Pachelbel’s Canon


[This post will alienate most of you, my dear readers. Be warned.]

Two weeks ago I played the piano for dear Anna’s wedding. Anna’s uncle and aunt, extraordinary musicians from Georgia, played violins. We had a sort of impromptu string trio. As we were reviewing music for the prelude, Uncle John, fiddling around, played the familiar phrase that begins Pachelbel’s Canon. I shuddered. Fixing a glare, pointing my index finger, I proclaimed “This will be a Pachelbel Free Wedding!!”

For a moment I rested my face in my hands.

“I’m sorry. It’s just so overdone…”  I barely knew these people and here I was issuing commands.

John grinned. “Why do you think we know it by heart?”

“So you don’t really want to play it?”

“No.” One syllable conveyed his meaning, make no mistake.

I exhaled and sighed at the same time.  “We are on the same side of the river?”

“Oh yes.”


Pachelbel’s Canon in D is the original three chord, twenty-two verse ditty. Exquisite the first seventy-three times you hear it. The seventy-fourth time, however, it loses its charm. Wedding musicians are bone weary of this piece. How many bridesmaids in the world have hesitation-stepped down an aisle to Canon in D? Somewhere beyond twenty-six million is my guess.

It’s time to stop the madness, people. If the bride or groom request Pachelbel, I will gladly (and sweetly!) play Pachelbel. But when I am asked to choose the music, it is good-bye dear Johann, I wish you well.

Back in the day, Paul Stookey’s Wedding Song was the rage. Practically a one note, one chord, monoculture of a song. Pick a note, a low note you like, and sing it three times to the words “There is love.” Then repeat the same note with “There is love.” Three same notes yet again to make sure the audience knows there is love. It finally fell out of favor. It has been a happy twenty-five years since I’ve heard that gem at a wedding.

It’s time to give Pachelbel’s Canon a well-deserved rest. Let our great-grandchildren rediscover it.


John, Rebecca and I played a postlude until the last row of guests were leaving their seats.

“It’s a wrap!” I gratefully smiled. It’s always a relief to not have muffed it up.

In muted tones, with a twinkle in his eye, John played the opening notes of Pachelbel’s Canon.

I just laughed.

What Do You Want in a Book?

We all have our druthers.

As a book lover, I have a list of what I’d like in the books I read. Not content—though I care about that in another context—; I’m talking layout, format, design.

I ask you: what do you want in a book?

1. E-book or print? Already it’s an old question, but a necessary starting point. I like my books incarnated in paper and ink. And, really, isn’t an e-book a disembodied book? But the benefits of e-books are many. My favorite reasons to use a Kindle: the availability of out-of-print books, often free; a light way to carry 96 books onto the airplane; the note-taking abilities. I use my Kindle in church now, because I can put notes and quotes from the sermon right on my Kindle.

2. Hardcover or paperback? If a book was available in both, at the same cost, which one would you pick? I like hardcovers for books I want to hand down to my children, but since I often read in bed, I find the paperback more comfortable. With the hardcover you have an the additional question of the dust jacket. I prefer the cover of the hardback book to be the same design as the dust jacket, so if when the dust jacket gets ripped/worn/coffee-stained, you still have an attractive book. 

3. If paperback, mass-market or trade? I might as well confess that I only injected this question to vent my hatred of the mass-market paperback book. Those squatty loathsome 4″x7″ books with print crammed up the edge of the page. On the other hand, I love me a trade paperback, the larger-sized book that is often the same size as the hardcover.  Mass-market paperbacks are hard on the eyes, but they are also hard on the soul. Reading a steady diet of mmp’s will transform you into a squinty-eyed, miserable wretch. There is no margin, and we all know that margin is an essential component of life.

4. Cover: photo-based, typographic, or black and white?  A good photograph on a cover magnetizes me. You can peruse 90 book covers here, particularly if you want to explore what works and what doesn’t. Designing a cover takes talent and skill, as any cover of a self-published book will demonstrate.

5. Chapters: numbers or names? Since I’ve already established my QUIRKY credentials, I’ll put it all out there. I love the stuff of chapter divisions. When an author is clever, when she has clearly invested time and thought into the naming of a chapter, I appreciate it. When he adds a quote, especially if I need to figure out how it relates to the chapter, I love it. And for the win? The naming of *sections* within the chapter. Oh, yes, that makes me happy. Connie Willis, a living author, used this technique in her hilarious To Say Nothing of the Dog. 

