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Monday, December 23, 2013

(It) feels good to be back home again*

Sorry for the delay in posting...I've been flat on my back with horrible back spasms and pain for the last week.I'll do an end-of-year post by the end of this week.  Thanks for thinking of me.

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Little More Homework*

I'm missing graduation tomorrow, due mostly to a lack of transportation, but also due to an impending blizzard.  I'm okay with it now, not because I'm a master of self-control, but because I got to see my son in his first acting performance, which he took on less than two weeks ago.

He's a senior at Norristown Area High School, and has been playing in concert band and working on stage crew for the fall and winter shows. Tonight was their performance of 13, which is a musical about a boy from New York City whose parents divorce and he moves with his mother to Indiana, where he attends Dan Quayle Middle School (!). Here's a link to the show's page at MTI:

Long story short, he went from stage crew to stage manager to supporting cast member and did (proud dad spoiler alert) GREAT!!! I'm so proud of him for stepping up and doing the job.  He already decided to audition for the spring show. Where DOES he get it? Heh...

*--from 13: a new musical. Music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, book by Dan Elish and Robert Horn

Saturday, December 7, 2013

I Can Cook, Too!*

I've had food on my mind a lot lately (LATELY? Please.  It starts on my mind and ends up on my hips...). I'm about to be a librarian, officially, and one of the things I notice in our non-fiction section is the number of cookbooks that have a cover photo of the chef/celebrity cook grinning as they play with utensils or for that matter, just posing next to their car (Guy Fieri) or bent over a pile of vegetables on the counter, looking not the slightest bit engaged in what they're doing (or supposed to be doing).  It's gotten to the point where I start judging the inside of the cookbook by the percentage of cover art devoted to the food as opposed to the writer of the cookbook or featured celebrity cook/chef. 

Am I crazy?

Who knows?

One of my favorite cookbooks of recent vintage is My Indian Kitchen by Nayak and Turkel (Tuttle, 2011).  VERY few pics of the author (I don't have my copy handy to be sure) but there is no doubt that the food is the star here. Stunning photographs of the food and its ingredients.  THIS is a cookbook for anyone who wants to prepare Indian food in their home.
Shy away from cookbooks that spend more time fawning over the author than the food.

*--from On the Town; music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, 1944.

The Sound of Music*

With all the hubbub since Thanksgiving Day--hitting the deer and the aftermath (BOO!), finishing school (YEA!), starting on fixing up the house (YEA), job hunting (hurry up and wait), I really haven't had time to take in any cultural stuff.  I did watch Carrie Underwood in Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music the other night.  I now know how Siskel and Ebert felt when they had to sit through and review movies they didn't like with actors and directors they loathed/detested/despised. 

I'm going to give several  

First, to Carrie Underwood and her fans, friends and family: There is a place for people to cut their teeth acting. It's a place where mistakes are made and forgiven, where friendships are forged.  It's a place where you might even live next door to or be related to the director, and the people in the media who review the productions you're in may indeed be friends, coworkers or family.  There's nearly always a place for everybody. It's called community theater.  As one rises through ranks, the demands on one's talent become more stringent, the safety net of friends and family less helpful.  If one rises to the level of regional theater (Actors Equity) or (hushed whisper) Broadway, all bets are off.  You either make it or you don't.  Yes, Ms. Underwood took the risk of putting herself out there on live TV--but artists also need to learn not to expect universal adulation or even a parade in their honor every time they create.

Second, to NBC: With all of the outstanding live Olympic coverage you folks do (insert sarcastic snort here), you definitely could have been more on the ball with regard to the technical aspects of the show.  Overall, the sound was harsh, too loud, and unbalanced, and the singers were miked too closely.  In reading the numerous posts to social media, a comment I heard over and over was "Austrian soap opera". The sets in general were not properly lighted.

Third, to the creative team: Who made the decision not to use a live orchestra?  Using one would have probably solved more than a few problems the production had with regard to balance with the singers.  On the other hand, I LOVED hearing the songs from the show that didn't make the movie--which meant I didn't have to sit and squirm through "I Have Confidence", a song that is quite literally traveling music for Maria as she makes her way from the abbey to the von Trapp mansion and doesn't add anything to the story.

Fourth, to the vocal coach/coaches:  You are the sorriest bunch of schmoes I've ever witnessed.  EVERYBODY sounded strained, from Carrie and Audra on down.  I haven't witnessed so much forced singing since my days in Sunday School.

Fifth, to people complaining about an African-American woman playing an Austrian mother superior in a play set in the 1930's: Mother Theresa was born Albanian, trained in Ireland, and worked most of her life in India. Multi racial casting is here to stay.  Get over it.

Sixth, to Audra McDonald:  The next time you play this role, it would be good to remember a couple things.  First, just like nuns (religious women) live in community, TSOM is an ensemble show, and Mother Superior is a supporting role (although depending on who's playing it, the Tonys might bump it to a "featured" category).  A given religious community might refer to it as "first among equals". Dial the pipes back a couple notches, please. What has impressed me about the religious women I've known is their strength tempered by modesty, humility, and wisdom--far from being religious doormats, they are models for every woman to emulate.

Finally, just because I didn't mention the kids or the other adult roles doesn't mean I don't have things to say about them--but I would like to make some casting suggestions for the adult roles if someone decides to do this again in the near future.  Again, not that the roles below SHOULD be recast, just that it would be interesting seeing someone else's portrayal:

Captain vonTrapp: Hugh Jackman
Baroness Schrader: Marin Mazzie
Max Detweiler: Nathan Lane
Herr Zeller: Mel Brooks

*--Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, 1959.

Friday, November 29, 2013


Now that I've had 24 hours to cool off and take stock of what happened, I've narrowed my anger down to the incompetent boob at the claims center who suggested that I put my family and I in a taxi for the 50+ mile ride from Denver PA to Norristown PA.  What made it more maddening was that the next morning, everything moved with clock-like precision. Why should a federal holiday keep me from getting a rental car under my policy?

The mind reels. Onward. 

*--Willie Nelson for Patsy Cline, 1961.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Everybody Must Get Stoned (actual title "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35)*

And this has NOTHING to do with marijuana, trust me (and neither did the song--more about that later).

I'm reading Facebook posts during some down time in the library this morning and I come across a post by what's become one of my favorites--"Chicks on the Right"--which, as the name implies, involves a couple of women holding forth on things political, social, cultural, etc. Today's post particularly hit home with me.  I'm very close to graduating library school and actually getting to call myself a librarian, and one thing I love to do is read book reviews. 

That said, I read this review for a book entitled Three Hens and a Peacock, a fish-out-of-water tale (forgive the analogy) about barnyard critters getting a taste of another bird's travails and vice versa.  Perfectly harmless, you'd think; a charming children's story, right?

Not according to two young reviewers giving their PC vocabulary lists a workout.  Some of the terms used in reviewing this children's book included the following:

covert bigotry
inferential level of comprehension .

in a review of a children's book.  Really?

Two quotes:
"Of course, the more aggressive of the apologists state here that nature - by its very nature! - is sexist. True, of course, but what they have either purposefully forgotten or blissfully, ignorantly never known is that when an author chooses to anthropomorphize animal characters; the story melds the laws of nature with the very essence of what it means to be human."

and the winner of the "pot calling the kettle black award" goes to this synopsis of the story--

"Drab, petty, jealous hens (italics mine) (females who don't know their place) are taught by the dog & farmer (wise in-charge males) to get back to laying eggs after they temporarily replace a peacock ("p" is for "phallus" - paging Dr. Freud, Dr. Sigmund Freud) who has fallen off a truck and instantly made the farm a success by drawing in the crowds (and the stuff that makes the world go 'round - $$$.) No thanks!"

It would be laughable if the given address of this contributor wasn't Ann Arbor Michigan--home of the University of Michigan, my undergraduate alma mater.  Even my Che Guavara-loving, Com-simp history professor Norman Owens had to be cringing about this and saying, "no, really, they go to Washtenaw Community College!" the "p" in "peacock" stands for phallus? Really?

And to top it off, the first reviewer listed her occupation as "kindergarten teacher". Really? In what parallel universe's seventh circle of hell is this happening, and whose children are the unfortunate victims (especially the boys) of her venom, hate and wrath?  I especially love that she chose to include the phrase, "as a teacher".  I always tried to avoid that phrase when expressing my opinion, lest it became meaningless or, worse yet, to give the impression that I spoke for all teachers.

Note to precious young things (male and female) majoring in education (God help you) out there:  Promise me that you will never, EVER, use that phrase ("As a teacher,...") at the beginning of an expression of your opinion.  To wit:

"As a teacher, I'll order the meatloaf"
"As a teacher, I think that all of my students will win the Nobel Peace Prize after 11 days on whatever job they're doing"
"As a teacher, I speak for the entire educational community when I say that testing is an evil foisted upon us by the conservative establishment., in spite of the fact that we haven't had a Republican president since January 2009--oh wait, can I still blame things on the last guy? Better ask my union rep"

And THEN--especially this part--

Don't act all surprised when people disagree with you.  The "getting stoned" Bob Dylan refers to in the song meant taking criticism--verbal, physical, emotional, spiritual--and coming up with a way to deal with brickbats thrown your way, and not toking till your mind is blown.

