Monthly Archives: December 2011

‘Tis the Season to Not Have Time to Write Anything

So, here’s a link to a cool picture: http://news.yahoo.com/giant-tsunami-shape-clouds-roll-across-alabama-sky-192102289.html

Enjoy!

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Why I Am a Musical Genius, Part 43

So Becky was giving me some ideas of what she wanted from me for Christmas, and one of these things was a good recording of the Mozart Requiem, part of which is played at the end of Amadeus to wrench our hearts out as the poor fellow wastes away and dies.

Wishing to display my musical knowledge in particular and my broad cultural background in general, I asked, “In German or English?”

She hesitated for a second. “It’s in Latin.”

“Oh,” I mumbled. “I knew that.”

Some days are like that.

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Tiny Faces at the Manger

Last night the children’s choirs at our church staged their Christmas musical and if you were there, you had to go home and put on another pair of socks because yours had been charmed off. This yearly event, which I have attended for 38 years now, marks the start of the season of the  Christmas Spirit for me. The church sanctuary was packed, as it always is, with family, friends and unrelated people from the church and community. Scrooge would have had his heart melted without the benefit of visits from the three Ghosts of Christmas had he been present (and had he not been a fictional character!).  We all watched the playing out of the oldest of stories by the youngest among us. There were the shepherds, who usually end up smacking each other with their stuffed sheep at some point; the beautiful angels who sometimes forget their lines; Mary and Joseph, who manage to look like miniature adults but who are not above squabbling like an old married couple off-stage; the three Wise Men, boy who look dignified and serious in their kingly robes; and Baby Jesus, played by a doll from the church nursery.  It’s classic. I hope you’ll come and see it next year.

My wife Becky has directed this enterprise most of the time she has been on staff at the church, and it involved sixteen choir leaders with a combined experience working with children and music of about 279 years. Some of the children in the production last night are children themselves of people who were in past shows. And some of the children in past productions are choir leaders: our adult children Amy and Alyssa direct and lead the Celebration Choir for grades one and two (along with Stan “Mr. Stan” Wallace and Diana “Amish” Hodgson), and Bridget Rose and Liz Yeun who also help with the choirs.

Thank you, children, leaders, families, friends and everyone else for a ray of light in a world that is still shrouded in darkness. It was once the oldest and newest of all stories.

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Random List of Words I Like

Well, it’s actually one of the words from a random list, etc. Either because of their sound or meaning or origin or the way they look when written out or just because. I think I’ll do one a week since this is long enough as is. This week’s word is:

badinage: This means light banter or joking. It came into English about 1650–60 from French,  equivalent to badin ( er ) to joke, trifle (verbal derivative of badin  joker, banterer < Old Provençal:  fool; bad ( ar ) to gape (< Vulgar Latin batāre; compare bay) + -in  < Latin -īnus -ine) + -age. (Source the 2011 Random House Dictionary)

  The Random House Dictionary 2011. (Isn’t it just like being back in English class in high school?  Thought so.)

Here’s a nice quote using badinage (eventually):

There is a certain jargon, which, in French, I should call un Persiflage d’Affaires, that a foreign Minister ought to be perfectly master of, and may be used very advantageously at great entertainments, in mixed companies, and in all occasions where he must speak, and should say nothing. Well turned and well spoken, it seems to mean something, though in truth it means nothing. It is a kind of political badinage, which prevents or removes a thousand difficulties, to which a foreign Minister is exposed in mixed conversations.
-Philip Dormer Stanhope Chesterfield, 4th Earl <- Here’s his picture. Cute, huh?)

I know this was your thrill for the day. Go lie down or have some chocolate. Have a great weekend!

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Acquainted with the Night

For some reason, I have been outside after dark in my yard more than usual recently. This could be because it gets dark by about 5 PM and I have been cutting tree branches to length for yardwaste pickups on Monday. I do this by my spottily placed outside lights.

