An Angell in the mind field

During some lazy afternoon reading-while-grilling, my mind connected a movie and a wind band piece:  Angels in the Outfield and Angels in the Architecture (Frank Ticheli).  Frankly (pun intended), that Ticheli piece doesn’t appear on my list of favorites of his.  Parts of it remind me of the older Vesuvius, but Angels uses a soprano voice along with the winds and percussion, and a soprano, in my book, is often a detriment.  Plus, I prefer many better baseball movies over “Angels in the Outfield.”

Nonetheless, there is that “angels” thing that connects the two with the noted baseball writer Roger Angell.  I just read an Angellic passage that I wanted to share.  Put this in the categories of random delights, skilled writing, and musicianship—actually being a musician, not just someone who plays “my music” through earbuds as she hibernates from humanity while walking around or hanging out with friends.  Of course, add the category of baseball.  Allow yourself to imagine, to get lost in the little thing called the baseball “box score.”

Angell in March 2015
Roger Angell, baseball essayist

A box score is more than a capsule archive.  It is a precisely etched miniature of the sport itself, for baseball, in spite of its grassy spaciousness and apparent unpredictability, is the most intensely and satisfyingly mathematical of all our outdoor sports.  Every player in the game in every game is subjected to a cold and ceaseless accounting; no ball is thrown and no bases gained without an instant responding judgment—ball or strike, hit or error, yay or nay—and an ensuing statistic.  This encompassing neatness permits the baseball fan, aided by experience and memory, to extract from a box score the same joy, the same hallucinatory reality, that prickles the scalp of a musician when he glances at a page of his score of Don Giovanni and actually hears bassos and sopranos, woodwinds and violins.

Just as one’s baseball imagination can be enlivened by reading a box score, particularly if one knows the players’ names, a similar “hallucinatory reality” permits the conductor to audiate as he studies (and conducts from) a music score.  Those notes are not just gobs of ink.  No, they mean something!  They stimulate the memory and imagination.  They can become uniquely enriching for the human soul.

→ For more on the many-faceted word “score,” try this.  It’s fun!

This week marks the last of my son’s fourth baseball season.  Three games this week!  He has in some ways had his best season ever, and his comprehension and love of the game have grown, but those stats could use some improvement.  (Good thing they don’t publish box scores for this league.)  He’s gotten to pitch a little, and he loves every practice and every game.  We’ll both miss the season when it’s over.

Baseball is a great game, and the relatively slow pace of the game is good for the soul—not lazy at all if you like strategy and imagination!  Thanks to Roger Angell for writing so marvelously about baseball.  Your work, as it deals with the most appealing kind of sports field there is, is also good for the field of the mind.

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Xposted: Freedom, Pleasant Valley, Exile, Presence, and Dentist’s Office

On this day, should you wish to ponder as well as celebrate and recreate, I might point you to this posting from about this time last year:

Freedom reflections

All the links in this cross-posting should open in a new tab in your browser (not sure what happens on a smartphone; I tend not to read much there since I like to see more than 20 words at the same time!).  Here is a link to a recent post on my (less active) Christian Assembly blog:

A pleasant dip in a valley, in which I mention a few good thoughts on a good assembly experience

Recent posts on my Subjects of the Kingdom blog include these:

Exile, in which the pervasive notion of exile is spotlighted

Practicing the presence, in which the presence of God is compared to the presence of His Kingdom

The dentist’s office, in which sterile, calm atmospheres are contrasted with the Kingdom

Redefining “people person”

A “people person,” supposedly, is one who enjoys and likes crowds of people, parties, and such.  What if we could redefine “people person” as one who places a high value on other people and interactions with them?  One definition doesn’t necessarily exclude the other, but the focus is very different with the more customary understanding.

Image result for extrovert

Consider the person who is relatively extroverted (a quality that one source equates with being a people person), loving groups and large-scale social intercourse.  It’s fine to be extroverted, but merely being Image result for people personin groups without genuine interaction or concern for other people isn’t of much interest to me.  Moreover, if an individual were to show disregard or discourtesy, I would generally have to challenge that person’s connection with, and interest in, other people—at least in those moments of self-centered indifference.  It can be more detrimental to disregard someone than to treat him/her with hostility.  Can a person who is so disconnected that he does not truly regard others be a “people person”?

A persistent lack of interest in communicating with another person would tend to indicate a lack of genuine regard and empathy, all other things being equal.  My antennae are up for manifest empathy these days.  About 20 years ago, on a personality profile test, I had a high empathy score, but I don’t know that I would score that high today.  There could be multiple explanations for a lack of empathy here and there, but could someone who rarely cares for others’ pain really be considered a “people person”?

For that matter, was Jesus a “people person” in the stereotypical sense?  Could we say that?  I’d suggest that it depends on the definition.  Some well-meaning extroverts seem to be of the skewed opinion that introversion is actually a weakness to be overcome!  (Here I would refer you to this 3-minute video I recorded a few years ago about a “Bible study”—which really wasn’t one, I hasten to point out.)

