rivka: (chalice)
(I should totally have a chalice-in-a-Santa-hat icon for this post, but I don't. Alas.)

So Garrison Keillor wrote a cranky and mean-spirited column for Salon in which, I guess, he tried to horn in on Bill O'Reilly's lucrative and attention-grabbing "War on Christmas" routine. Except that because Keillor operates in a different cultural millieu than O'Reilly does, he decides to call out Unitarian-Universalists and Jews:
You can blame Ralph Waldo Emerson for the brazen foolishness of the elite. He preached here at the First Church of Cambridge, a Unitarian outfit (where I discovered that "Silent Night" has been cleverly rewritten to make it more about silence and night and not so much about God) [...]

Unitarians listen to the Inner Voice and so they have no creed that they all stand up and recite in unison, and that's their perfect right, but it is wrong, wrong, wrong to rewrite "Silent Night." If you don't believe Jesus was God, OK, go write your own damn "Silent Night" and leave ours alone. This is spiritual piracy and cultural elitism and we Christians have stood for it long enough. And all those lousy holiday songs by Jewish guys that trash up the malls every year, Rudolph and the chestnuts and the rest of that dreck. Did one of our guys write "Grab your loafers, come along if you wanna, and we'll blow that shofar for Rosh Hashanah"? No, we didn't.

Christmas is a Christian holiday -- if you're not in the club, then buzz off.


As they say elsewhere on the web, in a turn of phrase so useful that it quickly became part of my regular vocabulary: "I wish I had a thousand eyes - I'd roll them all." Because let's take a look at the shocking way that UUs have butchered the carol "Silent Night." You might want to send small children out of the room for this one, and pregnant women and people with heart conditions should exercise caution before clicking this link to #251 in the UU hymnal.

The UU blogosphere has been all over this one, of course. I particularly like the thoughtful and comprehensive response by Rev. Cynthia Landrum, which sums it up thusly:
On the other hand, Keillor is falling prey to a major fallacy that says, "the way I remember things from my own childhood is the way things always have been and always should be." His personal history has become the authoritative version of what Christmas should be, and what hymns should be.

But, of course, neither Christmas nor hymnody is like that.


The funny thing is that the version of "Silent Night" Keillor is so vigorously defended is a not-very-faithful English translation of a German carol, "Stille Nacht." A UU musician posted a literal translation of the German carol. The scansion wouldn't work to actually sing it, but it has some beautifully intimate mother-infant imagery:
Silent night, holy night
All is sleeping, alone watches
Only the close, most holy couple.
Blessed boy in curly hair,
Sleep in heavenly peace!
Sleep in heavenly peace!


The literal translation from the German also has a fantastic line in the third verse: Son of God, oh how laughs Love out of your divine mouth.

Is Garrison Keillor singing about Love being laughed from the infant Jesus' mouth? No? Then he can shut the hell up about how awful it is when UUs change the words to hymns.

As far as Keillor's anti-Semitism: I don't even know where to start when it comes to those horrible Jews, ruining Christmas for the poor misunderstood outnumbered Christians by, I guess, holding a gun to their heads and forcing them to like "The Christmas Song." No, wait! No Christian likes that song, right? The reason it gets played ad nauseam during the Christmas season is because Jews control the media. Now it becomes clear to me. As I said: I wish I had a thousand eyes - I'd roll them all.
rivka: (adulthood)
In about five minutes I have a meeting that I am extremely nervous about.

So I'm posting this fabulous video, via [livejournal.com profile] acceberskoorb's facebook, of a talented ASL signer performing Jonathan Coulton's "Re: Your Brains."



You don't need to know sign to think this is cool - I only know a tiny bit. He does a fantastic job of using facial expressions and body language to convey the nuances of the song. And if you're a language geek, you'll want to click on the "more info" section on the side to see a literal translation of the signs matched up against the English lyrics.
rivka: (Alex the queen)
I put Alex to bed about twenty minutes ago. She's up there singing at the top of her lungs:

Well, Joshua was said to be a mighty foe
Cause he marched right up to old Jericho
Blowed his horn and the walls come down
Better not build a wall around your home town.


More four-year-olds should be familiar with the works of the Chad Mitchell Trio. ...Although I think we should probably hold off on teaching her to sing The John Birch Society.
rivka: (I love the world)
On Saturday, Alex and I went hiking.