Last evening I was out from about 9:30 until 10:00 putting the trash and recycling out at the curb for pickup today. We have an incredible amount of recycling–I think our primary product is paper–and at least one 30-gallon can full of trash. Anyhow, as I schlepping trash and recycling out to the curb I noticed how dark it was (duh), how quiet and how few people were around. A line from a Robert Frost poem came to mind, “I have been one acquainted with the night…” A good poem, and one worth putting here:

Acquainted with the Night


(
 
 
 
 
 
 
  I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain — and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
A luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

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A Flaming Liberal (Almost)

As part of our Christmas concert, the Manassas Chorale uses battery-powered candles since the local fire marshals frown on the immolation of a concert hall containing up to 1100 people that would likely result if we used open flames. Last year, my electric  candle literally fell apart when I went to use it and so I was the only kid without a candle during our closing song, “Silent Night.” (Sniff.) So I bought myself a better quality candle, put a couple of AA batteries in it last night, slipped it into my pocket and set off for dress rehearsal. About five minutes later, I smelled something burning and also felt a burning sensation on my leg in the location of the candle. I tried to pull it out but it was too hot to touch. I had visions of my dad’s Impala (which I drive now–someone has to) going up in a grand bonfire. I pulled over and grabbed some napkins I had in the front seat (Thank you, McDonalds) and jerked the smoking candle out of my pocket. Apparently the batteries shorted out somehow, split from the heat and burned my little leg (though not badly).

There are a couple of lessons I draw from this experience: 1) Always test your equipment beforehand in a safe environment with a fire extinguisher nearby. 2) AA batteries have more power than anyone would think and 3) Choral music is generally beneficial but can in rare cases be hazardous to your health. Be careful out there.

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Projecting Away

Our choir sang a spiritual a long while ago, when Mike Henry was our music director. Mike was a terrific tenor in those days, and he did the solo on this song. The chorus went something like this:

If I got my ticket, can I ride? If I got my ticket can I ride?
If I got my ticket, can I ride, ride ’til the judgment mornin’?

One of the  verses went:

You’d better get ready for the Judgment Day
You got no time to project away!

These days I find my self wondering about the meaning of the word “project.” Project as a verb means “to throw” or “to see forward,” but that doesn’t seem to make sense in this context. Rather, it seems as if the noun “project” functions as a verb. The sense of the sentence is, I think, “Given that the Judgment Day is at hand, you don’t have time to work on other projects unrelated to the coming judgment.” Whew!  Thank heavens for the concision of poetry.

I think I have been thinking of this song because I have been “projecting away.” I’m afraid to write them all down because I might faint it I realized how many there are.

As a sidelight, let me say that I have been far busier in retirement than I ever was when I worked. I have heard other retirees say this. How did we ever find time to work? I certainly don’t know. The difference is that I am doing what I like to do. For the most part. It happens.

Anyhow, project list. I have been working to get my father into assisted living and that was pretty much accomplished in late October. My advice if you are even thinking about helping a relative or friend get into assisted living is to start now! Make the appointment for the medical exam ASAP. It all takes a while.

Then I was involved in going through my dad’s household items. With some capable help of daughters Amy and Alyssa, bf’s Chris and Chris, Becky, Don Libeau and nephews Jonathan and Josh, we got it done. We gave some things away, sold some, and kept some, but it is done.

Now I am involved in getting my dad’s house ready to rent. That’s a work in progress, and we are about ready to have the painters come in and do their thing. This project has been going on since August and will go on for a couple months more.

My writing is a project of sorts, and one I enjoy. I hope you do as well. I’m a part of Write by the Rails, a group for local writers. Several of them have published books recently: Sheila Lamb with Once a Goddess; Heidi Willis (not a member of WBTR but local) and Some Kind of Normal; Nancy Kyme’s Memory Lake; and Katherine Gotthardt’s  Felonias Park and poetry collection, Poems from the Battlefield. These books are all available on Amazon.com. I hope you will log on and order several of each for yourself and people you know. The books are all unique and exceptionally written. Support your local writers!

Then there are the home improvement projects. We’re having the siding redone this week (after 44 years of masonite siding, it’s time). I’m working piecemeal on converting our security fence to a picket fence (about 1.3 panels done so far, out of about ), going through my books and selling those I don’t have room for, cleaning up the storage and tool area in the basement and finishing adding insulation to my attic (about half finished).

It all seems overwhelming at times, but I’m glad to have so many activities to engage me. There’s also music and church, but those are completely other stories. In the meantime, I’m projecting away!

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