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My childhood parody of the boxcar children

Last night, while we were supping with our friends the Sondereggers, the conversation inevitably turned to childhood memories. We were talking about books we read as children, and the Boxcar Children came up. My mind conjured up a funny memory at the mention of these books. I was an avid reader of them as a child, being fascinated by the idea of surviving in the woods with no parental supervision. However, as I moved along in the series, I became more and more annoyed with the relentlessly positive interaction among the siblings. I mean, MY family never interacted that way.

So, cynical child that I was, I set out to write a parody of the Boxcar Children. I think I wrote only about a page and half (I wish I had the document with me). I remember that it included at least one argument among the children, going something like this: Henry suggests a solution to whatever problem they are trying to solve, Jessie disagrees with him, Benny then complains about the heat, Violet tells him to stop complaining, and over it all Grandpa is trying to quiet them down by threatening severe punishment. Anyone who has read the Boxcar Children will know that this scenario is exactly the opposite of any that would occur in the books.

At any rate, that memory was so funny to me because it seems crazy that I even tried to write a parody at the age of 10 (or 11, or 12, I can’t remember). Just shows you what kind of strange child I was. I think my parents taught me somehow to discern false portrayals of human interaction, and then my desire to make people laugh kicked in.

Blogging before the busyness begins

How’d you like that alliteration? Yes, this is my weekend of respite before I start my internship and then, a week later, school. I don’t usually get stressed about being busy, but it’s the fact that I will have to go several different places, on the T, mind you, to get to where I need to go, and be on time, that makes me extra concerned about time management. However, for Christmas Laura did give me some headache-tension-relief-type-fluid that I can rub on my temples when I am feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders (or at least the weight of my head.)

I have an internship as well as an assistantship, but fortunately the assistantship is on campus/at home, so it’s pretty flexible. Still, to have multiple obligations can be pretty stressful, although I am female, so I can handle the multi-tasking :). My internship may involve going to an event at Fenway (potentially), in which case I will go up to the newly acquired Matsuzaka and shake his hand and say, “You better live up to all the hype, or you will get nailed here in this baseball-crazy city.” In which case, maybe he’ll be traded to St. Louis. Hm, not a bad idea. Right now the Cards have only one proven pitcher on their roster for 2007. It’s a good thing they won the World Series, or the fans would be much more unforgiving during this Hot Stove Season (ouch! it burns).

Enough of that stream-of-consciousness. The 65-degree weather here has gone to my head, I believe. Did someone mention global warming?

I would like to send a shout-out to my Grandma Belz, who encouraged me to keep blogging in the Christmas card she sent me. She also mentioned that she does not care for the five praise songs I listed in a previous entry . Speaking of which, work began on the new songbook “Everyone Can Sing!” over the break. I will not reveal who was working on it, or where, but suffice it to say, the dream is becoming a reality.

C.S. Lewis quotations I have never seen before

From C.S. Lewis’s introduction to St. Athanasius’s “On the Incarnation”:

“We are all rightly distressed, and ashamed also, at the divisions of Christendom. But those who have always lived within the Christian fold may be too easily dispirited by them. They are bad, but such people do not know what it looks like from without. Seen from there, what is left intact despite all the divisions still appears (as it truly is) an immensely formidable unity. I know, for I saw it; and well our enemies know it. That unity any of us can find by going out of his own age.”

His perspective as a former outsider is interesting. I have always assumed that nonbelievers are turned off by us because of our division, but then again I have “always lived within the Christian fold.” Also, this argument is Lewis’s plea for us to read the church fathers, that we would see the basic unity of Christianity throughout the ages.

Another quote from the same source that affirms my rationality:

“For my own part I tend to find the doctrinal books often more helpful in devotion than the devotional books, and I rather suspect that the same experience may await many others. I believe that many who find that ‘nothing happens’ when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find that the heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hand.” Amen to that – the only devotional book that I can recall getting a lot out of is Spurgeon’s “Morning and Evening.”

Anna flies in today – hooray!

Also, in case you missed it: Stephen Colbert and the Decemberists. Hilarious.