6. Illustrations: none, some, mostly? Let’s restrict this discussion to adult books; illustrations are children’s books. Photos, pen and ink drawings, and watercolors can add to the reading experience. Unless they are cheesy. If the book is fiction, I’d rather keep my mental picture of the protagonist unsullied by a drawing. But a cottage, field, road, wood, or an object relative to the text is fine.

7. Author photo, bio? Yes, please! I want to see who wrote this book. Do you find it unsettling—a tad disorienting—when you have a picture of the author in your head which is inordinately different from the real thing? I pictured Malcolm Gladwell as the brother of Alistair Cooke, a white-haired, well-suited Anglo Saxon gentleman. Ha, ha! And I’m curious to know what the author thinks is noteworthy enough to include in a short paragraph. I found N.D. Wilson’s bio fun. “because if I have to write it, I refuse to do so in the third person.”

8. Index? I came to love indexes/indices late in life. Browsing a well-considered index is the perfect getting-to-know-you technique if you and the book are on a blind date. One of the biggest guffaws in my life was when I read Maya Angelou in the index of a book I wouldn’t suspect would speak to/about Maya Angelou. Page 342. The book had 339 pages.

9. Map? Cookbooks are perhaps the only book that would not benefit from a map. Or an algebra text. But I love maps. If a book were a glass of wine, the map would provide the perfect finish. Maps, genealogies, timelines…they make it better.

10. Typeface/font? How do you want your words to look? I’m not devoted to one particular font, but I love the g in Baskerville (see image). And I get a thrill reading that penultimate page in a book which announces, “This book was set in {   } font.” It’s more proof that someone in the publishing world cares. Simon Garfield snickers in The 8 Worst Fonts in the World. The Cracked Guide to Fonts snickers too. What font do you prefer to read?


Addendum: Quote from C.S. Lewis (HT Di)

To enjoy a book like that thoroughly I find I have to treat it as a sort of hobby and set about it seriously. I begin by making a map on one of the end leafs: then I put in a genealogical tree or two. Then I put a running headline at the top of each page: finally I index at the end all the passages I have for any reason underlined. I often wonder – considering how people enjoy themselves developing photos or making scrapbooks – why so few people make a hobby of their reading in this way. Many an otherwise dull book which I had to read have I enjoyed in this way, with a fine-nibbed pen in my hand: one is making something all the time and a book so read acquires the charm of a toy without losing that of a book.

Don’t Mess With My Carols

(from the archives)


I had a hissy fit on Christmas Eve.  In  the candlelight service.  Fortunately, my husband was the only observer and he managed to keep me under control.

We were at our folks’ church, singing from their hymnal, the New and Improved one.  I was already mildly miffed at the alterations in the lyrics when we started singing O Come All Ye Faithful.  When the second verse began “Highest of highest” instead of “God of God” I just stopped singing, now indignant. 

Someone had ruined my favorite verse!  I started jabbing at the hymnal, thumping the spot where in tiny letters were the letters alt.  My husband, who missed my meaning but understood my emotion, shrugged and in a sign of solidarity started poking his finger at the hymnal too, but not in the right places. Which made me snort but didn’t diminish my disgust. 

“Alt!” I hissed. 

“Alt.”  he echoed.  Whatever alt. meant, he was together with me on it. He didn’t ask “Alt?”.  He firmly said Alt. but the required passion was missing; there was no corresponding hiss.

“They ALTERED the text.” I further hissed. “It’s as if Athanasius never lived.”   


We went back to singing choirs of angels.

At the next carol, he jabbed the alt. before the organ had finished the introduction. Good Christian Men were not rejoicing; Good Christian Friends Rejoice.  In protest, I cheerfully sang “Good Christian men“, all three verses.  I have no patience with gender neutral humankind nonsense.  Please.

With each new carol it became a race between us to see who would thump the alt. first.

We heard the tune of Lo, How a Rose Eer Blooming, without noticing the title was, Lo, How a Rose is Growing

This was no alt.: this was a completely new translation. 

