Thursday, September 29, 2005

classical radio and nostalgia

The 12 years I played violin in orchestras gave me a lot of things.  Not the least of them reasonable skill with the violin.  Also things like a sense of identity in adolescent years when that was hard to come by, good friendships, some of which I still maintain, and a free trip to Florida.  One benefit I certainly wasn’t expecting when I signed up at the wise age of 9 is something that I’ve really appreciated of late.  What I mean is a familiarity with a number of classical pieces.  Evidently the symphonic corpus is such that my 7-or-so years of playing legitimate orchestra music mean that if I keep my radio tuned to NPR classical I’ll run into an old friend (or enemy) fairly frequently.  Maybe it’s the sentimentalism I have mentioned in the past, but there is something comforting and perhaps beautiful about hearing a familiar passage and trying to remember exactly what it is and when I played it.  It’s like running into someone you haven’t seen in a while, or visiting a place you used to spend a lot of time at.  There’s a jolt of recognition, and then a frantic (often unsuccessful) mental search for the significance of it all.  And sometimes it catapults me mentally into an orchestra retreat near Lake Michigan, or a Youth Orchestra rehearsal with Mr Piipo telling us “you play like a grandma” and “that is Ludwig Von Cute.”  Or a snowy February afternoon in the Calvin rehearsal room, exchanging gossip with my stand partner in between movements.  And all these travels are happening as I’m waiting for a stoplight on Broad Street humming along with the second violin part of Mozart.

For similar thoughts about books, see another recent post.  I guess I am sentimental.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Conservation in America...

To Conserve Gas, President Calls for Less Driving - New York Times

That's right, kids. The President wants us to conserve gas. And not becasue global climate change caused by our irresponsible energy use probably leads to outrageous weather. Not even because it's our responsibility as global citizens to try and curb our own destructive behavior. No, not for any of these reasons. Why, then, should we avoid unneccesary driving? to save our economy.

Now, I'm in general a fan of more people having money, but this seems so backward and selfish when there are concerns that involve all the citizens of earth for the rest of time (at least until the New Earth) which the Bush administration doesn't seem to care about. After all, we don't want to disrupt an "american way of life."

I normally try and avoid political rants on this blog, since it rarely leads to enlightening discussion, but I had to point this out.

Sunday, September 25, 2005


My dad posted about blessing today, and my comment got a little overgrown, I thought it was more appropriate here:

One of the many wonderful things about my WA experience was my opportunity to give the blessing at the end of Vespers every week:

May God's goodness be yours
and well and seven times well may you spend your lives.
May you be an isle in the sea;
May you be a hill on the shore;
May you be a staff to the weak;
May you be a star in the darkness.
May the Love Christ Jesus gave fill every heart for you.
May the Love Christ Jesus gave fill you for everyone.

and whenever I recite it, even now, I can hear the way Nathan used to say it the year before me and the way Matt used to say it before that. I can see the faces of the faithful vesperers, sitting in the dim light of the cave, sometimes with the reflections of the candles, looking at me, often with a sense of appreciation or even affection. It was like the moment we were all ready for, that we couldn’t leave without. It was one constant in our changing liturgy, and I won't easily forget the way people received it as a gift. It was almost sacramental in the way Father Ron suggests in his comment on Dad’s blog. Not that I consider myself qualified to administer a sacrament, or even a blessing. But somehow through God’s grace, I sat on that stool every Thursday night, took a deep breath, closed my eyes for a moment, and did it with remarkable peace and a joy. And I meant it. That experience has lead me to savor the moment of blessing when I am in any congregation, as a divine gift for a community. Both a sending out for service and a reminder that we do nothing through our own strength.

Monday, September 19, 2005


I’m working on a paper for my Comm Theory class in which I am explicating the term “congregation.”  The assignment is, basically, to delineate exactly what I mean by congregation.  It’s been a challenging paper, and it has me asking some interesting questions.  

First: who counts as being a part of a congregation?  Am I a part of the congregation at 14th Street, which I haven’t attended regularly since I started College, but where I am still a member?  How about at Centrepointe, where I never became a member, but participated in the congregational life for 3 years?  What about now that I’m gone?  What about Athens First where I’ve been attending for, oh, four weeks or so?  In some sense, I think congregations are (and must be) inclusive.  It’s anybody who wants to be and even some people who don’t.  When you’re planning a worship service, it’s whoever’s sitting in the pews: faithful members, first time visitors, adolescents whose parents made them come.

The next question I’m trying to tease out in this paper is this: what does it mean to be a part of a congregational community?  What are our obligations to each other?  What is our role in worship?  Sometimes, I think, the people-in-the-pews congregation are symbolic representatives of the whole congregation or even the church universal.  The confession of sin and assurance of pardon goes for everybody, not just the people sitting there.  When the congregation makes promises in the liturgy of baptism, it is less that the actual persons standing there (often including out-of-town relatives, visitors, people who may never come back….) are promising to uphold the family, it is that we are speaking on behalf of the whole community, or of that families future communities, if they move someplace else.