Unless I’m conducting or teaching, it’s not natural for me to be extroverted or gregarious, and I doubt anyone would think of me as particularly congenial these days.  I did get place 2nd in the “Mr. Congeniality” voting as a 17-year-old at a Christian camp, but that was a long time ago.  In 2019, I may or may not look forward to a small party or a dozen people at a dinner table, but I did enjoy two such events within the last month or so.  Typically, after that type of gathering, I can use some time alone, or with one or two people.  I do relish connections with people.  I want to spend time with them.  And I sincerely hope I’m still viewed as caring and interested.  We introverts do actually enjoy people and conversation and laughter!

Congeniality and empathy could be said to be traits of a people person.  Extroversion is more typically connected with being one, and that’s what I resist in my attempt at redefinition.  I suppose it isn’t very Image result for people personrealistic to take a term that usually means one thing and unilaterally superimpose another meaning on it.  In the final analysis, a “people person” is probably whatever this or that person thinks it is.  My hope would be that those who know me on any level would not think me a nonpeople person simply because I don’t care to spend too much time at large parties or in shallow, loosely connected groups.

As I think about people and connections. . . .

Some people regularly challenge me to be a better version of myself by their presence or their words.

Others present opportunity to show grace or patience.

Still others demonstrate starkly how not to live.

And all of those are valuable human beings, deserving considerate regard, kindness, and grace.  I’m not suggesting that I myself always do right by people.  Rather, treating others well is a goal.  Genuinely regarding all people, paying attention to them, and interacting with them as valuable humans—sometimes one by one instead of in large groups—is a valid way of being a people person.

In sum:

  1. If “people person” is as shallow and as large-group-centric as it often seems, I want little or no connection with the label.
  2. On the other hand, I’d like to change people’s conception of what a real people person is:  one who interdependently lives in and among people, being with them in various ways and enjoying various levels and types of productive and/or spiritually helpful relationships.
  3. I’m somewhat a people person (not in the common sense) now, and I want to grow more in terms of healthy interdependence and interactivity.

B. Casey, 4/3/19 – 7/2/19

Celebrities (and authors and Dad)

Celebrities attract the attention of many.  For my part, I don’t recall ever having watched a single episode of a series with the word “celebrity” in its title or its background concept.  (Not even “Shark Tank.”)  I do have to admit that I have a few celebrity autographs, including former major league baseball players Pete Rose and Jay Johnstone, and Colonel Harlan Sanders.  Yes, that Col. Sanders.  I wasn’t chicken to approach him and get his autograph in the airport.  He didn’t seem too fried from his bad flight, and I did respect the pecking order, and I didn’t run a-fowl of airport security.  No, meeting him wasn’t on my bucket (of chicken) list.  Now the jokes are done.  Like a good, rotisserie chicken.

Anyway.  It’s not as though I’m completely unaware of celebrity status.  I’ve been excited by the fame of some.  In music worlds in particular, I’ve had some pretty cool meet-ups.  Here are a few names (several of whose autographs I also have):

Musicians

  • Mason Jones (who was principal hornist for the Philly Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy, compiler/editor of a stock-in-trade collection of horn solos … and who, I discovered, was the solo hornist for Disney’s Fantasia
  • Rebecca St. James (autographed a songbook at a Christian concert I attended with teenage friends)
  • Col. Arnald Gabriel (while a grad student, I shuttled him to and from his CO All-State Band rehearsals)
  • Col. John Bourgeois (I played under him in the HAWE in Hornell, NY)
  • Canadian Brass (autographs at a concert)
  • Bonnie Keen, Marty McCall of First Call (autographs at a concert)
  • Michael Card¹
  • Fernando Ortega²
  • Phil Ehart, Rich Williams, David Ragsdale, Billy Greer, Steve Walsh (the 2011 iteration of the rock band Kansas), and Kerry Livgren³

¹ If I had a Christian music idol, it would probably be Michael Card.  Prodigiously prolific for 40-or-so years, he is humble and free of hype and glitz.  One of his principal gifts is locating and distilling core scripture messages into wonderfully acoustic (read:  not over-electronicized) songs.  A group of us attended a Card concert once.  One friend teased me about being such a fan that she was worried I’d throw my underwear onto the stage.  Mine wasn’t that kind of fandom, but I did and do respect Card’s contributions wholeheartedly.  I have referred to him before on this blog, notably here.

² Fernando Ortega has been around in my life for almost as long.  In his inimitable way, he has compelled, driven, and drawn my heart so many times I’ve lost count.  Sometimes, to the point of tears.  I met him face to face once, and I introduced a church elder to his music.  He and his wife became Fernando’s acquaintances, traveling to him and getting pictures taken with him.  I’ll admit to a little jealousy here!

³ And if I had any rock music idol, it would be Kansas.  In my unstudied rock hierarchy, Kansas’ musical and lyrical content  are tops.  Their music consistently manifests qualities that draw me, energize me, and stimulate creativity.  I don’t have the autograph of their principal songwriter, Kerry Livgren, because he could no longer play with the band after a stroke.  Livgren is now a serious believer, and we recently met him at his church.  See here for an account of a special event with Kansas about eight years ago.

