Thursday, April 29, 2010

I'm in Plainsboro on Thursday mornings at a Bible study after which I have some free time before I must pick up the kids at school.

For the past few years there has been massive construction across the street of a village center. I watched the progress with mild interest until I became aware that one of the new buildings would be a public library. My schedule this year, with Ella in school on the two days a week that I'm in Plainsboro, has included some library time but not as much as I'd originally hoped or planned.

Earlier in the week, a lady in the afternoon Great Adventure study (the Timeline) at QoM told me the new library is open. I googled it and discovered the grand opening was the 10th. Well, the older boys had a half day last Thursday so even if I had known, I could have made only one of two.

I was terribly late for the Exodus Bible study this morning, like 30 minutes. That's 30 minutes on top of the 30 minutes that I'm normally late for dropping off my kids at school. An hour late, then, altogether, and I missed the entire homework review. Turnout was surprisingly low. IOW, I had a few choices on where to sit. Usually I have trouble getting a seat.

So after the second hour which is all video lecture, I drove over to QoM for a rosary in the sanctuary for some people I'm concerned about. And then, if the concrete slabs had been laid in the dug-out sidewalk, I could have walked over to the library from the church parking lot. It's really close.

But I drove in my car anyway because it probably isn't right to leave it in the parking lot of one place while I'm at another place. Another world, really. I need to bring my camera next time because it's quite appealing.

I'm aware these village centers are cropping up across the state and the country. I had heard this report (or one like it) on NPR. The last time I visited Columbus (CB) a couple of years ago, the relatives took us to Polaris. And even then, before the economy had tanked, I wondered how such an enterprise could stay afloat. But cars were backed up for miles trying to get into the place.

I took a city planning course as an undergraduate and I remember only the case studies of how not to layout a city. Generally the notion at the time was that cities more or less "just happened." We were not to repeat the perceived errors of Levittown. I'm still fairly opposed to the village center concept. There's supposed to be one going up in Manalapan. The sign heralding the project has been posted for years but only tonight did I notice that someone had spray painted a big "F-ck You" across the board. We don't generally have a problem with graffiti or profanity.

Anyway, the library is awesome. I can visit it on Thursdays for about the next month or so. Well, wait, strike that because there's Mother Day things at school next Thursday, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. But every Thursday after that!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Our seats were a little left (stage right) of where they'd been the previous two times but same level, in the front row.

Taken a bit by the reality, I said to Jeff, "Imagine so many Beatles fans together in one hall!" He was willing to fain being a fan for me. The place was packed up higher than I'd ever seen. Not as many children as on other occasions. Better behaved than the Zeppelin audience but still not as refined as the Floyd fans who were overwhelmingly male, if that means anything.

For each number I recalled whatever backstory I happened to have heard or read about the song over the years. The first being "Back In the U.S.S.R" in mocking imitation of The Beach Boys. "Dear Prudence" was so wonderful I didn't even think of Mia Farrow's sister. "Glass Onion" started strong and good but, maybe like Lennon live?, the singer miffed the verse that mentions the fool on the hill. The difference is that on the album (and CD, I suppose), the songs run one into the next. I was content to let them carry on without pausing for applause. But, well, of course, the rest of the audience was determined to applaud. And it soon became clear that the band frankly needed a little breather.

Whenever I have listened to the album, I'm serious about it, first of all. But I discovered tonight that this is a fun album! Playful. And that is consistent with what I've heard, that songs had been written for their children, like "Good Night." I got the idea that nothing like this could be made today. Wiki says the album was written in India. The personal directions that they are each taking with their music - they are already breaking up - cannot be ignored in this album. Clapton's guitar sound is very distinguishable on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." Do listeners mistake it for Harrison? "Happiness is a Warm Gun," coming as it does after "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," struck me as pure ego: a boasting Lennon says, "Look what I can do! I can do this and it will sell! Listening, so deeply intent on their voices and words that I've somehow missed the music? Hard to believe but it's true. This concert of not-quite-identical voices helped me hear the music, especially the guitars and drums, without the distraction of over-the-top personalities.

After the first two sides, there was an intermission. The lady behind me - she sounded blonde - asked of her companions:
What's the theme of this album, anyway?!
"Sexy Sadie" is so biting! I had a stuffed raccoon named "Rocky" when I was young. You'd never find anything like that today; the song just isn't known. "Julia" was nice, performed with two voices necessarily, as a tribute to Lennon's mother. I couldn't help but compare it with what Roger Waters has done in regards to his father. I thought of that video of Lennon at the bed inn with Al Capp. Lennon is angry but still a pussycat. And Derek Taylor is fuming like a gentleman.

