Carolling, Carolling Now We Go
Posted Dec 22, 2018
'Tis the season for carolling. Melinda Kathleen Reese thinks it's also the season to let Google Translate loose on the carols. Enjoy her mini-concert:
Don Caron of The Parody Project is still gleeful about November's midterm election results. He bursts into song about the end of the 'White Congress':
Don's rhyming abilities continue to astound. Also his ability to fit complicated political ideas into pop song lyrics.
'Oh,' I hear you say (in my warped imagination). But what have *you* been doing this carolling season? It's too cold to sing outside. Also, it's too hard to carry a piano around. So Sis and I went over to the public library and played their new, slightly out-of-tune baby grand. Yes, two of the patrons were asleep. What's it to you? The ambience was restful. The overstuffed leather chairs and sofas are way too comfortable. The bear statue in the back of the main reading room didn't seem to mind the noise. He was rearing next to the Christmas tree. No, I don't know why there's a bear statue in the library.
Yes, children, that's a Carnegie library. Fittingly. Little Andy got the seed money for US Steel by harvesting oil not twenty miles from this library. These days, it's a quiet place except for the piano playing.
Happy Christmas to all!
Local Theatre News: The Christmas Pageant Opens (and Closes) Tomorrow
Posted Dec 15, 2018
It's that time of year again: the annual Christmas pageant, which will take place tomorrow morning during the Sunday School hour. I was asked to come over to the church this morning and help them practise their singing. This singing is distinct from the 'band' part, where the kids beat boomwhackers to make Christmas tunes. During that part, at least two boys will beat the boomwhackers on their heads. This is a very musical exercise.
Sitting at the piano, I observed two of the bigger girls putting on their costumes: white robes with scalloped sleeves and tinsel garlands on their heads. That made sense. Then they started putting yellow washing-up gloves on their feet, which gave me a start.
'Hey,' I said. 'I don't remember angels having claws.'
'This is obviously a new version of the Nativity Story.'
This play centres around the reaction of the animals in the stable to the birth of the Christ Child. Since the humans don't speak the same language, it being the Middle East and all, they are apparently unconcerned by the running commentary of the cow, goat, sheep, and yes, chickens. The chickens say everything in threes, like a Greek chorus.
Those chickens are going to steal the show, trust me on this.
I played 'O Little Town of Bethlehem' for them on the piano. The rest of the songs will be a cappella because, as their leader explained, 'We're never quite sure what key we'll be in.' This was fine with me: I sat back to enjoy the dialogue - which is being projected onto the screen. It will delight the audience, I have no doubt.
The sheep are rooting for Mary. 'Come on, Mary, you can do it!'
'I wonder if it will be a boy or girl?'
The goat: 'Just get it over with, I'm trying to get some sleep here!'
The baby is born. 'He looks cold.'
'That's okay, they're going to wrap him in swaddling clothes.' Such a vocabulary these animals have.
Mary places the baby in the manger.
The cow: 'Ewww! I have to eat out of that!'
I sat weeping silent tears of laughter. I wished my late mother had been there. She would have loved it. She directed Christmas pageants for years. Never did she have a chicken, or lines like that. She would have been laughing, too.
Somehow, the obligatory chorus of 'The Little Drummer Boy' seemed a fitting finish to what will no doubt be the theatrical highlight of the season in western Pennsylvania.
And just so you don't have to live without a video, here's a link to some talented bigger kids doing amazing things with boomwhackers:
May your holiday be merry. Just don't forget to feed the chickens in the Manger Scene.
The Dogs of Winter
Posted Nov 28, 2018
Apparently, it's the season for dogs with wanderlust. Sinatra the husky went on holiday in Florida without permission, all the way from New York City. He's back home now.
This morning, Elektra said, 'Scout, the neighbour's Jack Russell, was found using Facebook.'
I replied, 'That's remarkable. I knew he was a smart dog, but I didn't know he had computer skills.'
In my defence, I hadn't had my coffee yet. And Elektra is famous for leaving out antecedent information, such as that Scout had gone missing again. We're always running into the neighbours looking for that adventurous dog. This time, he was four miles away. Tracking Scout is a full-time job.
Lola won't even go outside willingly when there's precipitation. It's been snowing for several days. Snow is daunting when you weigh five pounds.
A shout-out to all the winter dogs.