Dad and Christian speakers/authors

Today my dad would have been exactly 79½.  He was no celebrity himself, but he did garner some well-deserved awards; he was the first scholar-athlete at Harding College and was later Harding University’s School of Education’s Alumnus of the year.  As a congregational deacon and shepherd/elder, Dad modeled the way to regard those who enjoy celebrity and fame.  He simply treated them like other people.  (No need to stand in awe.)  On the other hand, he must have had an underlying drive to take advantage of the capabilities of some who had, by their virtues, become somewhat famous.  Dad was for years the force that brought well-traveled, well-reputed, “big name” speakers to us.  Our church was in the Mid-Atlantic region, a/k/a the “Northeast,” and we would otherwise have been largely ignored because we were neither huge nor in the Bible belt.  Primarily because of Dad, we had these guest speakers at our church:

  • Cliff Ganus, Jr.
  • Lynn Anderson
  • Jerry Jones
  • Jimmy Allen
  • Harold Hazelip
  • LaGard Smith
  • Rubel Shelly *
  • Jim Woodroof
  • Max Lucado

I might have autographs for a couple of the above (on the title page of a book), but the main thing was having heard them speak in person.  I also shook well-known author Max Lucado’s hand once, because he spoke at a men’s retreat at our beloved Camp Manatawny in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

∗ Shelly’s “shift” is noteworthy—from (1) prize of the far-right, defensive CofC adherents to (2) de facto mouthpiece of the genuinely nondenominational, thoughtfully progressive “wing.”  I heard him speak in a couple other settings, too, and one of his books (I Just Want To Be a Christian) had a deep impact on me.  See here for a touting of that book.

I also have autographs for these other Christian authors in one or more books:

Christian Authors

  • Leroy Garrett
  • Cecil Hook
  • Richard Hughes
  • Gary Collier

I myself invited the late Leroy Garrett to my Delaware church to speak on unity and the Restoration Movement—and to impersonate “Raccoon” John Smith in one of his iconic presentations.  Leroy stayed in my home, and visited in his.  I was in the late Cecil Hook’s home, as well.  Cecil was the less credentialed but also sharp-minded author of Free in Christ (also touted here) and other freedom-themed books, several of which I had the distinct honor of collaborating on.  I’ve eaten lunch with the insightful Richard and Jan Hughes, along with mutual friends the Crowes.  My association with Collier has lasted longer and run deeper than with the others.  I have spent meaningful time with him as friends, collaborated with him (including recently embarking on a significant project), and have been in his home.

On the one hand, celebrity status means little to me, because it so often has little to do with quality, lasting values, or eternity.  On the other hand, some have become celebrated for good reason, and I am glad that my life has involved crossing paths with such men as Anderson, Collier, Garrett, Hook, Hughes, Card, Ortega, and others who have meant much to me.

Rich Mullins’s swan-song album The Jesus Record includes “Man of No Reputation,” a song recorded on a cheap tape deck by Mullins and then later refined by his band.  This song takes a translation of a phrase in Philippians 2 and expands ironically on the awe-inspiring reputation of our Messiah-Servant, Christ Jesus.  Jesus’ lack of celebrity status, combined with His singular attention to His mission and role, impel us to honor Him.

On summer’s end

Summer is over.  Or is it?

This will be a meandering piece about summer, with connections to reading, baseball, the calendar, kids, and the rhythms of life.

Books and baseball
People still have summer reading lists, right?  Maybe not so much anymore.  I spied the quip below on a ne’er-do-well’s Facebook page recently, in the spot where one’s favorite book title is supposed to be:

who reads

I thought, Well, I’m guessing you don’t read much, because you didn’t capitalize that or put a question mark after the question.  (This same person had proudly posted a video of herself drunk while playing video games, so I guess I wasn’t all that surprised.)

My summer reading list, if it really existed at all, was phantom-like.  Recent book grabs include one that presents three views on God’s will and decision making, a Duck Dynasty biography (couldn’t stand much!), and a Stephen Colbert book (I wish he weren’t so caustically one-sided, because he’s genuinely funny).  On my active shelf are a book on the history of words in religion, a history of the Silk Road, and two volumes on the kingship of God.  This summer, I have read some poetry, a little on baseball, and a few pages each from Richard Hughes and Frederick Buechner, plus a few other things.  Oh, and I’ve spent some time reading and studying an ancient, mid-length letter from Paul, including reading two paragraphs in Greek.  Sounds like a lot of reading time, you say?  Nah.  I’m talking about a total of less than 10 hours there.  Pitiful, I know.  And the progress in writing my own next book has been precisely nil this summer.

Roger Kahn’s The Boys of Summer, a book about the Brooklyn Dodgers, is legendary.  My dad’s copy of that one remains where he would have seen it, high on a shelf in his/Mom’s study.  On a lower bookshelf in our home sits Dad’s coffee-table-sized book that chronicles baseball’s summers of ’47-’57 in the lives of the three New York teams—the Dodgers, the Giants, and those dratted Yankees.  The Dodgers and Giants moved to the West Coast in 1957, rendering summer fun permanently shut down for many.