Often the audience failed to allow for the "fade-out/return" effect, that "false ending," which characterizes so many of the album's Lennon/McCartney compositions. But then I got stumped myself on "Helter Skelter"1 and clapped too early. That song was bloody loud with the constant drone like T2 or Contact. I had thought I heard the comeback before I really had but, in fact, the sound level goes all the way down to 0. And, of course, it isn't the whole comeback without "I got blisters on my fingers!" The most ironic thing about that song is the constant background of "Ahhhhh" by Lennon, as if it's some silly love song.

The band wasn't a tribute group and so didn't wear costumes. It was all about the music. It was certainly the first time I'd heard a faithful live performance of "The White Album," cover to cover. So many Beatlemania experiences "all those years ago" attempted to make up in impersonations what they lacked in musicianship.

1 George Martin can be seen rocking out @ about 3:26.

Friday, April 23, 2010

This assessment was on someone's Facebook page, who scored farther into the lower left quadrant than I did.

My result doesn't surprise me. It's actually a relief to see I'm not that far off center. I s'pose being a girl keeps me moderated.

Several of the questions were scary to ponder.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

I got all my homework done this week. I stayed up until 1 o'clock last night to finish and bagged the Great Adventure stuff because Ella was home sick Tuesday anyway. I might make up that work but maybe not.

The first lesson is a gentle introduction to the method with a lighter workload. After the opening drivel about how important this all is and how wonderful we are for engaging in it, several passages from Genesis were assigned. Rather than merely reading them, I copied them out in the space provided between the references and highlighted verses I thought significant. The interpretation is very literal: God promised specific land to Abraham, repeated that promise to Isaac, Jacob and Joseph and God can be trusted to keep promises. cf. Gen. 12:1-7, 13:14-18, 15:13-18, 26:1-6, 28:10-15, 37:23-28, 41:41, 46:2-4, 50. As I said, with the exception of chapter 50, I copied out these pericopes.

The next instruction was to read Exodus 1 and identify the main characters: a new king in Egypt who did not know Joseph, Hebrew midwives, namely Shiphrah and Puah; God, and the sons (and daughters) of Israel. Then, I read Exodus 2 and answered the 5 W's and the H about Moses:
  • Who: Moses ben Levi (2:1)
  • Where: near the Nile (2:3)
  • What: Moses' early life (2)
  • When: after the patriarchs, during the reign of a king who did not know Joseph
  • Why: God's deliverer (2:24-25)
  • How: wisdom & providence (2:3, 7, 9)
Swimmingly, right? I'm not new to this. But then, the snag: read Acts 7:15-30. Ah, I copied it out first. What is St. Stephen's speech? A pious reflection, attributing to Moses thoughts that aren't expressed in Exodus.
"... it came into his heart to visit his brothers ..." (cf. Acts 7:23; Ex. 2:11)

"... defended the oppressed and avenged him ..." (cf. Acts 7:24; Ex.2:12)
Apparently Moses was under the impression that his brothers would understand God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they didn't. To all this, I say, why the burning bush. The point of the exercise isn't the specific "insight" that the New Testament gives to the Old but the general evangelical principle that "Scripture interprets or enlightens Scripture" (page 7).

Now, I found two things interesting this morning when we gathered for discussion and the video lecture. Three things, maybe. First, when confronted with St. Stephen's description of Moses in Acts, the French lady seated next to me objected aloud to everyone:
"But that's the New Testament!"
Rather than saying what I thought ("Exactly!"), I heard myself whisper the party line to her, "It's the inspired word of God." European liberalism meets American Fundamentalism. Comforting to observe someone else wig out over the clash.

Second, strangely, I found that I'd missed Kay Arthur after all these months. I appreciate that she doesn't allow her crew to edit out all self-correction of her verbal blunders anymore. It demonstrates some humility. The third interesting thing, maybe a little disturbing, was how Arthur presented Acts 7, beginning about verse 20 and continuing to the climax in verse 37. Obviously, verse 37 speaks of Jesus but instead she attempted to impress upon us that we can be that prophet in our world today. Before she was done, she rectified that imbalance. Maybe it's just my own fault, but I would just expect her to stick to the intent of Scripture. The video lecture ought not be a sermon. She's a Bible teacher.

I have yet to read Sarna on the first three chapters of Exodus. I would expect, without the benefit of these New Testament "insights," Sarna's read of Moses' character will be different. Don't get me wrong: I affirm St. Stephen's "remembrance" of Moses, but let's at least consider Moses' own remembrance first.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

During Tim's reconciliation service, Jeff messaged me that Kenny needs a book on Hawaii from the library. So after the service (and after getting a bite at Tim's favorite restaurant, Subway), I traded him in for Kenny at home. We returned his Lindbergh biography which he'd had since January because he had already given his presentation to parents at school a couple of Fridays ago. The overdue fee was only $2. Whew.

