just the same, let’s see if we can’t get to warmer climates!

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(I didn’t actually forget a toothbrush, haha.)

 

First Two Videos!

First Two Videos!

Finally!!! We have spent the afternoon taking care of some business at a cafe which gave us the time to upload two of our five videos so far. The video files are large and take approximately an hour to upload. So, I imagine the videos will likely be a little bit behind our current whereabouts as the trip continues. A huge thanks to Gino, owner of The Coffee Mill Cafe, who allowed us to enjoy some coffee, chips, and bum around for the afternoon. Enjoy our first two takes!

Here is a shout-out to Jared Shulz, our good friend and first backer on our IndieGogo campaign. This was on day 1 in Glasgow, Baylen’s cello, Felicity, was freshly purchased from the shop with a brand new set of strings. (Please forgive her temperment.)

 

Next, is our shout-out to Bob Latchaw! This is the castle in Edinburgh. You’ll notice an unladen European swallow flying by at 1:07. After we finished our set, many strange French-men popped their heads over the castle wall and began hurling insults at us. (Monty Python reference, everyone.)