Ladies, your profession is already under a lot of scrutiny.  Don't make a dicey situation worse by babbling like idiots.

Onward.  40 days till graduation.  Back to work, damnit.

*--Bob Dylan, Blonde on Blonde, 1966.

Monday, October 28, 2013

I Walk the Line*

"The title Icarus comes from the Greek myth involving an ambitious young man whose father, Daedalus, gives him a pair of

wings made of wax, wood and feathers. With this gift came the stern admonition from Daedalus not to venture too close to the sun, or the wax would melt and Icarus would fall. And of course, ignoring his father's warning, Icarus does indeed fly too high and comes crashing down.

"I saw the appropriateness of this myth as a metaphor for our time in America – particularly in the last 8 to 10 years. The striking resemblance between the behavior of Daedalus and Icarus to George H.W. Bush and his son George W. Bush is ironic, if not tragic.

"The story of Icarus also acts as a metaphor for the current state of American culture and its economy. The age-old myth warns all civilizations of arrogance and ignorance and most of all, the sometimes lethal combination of the two together."

– Richard Danielpour, 2009
The above is from program notes for a musical selection performed by The Western Winds, an ensemble of faculty and students of the Western Michigan University School of Music.  This was the opening to a concert that featured the same composer's An American Requiem,  which was dedicated to the victims of the events of September 11, 2001, performed by the WMU Symphony Orchestra and Grand Chorus. 
I scarcely know where to begin.
In the movie Amadeus, Emperor Joseph II warns young Mozart of the dangers of raising the ire of the establishment. I'm not denying Mr. Danielpour his free speech rights, no matter how misguided his statement are; rather, I question the wisdom of the WMU School of Music simply reprinting Mr. Danielpour's words and not coming up with original program notes.  I'm not certain how that works; perhaps permission to perform those works comes with the caveat of control over what is said about them.  For example, Irving Berlin (and later, his estate) was very particular about arrangements of his works, down to the typeface size on the cover. I could see if the work was a premiere, then the composer's words would literally be the last word (and the first).  But to leave them, unadorned, smacks of laziness.
When I was a music educator, one activity that gave me and endless source of bemusement was reading the descriptions of music for concert band in the JW Pepper catalog.  I think their writers must have received a bonus for using the phrase "exceptionally nice", but more to the point, people who are mass-producing band music have gotten into the habit of not only adding gimmicky sound effects into their music but then also explaining in great detail their symbolic significance.  To wit:  the "helicopter" in Robert W. Smith's "Inchon".  I had to constantly be on guard to not let my audience talks extend beyond the duration of the music being described, never mind the audience's tolerance for such talks.  One parent (and assume that there are thousands more) even saw fit to write to Instrumentalist Magazine about "the piece".  Pre-2000 music educators, especially band directors, will know what I mean.  The letter caused a ruckus, and alarmingly on both sides of the issue.  (In case you were wondering, I'm on the side of letting the music speak for itself).
But the fact that the WMU program notes passed muster seemingly without comment gives me pause. I'm not going to go so far as to call for a boycott; the School of Music did serve me well for a year and 9 months of my life when I earned my first master's degree. I will respectfully ask however, that people responsible for programming, especially those with terminal degrees, actually take the time to
*--Johnny Cash, 1956.

Friday, October 25, 2013

So Much To Say*

My brother married in 1988--five years before me.  I was an usher, along with one of his co-workers and a college friend of his, and it's something that college friend said that resonates even more strongly today.  We had been at the wedding rehearsal earlier that evening, and the Episcopal priest had been unflinching in his demand to do things a certain way, in spite of my soon-to-be sister-in-law's protests.  It had to do with the recessional, some picayune point, and the answer he gave smacked of "because I said so", as though we were children.

Later, while we were having a beer at a local watering hole, Tom held forth on what he thought of clergy, saying something to the effect of "people who don't get what they want in life become clergy so that people HAVE to listen to them", no matter how petty or fatuous their demands, no matter how self-serving their prayers and sermons. I have to confess that he made a lot of sense, and it applies to using social media responsibly.

I've seen people spout forth on topics across the spectrum--people who should know better--and exposing their intolerance of opinions veering more than a degree or two from theirs. I think I find that more aggravating than any puerile, ignorant rantings they might be spewing at a given point in time. 

1) I try not to say anything here I wouldn't say in person.
2) I try not to bash on individuals or groups without cause.
3) I generally don't name names, unless they're a public figure.
4) I don't get dramatic unless it's called for.  I'm not a fan of purple prose, but I AM a fan of Norman Maclean ("shorter by half").
5) People have the right to strenuously disagree with me.
6) I have the right to disagree in return.
7) Disagreement doesn't make the other party evil (I don't use the term "hater")--just different (with certain exceptions).
8)  By nature I am not a sound bite kind of person.  Weblogs are perfect for working out issues. 
9) I do wish more people would respond to my posts, and I think I've done my best to get the message out there, but I don't obsess over it.  It makes new responses all the more special.
10) As long as there are unbending old farts (or young ones) who give me a hard time in customer service, unjust situations in the world, or kids on my lawn, there will be fodder for this blog. Heh, heh...

51 days till graduation.  Onward.

*--Cedric Dent and Mervyn Warren for Take 6, So Much to Say, 1990

Friday, October 18, 2013

She's So Unusual*

Think back to your high school days--math class to be precise. There was one in my Algebra II class, and if you think hard enough you'll remember that person in your class too.  No offense to the feminine gender, but she was a girl.  Does this sound familiar?

1) "doesn't get the teacher's instructions"
2) asks 1000 seemingly vacuous questions, and repeats as many as possible.
3) bats her eyelashes at the teacher and any male student within her field of vision
4) asks male students for help
5) still doesn't get it
6) test day--outscores us all, freely making use of all the help we gave her.

Sound familiar, does it?

Well, she's still out there. She always will be.  And, my good fellow fellows, we will be like so many lambs to the slaughter and help her the next time she "doesn't get it". I'm kind of torn between being a teacher and assistant by upbringing and instinct, and putting up the "closed for business" sign, the next time she asks.

On the other hand, if you see yourself in this description, shame on you.

Cheers.  Onward.

*--Cyndi Lauper, 1989.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

the way it is...*

I participated in our twice-annually professional development yesterday.  Out of 120 registered, it's safe to say that 80% of them were white, young or middle-aged women. Maybe10-12 women of color (mostly Asian), and the rest guys like me. Hardly what you'd call a diverse group, at least by the standards of conventional wisdom--but that's not why I'm posting today.

One of the sessions had to do with how a library employee treats patrons who are known to be or appear to be mentally disabled. As I've written here on several occasions, I am being treated for bipolar disorder and Parkinson's disease--not a pleasant combination by any stretch of the imagination.  I decided to sit and listen to what the Chester County crisis management team had to say.  I'm glad I did.

About 5 minutes before the presentation started,  one of the visiting librarians started to sit with her friends.  One of the two already seated said to the one joining, "guess what the topic is here?"


"mental illness"

The woman stopped still, rolled her eyes, and repacked her things, with the remark,

"I work with those people all day",

in such a disparaging tone that there was no question about her opinion on the subject. She then (presumably) walked out of the room to attend another session, maybe a subject on which she wasn't an authority. As she was leaving, I asked her, out loud, which people she was referring to--twice.  She didn't hear me (or pretended not to) but I know her friends did; one turned towards me after I said it.

Now I didn't mention before that she was African American, working in a town (Coatesville, Pennsylvania)that had recently had a fiasco at the highest administrative level of their school district regarding racist texting that resulted in the superintendent and the high school athletic director no longer being employed by the school district.  I think it's fair to say, based on my own experience and observation, that if I'd made a major mistake like that in speaking of African Americans (referring to them as "those people"), she would have been on my case like flies on roadkill, and that I would not have a job.

Ever the gentleman I try to be, I sucked it up and listened, upset, through the presentation, listening to people basically admit that all their professional training didn't amount to a damn when it came to mentally disabled patrons. I contributed here and there but I stopped short of telling the assemblage about my condition. There's a lot of stupid people out there with antiquated, foolish ideas about mental illness.  What do I do to change hearts and minds?

I've got enough material for two additional posts in me right now, but classwork beckons, so I will close my post with this.

Coatesville Public Library staff, SHAME ON YOU.

*--Bruce  Hornsby and the Range, The Way It Is, 1986.

Friday, September 13, 2013

A Day in the Life*, part 3

(With apologies to Lennon and McCartney)

I read the news today, oh boy
About some libraries that closed in schools...

Today's edition of featured an article lamenting the closing of libraries of two of its flagship schools, Central High School and Masterman High School.

I don't care about the reasons why, but everyone involved should be deeply ashamed of themselves.