I’m sure that Gracia Grindal’s translation has much to recommend it, but you know–you know!– how hard it is to sing or recite a verse in a different translation than the one you memorized as a child, the one firmly lodged in your brain.  There was a sense of disorientation.

Away in the Manger came through unscathed: evidently the Little Lord Jesus (my nephew–decades ago–said Yittle Yord Yesus) could sleep on his bed.  We ended with lovely unaltered carols Silent Night and Joy to the World

A Cozy Talk About Pornography

Saturday morning the man I adore and I sat down for a cozy breakfast together.  We reviewed the past week, talked about our plans for the upcoming week; the conversation moseyed hither and yon. Of all places, we landed on pornography; another Christian we know is jumbled up in this morass.  

“God is so faithful,” my wise husband remarked. “He’s told us that if we persist, he will give us over to our sin.”

We sing Great is Thy Faithfulness with full hearts and think about the provision and mercies of God.  I don’t  normally think about God’s faithfulness relative to hardening hearts, keeping His word, and giving people over to their lusts.

But my people would not hearken to my voice;
and Israel would none of me.
So I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust:
and they walked in their own counsels.
Psalm 81:11-12

The heart has devices for getting its desires. Porn is available and it seems “harmless” in the privacy of our home.  It’s far too easy.  I think fear is a good motivator here.  Not as good as love, but fear works. 

We need to talk openly about this sin with our kids.  We need to be approachable so they can tell us they need help. Do you know how to check the history on the computers in your home?  Do you? I like the idea Netflix has where you sign up as “Friends” with others and they have access to your viewing history.  It also works to see what your friends like.  If you are interested in being Netflix friends with our family, message me.

Women are not exempt from this problem.  Many novels are pornography of the emotions.  Benjamin Disraili said, “A woman guanoed her mind by reading French novels.” 

A church leader in our town resigned/was arrested because his pornography habit expanded to making secret videos of girls in the showers at the church camp.  His words to his congregation haunt me: “I thought I could handle this.” 

Lord, have mercy.

Cheap Imitations

It’s Advent and I’m angry annoyed. (Sigh)  I’ve been constructing a flaming jeremiad in my mind all weekend.  What began as a peculiar oddity – a mild embarrassment -, a massive inflatable Grinch next door, grew with the addition of a huge plastic inflatable Santa across the street, and has now gathered into an avalanche of lawn kitsch.  Apparently, bad taste is expanding. The cheap, plastic, lighted inflatables now come in groups: Santa bands (Santa in sunglasses, a penguin drummer, saxophone-playing reindeer, and a polar bear cradling a guitar) and Santa trains are proliferating along the block.

We had a blizzard yesterday.  While the wind howled and blew the darling Santa band onto their backs, I stood at the window and prayed imprecatory psalms.  This morning the deflated pieces sit in a puddle of plastic waiting for their owners to come home and blow them up.  How I have longed to blow them up myself. 

I’m trying to “put the best possible construction on the situation,” a phrase I learned in Bible school.  My neighbors want to celebrate.  They enjoy a good party.  It’s just that their plastic Santas are such a cheap imitation.  Who wants margarine after you’ve tasted butter?  Peter Kreeft (pronounced Krayft – I have to keep reminding myself) reminded me this weekend that evil cannot create, it can only imitate. 

Culture has very much to do with the human spirit.
What we find beautiful or entertaining or moving
is rooted in our spiritual life.
~ Kenneth Myers in All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes

I’m convinced that G.K. Chesterton has some wonderful quotes apropos beauty, culture and Christmas.  The only problem is that I haven’t read much Chesterton, and the quote sites only go so far.  I skimmed All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes looking for a quote and realized that I need to give this book about popular culture a slow and thorough reading. 

Meanwhile the best antidote to the very real frustration I experience is humor.  I need a way to look out the window and laugh instead of grimace.  It’s just plastic, for Pete’s sake!  I need to turn the music up, keep the good smells wafting, read through my collection of Advent poems, and remember it’s a season of joy.

If I can laugh at this video, thanks KGB, which slaughters a great hymn in a number of ways, I surely can laugh at the Santa Band.  (Why would anyone pair Christ the Lord Is Risen Today with Amore? That is beyond the beyonds.) Any other suggestions?  *A great post by Nancy Wilson relevant to the subject*

DTC Pharmaceutical Marketing

I think the level of banality in television advertising is reflective of the across-the-board poverty of imagination in our culture.  Clever has disappeared, nostalgic is waving good-bye, and topics which used to be unspeakable in polite company have taken their spots. 

