Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Interview for Jonathan:

1 If you could undo one thing you did from your college years, what would it be?

2 Have you ever heard John Derbyshire sing?

3 What inspired you to go see the Power Team?

4 Do you think Josh will ever cease to be a grumpy Lutheran?

5 If someone gave you access to Bill Gates bank account for one day, what one really dumb thing would you love to do with his money (this has to be something you could complete in one day).
Ah, so this is what kids are up to in today's music scene (don't read shortly before, during or after eating).

Monday, September 29, 2003

Interview questions for Scott Cunningham

1 What's the best (or worst) economist joke you've ever heard?

2 If you were leading a class of college educated Christians on the subject "Great Books I Think You Should Read", what would you put on the list? (limit of 10 max)

3 What one area of popular american culture makes no sense to you at all? (I'm looking for something general rather than a specific like Barney or Pauley Shore)

4 Explain how a study on corporal punishment can fall under the purview of an economist. (My wife wants to know)

5 What's the single dumbest question or statement you've heard said by a student or a prof in an econ class. You may include one of each if you like.

Please note I was nice to you. I thought about asking things like, "If you could change one thing about your wife . . ."

::If you would like to participate too, here are your instructions:
1. Leave me a comment saying "interview me."
2. I will respond by asking you five questions (not the same as you see here).
3. You will update your blog/site with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.::

Thursday, September 25, 2003

The deacon interviewed. I was interveiwed recently (actually right now, since this is live) by Valerie. Here are the answers to questions which have benn plaguing my reader(s) for time untold:

1) My piano has not been tuned in probably over 30 years. Should I be sentenced to a) a term in solitary confinement (specify length), b) a term of hard labor (specify length and nature of work), c) a term in the public stocks (specify length), or d) other (specify specifics)?

Since this gets to a subject close to my heart, I'll give you a serious answer. When I meet someone who really neglects their piano, not just skipped a tuning here or there, but doesn't service it at all and doesn't really play it either, my thought in my heart is usually, "why don't you sell this or give it to someone who wants it." I'm discouraged by the fact that pretty much 0% of the homes I see have piano or any other sort of home made music as the central form of family entertainment, while well aver 90% have a prominently located television. And it's not that I hate tv, but rather that I hate to see people being so passive coupled with not learning music.

2) Speaking of sentences, you've just been sentenced to 30 days of solitary confinement. They've given you a walkman and enough batteries to play a total of about 15 hours of music. What CDs do you take and why (home-burned mixes not allowed!)? How do you allot the 15 hours?

I'm not sure any particular pieces are so important to me that I would feel like I really HAD to take them with me, but, given the opportunity I'm sure I could pick some things out to help pass the time.
Hour One--Arma Lucis, by the Soli Deo Gloriam Cantorum (my favorite choral collection)
Hour Two--Mozart Requiem, pretty much the only Mozart piece I love
Hour Three--Phil Keaggy and the PKB, Emerging, classic rock by a great musician with thoughful lyrics
Hours Four and Five--Havergal Brian, Symphony 1 (The Gothic), though I have trouble imagining listening to this on a walkman, it's a piece to wake up the nieghbors with
Hour Six--Ralph Vaughn Williams, Symphony 3 (The Pastoral), just for a complete change of pace
Hour Seven--Golden Brass, Philip Jones Brass Ensemble, collection of brass music from the renaissance through the 20th century
Hour Eight--Emerson, Lake and Palmer (self titled first album) good, interesting and varied music
Hour Nine--Shostakovitch, Symphony number 5, to help me reflect on the injustice of my sentence and put it into perspective
Hour Ten--Glad, No Less Than All, something to encourage my heart a bit (plus I heaven't listened to it in a while)
Hour Eleven--The Kinleys first album, just to remind me of my wife
Hour Twelve--Buxtehude toccatas and chaconnes, I had this on tape years ago and completely wore it out. I never get tired of his organ music
Hour Thirteen--Le Mystere des Voix Bulgare, practically anything, maybe the Cathedral Concert album, just to hear the acoustics of them in a cell should be interesting
Hour Fourteen--Brahms Symphony number 1 and John Rutter's Gloria (I think I can squeeze those into an hour)
Hour Fifteen--King's X, Gretchen Goes to Nebraska, something to get me pumped up for release back into the general population

3) Tuning pianos is your forte. What sort of job would you consider yourself least qualified for and/or least interested in doing?