The librarians who didn't stay relevant, or market themselves and their services aggressively enough so that hearts and minds were converted;

The teachers and principals who still saw their school librarian as Marian Paroo (The Music Man), not realizing that underneath the prim and proper exterior was the wily, crafty, intelligent woman who was able to help "River City out of the serious trouble that it's in";

The taxpaying citizens of any locality who think that the real work of a librarian can be done by non-degreed customer service associates; who think that reference work begins and ends with Wikipedia;

And don't get me started with elected officials.

There's a fine balance between doing what's expedient and doing what's right.  Right now, the balance is so skewed towards expediency I'm not sure it will ever be right again.  It could be argued that what's right is changing--I know the way in which libraries serve their collective patrons is changing, even if the basic mission remains the same--so we as librarians have to change our approach to marketing and service.  We can do that.  We must.

*--John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967.

Monday, September 9, 2013

What's New?*, opus 2

I figure since I haven't done too much writing about my library work lately, I would devote today's entry to just that, and in addition to that, job-hunting.

Our time at the Riverside Drive facility trudges on.  It's cramped to the point of claustrophobia, I'm getting cranky and bored; I've answered the same questions about the progress of the new library a hundred times and I wish to God I could change the answers.  It's frustrating to have to make the customer wait several minutes to check out if we happen to be doing something on the Internet. We can't run our circulation system and be on the Internet with the same terminal, simultaneously.  Yes, it's a gigantic pain in the tuckus. I did get an honest-to-God reference question on Saturday, though. 

A woman came in needing to order a textbook thru Interlibrary Loan.  After checking WorldCat and discovering that less than 100 institutions worldwide had the book, and none within a day's drive, I offered to check and see if her college bookstore had it.  Back ordered.
Checked Folletts: difficulty accessing website, gave up.
Checked Amazon: Available, but she wasn't particularly interested in paying $47 (not bad considering it's a fairly esoteric subject--American Deaf Culture and ASL)
Me: Have you considered renting that book?
Her: People do that?
Me (smiling): sure, and it's a lot less money than purchasing.
I check several rental agencies, finally settling on I gave her the information and she left happy.  I encouraged her to let her classmates know about her experience and that she was successful in obtaining her book.

For those of you scratching your heads and saying, "that wasn't a reference desk question", well it wasn't at first, but it became one as I searched for ways to ensure that the patron got what she needed. It didn't help (although I understand the reasoning behind it, but that's for another day's entry) that it's a general rule of thumb for colleges not to do ILLs with textbooks.


Most recent interview was mid-August at Manor College, a tiny Catholic two-year institution that specializes in pre-professional studies (Nursing, Medical tech, etc.) and that has a beautiful library. I don't think that the interview went especially well, but we did have a pleasant chat (NOTE TO SELF: stimulating conversation is not the same as an interview with a positive outcome).  No prospects on the horizon in the Academic Library world, but I continue to seek opportunities in the usual places, as well as some unusual ones.  For instance, I will start singing with the Philadelphia Archdiocesan Choir next week, and the director said (in what is definitely the most interesting thing ever said at an audition I've taken), "I don't care how crappy your voice is, you're going to be my librarian!"

I can't get a word out of any of my contacts regarding the West Chester U. position. The website still lists Paul Emmon's old job as "vacant".  The optimist in me says, "they're holding the job until you've graduated!", while the musician/neurotic in me says, "Yeah, sure, and Flo is driving her boat thru the intercoastal waterway complete with unicorns and glitter".  The mind reels...
UPDATE: As of September 9, West Chester U. had hired a new Music Librarian, according to my source.  I have yet to hear from the search committee.

Onward. Cheers.

*--Johnny Burke and Bob Haggart, 1939.  Notable covers include McCoy Tyner, Sonny Rollins, Frank Sinatra, and Linda Ronstadt.

Sunday, September 1, 2013


Short post tonight--my reason to celebrate was not anything earth-shatteringly important, but I went to the store for some last-minute items for the Labor Day festivities.  I found Vernor's ginger soda, which up until now is not sold in Pennsylvania.  I almost started jumping up and down.  I gasped and almost screamed for joy--then I emptied the shelves. HA!



*--Ronald Bell/Kool and the Gang, Celebration,  1980
**--Michiganders will get this.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Pineapple Poll*

Unlike my previous posts, the subject today is actually the piece named in the title.  It's Pineapple Poll, a ballet created by (among others) Charles Mackerras, the English conductor, using music of Gilbert and Sullivan.  G and S aficionados will recognize excerpts from Mikado, Patience, and H.M.S. Pinafore and doubtless others. I first ran across this delightful, frothy pastiche as a freshman in college, where we played the Duthoit transcription in Concert Band with Carl St. Clair.

I've always had a deep affection for Gilbert and Sullivan's work. I don't know whether it's because of the active G and S Society in Ann Arbor, or my frequent brushes with it in the theater, or if it's simply my predilection to be a big ol' smarty-pants like G and S were in their day.

Musically, it's not profound, and it's not meant to be. There was something strangely familiar about the scoring, and now I know why.  In high school, we played Benjamin Britten's Soirees Musicales, a work of similar intentions using the music of Rossini. The scoring of the Britten is so much like Mackerras' work, one could be forgiven for mistaking the two.

According to, "the plot of Pineapple Poll revolves around Pineapple Poll and her colleagues, who are all madly in love with the captain of the good ship H.M.S. Hot Cross Bun. In order to board the ship, they disguise themselves in sailors' clothes, a fact that is not revealed to the audience until near the end of the ballet".  Who said there were no good stories left to tell?

*--Music by Sir Arthur Sullivan, arr. by Charles Mackerras, 1951 for the Sadler's Wells Theater.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Achieved is the Glorious Work*

"The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here”.
I was reminded of this excerpt from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address when preparing for today’s ceremony. The achievement of earning the Eagle rank in Scouting is but one stop in a boy’s life journey, albeit a huge one, and should not be confused with the final destination.  So many tasks had to be completed, activities engaged in, skills learned, so much information absorbed and applied, all in the name of building one unique young man.  Earning the highest award in any worthwhile endeavor, whether it is an Olympic medal, a Nobel or Pulitzer Prize, or the Eagle rank in Scouting, is a beautiful thing.  But it pales in importance to what happened leading up to the attainment of the rank, and perhaps more importantly, what happens next—in the hours and days, weeks, months, and years after the ceremony. 

How does the newly minted Eagle apply everything he’s learned? Young adulthood is an overwhelming experience for many. Mistakes are made—even by Eagle Scouts. How the young adult deals with adversity, pitfalls of all kinds, and temptations, speaks to how firmly rooted "Scouting's timeless values" become in the individual.  It is insufficient merely to parrot the words of the Scout oath or the 12 points of Scout law--they must be lived, deeply, as though the Scout's response to life's challenges sprang from the foundation of his existence and was not merely a thin coat of paint that sloughed off in the first storm.
There's so much to say and perhaps more that will be left unsaid in the weeks and months to come, but I'd like to hit a few salient points:
1) Your Grandpa De Kok and Grandma Brooks are smiling right now.
2) My mom--your grandmom--is back in Michigan, and very pleased. She'd be here if she was able, but look around.  To quote Governor Lang in Mr. Holland's Opus, "There is not one person in this room whose life you have not touched".
3) While the troop and its leaders did give you substantial help along the way with one thing or another, this was an individual achievement that reflects favorably on you, your troop and peers, and your family. This was your bite at the apple, Daniel, your time to shine, and you did it. Congratulations.**
*--Franz Josef Haydn, closing chorus to part 1 of The Creation, oratorio, H.21/2**, 1798.  My sincere apologies. I changed the name of this post and couldn't change the note referencing the title.  To those readers who think I'm one of those horrible ignorant Americans, well, what can I say? The computer wasn't cooperating. 

**--H. 21/2 is this work's Hoboken Catalog number. Various composers with large opuses (Bach, Mozart, Schubert, and even Peter Maxwell Davies in this century) have had fellow musicians and musicologists cataloging their works, sometimes by type of composition, other times by order of composition. The Hoboken catalog is named for Anthony von Hoboken, a 20th century musicologist who published the first edition in 1957.  You're forgiven if your first thought upon hearing "Hoboken" was either Bugs Bunny and a penguin that cries ice cube tears, or Frank Sinatra.

Friday, July 26, 2013

We Didn't Start the Fire*

After last night, I've come to a few conclusions.

1) It isn't right for someone to force another person to open his or her birthday gift ahead of his birthday.  It's awkward for the recipient and their loved ones, who were savoring the surprise with great anticipation.  The recipient was perfectly willing to wait until it was time, but in the interest of expediency, those in charge of the gift decided to do so anyway. Those of you who were responsible, shame on you.  You've cheapened a joyous individual achievement for your own selfish motives.