We've done it a few times before, and she asks to go hiking pretty often. But this was the first time we've ever taken the opportunity to leave Colin home and go off to the woods for what Alex refers to as "special girl time." She was very excited.

It was a beautiful day, with temperatures in the low 70s. Perfect for hiking. I decided that Cascade Falls would be a good short-distance, high-reward hike for a four year old, so we headed to Patapsco Valley State Park not far outside the Baltimore city limits.

I hadn't been up that trail in years, and in the interim they had reworked the bottom portion to prevent trail erosion. So I, um, missed the turnoff to the falls. Instead Alex and I climbed to the top of the steep ridge, meandered up and down a hilly path for a while, and then turned around and came back. We found the falls on the second try. Alex had a lot of fun scrambling around on the rocks and was very very proud to be able to cross the stream from rock to rock and climb up to the top of the waterfall. Our hike was made complete when we found a small snake swimming at the base of the falls and got to watch his progress around and between the rocks.

All told, I think we went about a mile. Maybe a bit more. Some of it was quite steep and slippery, so even with the short length it provided plenty of challenge and excitement. I was proud of Alex. I hope we'll be able to do it again soon.

Sunday at church we covenanted with our new minister. Seven leaders from the congregation (including kids representing the Religious Education program) charged Rev. David with leading us in various aspects of our church life, and then he spoke about his goals and intentions, and we all wound up the ceremony by pledging in unison to support each other in the mission and work of the church. It was inspiring. It's exciting to have a new beginning.

Have I said anything about the new minister yet? It's still early days, but I think he's going to be good. The most obvious early change is a vast improvement in congregational singing, which, frankly, was pretty wretched before Rev. David got here. (Q. Why are UUs so bad at congregational singing? A. Because everyone is reading ahead to see if they agree with the next line.)

Rev. David has a beautiful voice, and he leaves his mike on for the hymns so he can act as songleader. Also he asked the church to buy the new UUA hymnal supplement, which includes more contemporary and world music, and he's having us sing the same songs several weeks in a row to improve people's comfort and familiarity. Those changes are making a huge difference in how well the congregation sings, and since singing is one of my favorite parts of church it's making me very happy.
rivka: (panda pile)
I wish my iPod hooked up to the ancient CD player we'll be taking to the hospital - it would certainly make eveything simpler. Instead I'm burning CDs. Read more... )
rivka: (I love the world)
My favorite band, in Baltimore, on my birthday. What are the odds?

Maybe the second-best Great Big Sea concert I've seen, and I've been to a bunch of them. It's hard to beat the first time Michael and I ever saw them, in a little hole-in-the-wall college bar in Iowa City about ten years ago, during their first U.S. tour. A busload of Canadian students had been brought down from some college near Dubuque, so the crowd was intensely enthusiastic. GBS were a little drunk on the fun and craziness of suddenly being obscure, and they did things like an extended medley of 80s songs. Alan Doyle launched into "It's the End of the World As We Know It" and then visibly realized that he didn't remember all the words.

It's hard to beat that, but this show probably takes second place. It was awesome.

They played in the Ram's Head in Baltimore, which is a large-ish club that manages to fake "intimate" pretty well. We stayed sitting down until GBS actually came out, and were able to just walk up to a spot 20-25 feet from the center of the stage.

They played everything. All the old stuff: The Process Workers' Song, The Night Pat Murphy Died, General Taylor, Mari Mac, Old Black Rum, Lukey, When I'm Up I Can't Get Down, Consequence Free, Ordinary Day for God's sake, the first GBS song I ever heard. They played When I Am King and John Barbour and Scolding Wife and End of the World (Alan Doyle is much smoother about the words he's forgotten, ten years later) and some gorgeous songs from the new album, like Here And Now and England.

They played and played, and we sang ourselves hoarse, and I learned that jumping up and down while six months pregnant, while not advisable, is sometimes necessary.

My favorite band. In Baltimore. On my birthday.

It was awesome.
rivka: (Obama)


Old-time bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley has endorsed Barack Obama. The radio ad with his endorsement is getting heavy play in the Appalachian regions of southwest Virginia and West Virginia.

This guy:



Endorsed Barack Obama.

The folks who live down there seem to think this could make a real difference.
rivka: (baby otter)
Yesterday I chaperoned Alex's nursery school class to a performance of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. My expectations were pretty low. It was a special concert aimed at children aged 6 and under, and the title of the show was "Goldilocks and Other Fairy Tales." I thought the kids would find it exciting to be at a concert and see orchestra instruments, but I wasn't anticipating any enjoyment for myself.