Our family enjoyed seeing the KC Royals with a friend in Kauffman Stadium last Saturday.  It was a sticky, muggy, summer night, but it was not overly hot, especially after the sun was hidden behind the stadium on the third-base side.  This summer is not a good one for the Royals, to say the least.  It was a great game, though:  the last-place Royals, the 2nd-worst team in baseball, beat the even worse Orioles in the 9th.

Usually two or three times a summer, when I was a boy, my dad and I would go to the Vet to see Phillies games.  There was one memorable, July 4th double header, at which a friend sat with Dad and me in the lowest seats, in straightaway center field, just above the outfield wall with the “408” painted on it in yellow.  I’m not sure I’m creating memories like that for our son, but he has been to three Royals games, a Pirates game with cousins, and a Reds game before he could remember.  He has also played baseball three summers in a row.  According to his 2018 baseball season, summer lasted only about 6 weeks (May-June).

For me, despite one serendipitous baseball game I saw on a nice Minnesota afternoon while traveling, this summer has been the worst on record.  It is not over yet?

Summer, school, and children
For children, summer is almost always something to which to look forward.  They often have summer camp experiences.  Manatawny, a Christian camp in Southeastern PA, was the thing that we kids looked forward to most.  My sisters’ kids all go to similar camps now, too, and they seem to feel the same heart-tugs, while experiencing similar growth of all kinds.  Then there is marching band camp, and several of my sisters’ kids are now doing that annually, too.  Summer is certainly not all bad for kids.

For many, summer is over in the middle of August when school starts way too early.  Two private colleges at which I’ve taught hold classes on Labor Day, having started a week or two previously.  School always started the day after Labor Day when I grew up.  According to just about every U.S. school calendar, summer is by now over for everyone.

Jedd has had some great times this summer (for example, a children’s play, baseball, some travel, a lake, cousins, and swimming).  Speaking of swimming … they drained the town pool weeks ago here, which seems pretty ridiculous since summer persists.  The heat and humidity (or just heat, or just humidity, but rarely any relief) have been oppressive and unrelenting for so long, it seems.  We had a cold winter with little snow for playing, an almost nonexistent spring, and then this beastly summer.  We’ve had, what, six or seven nice days since June?

Summer’s entertainment
Remember the TV show “In the Heat of the Night?”  I never watched it, but I think it was based somewhat on the premise that crime heats up when the weather does the same.  (When is it not hot in a Mississippi town?)  I also recall an episode of M*A*S*H in which everyone’s nerves were frayed because of heat.

Last Sunday night, in the summertime cool of a Lutheran church building, I heard the Midwest Chamber Ensemble, and their opening selection was a rare performance of a work by Arthur Honegger titled Pastoral d’Ete (Summer Pastorale).  This piece shimmered and sang, and it led me to think of other summer-oriented art music. . . .

  • I have a CD of summer wind quintet music that includes Barber’s Summer Music, Op. 31, a provocative piece written well for the medium.  I return to this disc often, including a couple times this summer.
  • Barber’s Knoxville:  Summer of 1915 is not a favorite of mine.  (Few and far between are the sopranos I would listen to on purpose.)  Berlioz’s Nuits d’Ete (Summer Nights) is more pleasing, but still, it’s a soprano.  So, no thanks.
  • As Summer Was Just Beginning, a simple, tuneful, elegiac tribute to the late James Dean, enjoyed at least a decade’s worth of appreciation in the wind band world, but the piece’s fame is now approaching its winter.
  • Vivaldi’s “Spring” from The Four Seasons is well-known, but “Summer,” the second in the set, strikes me as more interesting.  Actually, this Vivaldi string concerto hints more at fall for me, but maybe that’s because I like the still, sometimes melancholy beauty of fall.  Then there is the tempest of the presto 3rd movement.  (May there be no tempests in life this fall.)
  • Frank Bridge’s tone poem Summer is simply wonderful.  What glorious sounds!  If I could rig some great speakers in a park, and if I could order a 70-degree, mosquito-less, summer night, I would sit out under a tree and listen to it again.

I remember a few summer evenings on the grounds of the Mann Music Center, north of Philadelphia, hearing the Philadelphia Orchestra free or at greatly reduced cost, with good friends.  And all these thoughts of music evoke pleasant, breezy, relaxed feelings.  Was this what Jim Seals & Dash Crofts were singing about?  “Summer Breeze makes me feel fine….”?  My summer of ’18 has not been blessed by many of those feelings.

So goodbye, summer of ’18.  I’m done wid’ ya.  I wish I could be assured that I’ll forget you, but I won’t be surprised if you haunt me.  I wish I had seen and hiked in the Rockies this summer, but, failing that, come on, cooler weather and breezier, more chilled thoughts.  Come on, fall concerts and crisp mornings with coffee on the deck.  Maybe I’ll soon be able to walk 20 yards sans sweat or anxiety.  Come on, Major League Baseball’s “Fall Classic.”  Just come on, fall.

The benefits you get with H/R

The paragraph below, I assume, was written by an H/R “professional.”  I am pasting this in, so the original remains intact.