2) The adult leadership in our troop as a group leaves too much to be desired in terms of personal and emotional maturity. During the recent controversy regarding membership and leadership requirements in Scouting, there was much said about Scouting "not being about sex". I guess that all went out the window with the summer camp mock awards that were given out at last night's awards ceremony.  Not to be a wet blanket, but the next committee chairman needs to address each individual leader's behavior and contributions now if not sooner.  What I witnessed was beyond the bounds of good taste and civility. We represent Scouting when we're in uniform, wherever we happen to be.

3) One of the issues I've been harping on since I started as CC is our relationship with our chartering organization.  When requested by the scoutmaster, I gladly helped set chairs for the awards ceremony. Afterwards, I started quietly putting chairs away, picking up trash, cans and food, and sweeping the floor, hoping that the Scouts and adults would notice and join in.  Alas, I was almost completely disappointed. While I did get a thank you from the senior patrol leader, who really is a pretty good kid, that was about it. Not much help at all from the adults or Scouts.  People, you have to realize that when you're in a covenant (read charter) relationship with a group, for you to leave the meeting room in the state it was in before I started cleaning in effect slaps our partner in the face and says, "I don't respect your feelings, and I'm going to act however I want".

4) I've always thought that the folks that advocate for prospective parents being vetted for emotional and mental fitness to take on the job were, at best, a little off. I'm not all that certain they're wrong any more. I offer the following example:

Medical science and the industrial gases profession have determined that huffing helium is an extremely risky and potentially dangerous behavior, even in small amounts, and should be avoided at all costs, regardless of the comic effect.To wit:

So we had helium balloons at the event last night, and one of the boys was walking around breathing in from one of the balloons.  I told him to stop, and within a few seconds of doing so, one of his fellow Scouts started chanting "inhale! inhale!".  I scolded the second Scout and told him that he shouldn't encourage risky behavior in others, especially after he'd just heard me tell the first Scout not to do it..  I was ripped a new one by not only the boy's mother but the boy's sister for "yelling at (the Scout)".  Unbowed, I told her that I'd gladly do it again if necessary, and that her son was encouraging risky behavior in others. If his feelings were hurt because an adult stepped up and did his parent's job for them, too bad. As an adult in charge of youth, I'd rather deal with hurt feelings (which the child will get over) as opposed to avoidable trips to the emergency room (which may have more tragic consquences).  My advice to the naive parent?  If you won't believe me, ask your son's pediatrician about the dangers of  huffing helium, and GROW UP.

5) In these days of "everyone gets a trophy", it's been refreshing to see Scouting stand for not giving specious, nebulously described awards.  The Scout actually has to do something specific within given guidelines with sufficient documentation to earn a badge of rank, a merit badge, or other special awards such as for saving a life or acting in service to his faith community or others, and I'm perfectly fine with that. Further, it's a good thing to honor others who gone before us in service to Scouting.  That being said, it does not honor their memory to create awards in their name with nebulous or no requirements.  As committee chairman, I'm still waiting for those promised requirements in writing.

6) Still waiting, too, for the Lafayette district of the Cradle of Liberty Council, Boy Scouts of America, to act on my son's Eagle Scout paperwork.  My son called on the 22nd--three weeks to the day after he turned it in--to find out the what his status was.  He was given what I can only describe as a non-answer.  I called, identified myself as troop committee chairman and asked her directly to check into it.  We received a phone call about 20 minutes later saying that the paperwork had been picked up on the 8th but no other information was available.  Life goes on.


*Billy Joel, Storm Front, 1989.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

How Can I Keep From Singing?* part 2

Occasionally there are days that make you question your sanity, your raison d'etre, your significance.  This past week was full of them.

Since January 2012 I've taken ten classes.  Up until now my record has been immaculate.
Eight classes, eight A's. Batting a 4.0.  Then I make the fatal mistake of taking on too much. Two five-week summer classes, an internship, and working (I had already dropped my gigs for the summer so I could focus on school work).  I soon realized that even that was too much.  Postponed the internship. My head was swimming and nothing was making sense.  I got sick. Had to finish the classes to graduate on time.  Everything is getting turned in on time (more or less).

Long story short--in the end a herculean effort just wasn't enough.  87 on my Bibliography of the Humanities class (which I'll write about some other time).  I needed 89.9 for an A.

Final score as of today: Nine A's, one B.  If I'd done that as an undergrad, I'd still be celebrating.
In a sense I should be proud of my work thus far, but I really craved that 4.0. It's not like I flunked out, but still...sigh.

I have two good professors this fall--Clark for Bibliography of the Social Sciences and Kreuger for Instructional Techniques for Librarians, and then graduation!  I think I'll bring Turkish Delight to the after-ceremony reception at Dr. Lillard's...

*Rev. Robert Wadsworth Lowry, 1868; text attributed to "Pauline T." in the New York Observer.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Tears of a Clown*

There's nothing good about being bipolar, I'll tell you that right now.  I go from feeling great and impervious to whatever the world dishes out to not being able to handle the slightest provocation without cursing like a sailor and having total writer's block.  I yelled and cursed and screamed when things weren't going my way, and the worst part is, it doesn't change anything other than the depths of my misery. And yes, I'm on my meds. 

Nowhere to go but up: Onward and upward.

*--Henry Cosby, Smokey Robinson, and Stevie Wonder, for Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Make It Happen, 1967.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

It's a Small World*

The following countries are now represented in the Prisms Hall of Fame (okay, so it just means that someone from that country has looked at posts on this blog):

United States of America
Algeria (11/6/16)
Australia (2/13/16)
Bangladesh (6/7/17)
Belgium (10/7/16)
Bosnia and Herzegovina (2/21/17)
Bulgaria (9/27/13)
Cambodia (8/1/2017)
Chile (11/15/16)
China (7/25/13)
Columbia (5/6/16)
Croatia (8/20/16)
Dominican Republic (2/6/16)
Ecuador (12/3/17)
Estonia (3/27/17)
Egypt (7/2/13)
Hong Kong (6/30/16)
India (4/5/16)
Iraq (2/24/2017)
Ireland (3/29/2017)
Israel (6/22/16)
Italy (1/31/17)
Japan (7/16/2015)
Kenya (7/17/2016)
Latvia (2/20/17)
Lithuania (6/22/14)
Mauritius (7/13/2016)
Moldova (6/27/2013)
Morocco (11/28/2016)
New Zealand (1/23/2016)
Norway (7/15/2013)
Oman (6/7/2016)
Peru (10/26/16)
Portugal (8/3/15)
Romania (09/19/14, and not just one, but nineteen hits in one day.  Strange)
St. Lucia (9/11/2015)
Saudi Arabia (8/21/16)
Serbia (7/18/2013)
Singapore (4/10/2016)
South Africa (12/7/2013--and the first responder I've had in quite some time--in Afrikaans, no less!)
South Korea (7/19/2016)
Switzerland (3/11/16)
Taiwan (3/6/16)
Thailand (8/17/16)
Turkey (10/10/16)
Turkmenistan (9/7/2017)
Turks and Caicos Islands (5/15/16)
United Arab Emirates (6/20/2017)
United Kingdom
Uruguay (1/19/17)
Sixty-eight countries now--added Brazil, Cuba and Moldova this afternoon!(June 27 2013) and Poland (6/28/13). I only wish that I could visit them before it's too late.  Of the countries that are listed above, what are some must-see sites?  They can be natural, cultural, political, historical in nature, famous or not.  I'll even take suggestions for the USA. Taking any and all suggestions.

I'd love to visit Santa Fe for the Opera Festival; Tanglewood; Chicago for the Symphony; Hollywood just to say I'd been there, although truth be told I probably wouldn't recognize too many current stars.

In Canada, the Calgary Stampede and the Banff Music Festival--I've been thru eastern and central Canada but never the Pacific coast, and I hear it's beautiful.

What are YOUR suggestions?  Make them memorable!

*--Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. Sherman, 1964 (for the World's Fair).  Yeah, yeah, I know.

Monday, June 24, 2013

What's New?*

Hi all--nothing profound on this post.  Just a quick note to let you know that I'm working hard on my classes, getting my son to finish his Eagle requirements before he ages out on July 12 (AGGGGHHH), and generally trying to keep the house fixed up. Smoked two chickens this morning, used the meat for tacos at lunch. Numms.

It's 1220 am Monday, and I really need to get to bed--and I really need to make progress on my papers. I have one due on Friday, two on Sunday, so I'm concentrating on writing the first and laying the groundwork for the other two. Add two quizzes, doctor's appointments, and everything else that goes with being a semi-retired dad and it's a wonder I don't go cuckoo. Praise God!
*--Johnny Burke and Bob Haggart, 1939. Recorded by many devotees of the Great American Songbook.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Secret Agent Man*

First and foremost, allow me to welcome my new reader from The Netherlands! Welkom vrienden! Please make yourself comfortable, and make yourself known by responding to one of the blog posts.

Leadership and the teaching thereof has always been an elusive subject for me.  Who knows what it is? What constitutes effective leadership? Who needs to know how to lead? Where does leadership ability fall on the Nature/Nurture sliding scale? If you have any ideas on this, let's have a conversation. Cheers.