I think I've had some of the jobs I'm least qualified for (speaking tempermentally, rather than strict technical qualifications), specifically commission sales. I'm horrible at convincing someone to buy stuff. As far as least interest, really anything that involves sitting at a desk in the same room all day. I like a change of scenery every hour or so :) I guess putting things together, telemarketing would be the worst.

4) How did you propose to your wife?

I asked her if she would marry me. We were dogsitting for one of my customers, and I just decided it was time to ask. I hadn't planned it out and didn't have a ring yet. I just figured I'd better ask before she got to know me TOO well.

5) What are the most challenging and the most rewarding aspects of being a deacon?

One of the rewarding things was being able to rotate off recently :) I think I liked just being called upon to do some physical things which didn't require too much reflecting or handwringing. The chairs need to be moved, so let's move 'em. It was also nice to both be able to get to know some of the great guys at my church and to get to see how the church is run and see the leadership a little closer. My respect for my church has really only gone up in the process.

I think the most challenging part was seeing my own weaknesses come out, putting off assigned tasks, taking easy ways out of things, etc. Also trying to think about how to implement charitable works into th structure of our particular church was very hard. I was very excited about that when I started three years ago, but feel like very little has changed. Our church model is geared more toward encouraging members to involve themselves in outside institutions rather than doing things ourselves. This has good and bad sides, but makes some things pretty hard.

::If you would like to participate too, here are your instructions:
1. Leave me a comment saying "interview me."
2. I will respond by asking you five questions (not the same as you see here).
3. You will update your blog/site with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.::
Guess what I have in my hands right now (hehe):

Neal Stephenson issueth from a Clan of yeomen, itinerant Parsons, ingenieurs, and Natural Philophers that hath long dwelt in bucolick marches and rural Shires of his native Land, and trod the Corridors of her 'Varsities. At a young age, finding himself in a pretty Humour for the writing of Romances, and the discourse of Natural Philosophy and Technologick Arts, he took up the Pen, and hath no since laid it down.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Two weeks ago my church had its first men's conference. A small group of guys have formed an ad-hoc committee and really run with men's ministry ideas, and they managed to put a big shindig together. Our speaker was Tom Hawkes, pastor of a PCA church in Charlotte, speaker at men's and leadrship conferences and brother of one of our elders. His address was really quite challenging, talking about Men and God, Men and other Men, and Men and Women. As you would expect, the latter was the most interesting, culminating in small group discussions and confession of sins. Interspesed with the teaching segments were small workshop/brainstorming groups focusing on various ideas for future ministry ideas such as a Habitat for Humanity project, marriage and family seminars, mentoring, and other things. I was amazed at how productive the whole event was. If you or your church has any interest in bringing in a speaker for men, I recommend pastor Hawkes very highly.
Time to end my little blogging funk. Sometimes I'm just not inspired to write anything. When it comes down to it, I'm not really a creative person; I like prefer working with other people's ideas and fixing them or commenting on them.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

While I'm on a music kick, let me recommend this entry from Terry Teachout. I think if I was only allowed to listen to one more symphony in my lifetime, it would be Shostakovitch's Fifth. I think the real test of a piece of music is how often you can hear it and still enjoy it. I picked up this particular piece in high school and it never sounds the least bit dull to me. Some Beethoven, and Dvorak's Ninth have moved into the "i've heard this too many times now" category in my mind, as has virtually all pop music I used to love. Maybe I just have a short attention span.

Friday, September 12, 2003

I'm not sure if this makes me hungry, thirsty, or just low on protein. (Make sure to check it out thoroughly)

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Perhaps I should make it a policy to post all and any good news coming out of the episcopal church. (my impish side tells me that would be less work than the opposite, but you didn't hear that from me.)
New hope for those who need some extra cash, but think they have nothing to trade for it. Fortunately I still have more books to sell, but when they run out, I may give these guys a call. They seem so nice.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Is it just that people don't have the patience for music, or is it that music no longer has patience either? This article has an interesting point.