I sat Kenny down at the WebCat PC/terminal in the children's section and without any prompting from me, he typed in "hawaii." The results weren't very impressive. I told him to scan the results for call numbers beginning with "J" and we would walk to that section of the children's collection and scan the shelves for titles that looked promising. None of the results tended to cluster around any particular call number but we decided to walk to the 970's in the stacks.

There wasn't much on the shelves that caught our eye. So we walked over to the fiction section to locate a librarian. We told her we were looking for fact books on Hawaii and she countered, "Not in this section you aren't." I know it's their tendency to think patrons stupid but I resent being considered also lazy. No, but over in the 970's. She told us to try 919.

So we walked back and found a much wider selection of books. We took home two. To her credit, she stopped by and checked up on us. I just don't know why these 919 books didn't turn up in a catalog search.

After that, I took a few minutes to sashay over to the grown-up 200's. I'm beginning a study of the Book of Exodus and I thought I could find the Anchor Bible commentary. But I didn't see that particular volume even though there are some, mostly prophets. Instead I picked up F. F. Bruce's The English Bible, 2nd edition (OUP, 1970). It's my cup of tea. I'd forgotten how much I love looking at OE and ME texts. I can't read the texts, can't pronounce or translate. But I nonetheless find the words fascinating, always have:
Ne beoth ge thy forhtran, theah the Faraon brohte
sweordwigendra side hergas,
eorla unrim! Him eallum wile
mihtig drihten thurh mine hand
to daege thissum daedlean gyfan,
thaet hie lifigende leng ne moton
aegnian mid yrmthum Israhela cyn.
Ne willath eow ondraedan deade fethan
faege ferhthlocan! fyrst is aet ende
laenes lifes. Eow is lar godes
a-broden of breostum: ic on beteran raed,
thaet ge gewurthien wuldres aldor
and eow liffrean lissa bidde,
sigora gesynto, thaer ge sithien!
This is se ecea Abrahames god,
frumsceafta frea, se thas fyrd wereth
modig and maegenrof mid thaere miclan hand.
When I was a kid looking at this sort of stuff, usually the word origins in the dictionary entry, I always thought that I'd one day learn how to read it. Or even that I could ever learn to read it. Ha.

Bruce says that this section is an OE translation from Old Saxon, centuries before the Norman Conquest. Follow the link and look at all the quaint names.

I haven't gotten very far in Bruce's book and probably won't before it's due back at the library. But I found the third edition available at Amazon from book sellers. I guess it's interesting because I don't think many people are trained in these ancient languages anymore. And so far I've found his writing style irenic.

Monday, April 19, 2010

I took Ella to an afternoon birthday party at the park in town. It was sunny and a little breezy. Chris was home from school with a mild fever but came along.

Ella wanted me to swing her almost exclusively. And that was alright with me. How many more opportunities will I have to do that? But as usually happens at these things, I looked after the other children on the playground as well. Chatting moms were more than happy to let me push their kids on the swings or help them down the rock climb.

Believe it or not, I'd actually forgotten how it is. Has it been so long since I've been to the playground with a group? But I'd rather look after kids. Except one kid there who had seemingly boasted about his age turned out to be the one who could do the least for himself.

Chris mostly sat. Occasionally he'd come over and wanted to push Ella. Just as the pizza was served, they both told me they were hungry. What good timing! They both had a slice. Ella walked around eating hers in order to keep tabs on the swing. After the cake, the hostess brought out the "goodie bags" because one child left already.

Those goodies bags caught Chris's eye. Before long, he asked whether we could leave, after receiving a goodie bag. I told him that I hadn't told the birthday kid's mother that he was coming, it was last minute because he was home sick, and she might not have enough goodie bags. But that the best thing to do was to wait until the party was almost over and then there would be a good chance that she had enough. It seemed reasonable to me but he could not accept it.

The pull-a-part cake had a Cars theme which my two younger children know and love. A significant episode in the movie is Lightening McQueen being ordered to pave the road he ruined in a car chase with police. Icky, gicky tar or asphalt is a big part of that scene. That being said, I saw no esthetic reason for the cake icing to be mostly black. When Ella got her chocolate cupcake covered in black icing, she stuck out her tongue. She ate most of it and her face was, not black but a deep purple. A lady with a white jacket sat backwards on the picnic bench, leaning against the table and got black frosting all over her coat. After that, everyone was lamenting the absence of baby wipes from their travel packs.