PS: Welcome to my new reader from Malaysia! Greetings! Feel free to send a comment, a question, or a greeting!

*--Johnny Rivers, 1964. Written and used for the Secret Agent television program (Originally entitled Danger Man for the BBC).

Friday, June 7, 2013

All Summer Long*

Just a quick note on this rainy Friday to let you know I'll be starting an internship on Monday!  The Montgomery County (PA) Historical Society has offered me the opportunity to be their intern in Digital Archives this summer (and beyond, if I so choose).  This will be in addition to my duties at Spring City Library. 

This is kind of a weird twist to the career path but not unwelcome.  I used to say that as a musician, I went where the work was.  No different here, I guess.  Even though it's unpaid, it'll give me a chance to try out my newly-learned knowledge from Dr. Clark's Digital Libraries class,  Wish me luck!

*--Kid Rock, Rock and Roll Jesus, 2007 (Atlantic/Warner Bros.)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

In The Stone*

This morning is a bit of a cause for celebration on several fronts.

1) I was privileged to participate in one of the most extraordinary conversations of my lifetime last night, and I'm proud to say I initiated it.  If you've been following this blog for any length of time you know I've been openly critical of the Boy Scouts of America for their handling of the current membership/leadership requirements issue--that is, should boys and men who have a homosexual orientation be allowed membership in Scouting as Scouts and adult leaders?  Although many parents--not to mention the scoutmaster and two assistants--begged off the monthly committee meeting, the five parents and leaders who attended spoke at length with The Reverend Dwayne Mosier, pastor of our chartering organization, Reformed Church of the Ascension UCC, about the United Church of Christ's stand on the Boy Scout's new membership policy and our present and future relationship with the charter organization. Pastor Mosier's comments lent clarity to some rather cloudy internal issues, and the tone of the conversation, while lively at times, was always civil and never mean-spirited. 

Out of this landmark meeting came several ideas:

First, that we as an organization are in dire need of training about what to do if a boy (or leader) "comes out" to us, or is actively questioning his orientation.  For most of us that will be a new experience, truly one for which we as members of this organization are unprepared.

Second, that safeguards are in place to help protect the boys (and leaders) from any troubling behavior that may occur.  I suspect that while some will want heightened scrutiny as an edict from National, individual troops and their councils will engage in greater vigilance using existing rules and procedures, individually and in cooperation with each other.  I just hope it doesn't turn into a witch hunt.

Third, upon reflection, it is clear that implementation of the new rules will not be as simple as an edict or series of edicts from National; Individual Scouts, Parents of Scouts, Scouters, Troops, and Councils will have a LOT to say in the months leading up to 2014.  National, are you listening?

Finally, Assistant Scoutmaster Paul Errington brought up the crucial point of how to address bullying.  While we have guidelines in place as a national organization,  It would be a valuable exercise to revisit those guidelines in the fall in the interest of educating and  protecting the boys.

2) I was shown a small but significant kindness by a professor at Clarion University of Pennsylvania. recently.  Thank you, Dr. Ha! Took a significant load off of my mind.

3) The back of the house is done (for now) and it looks great.  Thanks, Ernest!

Classes begin again Monday the 10th.  Bibliography of the Humanities and Integrating Technologies in Libraries.  It'll be an intense four weeks, but after that it's the home stretch into the fall and graduation in December--almost "written in the stone"! Cheers.

*-- David Foster, Maurice White, Allee Willis, I am, 1979 (Columbia)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Be Prepared, part 2*

Thursday, May 9, 2013 will be a day I remember for better or for worse.  No, it's not my wedding anniversary.  It's the day I decided to act on one of the biggest imponderables in my life--whether or not to continue in a leadership position in the Boy Scouts of America.

I started in Cub Scouts in the late 1960's, and continued through Boy Scouts in the mid-1970's, when girls and sports captured my attention.  My son is one merit badge and his Project away from making Eagle.  He'd be the first on my side of the family and the fourth on my wife's side.

I'll put off writing the rest until after the vote tomorrow. You know which vote.

UPDATE: Gay Scouts are in, Gay Leaders still out.  Vote split 60-40 in favor of the resolution. I still contend it was a dumb proposal, and that we'll be going through this again in less than three years and allow gay leaders.

*--Tom Lehrer, Songs by Tom Lehrer, 1963.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

How can I keep from singing?*

Just some quick catch-up, post-final project, from last weekend:  We had 54 eighth graders become fully-confirmed members of the church at Noon Mass.  Church was full--Christmas/Easter full--of families with young children.  Many, MANY Hispanic families.  I was amused to see a dad and mom seated a couple rows in front of Sarah and I with four young boys and a daughter--who I assume had a child being confirmed.  The girl was an infant, and the boys were, well, being boys--gloriously wiggly, squirmy, full of mischief. I LOVED it.

Not only that, but--
There was an opening prayer in Spanish.
There was a hymn printed in the program (and sung!) in Spanish.
They're having Masses (for holy days of obligation) in Spanish.

I am grateful to have lived so long as to see this happen--and I am equally ashamed of the members of this parish that it took this long.  I fought with the clergy on this since we moved here.  The very well-ensconced didn't see the need (some still don't) There's a lot of stubbornness, hardness of heart, on this--but it could be that that's starting to change.

I have to believe God was pleased by what he saw at St. Francis of Assisi parish this weekend.

Indeed--how CAN I keep from singing?


*--Robert Lowry and Pauline T. (surname not known), 8/7/1868.

Friday, May 3, 2013

My Back Pages*, chapter 2

In a recent e-mail I wrote to Dr. Steven Wolfinbarger, Western Michigan University's Professor of Trombone and a former teacher, I told him that it was apparent that I'd entered the "elder statesman" era of my musical career, as I felt I was being valued more for advice given than for notes played. In truth I'd known this day was coming for a while.  With everything I'd been doing in library school--one more chapter to read, one more article to review, one more paper or project to complete--and everything the kids have been doing, and trying to spend more time with my wife, not to mention take care of my physical/medical needs, it's a wonder I was able to play gigs as long as I have.

But back to the advice part.  The conductor of one of the orchestras with which I play asked for "a word" during break.  I listen as he starts talking about concertos.  Could it be? Am I finally going to get my turn? About 30 seconds in it becomes apparent that he's not talking about me, but rather the orchestra's annual young artist's competition.


So the upshot is that he's tired of the same old, same old (piano/violin/cello tend to dominate these things for a variety of reasons) and wants to change things up (and quite a bit). His idea is to have one division for "the usuals" and one for older students with brass and percussion alternating years with woodwinds, starting with brass in 2014. I told him I liked the idea, and when he asked for suggestions on required pieces for the competition, I jumped right in. After consulting with Dr. Wolfinbarger and others, and a double-check of the Texas UIL Prescribed Music List, I came up with the following list:

Tenor Trombone or Euphonium--
David--Concertino, Op. 4
Gregson--Concerto (beginning to rehearsal 17 or rehearsal 12 to the end)
Grondahl--Concert (two movements)
Guilmant--Morceau Symphonique
Larsson--Concertino Op. 45 #7 (two movements)

Bass Trombone or Tuba--
Gregson--Concerto (two movements)
Lebedev--Concerto #1 (a/k/a Concerto in One Movement)
Vaughan Williams--Concerto for Bass Tuba (first movement only)

Any brass players out there who know the literature as played by high schoolers and would like to comment, please do.

I don't think I'm going to mind being an "elder statesman".  Maybe it's my turn now. Cheers.

*--Bob Dylan, Another Side of Bob Dylan, 1964 (Columbia)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

That's My Story and I'm Stickin' To It*

Side note before I begin:  I've found, serendipitously, that one of the benefits of writing this blog and titling entries with popular and classical songs is re-discovering the story behind those songs.

As my children move in and out of youth sports and performing arts programs, I've noticed more than a few disturbing trends. Tell me if any of this sounds familiar:

Youth Coaches take the path of 1) least resistance or 2) what advances their children's best interests.  I saw a husband and wife taking the job as coach of one of our church's CYO teams, but it soon became apparent that they were just running a practice team for their girls (starting pitcher and catcher), who competed on a "traveling squad".

I played on a summer league baseball team.  I wanted to try out for first base, but the coach's son played first base for the two years I was on that team--and I never started, not even in the outfield.  The last year I played they changed the rules so that not everyone had to get an at-bat or turn in the field, and I only played 3 of the 9 games that season.

Coaches don't teach defense (football or soccer) or fielding (baseball) or emphasize passing and footwork (soccer) and don't reward their players for unselfish play.  I watched one game where one boy, every time he got the ball, kicked it solo for about 50 yards once he went out of bounds. I heard parents complain about the few coaches that do.

When it comes to Performing Arts, too many parents follow the lead of that dreadful witch Abby Lee and become "Dance Moms", becoming horrible, judgmental, petty, poor examples for their daughters.  The dance teacher at our daughter's school (both of them take pointe) is under increasing heat to have a "competitive" dance team, and I'm afraid she's going to buckle.


