Monthly Archives: March 2013

Tallkin’ Baseball

Washington Senators
Washington Senators

I have been a baseball fan ever since I can remember. Now, I know that a lot people think baseball is about as fascinating as watching paint dry, but I find the complexity and nuances of the game intriguing. The beauty and grace of a double play, the power and excitement of a home run, the control and finesse of a good pitcher, the strategies and tactics of managers are all parts of the baseball. There’s a lot of history to the game as well, and much of it parallels the social and cultural development of this country as Ken Burns showed so well in his nine-part series on the subject.

Being a baseball fan in this area meant suffering with the Washington Senators who decamped not once but twice, to Minneapolis and Texas before we were left without a team for decades. The Senators were lovable but they weren’t very good even with sluggers like Frank Howard and Harmon Killebrew and Cuban pitchers like Camilo Pasquel and Pete Ramos. I think Fidel Castro even tried out for a Senators farm team in the ‘50’s. Too bad he didn’t make it. Still, I have fond memories of lying in bed listening to games on an AM radio with static from distant thunderstorms crackling in the background. I saw one game in person at the old Griffith Stadium, an oddly-shaped little ballpark wedged in among the maze of streets near Howard University. The Senators lost that night, as they did the two games I saw at RFK Stadium.

Players then were not the highly paid superstars they are now. Most of them worked other jobs during the offseason. They were accessible, moving among us like mere mortals. When my minor league team won our division (with little help from me), our coaches treated us to a banquet. The guest was Jim Lemon of the Senators who talked to us and signed autographs. I can’t imagine many of today’s players spending time with a so-so Little League team. And now, of course, even a .200 hitter can command a salary in the millions.

Since I loved the game so much, I had every intention of becoming a major league player. Unfortunately, I had neither the coordination nor the talent to make it beyond apex of my career as a twelve-year-old in the Little League minors. I was tall for my age (six feet) but weighed about a hundred pounds. I also had a basic problem of being afraid of the ball. This made perfect sense to me since a batted or thrown ball really hurt when it hit me. Trying to snag hard-hit balls while dancing out of the way did not make me a great shortstop and I turned to other matters, mostly books. I had never heard of anyone being hurt by a thrown book, although I have had several fall on me, but they don’t hurt like a baseball.

It has been a delight to have the Nationals come to town and a double delight last year when they made the playoffs. They were eliminated in a heartbreaking fashion, but as someone once said, “Baseball will break your heart.” But it also gladdens and uplifts the heart and I for one can’t wait for the season to start. Go, Nats!

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March 13, 2013 · 1:09 pm

Once More, with Feeling: Voices United Concert 2013

The Chorale at the Hylton for another concert. Don't we clean up good? There'll be about thirty more of us!

Chorale at the Hylton for another concert. Don’t we clean up good? There’ll be about thirty more of us!

This next Saturday evening at 7:30 I hope you’ll join me and a hundred and twenty or so of my most musical friends as the Manassas Chorale and the Voices United 2013 Choir present a varied program of sacred and inspiring choral literature ranging from Handel to spirituals and gospel songs and back again.

The VU 2013 Choir, as we like to call it, draws from about thirty musical choirs and groups and will be under the direction of Pepper Choplin, an American composer and director, who will conduct the Choir during the second half of the program. Participants in the choir have attended several rehearsals and an all-day workshop with Pepper during the day on Saturday.

Tickets are available at the Hylton Center for the Performing Arts box office (on the Prince William campus of George Mason University). For more information, check out this link or visit the Chorale’s event notice on the Hylton site

Here’s a list of what we’ll be singing, along with some comments. (Please remember I was a literature major, not a music major.)

“God of Our Fathers”: a rousing anthem arrangement of the hymn by Mack Wiburg of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. This one will lift you out of your seat!
“To God Be the Glory”: Arranged by Pepper Choplin, this piece presents a refreshing take on the old hymn.
“A Covenant Prayer”: New composer Dan Forrest does a lovely and inspiring setting of words by John Wesley.
“You Raise Me Up:” American composer Joseph Martin has here a powerful SATB version of the song made popular by Selah and Josh Groban.
“All Things Bright and Beautiful”: This arrangement shows John Rutter,The dean of British choral music at his best. Just lovely.
“Worthy Is the Lamb” and “Amen” from Messiah : Handel rocks!
“Tune My Heart:” arranged by Glenn A. Pickett sets “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” in an Appalachian mode.
“Prayer of St. Francis:” American composer Allen Pote’s arrangement of the poem by St. Francis of Assisi is a fresh take on an old text.
“Lay Up Your Treasures in Heaven:” Pepper Choplin indulges in a gospel style for this work. A lot of fun.
“This Is My Song:” This arrangement by Douglas E. Wagner, based on “Finlandia” by Jean Sibelius, uses the words of an old hymn for a fortuitous wedding of text and music.
“For the Beauty of the Earth:” Arranged by John Rutter. Ah, yes.
“Create in Me:” The words and music to this Voices United song were written by Manassas resident Kimberley Hill, who has also sung with the
Manassas Chorale. “Create in Me” is Kim’s third published
piece through Shawnee Press/Hal Leonard Corporation.)
“River in Judea”” A text by Jack Feldman, arranged by John Leavitt, provides a rich and spiritual musical experience.
“I’m Going Home:” Pepper Choplin evokes shape-note singing and the Sacred Harp songbook (1844) with this resonant anthem.
“One World:” This original composition by American composer Mark Hayes is both stirring and inspiring with its heartfelt wish for peace and unity.