Our new colleague will teach in our comprehensive music education program, which includes BME, MME, and Ph.D. students. They will provide leardership in curriculum and program development. They will provide leadership and oversight of the recruitment of undergraduate, master’s and Ph.D. music education students. The successful candidate will be a creative, flexible musician, scholar and pedagogue who is an experienced master teacher with substantial K-12 experience as well as college-level teaching experience. They will be responsible for teaching in our comprehensive music education program which includes BME, MME, and Ph.D. students. Our new colleague will provide leadership in curriculum and program development, and will be expected to have a well-developed, active research agenda. They will teach other courses in the music education curriculum as necessary.

Now my observations and reactions.  (You knew there would be some, didn’t you?)

  1. My ambition is to be a learder.  However, I don’t have other learders around to mentor me and showr me what a learder can be.  I even lookerd online for a graduate leardership program.  I can’t finrd a single one.  Maybe if I use fuzzy logic, the search would be more successful?  Can someone out there leard me to the info I neerd?  I will follow if you leard.
  2. In seriousness now … I would like a role in which I could train the world to match plurals with plurals and singulars with singulars.  (Creating a plural of the word “singular” makes me smile . . . and note that it does not have an apostrophe before the “s”! . . . it’s a plural, not a possessive or a contraction.”)  The next-to-last sentence is just fine.  Why not include the last sentence and remove the plural mismatch, like so:  “Our new colleague will provide leadership in curriculum and program development; will be expected to have a well-developed, active research agenda; and will teach other courses in the music education curriculum as necessary.”
  3. I’ll leave the lack of the Oxford comma alone in this phrase:  “will be a creative, flexible musician, scholar and pedagogue.”  Wait.  I didn’t.
  4. On a deeper level:  I find this ad to be a bit ambitious at its core.  Rare would be the person who (1) could legitimately be classed as a “master teacher,” (2) has “substantial” K-12 experience, and (3) also has college-level teaching experience.
  5. I would also think that some “H/R professional” would have read through the posting well enough to know that s/he had repeated almost one-quarter of the material.  If the music department had simply written its own job description, it would have been better.

Layering H/R process on top of process may satisfy regulations and policy without serving the real need.  On the other hand, if there is no process at all, someone or some department will likely need to oversee employment matters, given the litigiousness of our society.  If there is a separate benefits department, there are benefits to be reaped there, although the health insurance benefit is more than it’s cracked up to be.  As I wrote in this post,

Currently, [my wife and I] pay approximately 1/3 of the total cost of our own insurance, and my employer covers the rest of the group-rate premium.  The rates for adding an additional family member [our son] increase dramatically, though—to the point that the deduction from my paycheck to insure three people would be equivalent to half of my take-home (net) pay. 

A very perceptive man once remarked that the “Graduate School” in his institution didn’t add value to the process of getting a graduate degree.  This post from 2016 mentions that right after complaining about the lack of benefit in three food additives, moving to question the value of additions in Christian churches.

And here is a post that briefly mentions three items that I find pretty much without benefit in churches.

(Hucka)been there, done that

Crossposted from my other blog, a bit of a diatribe on something from the typical “conservative Christian” world:  https://subjectsofthekingdomblog.wordpress.com/2018/05/10/huckabeen-there-done-that/

Here are a few excerpts:

“God’s love for the U.S.” is an idea concocted out of thick air—thick with people who not only believe, but also blithely promulgate, the idea that God especially guides the United States.  These people are almost as common as, and even more deluded than, those who think they can play the guitar.

. . .

God is not about geopolitical entities.

. . .

I would assert that God did specially orchestrate some events for the ancient Jews for centuries, but the scenario then changed.  

Sticklerism

We have sticklers in our family.  I wouldn’t have called my dad a stickler, although he had the highest-level language credential in my extended family and could have carried it off without much trouble.  Dad had the personable habit of deliberately Image result for grammar sticklerspeaking incorrectly on occasion—such as when he would oh-so-politely request, “Pass I the butter.”  Perhaps it is Dad’s tradition that leads my small family now to make up verb forms for entertainment purposes:  “Where be my Bible?”  “Oh, I tooked it and putted it over there.”  Jedd participates in this and knows what he’s doing with it.  We are careful, however, to correct him anytime he lapses into regional patterns (that I hear or read almost every day) with respect to past participles:  “I seen him.  He had ran right past me before I knew it.”

Since drafting this post, I received this e-mail message at work:  “I know it got picked up, but havnt saw the _____ yet.”  If noticing these things makes me a stickler or even a vigilante, so be it.  Real sticklers know it’s not about thinking one is right all the time.  We/I make a lot of mistakes, too.  Here’s an indication of the difference between sticklers and normal people:  when I find a typo in an old blogpost that no one will probably ever see again, I actually take the time to correct it.  (I can’t insert “obsessively” before “correct it,” because that would be splitting an infinitive, you know.)