1) The program is there for all the kids that qualify, not just yours or the coach's.
2) While many trumpet the statement that "a parent is the child's first teacher", there are those who know  how to communicate the skills of a particular sport to kids so that they can do it, too.They understand that kids don't get it the first or the tenth or the 120th time.  They are firm with discipline and patient when the kid is doing his best to learn.  If you're lucky, this person is your child's coach. Let them coach.
3) The intention of youth sports is to train kids in the ways of sports, to teach them about life, and--this is where most youth sports programs get it wrong--give kids a vehicle and a properly supervised avenue to improve their skills. Same goes for performing and visual arts.
4) Winning is nice.  Winning is good.  Winning is preferable. But what are you learning when you win?
5) More importantly, how can you benefit from losing? If you're able to answer that question, before long you'll be able to answer the question in #3.
6) For those performing arts parents who turned up their nose and rolled their eyes at questions 3 and 4, re-read #2.
7) Initial struggles are essential to future success; positive success that comes to late-bloomers is all the more sweet.  If your kid finally makes contact with the baseball after 20 at-bats, great! It was a shock to me too.  I had a student 20 years ago that took all year just to play Hot Cross Buns--but we made it happen, and he was proud of himself.
8) Sometimes learning that you're not good at something you attempt can be serendipitous.  My daughter tried flute and trumpet before she settled on mandolin.  Happy as a clam with weekly lessons now.
9) Learn to listen to your kids.  Observe your kids.  Be honest with yourself.  You may not have the next Joshua Bell or Yvgeny Kissgin or Midori.
10) If your child fits in with a particular group of people, embrace it (and them).  Welcome them into your home. Get to know their parents.  My youngest was having a difficult time at school.  She got involved in theater and a local youth choir and has a new slew of friends (and so do we).

Onward and upward.  Cheers.

*--Tony Haselden and Lee Roy Parnell, for Collin Raye's album Extremes, 1992.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Can a Leopard Change Its Spots?*

People who have known me a while know I love dogs--big dogs, little dogs, hot dogs, it doesn't matter.  They also know that I can't stand the sight or thought of pit bulls and their naïve owners.  "Oh, but my dog came from a GOOD kennel, he's friendly".  Yeah, and Kim-Jong Un went to an elite school in Switzerland, does that make him a paragon of virtue? Hardly. I have met only one pit bull that was tolerable.  That was a recent occurrence.  I was picking up our cat from the vet one day and there was one in the waiting room--stocky and enthusiastic, a little like an interior lineman for the local high school football team.  I kept a healthy distance anyway.

Recently, I heard that acquaintances of ours had trouble with their pit bulls--the "puppy" attacked the larger older dog, and that one of their children had been bitten trying to separate them.  They got rid of the "puppy".

Sorry, folks, I have to say this:

It was patently stupid to bring those demon spawn into their home.  Not that the people in the house deserved to be injured by their dogs, and they certainly didn't "have it coming", but...

I don't care what the breed association's official position is.  I don't want to hear anecdotes from naïve owners of those bastards. 

Some things never change.  Some things are always stupid.  Some things are always wrong.

Onward and Upward. Go Blue!

*--Railroad's Men, Railroad's Men Collection: A Bottle of Water, n.d.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Little Lies*

Note to customer service personnel:

If you're going to lie about something you did or something you didn't do, and you get caught, beg forgiveness and make it right (notice I didn't say apologize--the weakness of apologies for neglectful behavior will be the subject of some future post).  I went to the oral surgeon to get sutures removed, and knew I was in trouble when the first words out of the receptionist's mouth were, "You didn't get my message, did you?"

She allegedly called and left a message regarding rescheduling because the good doctor was in surgery.  I didn't want to have to wait another hour or more, so I asked to reschedule. 

She asked, "well, who's your dentist?".
I told her and she said, "Well, maybe they can do it sooner". 
"Would you like me to call down?"
After not getting her "last message" (there wasn't one on either phone when I came home), I told her no, I'd just walk down and ask them myself--and walked out.

Long story short--my dentist's office did it, albeit not without a bit of pain and blood (both mine).

I then asked the receptionist (who bears more than a passing resemblance to the Snapple Lady) for the endodontist about scheduling an appointment for my implant, as it was my understanding that I was supposed to get this four weeks after the tooth was pulled.  The assistant and the Snapple Lady stared at me blankly.  Well, this is inspiring a real lack of confidence, I thought to myself.  Then one of them says (and, like Dave Barry, I am not making this up),

"I think the oral surgeon (The office where I had the tooth pulled last week) is running a special this month".


I'm not buying a quart of paint, a pound of #8 bright nails, and having two keys cut at the local mom and pop hardware/general store.  These are what's left of my 53-year old teeth, for Christ's sake, and I expect better service than that from those expensively educated, impeccably dressed, dental professionals (I'm gritting what's left of my teeth as I pronounce that word, because I'm not certain I believe it).

Note to oral surgeon's receptionist:  When I returned home, there WAS no message on either my land line or my cell phone.  If I can't trust you with a simple cancellation, I'm sure as heck not going to trust your boss to work on my mouth.  My livelihood depends on it.  SHAPE UP!!!

*--Christine McVie and Eddie Quintela for Fleetwood Mac, Tango in the Night, 1987.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Good Friday*

I should be ashamed of myself, I suppose.

I attended Easter Vigil with my family and sat up front, as is our custom.  I'm a cantor, but because I'm generally working Easter Sunday, I don't get scheduled to serve.  I was not prepared for what I saw and heard.  Up stepped someone who doesn't serve more than once or twice a year for regular Masses but is first-call for all the weddings and funerals at our parish. She started to sing the opening sequence, an extended piece that is supposed to set the tone and in part explain what the service is about. I'm not trying to be catty, but her diction (to be kind) was fuzzy. To make matters worse, my back was seizing up and I was in somewhat less than intense pain.  I was NOT in the mood to sit through two hours of ritual.

But this wasn't all about me, as the priest gently reminded us in his homily.  Rather, it was about the three young men, all from one family (!!) who were being confirmed that night, joining the Catholic Church.  We even had the honor of being present for the baptism of one of them. Reason for celebration?  I should think so.

It's days like this that I think about people who aren't here, and how my hope lies in seeing them in heaven again some day.  My father would have been 86 on Tuesday, and I am taking a class in Bibliography of the Sciences, Technology, and Medicine this term, not only for the reference information but in his honor.  Dad was an industrial chemist, working for what became Pfizer more recently. All the stories I heard from friends and co-workers were about loyalty and integrity--and I don't need to tell you those are qualities sorely lacking in people from all walks of life.

The other person I thought of when I visited her home church again today.  I had a three-service gig at Wayne (PA) Presbyterian Church, and as one of the assistant pastors shares her last name, I was hoping she might have come home for a visit. Last I knew she was on active duty as a Navy musician, leading the jazz band at Great Lakes Naval Training Center. It would be perhaps a little awkward, since we haven't seen each other since the weekend of my brother's wedding in 1988. But still, I have fond memories of playing in WMU Symphony Band and in a brass ensemble working with composer John Rutter.  For years I sent her birthday and Christmas cards, using a picture of Mr. Rutter in one of his more exuberant, insistent moments (I'm being kind) and adding an appropriate caption.  God, I wish I'd saved that picture.  Anyone out there with a copy?  It's from the Holland (MI) Sentinel, late March or early April 1986.  He's rehearsing a choir at the Hope College Recital Hall. Ann Greenhow, if you're out there, contact me, if only to say hello and tell me how you're doing.  Every time someone asks me to remember the troops, I think of you, Dave Haglund (US Marine Band), Darryl Buning (US Army Band), Roger Oyster (US Marine Band), Greg Wirt (Coast Guard Band), Nancy Vogt (US Air Force Band), and everyone else who's performed in service of the USA.  Thanks.

He is risen.


*--Gustav Holst, from Choruses (6) for Male Chorus and Strings, opus 53 #2, H. 148, 1931.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Times of Your Life*

Nothing profound here today--in fact, it's about the NCAA Division I Men's tournament--"March Madness".  My bracket is toast, but I don't care.  Michigan is playing like the team I knew they were going into the season.  They beat a better Kansas squad in overtime last night in a game that reminded more than one writer of the 1989 final against P.J. Carlesimo's Seton Hall team.  It was inspiring to watch, and I scared the crap out of my 13-year-old daughter when I screamed for joy at the end of regulation. Bring on the Floridians!

The Florida Gators will be the Maize and Blue's next opponent, having given Florida Gulf Coast a good spanking.  Florida didn't shoot all that well, but Gulf Coast did everything but hand the ball to the Gators complete with giftwrap.  The final margin of victory was 12 points but it shouldn't have been nearly that close.