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Poem of the Week: For My Student, Upon Her Rejection of My “Easy Praise”

Student Writing

For My Student, Upon Her Rejection of My “Easy Praise”
(a creative writing student who went on to become a successful writer and novelist)

Forgive me when I say
You do not know what you are talking about.
I who have trekked the high parched deserts of indifferent expression
And labored through low tedious swamps of lack of intent
Know what it means to stand on the pinnacle of a high mountain
In clear air and fresh wind
To hold the fragile moment of the first light of day
Dawning on the distant horizon
And know that it is good.

And so, though my praise be twenty times too much
For you and your work,
I promise you this, my young writer:
It is still apt and it is still true.

–Dan Verner

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Mr. Technology–Not!

The Culprit

The Culprit

It all started with the mouse. No, not the furry Tom-and-Jerry “Night before Christmas” creature, but the plastic and electronic controller of computers. Specifically, the wireless mouse we use to control the cursor and functions on the household desktop, named “Big Mama” because it has so much stuff on it. Documents, pictures, songs…you know. You do that same thing. I hope you back it all up. But I’m getting ahead of myself because thereby hangs a tale.

I had noticed that the mouse was acting, well, goofy for a couple of days. The cursor didn’t want to move correctly and in some cases wouldn’t move at all. I ascribed the problem to a bad mouse pad. It was old and dirty, so I bought a nice new one with a cloud-filled sky pictured on it. The mouse’s performance improved. Marginally.

Then one fateful day the mouse lost its mind. It started working backwards. And both the buttons wouldn’t work. You know that without buttons, all control is lost. If this were an episode of Star Trek:The Next Generation it would be time to separate the saucer. “We’ve lost control! Brace for impact!”

So, as Yoda would say, “A problem we have.” But I quickly thought of a fix because after all, the work of looking for cute pictures of cats on the internet goes on regardless. I took the cordless mouse from my laptop and switched it out. And there was the rub. You see, the laptop mouse used a little USB thingie (be in awe of my technical vocabulary) to communicate with the computer. The addled desktop mouse didn’t. I don’t know how it communicates with the computer. Magic? Text message? The Pony Express? Anyhow, it does not have a little USB thingie. It just sits there and goes. Or not, in this case.

So, the laptop mouse worked like a charm. Until I went to save a document to one of my external drives, the “G” drive as I fondly call it. (I have two. I got them to back up aforesaid files when my “C” drive gave up the ghost. I thought I had lost everything until I remembered the blessed Norton backup feature of my anti-virus. Whew.) Anyhow, when I went to save to the G drive, it wasn’t there. I don’t mean it had disappeared physically–the computer couldn’t “see” it. And it couldn’t see the F drive either.

I spent a fun-filled hour trying various complex and arcane methods to reintroduce Big Mama to Mr. F and Mr. G, to no avail. Finally, I remembered reading somewhere that if you make a change to your computer and it goes all Grape Nuts on you, undo the change and see if that fixes the problem. Become the change you want to see in your computer. This made sense when I realized that the external drives used USB ports as well. Something was rotten in the state of USB connection.

I removed the laptop mouse and brought Mr. Desktop Mouse back for an encore. He actually worked enough for me to navigate around and open the control panel to find…Mr. F and Mr. G! We were so happy! We had a party with microchips and Jolt Cola!

Somehow the USB device of the “new” mouse had interfered with the USB connections of the external drives.

So, I was back to square one with an ailing mouse. It occurred to me that it might be an adjustment problem (isn’t it always?) so I opened the mouse control thingie, increased the cursor speed and voila! (or as a student once spelled it, “Walla!”) my mouse was cured and happily scurrying around the desktop showing me cute pictures of kitties.

It was a close call, but everything turned out all right. Just another day in the life of Mr. Technology.

(No mice were harmed in the writing of this post.)

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Teach Your Children

Pre School Class

This is a picture of a generic preschool class, not the one I’m writing about.

Recently, I’ve spent a lot of time around the preschool classes at our church. We moved the children from one building to another this past summer, and I worked at various jobs, mostly involving disassembling and reassembling furniture and also a fair amount of painting. I’ve continued to do various jobs around the preschoolers , and so have had occasion to be around the little ones as they come to school, as their teachers work with them, and as they leave at the end of the day. I am so impressed by the caring and patience of the preschool staff, led by Miss Stephanie (I’m not using full names for privacy). The teachers include Miss Lori, Miss Debbie, Miss Sara, Miss Tawanda, Miss Caitrin, Miss Lauren, Miss Bard and Miss Rachel. What they do with the children will make a difference for the rest of their lives. And this scene is repeated thousands of times across the county as caring men and women work with our smallest students.

Thank you preschool workers! God bless you and your students and prosper your work.

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March 4, 2013 · 2:10 pm

Our New Home (Not Literally)

Image

I’ve changed the home of Biscuit City, a blog I’ve been keeping up since May, 2011. I hope you’ve followed me here, and I hope you will continue to enjoy my thoughts about a variety of random subjects. Thanks for being a reader!

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We’re Changin’ Lodgin’!

Those were, of course, the immortal words of Fagin in Dickens’ Oliver Twist. Pictured above is Ron Moody, who did a wonderful job in the movie version of Oliver!, the musical version of the book. It is not a picture of me writing, although it could be.

Anyhow, the Biscuit City operation is moving to Word Press starting Monday. Look for us at http://huckfinn47.wordpress.com/. If the browser dumps you out at On the Wings of Morning, my novel blog, you can read that too. Thanks for being a faithful reader and follower of Biscuit City. The dashboard shows 439 posts since May of 2011. If you’ve read them all, bless you, dear reader. If you haven’t, bless you, too. Catch you on Word Press.

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