I was pleasantly surprised.

In the 45-minute program, there was only one piece that I considered to be musical pandering: a subset of the brass and percussion sections of the orchestra performed "Under the Sea," from the Disney movie The Little Mermaid. Otherwise, it was all real orchestral music: a dashing, exciting Rimsky-Korsakov piece called "The Snow Maiden," a piece from the Tchaikovsky ballet Sleeping Beauty and another from the the opera Hansel and Gretel, and "In the Hall of the Mountain King" from Peer Gynt. There was a sort of a tone poem based on the fable "The Tortoise and the Hare" and accompanied by a storyteller, and a ballet of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" written by a modern composer whose name I didn't catch.

A pair of adult ballet dancers appeared during the Tchaikovsky piece, and students at the Baltimore School for the Arts performed the Goldilocks ballet. The bit from Hansel and Gretel was sung and danced. All in all, there was a nice mix of visual elements with purely symphonic experiences.

The program had a narrator, who used a brief and (I thought) very effective script. For "In the Hall of the Mountain King," in a few sentences she evoked a vivid picture of Peer Gynt tiptoeing into a cave, the goblins circling and creeping around him, and the mad final chase. Alex kept returning to that afterward, wanting to relate the story again and again. The narrator also deftly introduced basic orchestral and musical concepts without sounding like she was lecturing: tuning, the roles of the concertmaster and conductor, the definitions of "opera" and "ballet," and the idea of a musical motif. Before "The Tortoise and the Hare," she explained that the contrabassoon would play music for the tortoise and the clarinet would play for the hare, and had the musicians play a bar or two of each to help the children pick the motifs out later.

The entire row of Alex's 3- and 4-year-old classmates sat captivated throughout the concert. (The 4- and 5-year-olds sitting behind us were less rapt and more inclined to talk.) During "In the Hall of the Mountain King" I wound up with two little girls in my lap, but they thoroughly enjoyed the "scary" music.

But I really knew the concert had been a success that evening. Michael and Alex were together in the playroom, when Alex came running in and asked me to be their conductor. I came in and discovered that she had lined up all the chairs and couches from her dollhouse in rows. A tiny plastic animal was perched on each one. Alex and Michael were ready to make music by banging blocks together - they were only waiting for me to conduct. Michael told me afterward that she had organized the audience of animals completely of her own volition, telling him that "they came to watch some music." Yay.
rivka: (chalice)
Thursday was supposed to be my gloriously activity-free day. I'd originally planned an all-day nature trip with Alex, and then cancelled it when the program description changed from registration to confirmation. I had also figured that I would need a day to rest and recuperate after two hiking days in a row. By Thursday at SUUSI, many - most? - people are dragging. All my muscles hurt from my insufficiently-trained-for hikes. I planned to update LJ, take a long hot shower, nap, and maybe hang out in the coffeeshop for a while. Read more... )
rivka: (chalice)
I know, I know, I only got to Tuesday in my recaps before they petered out... which is pathetic. In my defense: (a) the rest of SUUSI got really, really busy there, for a while; (b) the shooting at TVUUC has been dominating my thoughts this week and has taken me out of the shinyhappy headspace; and (c) let me just say that a head cold and the last vestiges of first-trimester symptoms combine very poorly.

But here I am. When we last saw SUUSI, I had fallen into bed achy and exhausted after a lousy hike on Tuesday afternoon, unsure about whether I'd be able to handle my Wednesday morning hike. read more & a couple of pictures )
rivka: (trust beyond reason)
This song's been stuck in my head for the last week, since I heard Alistair Moock perform it at SUUSI. I'm not crazy about the version he put on his album, which is distractingly jangly. I think it works best with a solo, stripped-down guitar accompaniment, as he plays it here.



Here's the story he told about it: he was driving around one day with NPR on the radio, not particularly listening, when he heard a commentator say the phrase, "That's why God saw fit to make tears."

"So I turned the car around and went home," he told us, "because all the singer-songwriters in Boston listen to NPR, and one of them was going to write the song."
rivka: (chalice)
I don't have anything on my schedule today, so maybe I'll catch up with my recaps? At any rate: Tuesday was quite the jam-packed day. Sometimes those who wander are lost... )
rivka: (Baltimore)
...although the lying bastards sent a robocall on Saturday that claimed the service was up and running. Making Michael waste another hour fiddling with it and waiting on hold for tech support. Now they swear we'll have DSL by tonight. I am not holding my breath.