Clock the last 40 years and you'll find the beat getting relentlessly faster. The scholarly rationalizations are more sophisticated now, but somehow what they invariably add up to is: You can't be skinny enough or fast enough.

There's a speed sweepstakes going on. Six years ago in Boston I heard a Bach "B Minor Mass" from which slow tempos had been essentially banished. No more grandeur, no more sublimity, no more sweetness, no more tragedy—all qualities in which the "B Minor" is incomparably rich. Or used to be. In this performance the speeds were brisk, brisker, breakneck. In the "Crucifixus" movement, Christ trotted all the way to Golgotha, pumping his cross.

I thought that was the last freaking straw, everything fast as possible, until two years ago I heard a conductor take movements of the "B Minor" faster than possible, chorus and orchestra scrambling desperately to catch up. In the crowd after the performance I heard one guy exclaim, "I didn't know Bach was so bouncy!"; another, an organist no less, wondered, "I don't get it. What's the big deal about that piece?" The most trenchant comment was from an older composer, who sighed as I passed, "Too bad. It really is the greatest music in the world."

George Grant, on his blog, recently quoted someone as saying there's no such thing as too many books, just not enough bookshelves. This seems so self-evident to me that it hardly needss saying. But, from time to time, I try to weed my book collection, getting rid of titles I neither want to read again, nor can I think of anyone who might like to borrow them. I threw out a couple of decrepit paperbacks. Then I started looking at amazon's used book deal. Hmm, one of the books I have but am not planning on reading has a suggested price of aboiut ten bucks, and someone wants to buy one. Just looking around my office/computer room/library I start checking used prices. Some of my collection I bought as remaindered books, and all of these seem to be going for a dollar or less. Hardly worth it. But many seem to be going for several dollars.

I listed five books for sale yesterday, sold one the same day and now have sold another. Three cheers for amazon.

Monday, September 08, 2003

An old customer of mine loaned me a copy of Pablo Casals' autobiography several years ago. He was really quite a person, often disdaining the spotlight which his talent had earned him to just spend time in his small Catalonian village. Most of his story I have now forgotten, just retaining hazy images, but one thing I remember very clearly. Each morning when he arose, he would play through one prelude and fugue from J S Bach's Well Tempered Clavier. For those of you not so conversant in music history, this is possible the single most influental book of music ever published. It's form was studied by virtually all of the great composers, and many composers for the piano, Debussey and Shostakovitch just to name two, published their own books of preludes (preludes to what?) in each key as Bach did.

While I am not so conisitent in my piano practice as Casals was (he was not a noted pianist, btw), I have become more so lately, playing through at least one prelude or fugue most days, though not first thing in the morning. They are certainly great reading and skill exercises, and I'm feeling slightly more confident with them each time I go through the book.

I was just noticing yesterday how Bach generally seems to stray the furthest from conservative tonality/harmony in the last eight bars of each piece usually. I have this vague recollection of learning somewhere that Bach like to build tension towards the end of a piece to make a fulfilling resolution, so that must have something to do with it. It is a bit disorienting at times though to get to the end of the piece and suddenly be faced with both a whole different rhythmic structure as well as an overwhelming number of accidentals.

So far as I know, there aren't any pianists reading this, so I'll just shut up now. Piano, in addition to being my prefession, is one of my soapbox topics. Why do people now think that playing music means pushing a button on an electronic machine? Why don't more churches at least provide musical instruction for their youth?

Friday, September 05, 2003

I actually drove through this community in June, though I saw neither tomatoes nor firearms at the time. A few "road apples" were in evidence. Such a sad story.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Updated the links on the side there. Way overdue for some folks. This is not the entirety of the bologs I frequent, just the "special" ones :)

Last night we watched a movie called Deacons for Defense. It was really quite good, IMHO. Was produced, apparently, for Showtime and is now in the stores. It's about the black community in a small town in Louisiana in the mid-sisties and their decision to take up arms to defend their children (the non-violent protestors) against the Klan. To say much more about it would give away some of the drama, so I won't. Forest Whitaker plays the lead role, so you just know its good already, even though he isn't a samurai this time.