As for cats, see the contrast:
Political Lessons from Ancient Canaan
Posted Nov 14, 2018
Do y'all know what a parable is?
The online dictionary calls a parable 'a simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson.'
The Gheorgheni dictionary calls a parable 'a simple story you tell somewhere up the timeline, so that far down the timeline, the message hasn't got turned into a game of whisper-down-the-lane.'
If I remember correctly, this is the first-ever parable in the Bible, a book that is full of them. I woke up this morning and had the thought that this parable is particularly apt in the early 21st Century. Read the parable, and then I'll explain the context.
'The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us. But the olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honour God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees? And the trees said to the fig tree, Come thou, and reign over us. But the fig tree said unto them, Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees? Then said the trees unto the vine, Come thou, and reign over us. And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees? Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us. And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow: and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon.'
Judges 7: 8-15 Authorised Version
The context of the parable was that Gideon, aka Jerubaal, lived in a wild time of what the CIA Factsheet would probably call 'warlords'. Think Afghanistan or Somalia. Anyway, the story is that Gideon, initially a nervous type, was given preternatural military acumen and leadership ability by God - also an angel as military advisor. With all this help, he drove the marauding Midianites out of the area - think ISIS - and made peace. This was a success story, big-time. Gideon became so prosperous he had 70 legitimate sons. He had at least one illegitimate son, which seems kind of weird, I mean, why didn't he just marry the mother, what was one more wife, more or less? I guess you had to have been there.
Gideon made a big mistake, besides not marrying Abimelech's mom. He constructed an ephod.
What's an ephod when it's at home, I hear you ask? An ephod is a 'magic garment'. (Do not at this point think about Mormons.) It can also have jewels on it. Which can be used as a sort of ancient ouija board. This, apparently, was what Gideon did with it. God sent the angel to tell him to lay off. He ignored them, '...and all Israel went thither a whoring after it...' Judges 8:27. Probably looking for lottery winners. God warned Gideon that after he died, it would all go south. Gideon didn't care.
After Gideon's death, the illegitimate son, Abimelech, gathered the locals together under his leadership. They killed all of Gideon's other sons, except for Jotham. Jotham told the parable quoted above, predicting doom. Doom came in the form of civil war. You can read all about it in Judges 9. It's real 'Game of Thrones' stuff. During some heavy fighting around a tower, a woman threw a millstone down and hit Abimelech on the head. End of bad guy.
MORAL: There always is one, but I'm sort of betting that nobody's found it in, oh, 3000 years. Because it's aimed at exactly the sort of people who usually read the book - who, of course, think it applies to everyone but themselves.
Gideon=very religious person. Through his initial response to the truth, he achieves great things. But then he messes up. He decides that HE is the arbiter of all things good. He starts blathering about 'family values' while keeping girls on the side and hiding his tax returns, etc, etc. Doom is predicted. He puts his fingers in his ears and sings, 'la, la, la.' No angels need apply.
Abimelech=the kind of rotten leader you get when everybody else has lost the thread. Which they lost because the original leaders were too weak, or cowardly, or greedy, or self-important to stay the course and keep to the original plan. They build their own inferior standards, like that stupid ephod. And then they get Abimelech. Abimelech is an evil, no-talent blowhard who comes to power by appealing to the crowd. 'I have words. I have the best words! Make Canaan great again!' The crowd laughs, and eggs him on, and seals its fate.
Jotham warns them, but it's already too late. They'll end up tearing each other apart. Abimelech won't get the message until somebody hits him on the head with it. Literally.
I wish more people read the Bible, and worried about something other than the dimensions of that floating zoo. These messages might manage to get through.
In case you want to read the whole story, here it is in antique English:
Oh, if you insist, here's a version without 'thees' and 'thous':
Armistice Day - What Have We Learned?
Posted Nov 11, 2018
Here's a quote from Kurt Vonnegut about Armistice Day:
'I will come to a time in my backwards trip when November eleventh, accidentally my birthday, was a sacred day called Armistice Day. When I was a boy...all the people of all the nations which had fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
'It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.'
In 1918, US poet Sara Teasdale wrote:
'There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;
'And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum-trees in tremulous white;
'Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;
'And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.
'Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;
'And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.'
And Ernest Hemingway, who saw that war:
'Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime.'