My maternal grandmother, spotlighted with my grandfather here, was something of a stickler, I’d say, and it would have been difficult to catch her in a mistake.  She is known to have corrected the grammar of more than one gracious preacher, including Mike Cope and presumably also the late Jim Woodroof,¹ a giant who moved into the “land of the eternally living”² a few weeks ago.  Grandmother’s known penchant for correcting folks might be what keeps me from doing it as much.  (When I knew her, she would naturally have had the respect that comes with being a senior citizen, and I’m not there yet.)  Even though I keep my vocal corrections to a minimum (and sometimes mutter them so that no one can hear), I often read with pen or pencil in hand.

Has the time for "they" as a singular pronoun come? This grammar stickler says yes.I’ve noticed that a certain parenting e-resource almost always uses the singular “she” in its examples—presumably in an extended fit of over-correction for the years when “he” meant either.  It’s usually easy to avoid the issue by pluralizing everything:  “Every student should do his own work” can become “All students should do their own work” if you don’t like “Every student should do his/her own work.”  I disagree with the “singular ‘they'” image shown here, but no one asked me.  It’s actually serendipitous that I came across that:  a younger friend mentioned on Monday that he knows people who want to be referred to as “they” and not “she” or “he.”  So let us take note that this might not be merely a grammar thing; it’s a gender identity thing.³  Although I would always try to be kind to a person who struggles with identity, I don’t support the related social movement in the slightest, finding it overblown and ironically (perhaps Nazi-istically) intolerant at times.

Since I have a very active “inner stickler,” I am eager (not “anxious,” mind you; the two mean different things) to share some stickler-ish Lynne Truss quotes.  It was with a deep, resounding “Yeah!” that I reread those that appear below.  Does anyone else feel partly like Tarzan, chest-pounding and bellowing, and part-sheepish?  In other words, do you say inside yourself, “Yess!  I feel that way!” immediately before tucking your head as though nothing just happened in there?

In the quotes below, British distinctives such as commas outside quotation marks are the author’s.  All this material was lifted from the web, then later scanned and converted to text.  No errors should be attributed to Lynne Truss.  Enjoy.

~ ~ ~

“…[P]unctuation marks are the traffic signals of language:  they tell us to slow down, notice this, take a detour, and stop.”

“I apologise if you all know this, but the point is many, many people do not.  Why else would they open a large play area for children, hang up a sign saying “Giant Kid’s Playground”, and then wonder why everyone says away from it? (Answer: everyone is scared of the Giant Kid.)”

“Part of one’s despair, of course, is that the world cares nothing for the little shocks endured by the sensitive stickler.  While we look in horror at a badly punctuated sign, the world carries on around us, blind to our plight.  We are like the little boy in The Sixth Sense who can see dead people, except that we can see dead punctuation.  Whisper it in petrified little-boy tones:  dead punctuation is invisible to everyone else — yet we see it all the time.  No one understands us seventh-sense people.  They regard us as freaks.  When we point out illiterate mistakes we are often aggressively instructed to “get a life” by people who, interestingly, display no evidence of having lives themselves.  Naturally we become timid about making our insights known, in such inhospitable conditions.  Being burned as a witch is not safely enough off the agenda.”

“As with other paired bracketing devices (such as parentheses, dashes and quotation marks), there is actual mental cruelty involved , incidentally, in opening up a pair of commas and then neglecting to deliver the closing one.  The reader hears the first shoe drop and then strains in agony to hear the second.  In dramatic terms, it’s like putting a gun on the mantelpiece in Act I and then having the heroine drown herself quietly offstage in the bath during the interval.  It’s just not cricket.  Take the example, ‘The Highland Terrier is the cutest, and perhaps the best of all dog species.’  Sensitive people trained to listen for the second comma (after ‘best’) find themselves quite stranded by that kind of thing.  They feel cheated and giddy.  In very bad cases, they fall over.”

“For any true stickler, you see, the sight of the plural word “Book’s” with an apostrophe in it will trigger a ghastly private emotional process similar to the stages of bereavement, though greatly accelerated.  First there is shock.  Within seconds, shock gives way to disbelief, disbelief to pain, and pain to anger.  Finally (and this is where the analogy breaks down), anger gives way to a righteous urge to perpetrate an act of criminal damage with the aid of a permanent marker.”

Image result for grammar "we need hyphens"“Yet there will always be a problem about getting rid of the hyphen:  if it’s not extra-marital sex (with a hyphen), it is perhaps extra marital sex, which is quite a different bunch of coconuts.  Phrases abound that cry out for hyphens.  Those much-invoked examples of the little used car, the superfluous hair remover, the pickled herring merchant, the slow moving traffic and the two hundred odd members of the Conservative Party would all be lost without it.”

“We have a language that is full of ambiguities; we have a way of expressing ourselves that is often complex and elusive, poetic and modulated; all our thoughts can be rendered with absolute clarity if we bother to put the right dots and squiggles between the words in the right places.  Proper punctuation is both the sign and the cause of clear thinking.  If it goes, the degree of intellectual impoverishment we face is unimaginable.”

Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation

~ ~ ~

Now, from a review of a review of Truss’s book:

The New Yorker does not encourage letters of rejoinder, but Andrew Franklin, Truss’s editor at her publishers, Profile Books, is happy to answer back.  He is not to be outdone in witheringness by Louis Menand.  The problem is mostly the critic’s humourlessness. “If you have no sense of humour”, Franklin thinks, the success of Truss’s book will be a mystery to you.  Misunderstanding the purpose of her book, which is not a style guide but an entertaining “call to arms”, Menand has pedantically reached for a non-existent rule book. “I think he’s a tosser.  You’re welcome to use that,” Franklin remarked when I quizzed him for his views on Truss’s antagonist. “I’d never want to spend an evening in his company.” Rules in English “are more complicated and sophisticated” than he can dream of, he adds. Good writers can break the rules, provided they have learned them before they break them.

Why should it have so provoked one of the New Yorker’s leading writers?  “A twisted colon” is one of Franklin’s explanations, but he also has a weightier cultural analysis.  The attack is “deeply xenophobic”.  An American critic who is used to his readers having their eyes only on American culture has seen them reach for an idiosyncratic English book for a discussion of grammar.  So far the book has sold 800,00o copies in the US, about as many as it has sold in Britain.  For the arbiter of matters literary and linguistic in the New Yorker chair, it is, Franklin guesses, just too much.

– https://www.theguardian.com/books/2004/jul/02/referenceandlanguages.johnmullan


¹ Jim Woodroof’s inspiration is the subject of more than one post on this blog, including this one and this one.  For a generation of Harding students (before my time), at least, he was a legend.  You know how it gets annoying when someone just won’t let an opportunity pass without mentioning his favorite issue?  I decided at some point after having heard a couple of special lectures and having read a couple of his books, that he was the most perfect ample of a single-issue guy I had ever come across.  Here’s the thing:  the “issue,” for Jim Woodroof, was always Jesus.  He always focused attention on Jesus.

² “Land of the eternally living” was the late Cecil Hook’s description of his wife’s soul’s abode after her passing.  For more on Hook and his influence, see this post.

³ I am currently reading God and the Transgender Debate by Andrew T. Walker.  So far, I judge it to be fair-minded and helpful for Christians.

Past blasts #3: Gerald Casey, basketballer

This year’s March Madness is now history, and it was really the first time I “followed” the NCAA college basketball tournament.  I thought now would be a nice time to share a blast from my late father’s athletic past.  Dad seems to have excelled in almost everything he did athletically; he was a three-sport letterman in high school (basketball, track, and football; my mother tells me there was no Academy baseball then) and had been in the first Arkansas Little League (in Searcy).  An article once appeared in the college newspaper when my dad was a freshman playing on the associated high school basketball team.

They tell me that the hottest thing in trunks is a lanky red-headed Irishman by the name of Gerald Casey.  –Toady Bedford, “One Man’s Opinion,” Harding Bison (school newspaper), date unknown, presumably early 1953¹

Keep in mind that “hottest” didn’t have the same connotations in the 1950s!  My dad, Gerald Casey, #55 in the pic above, appears to have been the tallest on the team and couldn’t have been more than 5’10” at the time.  Bedford later referred to Dad as a “young ace” and noted, surely with a bit of hyperbole, that fans were turning out to eat the principal’s popcorn and to “watch ole’ Case wear out another set of cords every Monday and Thursday night.”  Apparently my dad was leading the area in scoring, averaging 18.6 points per game near the end of the season.

“How does he do it?” continued the complimentary Bedford.  “He hasn’t four arms . . . no four leaf clovers growing out of his ears . . . luck of the Irish you say?”  Then he called attention to my dad’s practice habits:  “[H]e practices . . . not just an hour every other day or a few minutes a day but all the time. . . .

“Second, he knows basketball from top to bottom, left to right, from every angle. . . .

“The beauty of the whole thing is that Casey is only a freshman in high school.  I guess that explains the glint in Hugh Groover’s eye.”

Gerald Casey, Hugh Groover circa 1980s

Groover, then the high school coach, would later coach my dad in college and would also become something of a mentor, not only on the court.  When my dad wrote his autobiographical memoir, he honored Groover, saying that he and Andy T. Ritchie, Jr. “were the top two Christian examples for me.”


¹ I can’t locate this excerpt in the available digital archives, and the date was unfortunately cut off in the paper copy our family had.

 

 

 

 

Past blasts #2

Below is an excerpt from a very nice note, recently unearthed, having been written to my mom and me many years ago.  It pertains to the memorial service for my mom’s friend’s mother.  I think I had met the man who wrote this letter once, but I really had only an arm’s-length connection with him.  I share this here as a blast from the past, yes, but for two other reasons:

  1. To illuminate someone’s general thoughtfulness and courtesy—from a time that almost seems like another era now
  2. To encourage myself to be more mindful of meaningful, personal gestures such as attending funerals

Following the passing of my own father late last fall, I still have in mind to share in more depth some thoughts about death and dying.  For now, maybe this will perk your heart, too.  I myself am encouraged that someone was encouraged by sharing tender moments with people of “like precious faith.”