Other than that it was a good, busy, fun weekend.

Friday night Michael's new company treated us (and all their other employees) to a night at the Baltimore Symphony for an event called "Pops Goes Vegas." We weren't really sure what to expect, but it turned out to be awesome. The company event started two hours before the symphony center was open to the general public. When we came in, someone snapped our picture in front of a glitzy Vegas backdrop. We were given flashy (literally: little racing colored lights) pins shaped like a pair of dice which identified us as private party attendees, a deck of company-logo playing cards, and a ticket we could exchange for casino chips. There were gaming tables set up in the main lobby: blackjack, poker, roulette, and craps. On the mezzanine level were a couple of open bars and a sumptuous buffet featuring things like crab claws, pate, sushi, and beef tenderloin. Circulating waiters brought by hot hors d'oeuvres. They also had a magician, an Elvis impersonator, and some feathered-and-sequined showgirls strolling around.

We ate, drank some wine, and played a little poker. I busted out three times in quick succession (it was not particularly difficult to come by additional chip vouchers), mostly I think from bad luck - neither Michael nor I could pinpoint any stupid decisions. He made out like a bandit. Each chip could be exchanged at the end of the evening for a ticket to enter the door prize drawing, which I thought was a nice touch. Michael didn't win anything, though.

I didn't really know what to expect from the music. It turned out to be a glitzy, rather silly Vegas-style spectacular, with a Liberace impersonator, a Frank Sinatra impersonator, a couple of other singers, and dancing showgirls. Lots of costume changes. The orchestra had been forced into white dinner jackets. The singers were good, but I kept thinking that the whole thing was a waste of a very good orchestra.

Afterwards there was a dessert buffet, and then we walked home.

Saturday we had tickets to the National Aquarium, also a benefit from Michael's company. (They have corporate passes to a variety of Baltimore institutions, and anyone is allowed to check them out - it's not used as a merit incentive, or anything. Which is cool.) Alex went crazy over the dolphin show, and was also particularly taken by the rays. (The National Aquarium has a huge ray pool that you can view from both above and below the water.) She was scared of the sharks and some of the bigger fish, which is a new thing.

Afterwards we went to Barnes & Noble, because I had a Christmas gift card burning a hole in my pocket. I got Secret Ingredients: The New Yorker Book of Food and Drink, which is a compendium of food-themed articles and cartoons from the full course of the magazine's history. It is wonderful. And I got the DK First Atlas for Alex.

Sunday: church, and then a chilly and windy picnic at the St. Patrick's Day parade. (Alex: "Are there going to be any beanbags at this parade?" Me: "... ... ...Bagpipes? Yes, there will probably be bagpipes.") A little monotonous (pipe-and-drum band, high school marching band, local Hibernian chapter, lather, rinse, and repeat for two hours) but still fun. My favorites: the Mid-Atlantic Irish Wolfhound club, the very very tiny step-dancing girls, the fife and drum corps dressed up in colonial-era costumes, and a group of poignant, battered-looking Civil War reenactors (in blue) with a torn American flag. I'm not sure what connection the last two groups had with St. Patrick's Day - or the Buffalo Soldiers reenactors, come to that, or the fire engines - but I suppose that they were just there to be suitably parade-like.

We also turned over the key to the old house this weekend. Now we're really and finally moved. Yay.
rivka: (chalice)
The music committee at church has asked people to write short essays about their favorite hymn. I don't know yet if I want to write up something formal to send in (you know, in my copious free time), but [livejournal.com profile] telerib wrote up something about the trials of adjusting to the Unitarian-Universalist hymnal, and it got me thinking. Read more... )
rivka: (for god's sake)
Saturday morning, Michael brought Alex up to our bedroom and the two of them climbed in bed with me. She noticed my hospital bracelets right away.

"What's that?"

"That was a bracelet from the hospital. I got very sick yesterday and had to go to the hospital so doctors could take care of me. They put the bracelet on me so that everyone would know who I was."

"Did you ride in a fire truck?"

"You mean an ambulance? No. Papa drove me in the car."

"If you're sick you should ride in an ambulance," she informed me.

She asked some questions about whether different parts of my body hurt. "...What hurts, then?"