Both Michigan and FGCU have much to be proud of.  Michigan dug itself out of a hole and did what it had to to win.  Gulf Coast had nothing to lose and played like it the first two rounds, capturing the attention and the hearts of the sports world, who at some level is secretly rooting for the unknown, the dark horse, the underdog.  Remember these moments, boys, and cherish them.  We're all richer for having witnessed it.

Michigan 79, Florida 59

UPDATE:  Michigan beat Syracuse by four, but lost in the final to Louisville by six in one of the best college games I've ever seen, if not THE best.  Only would have been better if my Michigan had won, but Louisville just had more and ultimately better weapons.  Go Blue, anyway.

*--Paul Anka, Times of Your Life, 1975.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen*

Just some general musings before I dig into Digital Library classwork:
1)  Go Blue!!!  Michigan plays Kansas next in the Sweet Sixteen, and La Salle (my adoptive alma mater, being that I am Catholic and live near the campus) plays Wichita State. Weird how the opposing schools are both from Kansas...
2) Had a tooth pulled yesterday.  I don't care HOW much anesthetic they use, some things are  ALWAYS unpleasant--even a broken tooth that doesn't want to leave my mouth. Thank God for Vicodin. Not much pain to speak of but some swelling and tenderness.  I'll try playing starting tomorrow.
3) The long nightmare (or why did it take the USPS a week to move envelopes full of sheet music from Eagleville to Philadelphia) is nearly over.  It'll be over for good on Monday when rehearsal starts.  I can't give this job back to the regular librarian fast enough.
4) I don't like fluffing assignments in general--goes against my nature.

More Later.

Neil Sedaka, Neil Sedaka Sings His Greatest Hits, 1962.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Church's One Foundation*, part 1

I was born and baptized into a Lutheran family.

I am Roman Catholic by calling and by choice (I said "yes").

But that only scratches the surface.

I'm in the midst of needing to finish some school assignments and wanting to comment on social ills (or at least what I view as their cause).  But I'm going to start by telling you about our churches stunning stained glass windows.
(originally from a facebook post March 23 2013) Our parish sanctuary, built in the mid-1950's, is beautified with dozens of elaborate stained glass windows, portraying Biblical scenes, Saints, and two seemingly out-of-place tableaux. One is a scene of brown-shirted military men beating on women and children--perhaps a nod to the Cold War, or the not-too-long-ago World War II. The other, which I'll be writing about in more detail, has a caption which reads "The Church Militant-Suffering-Triumphant". In the context of fighting the devil, temptation, and sin, no problem. I get it. But in a day and age where many people put the emphasis on "peace" (whatever you imagine peace to be--usually the absence of conflict, which isn't really peace--but that's another blog post), they take the track of "well, ours is a religious community/church/religion/denomination of peace" and let anything happen because they don't want or are afraid of human conflict, either because they're uncertain of the validity of their own beliefs or they don't want to admit that something in the popular/conventional culture bothers them at some level

More later. Cheers.

*--Samuel John Stone, based on the ninth article of the Apostle's Creed ("the holy church, the communion of saints"), c. 1860.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Silence is Golden*

On the occasion of my 50th post, I'd first like to say welcome to my reader from the Philippine Islands!  That makes 10 countries heard from, and that, thus far, is the farthest south.  What I am MISSING is responses from YOU, loyal readers.

Second, I must have touched a nerve when I re-posted "More than words and Sheldon Cooper" to a Facebook Scrabble page.  I had a big spike in readership, but curiously, no responses.  It's possible to respond, dear readers; just start typing.

Finally, I'd like to thank the IRS for their prompt work in processing my tax return.  Don't spend it all in one place.


*--Bob Crewe and  Bob Gaudio, for Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Born to Wander, 1964.

Day in the Life*, part 3

I decided I'd do a "library day in the life" post, even though their website is shut down.  I'm bummed, personally. One of the reasons I started PRISMS is because of that wiki.  I first read it as part of my Introduction to Information Professions class at Clarion University of Pennsylvania, and I thought it would be a good chance to flex my extemporaneous writing muscles, if nothing else.

745am:  After a stop at McDonald's (breakfast burritos, diet Coke), I pulled into the Spring City Library parking lot, which was empty, save for the white sedan that seems to live there.  I picked up the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Pottstown Mercury (our two paid newspaper subscriptions) off of the sidewalk, let myself in, and set up for the morning. I take care of the paging list (materials being delivered to patrons at other branch libraries, except for three items which aren't readily visible.

905am: My co-worker Kate walks in, we exchange pleasantries.  I hand her what's left of the paging list and she makes quick work of it. Like everyone else here, she's a trained singer.  A little unusual, don't you think?  Five on staff and we've all had vocal performance be a significant part of our lives--well, six now, Sandy's new, I don't know that much about her.

1005am:  The doors are open and we get our first patrons, two of the computer "regulars", including a hearing impaired man.  Kate's getting ready for story time.  She really loves the little ones, and they love her.  She, too, has regulars, calling them by name. The CCLS book van is here, making its daily pickup and delivery.  Whoops! Forgot one bag.  Not much in it, and no holds, so no harm, no foul...

1140am:  Finishing a cup of Earl Grey tea after my lunch as I write this entry and decide what to do next.  I talk about "the elephant in the room" in my agendas for Boy Scout troop committee meetings, and in my studies at Clarion, it's the group grant project for 575 (Digital Libraries) class--so I guess that will be next.  I've been good about turning in my work so far this semester although truthfully it wasn't without stress and strain.  I just wish the professors were more timely in their returning work.  I did hear about one class this semester where NOTHING has been assigned, never mind graded.  Not sure what to think there.

215pm:  Slow day.  Floating between games and reviews of my all-time favorite movie, William Wyler's The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). I can't think of a story more compellingly told on film than that one.  It's a masterpiece on so many levels. Back to DigLib work!

450 pm:  Wrapping up the day.  Third time was the charm for a six-page fax for a patron (wrong numbers will do it every time).  Not a particularly interesting day, except for (Library Director) Nicole coming in and meeting with the architect.  Moving day is coming! Groundbreaking July 23!  Exciting stuff for our little library. Cheers.

*--Paul McCartney and John Lennon, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Under the See

243pm EDT Tuesday--first ballot, black smoke

Raise your hand if you think they're toasting marshmallows...

More to follow.  Cheers.

PS:  Today's title is an exception to the rule--but it does reference a song title.  Jerome Kern's "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" (Roberta, 1933) would have been better, maybe?

UPDATE:  Wednesday afternoon, 3/13/13--We have a Pope--and he's a Jesuit from the Archdiocese of Buenos Aries who's taken the name Francis.  The first American (albeit South American) pope.  Long live Pope Francis! =-)

Under the Sea*

One of the orchestras with which I play performs most of its concerts at Arcadia University, a Division III school in Glenside PA, just outside of Philadelphia.  Recently, I learned that they fired their president at 3:30pm on a Friday and gave him until 5:00 to clean out his office and go.

Something's clearly fishy here.

More later.  Cheers, and good luck Dr. Oxholm.

*--Alan Menken, Disney's The Little Mermaid, 1988.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


A haiku:

Who's out there right now?
Are they reading my newest post?
I'm going to bed.

Still no responses.
I'm getting a migraine now.
Good night, sweet readers.

*from Thais by Jules Massenet, 1892

Don't Think Twice, It's All Right*

This will be short. 

Recently, the Cradle of Liberty Council of the Boy Scouts of America ( sent out a survey for its membership regarding possible changes in its charter that would allow local chartering organizations (sponsors of Scouting troops, packs, and posts) to follow their own organization's beliefs with regard to admitting gay Scouts and adult leaders.  My opinion on the current policy and proposed changes to it is documented, so I'm not going to rehash it here.  My intent today is to discuss the survey. I'm going to tell you what the survey looked like and sounded like, and then I'll give my opinion of it.

First question--"*The current Boy Scouts of America requirements, stated above, prohibit open homosexuals from being Scouts or adult Scout leaders. To what extent do you support or oppose this requirement?"

The next six questions had to do with situations that actually happened and received much publicity. It then asked the first question again and completed the first multiple choice field with this question:

Different organizations that charter Boy Scout troops have different positions on the morality of homosexuality. Do you support or oppose allowing charter organizations to follow their own beliefs when selecting Boy Scout members and adult leaders, if that means there will be different standards from one organization to the next?

Next, two questions with opportunity to give an open-ended response,asking what the respondent's greatest concern was if the rules were changed or if the rules stayed the same.

Two more multiple choice questions:

"Do you believe the current policy prohibiting open homosexuals from being Scouts or adult Scout leaders is a core value of Scouting found in the Scout Oath and Law?"

"If the Boy Scouts of America makes a decision on this policy that disagrees with your own view, will you continue to participate in the Boy Scouts, or will you leave the organization?"

The survey concludes with some administration-related questions.

If you want to see the whole survey, follow this link.  You could even take the survey.