Past blasts #1

I thought I would post a series of blast from the past.  I have in mind a variety of these, from various aspects of life, but who knows how it will shape up?  This first installment is not from my own experience—for which I am thankful.  Rather, it’s from the past of the town in which I reside.  Can you even imagine finding this in the display window of your office area in the morning?

No date appears on the newspaper clipping I stumbled on, but a few searches indicate it is probably from 1990.  The snake was purportedly placed there in the newspaper’s office as revenge for some news articles that had appeared.  A high school science teacher was called, and the snake was subjected to “summary execution.”  These days, depending on who was nearby, the same measures might not be taken.

About 15 years ago, I recall being in a national preserve and seeing a sign warning the public that it was rattlesnake season, but reminding us that the rattlesnake was a protected species.  I thought to myself, “Hmmph.  Right.  If I were threatened by one and had a garden rake, I wouldn’t care too much about its political status.”

David Zinman, pasta, and player positions

On Saturday, February 24, my wife and I heard the KC Symphony in performances of a Bernstein suite, a Prokofiev violin concerto, and a Schumann symphony.  A Kauffman Center/Helzberg Hall concert is always a treat. 

Image result for helzberg hall

This concert was guest-conducted by David Zinman, whose name I knew from his long tenure with the Baltimore Symphony.  Not that I had seen him conduct before, but the Baltimore Symphony was 65 miles to my southwest when I was in nearby Delaware.  It was a 2nd-tier ensemble, always in the shadow of the Philadelphia Orchestra, 45 miles to my northeast.  Yet the former was an ensemble on the rise, whereas the Philly O has been seen as rather static and staid.Image result for david zinman

Now that I’ve seen Zinman conduct for the first time, I have given him a nickname:  Papa Pasta.  He is aging and a little tottery at 81, needing a stool on the podium and some support on the way out to it.  He’s respectable and old.  Thus “Papa.”  Whence the “pasta” part?  His arms sometimes looked like spaghetti in a centrifuge, especially in faster tempos.  Such visual “noise” is a no-no for a conductor; it might feel good in the moment, but it doesn’t help the ensemble.  Rather than getting caught up in good music and flailing about wildly and passionately, one will usually do better with clear gestures that are in the music, as opposed to gestures that ride along euphorically above or outside the music.  I’ve had many a time of euphoria and over-the-top gesture, so I know what it feels like to watch a video of myself and be embarrassed at being out of control.  Zinman’s arms were not very bad at all in the grand scheme, but his elbows were a bit loose at times.  Overall, he cued with grace and led the music well.

If I’d seen him from the ensemble’s perspective, I imagine I would have seen tremendous facial expression, because his interpretive gifts were apparent.  I particularly liked the 3rd and 4th movements of his Schumann Symphony No. 2 in C.  He seemed to know that music intimately and also seemed to enjoy what he was doing.  I long for higher-level music experiences, and I envied Zinman.  He must’ve had so many wonderful opportunities in music . . . .  Our son is now in a somewhat select school music group and had taken off with his recorder playing recently.  I don’t want to be one of those live-vicariously-through-your offspring kinds of parents as I guideImage result for david zinman or advise Jedd here & there, but I’m happy for him.  I do know, both first-hand and long-term, that music can be a sustained, positive force in a life.  Clearly it has been so for Zinman, and it had also been so for me.  Thinking back to the last post, “I can do that,” I’d like to say that, yes, I can conduct like that (a trifle better in some respects, and not as well in others), but I have no delusions that I could ever be in a position like Zinman’s as a sought-after guest conductor, a once-conductor-laureate, and a resident conductor for European orchestras.  I have neither his experience nor what I sense is a rare charisma.  I also suspect he has a gift for innovation and institution-building.  His stature as a leader far surpasses my own, even in my dreams.  Zinman is in a different league.

KC Symphony 4

Maestro Zinman is not pictured on the podium above, but the KC orchestra is.  This ensemble (I assume always, and not just for specific pieces or conductors) sits in a somewhat Image result for violin f holeuncommon arrangement—”switching” the 2nd violins and the cellos.  This places the 2nd violins at the conductor’s right arm, across from the 1st violins, allowing for good “mirror image” visuals.  The arrangement has the potential to mask the sound of the 2nd part in the audience, since the “f” holes of those instruments are facing back in toward the orchestra just a tad.  This is not a problem for a professional-level 2nd violin section, but rarely can this be a good thing for balance in a high school or small college orchestra.  The primary benefit of this seating arrangement is more cello projection.  In this instance (not always), the double basses are directly behind the cellos, which creates an even stronger low string sound. From the conductor’s position—which is not always optimal for picking up ensemble balance—this positioning would result in a left-heavy string sound.  In other words, the frequently prominent first violins plus all the force of the low instruments on the left would dwarf the 2nd violins and violas on the right, but I suppose I’d get used to it . . . or I’d put the violas next to the first violins and have the basses and cellos shift to the right side of middle.

Thinking of bass sound brings to mind the apt words of an otherwise predictable preacher:  “Everyone loves the bass player.”  There was nothing particularly profound or exemplary about that preacher, so he doesn’t get a nickname.  Nor does this rather meandering blogpost get a real ending.