"My tummy hurts." I took a deep breath, realizing that this was the time to explain. "Do you remember that we said a baby was growing in a special place in my tummy? There is not going to be a baby. We thought a baby was growing there, but Mama was just sick. I hurt in the place where the baby was supposed to grow. Maybe someday a baby will grow there, but not for a long long time. So that's very sad."

Alex made a little sad noise.

"I know," I said. Michael and I put our arms around her. "We're all sad that there isn't going to be a baby."

"Mama, do you feel better?" she asked.

"I'm a little better, but I'm still sick. I need to rest and lie down a lot today, and I can't pick you up or have you climb on me. In a few days I'll be better."

We set up a signal: I would keep wearing my hospital bracelets to remind her to be gentle with me. When the bracelets came off, it would mean that I could pick her up again.

A couple of hours later, she looked up from playing. "There's not going to be a baby for a long long time?"

"That's right," I said. "Maybe someday, though."

I sent her and Michael off to church by themselves this morning. She turned around at the door and looked earnestly at me. "Mom, get lots and lots of rest."

"Okay, honey. I will."




I thought I would never ever post song lyrics in my journal, but I've had a Meg Barnhouse song on repeat play for the past three days, and it's helping more than I imagined a song possibly could. It's a conversation between her and Julian of Norwich.

lyrics below )
rivka: (baby otter)
We saw Jonathan Coulton tonight, with Paul and Storm who used to be in Da Vinci's notebook. It was so fun.

And Coulton sang Kennesaw Mountain Landis just for me. Like, really for me. Like, he pointed at the table where we were sitting and said, "This table right here, what do you want to hear?" And I asked for it, and he sang it. And it was AWESOME.

I am happy.
rivka: (chalice)
Most churchgoers celebrated Palm Sunday today. At our church, April Fool's Day was marked by a service entitled "Holy Laughter." Fill in your own favorite Unitarian joke here; I'm not sure if all of them came up, because I left with the children at Religious Education time, but certainly a good many of them did.

(For example: one of our ministers - the painfully earnest one - answered the question "How many UUs does it take to change a light bulb?" with a perfectly straight delivery of: "We choose not to make a statement either in favor of, or against, the need for a light bulb. However, if in your own journey, you have found that light bulbs work for you, that is fine. You are invited to write a poem or compose a modern dance about your personal relationship with your light bulb. Present it next month at our annual Light Bulb Sunday Service, in which we will explore a number of light bulb traditions, including incandescent, fluorescent, 3-way, long-life, and tinted, all of which are equally valid paths to luminescence.")

Michael, in his role as church treasurer, was slated to give a brief talk wrapping up the annual stewardship (i.e., giving money to the church) campaign. As he walked to the lectern, the organist broke into "Hey, Big Spender." (Everyone who took part in the service, it turns out, had their own musical motif. Michael was the first to find out.)

But mostly I wanted to post about the hymns. We sang "Coffee, Coffee, Coffee," of course; even at a UU church, some things are sacred. ("Coffee the communion of our Uni-Union, Symbol of our sacred ground, our one necessity. Feel the holy power at our coffee hour, Brewed black by perk or drip or instantly.") There was a lovely solo of "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Unitarian," as the anthem. And we also sang one that was new to me: lyrics below the cut )

Fun service. I kind of wish that it had been my week off from teaching, except then I would have missed my co-teacher's insanely fun and messy lesson on the wonders of sand and soil.
rivka: (boundin')
[livejournal.com profile] telerib just posted the marvelous news that Boston has named their reloadable RFID-based subway card the "Charlie Card."

I grew up on the song "Charlie on the M.T.A.." (Anyone unfamiliar with the song? It's about a guy who gets stuck on the subway for eternity because they want to charge him an "exit fare" to get off.) It was one of the songs my father loved to sing for his kids. One of the many songs.

I remember so much of my father's music. meandering earworm warning. )
What off-the-beaten-path music shaped your childhood?
rivka: (Default)
Yesterday after work we went to the state capitol in Annapolis to lobby for GLBT rights with Equality Maryland. The two major issues on their agenda are marriage equality (particularly, defeating a proposed "Defense of Marriage" constitutional amendment) and adding transgendered people to the state anti-discrimination law. The crowd mostly seemed focused on the marriage issue, perhaps because Maryland has a right-to-marry lawsuit that has made it through the first round of the courts and gotten everyone fired up.

marriage_equality

love_is_love

more, including more pictures, below the cut )

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