So it turns out that what constitutes a congregation and a religious community is more complex than I had first guessed.  But it is an exciting project to figure it out, too.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Chaos and Creation in the Backyard reviewed

Because of my Dad’s enthusiasm, I’ve been listening to the new McCartney cd.  Dad says it lacks the usual McCartney cheesiness and bigification, and for the post part, he’s right.  It has a disproportionate amount of the sorts of things I like about McCartney: pretty melodies, simple, catchy arrangements.  This album is much more simple and emotional that most of McCartney’s solo stuff.  There is a sense of intimacy and authenticity in much of it that is part of many of my favorite McCartney songs (Hey Jude, Calico Skies, Junk, Silly Love Songs…)

So, by and large, I approve of it.  I don’t know if it will replace Flaming Pie as my longstanding favorite McCartney solo work (well, relatively longstanding).  And there are a few moments where I think he misses the mark.  Here are some of my highlights and lowlights:

My favorite song on the whole cd is “English Tea.”  But that’s probably because I am a sucker for anything with a good string party. And because it makes me think of PG Wodehouse.  But it is a charming little song and a great string part.  Other great, subtle tunes include “Follow Me,” “At the Mercy,” and “Too Much Rain.”

“A Certain Softness” is something I think I might like coming from somebody else, but I just don’t think I can handle it from Sir Paul.  It’s very latin-influenced, which in general I like, but it just seems like a bastardized Enrique Iglesias cover in this context.  So I guess this song is screaming for somebody else to cover it.  “Promise to You Girl” sounds like it belongs on a Queen Album and I can’t really handle it either.  Maybe if he didn’t have the Bohemian Rhapsodie vocal harmonies I wouldn’t feel that way, but it’s not a standout regardless.

So I guess I’ll see how this one lasts over time.  I like it, as McCartney albums go.  And he is indeed one of the best songwriters of all time.  It’s not stunning like some of the other things I’ve been listening to, but it might be one that grows on you over time.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

new poem

This poem has been floating around my head recently.  It’s not perfect, but I thought I’d toss it out there anyway.

Untitled (September 2005)

The newspaper cries tears of ink,
in photos of empty shoes, broken railings
and broken levees.  It speaks desperation
between quotation marks.

Tears seem precisely the wrong response.
Why add even a few drops to flooded streets
of New Orleans or to the running Tigris,
that holds centuries of tears beneath the willows.

My eyes, ostentatiously dry, read
here and there.  I am overwhelmed
but helpless.  I put my bills in collection
plates and raise my weak voice in a song
of solidarity.  I remember another
song that seems to sing alongside us,
as we want to sing alongside others:
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?

We follow the psalmist
all the way to his conclusion:
But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.

And I wonder if my quiet trust,
my casual reading, and our brief song
mean enough or anything.
But I don’t know how to mean more.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

You Know You're in Grad School When...

My friend Becky posted a list of experiences that verify our identity as Speech Comm grad students. I've been keeping my own list which has most of the events from hers (since, indeed, I was there for nearly all of them), but I have a few to add:

  • You make jokes that include things like “does this qualify as semantic noise” or “do we need to explicate that term?”
  • The most exciting moment of your day was when you finally finished that long reading.
  • Whenever you watch a movie you 1) analyze it rhetorically in your head and 2) look for clips to show your students to demonstrate some point.
  • You are sitting around waiting for something to happen, and the killing-time discussion begins with “let’s talk pedagogy.”

More to come, I'm sure.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Has Katrina saved US media?

Today I read this BBC news article that suggests US media has finally got their teeth back after years of being kind to the Bush Administration. Could the government response to hurricane Katrina be the impotice that leads journalism to return to being a voice of dissent?

The author points out that large US media outlets are under the influence of the same corporate bodies that support politicians, and in the current cultural-economic climate, money is power. So much power, it seems, that it controls who gets a voice, or at least whose voices get the best amplification. So will moral indignation be enough to force media outlets to speak out? Are administrative mistakes serious enough to ignite this kind of attitude change?

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Uses of Blogging

The formation of the Comm Dawg Blawg has lead me to more thinking about the purposes and functions and possibilities of blogs, primarily because of some of the insightful posts of my colleagues on that very topic.

My dad posted a while ago about a conversation I had with Dr Laura Smit this summer.  She apparently had learned about our little cadre of bloggers that formed around the WA office (indeed, many of our individual blogs formed IN the WAffice).  She asked her question this way “so if you and these people hang around together all the time in this office, why do you feel the need also to blog to each other?”

I didn’t answer the question well at the time, but (as my dad explained too) here’s my answer now: although it was primarily to each other, we also want the fruits of our conversations to be available to those who were not there at the time.  There were plenty of times that just a few of us would have an interesting conversation, and then others would be able to read about it and join in.  Also, it allowed our face-to-face conversations to be deeper.  Sometimes we would link to articles or write about things a little more complex than you might generally bring up over a peanut butter sandwich or in between planning a worship service, but since we had the opportunity to read each other’s thoughts expressed more concisely, we were better able to discuss these ideas in person.  So in some ways, blogging improved our face-to-face conversations, which was a big benefit, and probably lead to the formation of thorubos, which was also really cool.  Now, of course, these people are far away from me, and reading each other’s blogs gives us some continuation of that personal-intellectual relationship.  I also posted about this experience by way of explanation a few months ago.

So, now there is a new group blog for my new intellectual community.  I think we are still discovering what it will be, but given my past experience, I’m excited about the possibilities.