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.”   

“Ahhh.” 

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.

Nauseous

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
culture
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
unnoticed.
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
revolution
than this: that the world as given to us through television
seems
natural, not bizarre. For the loss of the sense of the
strange
is a sign of
adjustment,
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

Loathsome List

We are culture full of mooing affirmations.  We accentuate the positive and avoid the negative.  However, what you deny is as important as what you affirm. 

Think about it. 

If you ask a friend what she loves, that will tell you something about her. 
But ask her what she hates. The answer to that question will reveal a different side.

The Proverbs illustrate this, don’t they?  In one verse you see the antithesis: A false balance is abomination to the Lord; but a just weight is his delight.

In the spirit of affirmations and denials I’ve been compiling a Loathsome List.  Strictly speaking, some of the items are more irritating or annoying than loathsome.  And just because it lands on the list doesn’t mean that I’ve banished it from my life (particularly # 1 and #11).  And what may be loathsome (can you tell I like how that word rolls off the tongue?) to me may be acceptable to you.  So we allow each other a measure of quirkiness. 

So what about you, my friend?  What do you hate?

Carol’s Loathsome List

1.  Standing-overnight
dishwater

2.  Bitter cucumber
taste

3.  The demise of
favorite shoes

4.  Hearing harmony
sung off-key

5.  Deer-devoured
tulips

6.  Screaming, kicking tantrums in the grocery store

7.  Quiet tantrums held within my head.

8.  Any email with a
promise postscripted if you forward it to five people

9.  A mosquito’s buzz
near the pillow

10.  Racist comments,
gestures, acts

11.  Produce I’ve let
spoil in the fridge

12.  Cut-off telephone
conversations without a proper farewell

13.  A good book with
the last pages missing (not theoretical)

14.  An unreconciled bank statement

15.  A listener to gossip

16.  Litter (written the day after July 4th)

17. 105° without air conditioning

18.  Used gum in inappropriate places (underneath tables, on the street)

19.  A stain on a favorite white tee shirt

20.  Interest paid for consumables – like throwing $20 bills out the back door

A Minor Rant

Picture by deviantART.

We have lost a sense of reverence and respect in our culture.
Silence is an endangered species.
People seem to be allergic to quiet.

Friday evening my husband and I went to the symphony and sat in front of folks who talked through large portions of the music.  They did not whisper.  They did not pass a note.  They talked in normal conversational tones.  Their need to comment on the music overrode any sense of respect for the musicians and the fellow patrons.  How rude!

Saturday afternoon I attended the funeral of a lovely 96-year old woman.   Sitting in the sanctuary, listening to the organ prelude could have been a lovely time of reflection and prayer, were it not for the two women near the back who conversed in loud voices that carried across the room.  They were oblivious to the turned heads, the furrowed brows, the hairy eyeballs, the multiple mute pleas to be quiet.  What would have been appropriate for the grocery aisle was so wrong before a gathering to honor the deceased.  It wasn’t fitting.  It was a time to keep silence, a time to bow the head, a time to contemplate our own mortality.

“The world would be happier if men had the same capacity to be silent that they have to speak.”
 ~  Baruch Spinoza

End of rant.

A Nice Bonus

Summer Reading Challenge….eeeyeahhh.  I’ve gotten a little sidetracked, but in my mind the other books were always considered addendums not substitutions, and there were certainly good reasons to read them.  This week I got back to my SRC list and started The Tolkien Reader.  I was given a very nice bonus.  A bonus as in an unexpected gift.

[aside for a rant: I work one afternoon/week in a pharmacy as an accountant.  I get sooo annoyed when employees approach me in a buzzard-like way wanting to know exactly when the Christmas bonus will come.  A bonus is not an entitlement.  Really.]

As I read Tolkien’s essay On Fairy-Stories, I realized I should have read this before I read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.  It was impossible for me to keep characters in their right category because none of categories made sense to me.  I remember asking our Latin class what an elf was.  They all knew.  My youngest son, who was practically a Tolkien scholar by age nine, was very patient with his mom. “Now what is Aragorn, again?  Is he a man or one of those other…things?” 

The first bonus last night was the sense that I was actually doing some very helpful teacher preparation for studying medieval literature this year.  Tolkien made many references to Beowulf, Chaucer, Spenser and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.  There are many reasons to read a book (entertainment, education, pleasure, information, curiosity, because someone knows you are a reader and pressed a book in your hand begging you to read it) but when those reasons intersect it is truly a blessing. I didn’t choose The Tolkien Reader because it would help me teach; I chose it because it was an unread book on my bookshelf.

The second bonus:  a question I had 10 years ago was answered.  Readers often come across references that are meaningless on first reading, and just skip over them.  About ten years ago as I was reading through Charlotte Mason’s The Original Home Schooling Series, she mentioned Queen Mab in such a way that assumed the reader would “get it”.  I didn’t — and didn’t have Google at my fingertips.  My set of World Books didn’t help and so the reference was a dangling loose end in my brain.  Tolkien spends half a page explaining why Michael Drayton’s Nymphidia, the story about Queen Mab, isn’t a true fairy-story.  It was a gift to read, recognize and to finally understand.

The third bonus?  A chance to read an excellent writer with an excellent mind.