Honestly, who cares to have female cycles and male malfunctions trumpeted in his or her living room?

I woke up this morning wondering when/how/why things had changed. 

Pharmaceutical companies used to hawk their wares in medical journals and with sales reps in doctors’ offices.  In 1997 the FDA relaxed restrictions and a new acronym was born.  DTC.  Direct to consumer.  The United States and New Zealand are the only countries which allow DTC advertising.  The amounts spent on persuasion of the consumer, according to this Wikipedia article, have grown from $700 million in 1997 to $4 billion in 2004.

Do you remember the early commercials and the problems they promised to fix?  Hair loss, allergies and arthritis.  Next came depression, high blood pressure, restless legs and the fluttering butterflies which were a picture of uninterrupted sleep.  Before long we’re talking about female cycles and male malfunctions.  What could possibly come next?  Abortificants?  Advertising for STD drugs? 

What are the ramifications of this massive cultural change? 

The belief that prescription drugs will fix any problem you have is increasing.  The normalization of popping pills has already occurred.  The patient now leads the doctor, initiating exams and demanding the purple pill.  There is no or precious little thought about side effects, complicating the chemistry of the body; we steadfastly ignore lifestyle changes which could ameliorate the condition.

Visual History of Pharmaceutical Drug Ads
Article debating pros and cons of DTC
Pro-DTC article

“Better living through chemistry”  has become the motto of our people. 

I’m reading this with the words from a friend echoing in my ears: “There are no billings for AMG386 because it’s an experimental drug. I am thankful for the drug companies.”  Drugs really can make a difference in the quality of life.  My objection is to DMC.


Muzak was bad enough.  The baby-food music for adult ears was sickening, revolting, disgusting. One couldn’t shop, be examined by a doctor, or pay bills without the snaky seductive noise [I refuse to call it music] hissing from high corners. 

But, lo, Muzak is gone. 

In its place is the ubiquitous television hanging from the ceiling. 

It’s in WalMart.  It’s at the bank.  It’s at the grocery store.  It’s at the dentist, the doctor’s, the emergency room waiting room, the emergency exam rooms, the airport, the restaurant, the train station, the club.  We are a people sedated by CNN and the weather channel.  I don’t think even Neil Postman could have imagined this.

Yesterday I went to my bank where I know and am known by the “personal bankers”.  As Karen was working through multiple transactions the flickering images from the television annoyed me to no end. 

“I’ve always wondered about something,” I began. “That TV must also double for a surveillance system, right?” 

Karen said, “No.  It’s just there to entertain the customers.”

“You’re kidding!  Even when I’m bringing in a merchant deposit, I’m never in here for more than ten minutes.  Are you saying people can’t go that long without something to distract them?”

Karen nodded in disgusted agreement.  “The bank pays $50 to the cable company every month to give our customers something to watch.”

Is it any wonder?

That we have stopped thinking?
That we don’t pray?
That we have problems focusing? 
That serenity is missing from our lives? 
That we’ve lost any concept of quiet?   
That beauty is disappearing from our culture?
That we are isolated from our neighbors?
That discussions about ideas are almost nonexistent?
That we don’t wonder?
That we don’t ponder?

At home, our TV stays off except for a rare program or movie.  It angers me that I cannot buy soap or pick up an artichoke in peace.  It sickens me to watch our culture go through mental and spiritual chemotherapy with no termination in sight except for the death of our souls.

Television has become, so to speak,
the background radiation
of the social and
intellectual universe,
the all-but-imperceptible residue
of the electronic big
bang of a century past,
so familiar and so thoroughly integrated
with American
that we no longer hear
its faint hissing in the background or see the
flickering grey light.
This, in turn, means that its epistemology goes largely
And the peek-a-boo world it has constructed
around us no longer
seems even strange.

There is no more disturbing consequence
of the electronic and graphic
than this: that the world as given to us through television
natural, not bizarre. For the loss of the sense of the
is a sign of
and the extent to which we have adjusted
is a measure of the
extent to which we have changed.

Neil Postman Amusing Ourselves to Death