To say the least, the questions are flawed.  No attempt is made to determine demographic other than the respondent's relationship to Scouting. Rather than polling its membership their personal beliefs, the survey takes isolated incidents that were poorly handled locally and presents them as typical of Scouting. Worst of all, I was able to take the survey three times.  I also was able to publish the link to this survey on my blog.  I fear that this survey will have no integrity unless those who might be tempted to stuff the ballot box, don't.

I hope that the BSA gets its collective head together and comes up with a sensible solution.  This survey is not the way to get there.

*--Bob Dylan, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, 1963.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Real Men*

I think I mentioned before that I'm the committee chairman of my son's Boy Scout troop.  The following is a letter I sent to adult leaders and troop parents in preparation for tonight's committee meeting.  I put one or two difficult issues at the end of each meeting--and this month's were lulus.  The issue of membership and leadership requirements (Should the Boy Scouts of America change those requirements to allow those of homosexual orientation to be members of the organization?) is being hotly contested across the country, and I have no idea how it's going to resolve.  Coupled with that, a recent local issue involved some inappropriate comments the boys were making.  Just read it, darn it.
I.                   Elephant in the Room

A strong, active, working relationship with the Chartering Organization is dependent on many things, not the least of which is the behavior of the visiting group. I belong to a regional symphony orchestra which used to include Lansdale’s Calvary Baptist Church as one of its performance venues.  The sanctuary is beautifully appointed and is an acoustical marvel to play in.  About three years ago the church abruptly decided that they were going to terminate that relationship.  Apparently someone had said something unkind about the Church community (no, I do not have the details) and officials at the church decided that it was not in the best interest of the church to continue to allow us to perform there.

Recently, at several troop meetings, I was witness to some inappropriate talk by the boys.  In one case, remarks were made about one of the boys looking like he was wearing makeup, to which the response was, “oh, we’re not that kind of troop”. In another case, the boys were setting up tables for Mr. xxx's memorial service.  As two of the boys carried a table from the storage area to the meeting room, I heard one of them announce loudly, “I’m coming out of the closet”.  He must not have gotten the response he was looking for, and he announced it again.  In either case, I can’t say with any certainty whether anyone reacted to what was said, but it was clear that the Scouts heard it, because in the first instance, it was repeated at a later meeting.

In Scouting’s current situation, where membership and leadership requirements are undergoing increasing scrutiny, we can’t afford to be our own worst enemy, by acting and talking in ways that reflect what many in the non-Scouting world think we are.  It’s okay to have beliefs and values that may not be in sync with the rest of the world, but it doesn’t give us the right to openly and deliberately offend others by our words or be belligerent in the exercise of those beliefs and values.  Rather, it gives us the obligation to quietly go about Scouting’s business, enduring the slings and arrows the world may aim our way.

Point being, all it takes is one careless word or action witnessed by one sorehead with enough drive, determination, friends and funding to skew the balance, and programs like Scouting or symphony orchestras are left wondering why they don’t have a home.  While the relationship we have with Ascension UCC seems to be good, things could change quickly and we would be powerless to do anything. I am asking everyone to exercise moderation in what you say and do while participating in a troop meeting.  Adult leaders, please don’t have side conversations when one of your fellow adult leaders is addressing the boys.  The boys will follow your lead, if not as fast or willingly as you’d prefer. Parents, please insist on respectful listening at home and in Scout meetings, and it will be a huge help to the adult leaders at the meeting.  You know your boys best, and what words will carry the greatest effect.  I’m not going to dictate what you say to them, but please talk to them.

I believe in what Scouting stands for; I wouldn’t have offered to work with Jeff, the adult leadership, and you, if I didn’t. But it’s also our obligation to stand for Scouting. Let’s make certain that we give Scouting that strong foundation.

Daniel J. De Kok, Acting Committee Chairman, Troop 724
Chartered to Ascension UCC, West Norriton, PA

*--Joe Jackson, Steppin' Out, 1982.

UPDATE, APRIL 26, 2013: The proposal on the table at next month's national meeting will read, in part, that Scouting may not discriminate in the boy's case for reasons of lifestyle or orientation.  If this is based on that deeply flawed survey the BSA put out, their proposal is equally flawed.  They know it's going to have to be all or nothing.  Where's that box of Morton's salt I can pour in this wound?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Teach Your Children*

I'm taking two classes again this semester--Digital Libraries and Bibliography of the Sciences--and they're each challenging in different ways. In the case of Digital Libraries, it involves material that might not flummox a 25-year-old recent college graduate, who had far more exposure to computers in their lives than I have in mine, but is definitely making me play catch-up.  I'll talk about this at some point, but today's bug under my saddle is the Bibliography class.  Nothing against the professor--he's a guest professor from Carnegie Mellon who seems to have a great knack for asking the right questions--and today's are real doozies.

I just finished reading ten articles (!!!) between the two classes--six for Science, mostly about the relationship between libraries and child and young adult patron's needs in the Science area--from toddlers to twelfth graders.  He posed the questions on one of the discussion  boards: 

1)My first question would be ... what other information exists on high quality science literature? Surely I haven't unburied all there is to be had.

2) Did you notice that engineering never seems to be the topic of children's books? Isn't it cool enough? Perhaps nobody has the knack of introducing it to children yet?

Perhaps the answer is found in the question itself.  It assumes that children should be introduced to science by reading about it first, rather than experiencing it. I'd like to (respectfully) toss that idea out with the trash. 

I have a son who's in Boy Scouts--Life Rank--one 50-mile bike ride and a service project away from Eagle.  God, I'm so proud of him.  He DOES possess that Calvin-like (Calvin and Hobbes, that is) evil 6-year-old persona, though, as evidenced by his reaction (he was 12 at the time) when I made the mistake of telling him about the Missouri University of Science and Technology summer explosives camp***.  You read that right.  The kids learn all about explosives (dynamite, primacord, C4, TNT, gunpowder, etc.), and the end of the camp is highlighted with a fireworks show that the campers create  themselves.**  He got the same look that Calvin gets when he visits the dinosaurs in the museum--and I smile when I think about not only Calvin's imagination, but my son's (and I suspect a LOT of other people's sons). But there is a risk involved in expanding the boundaries of the imagination. In the words of Jeff Foxworthy, "Famous last words--"HEY GUYS, WATCH THIS!".

A good story, well told, can be captivating.  But nothing beats first-person experience.

*--Graham Nash (performed with Crosby, Stills, and Nash), No Nukes, 1980.
**--To those of you wondering about why a school out in the middle of Missouri would have such a thing, it would be helpful for you to know that the Missouri University of Science and Technology, which used to be called the University of Missouri-Rolla, was originally called the Missouri School of Mines.  Mines make extensive use of dynamite, TNT, explosives, etc. so this camp would be a natural extension of their work (albeit a unique one)
*** Here's the link, just in case you think I'm kidding:

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Run for the Roses, part 1*

Two recent decisions--one by the International Olympic Committee and one by the US Department of Justice--makes me wonder about what's happened to sports.

First,  another monumentally stupid IOC decision.
To whit:

How can they DO this?

They saved rhythmic gymnastics, badminton and golf, yachting, equestrian events, and ping pong.  What's next, duplicate bridge? Scrabble, for God's sake (don't get me started on the hierarchy in [i]that[/i] game)?
Reasons they gave included ticket sales (yeah, 97% sold out in London is a real failure)number of countries involved (71 for wrestling, 34 for equestrian) and tv coverage.  Really? Ask any American sports fan whose interests don't include swimming, gymnastics, figure skating, or any of the women's sports about the quality of NBC's coverage for the Winter OR Summer games.  If they're like me, you'll get an earful. I know that they're gone, but give me Howard Cosell and Jim McKay and ABC any day over these clowns.

It was widely thought that the Modern Pentathlon, a melange of shooting, riding, swimming, and I'm not sure what else was on the chopping block, but one of the current members of the IOC, the son of Juan Antonio Samaranch, lobbied to keep it and in the end wrestling got the heave-ho.  Just like that.

I want you to think and think hard about all the kids you know who are involved in youth sports of any kind, especially one where the Olympics are held up as the highest standard of their sport.  All those wrestling coaches get to go back to all those kids and explain how a bunch of overstuffed high-priced suits are destroying their dreams.  You may not have a youth wrestling program where you are but just apply it to football or soccer or volleyball, take your pick. Softball and baseball already got the IOC shaft, and now wrestling is next.

If you support youth wrestling, high school, college, whatever level, whether you have kids in it or not, I strongly urge you to do whatever you can to help the idiots at the IOC see the light.  Wrestling has been part of the Olympics since the outset.  There are too many kids who will be hurt by this outrageous action and we mustn't let another day pass without doing something.  If you're in a state where wrestling is big (at least it is in Pennsylvania where I live), go to a meet (state tournaments are going on right now), volunteer, write letters, make phone calls, emails, do it today!

*--Dan Fogelberg, The Innocent Age, 1981.

I'll get into the DOJ nonsense later.
Bronx Cheers for the IOC.
Cheers for all my brother wrestlers and their parents, siblings, teammates, opponents, and coaches and their staffs, and yes, even the guy scrubbing the mats.