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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?