My two kids spent the last half hour of the party with their heads under the picnic table watching the ants take away bits of cake and frosting that had fallen to the ground. They know A Bug's Life quite well, also.

Chris had asked me to bring a travel pillow from the car so that he could rest his head. Ella insisted on having one too. At one point, I sat between them on a park bench while they each rested on either side of me. It probably seemed ridiculous - why not just go home? But, I thought the fresh air was good for them.

When it was time to leave, I offered to take things to the hostess's car but she said she had it under control. Chris got a goodie bag which was a blue pail with some candy and toys, including bubbles. We drove over to the older boys' school and I let them out to blow bubbles near the playground. They used the tiny bottles all up, so from my perspective, it was a success!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Thursday, April 15, 2010

We had last Thursday off because some school districts were still on spring break.

After dropping the younger kids off at school, I headed over to church and was nearly halfway there when I realized that I hadn't brought my bag.

The first session is always review, starting from Creation and working historically forward to the biblical book in question. In this case, Exodus. I wouldn't need a Bible but I keep a couple in my car, for no particular reason. So I grabbed one, Zondervan's SRSB (NIV) and entered the building.

These lawn signs (pictured upper right) guided my path to the employee entrance. I hoped the answers were printed on the reverse but, no, just the same question repeated. The web site only invites inquirers to a Sunday service which promises to answer questions beginning April 10th. That must be their mystagogy program.

I climbed the spiral staircase and noted few in attendance in the Fundamentals class, at the top of the stairs. I entered our room right next door and found a seat in the back row, between the study leader's teaching partner and the Lutheran who had an "Extreme Teen" Bible unopened in front of her. And the lady next to her had the same, also unopened, only its front cover had been ripped off. So I figured that I wasn't the only one who'd forgotten my stuff as the ladies had helped themselves to the stray Bibles that litter the meeting room.

Class had started long ago and I struggled to join the discussion, which at the moment, sought to fit dates of Egyptian kings into the history of the Abrahamic people. The presentation was unavoidably confusing due to very foreign names and working backwards in years BC. But the presenter kept her head and didn't give up and straightened us all out. Her knowledge and ability keeps me coming back.

I have Sarna's commentary on Exodus too. The eleven lesson study runs until just before Independence Day. I am excited about the study and hope I don't get frustrated.

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Friday, April 02, 2010

In order to stay up past his bedtime, Tim opted to come with me to the Holy Thursday service in Hamilton. We were a few minutes late getting there only because we hosted my brother-in-law and his two boys for dinner. We took our seats as the catechumens were presenting the blessed chrisms from the bishop.

Tim had wanted to light a candle but I always forget the protocol: the gates were drawn closed until after the Vigil.

There was quite a bit of incense. The readings were short enough. I had Tim follow along in my missal but he was really only interested in the psalm, especially the word "psalm." The homily was about the ministerial priesthood and the sacraments, particularly holy eucharist and reconciliation. About how the priest doesn't say "Christ absolves you," but rather, "I absolve you." Very basic stuff but I guess people need to hear it. I tried very hard to pray my rosary to drowned out the homily but I couldn't focus. I was too interested in what he was saying.

Twelve people, men and women, had their feet washed by the priest. Conveniently, they went up barefoot. I prefer when the priest does the lot rather than hands off the task. But I read somewhere on the internet that only the feet of males are to be washed. I wouldn't even know where to look to confirm that. This parish seems to take pains to be by-the-book. More about that later. I was just glad that the choir sang things other than that repetitive Gregory Norbet song.

At some point, I got the sense that the intent of the liturgy was to separate the true Catholics from the pretenders. As I looked about, everyone was especially enjoying the incense and reverence. No one seemed disgusted at the pretentious air, pardon the pun. So, I was just reminded that there are plenty of Catholics who'll come out of the woodwork to appreciate such a service. It was fine for me. It didn't bother me.

The procession used an umbrella instead of a canopy. Maybe the parish doesn't possess a canopy. I suppose I could check back at Corpus Christi. A friend of mine told me she's switching to an ELCA church because this parish asked for $50,000 towards church ornaments, like candelabras, etc. She just thought the money could be better used to fight poverty instead of worshipping God properly. I should have told her about the time I heard a pastor ask for $60,000 in one weekend, but that still doesn't make it right.

When it was over, most people just seemed stunned, just sitting there, not knowing whether to move or not. I whispered to Tim that it's done, that we could leave quietly. And I read in the paper a couple of days later that the bishop was at St. Al's in Jackson - a relatively new church building that I have not visited yet. It would have been perfect had I only known!