2006: A Good Year

Whenever another calendar year draws to a close, God’s blessings stand out to me in sharp relief. Every year is like that, but this year seemed especially good (just like 1996 did; I wonder if this will be an every 10 years thing?) Here are some highlights of my year:

– Being accepted to grad school at Boston University
– Mom’s 60th birthday party, which we chilluns pulled off in amazing fashion, with a lot of help from relatives and friends and a little last-minute creativity
– “Camp Kaufmann” at Topsail Island, NC – one week of beach relaxation with the Steve and Bill Kaufmann clans
– RAGBRAI – probably THE highlight of the year:the rolling hills of Iowa; Team Schwinn; drafting with Lance; turkey legs; dipping tires in the Mississippi; pie; Eliot stealing bread from other people’s tables in the Amana colonies; “Greater is the cheese that is in you than the cheese that is in the world;” cover bands; beads.
– Moving to Boston and all the glory and weariness involved, including moving to Dorchester and starting grad school.
– The Cardinals winning an oh-so-unforgettable NLCS against the Muts, and then winning a sloppy-but-memorable World Series against the Tigers, the first in 24 years
– Mary Catherine and Jon getting hitched, and all the singing, dancing, merriment, and memorable Aaron quotes of that weekend
– Starting the new CTK church site in Dorchester
– Anna moving to Brussels
– Anna coming back from Brussels for Christmas

May 2007 be even better.

Everything in Common

I took a little stroll on the Boston Common yesterday morning, as I was early for my temp job. The early morning light combined with the slight mist was quite magical. I walked over to find the Christmas tree and my ears perked up at the sound of “Alas, and did my Savior bleed” ringing off the Park Street Church’s bells. I doubted that anyone else on the Common knew the hymn besides myself, although I could have been wrong. Then the bells broke into “Beneath the Cross of Jesus,” a more familiar hymn, I would say. I felt like breaking into song, like Mary and Zechariah did in their time. Our preacher on Sunday asked us if there were ever times in our lives when we wanted to break out into song, like in a musical. This was one of those times.

When I spotted the Christmas tree, I saw a large menorah standing close by. Directly across the street was St. Paul’s church, with their huge banner celebrating diversity. This is exactly what the public square is about, I thought, allowing room for different religions and viewpoints and traditions. “Principled pluralism” as my dad would say. Strangely enough, however, it seemed to me that the bells at Park Street Church were the dominant theme of the Common. Perhaps symbolic of Christ’s reign over all the earth? “He rules the world with truth and grace.”

On a different note, I am currently reading Bob Dylan’s Chronicles: Volume I. One interesting story: Dylan used to visit Woody Guthrie on a regular basis when Guthrie was in the hospital. At one point Guthrie told Dylan to go to his house and retrieve a box of songs and poems he had written that were never set to melodies. Dylan could have them if he wanted. So Dylan made the trek down to Coney Island to get the songs, even wading through an entire swamp to get too Guthrie’s house. He was supposed to talk to Guthrie’s wife, but she wasn’t home and the babysitter wasn’t sure if she should let Dylan in. However, Guthrie’s son recognized him and let him in, but he didn’t know anything about the box of songs. So, not wanting to be a bother, Dylan left and waded back through the swamp.

He writes: “Forty years later, these lyrics would fall into the hands of Billy Bragg and the group Wilco and they would put melodies to them, bring them to full life and record them…These performers probably weren’t even born when I had made that trip out to Brooklyn.”

So a babysitter determined who would put melodies to Woody Guthrie’s last songs. Kinda funny how history plays itself out sometimes.

Dorchester local businesses: behind in the count, about to strike out

Just got back from the Capitol Food Basket, inspired by the thought of supporting a local grocery store. Wow, I don’t know how people shop there and pay those kind of prices when they could just go down the street to the Shaw’s. Perhaps there’s some kind of loyalty there, but I could almost hear my pocketbook crying as I strolled the aisles. The only deal I found better than at the supermarket was on a gallon of milk.

Now, if the atmosphere were at least somewhat pleasant, I might be willing to pay a bit more, but the place stank and felt just plain dirty. Not that I mind stinky and dirty when it comes to buying food, judging from the various outdoor and indoor markets I’ve been to around the world, but for some reason this place had a different kind of stink. Totally unappealing. My wallet has spoken louder than my morals and I will most likely not be going back there any time soon. Except perhaps to buy a gallon of milk.

Couple this experience with the totally unprofessional practices of two local sign companies with whom we have dealt lately regarding church signage, and you have two strikes against local businesses here. Even though I am totally for being supportive of local businesses, it is so much more difficult when said businesses are stinky and/or unprofessional.

I am willing to admit that I have limited experience with Dorchester businesses. Plus, one area where they have hit it out of the park is restaurants. From the Blarney Stone (our playoff friends), to Shanti (an Indian restaurant with a to-die-for tandoori menu), to Pho 2000 (cheap Vietnamese), I think I can safely say that I do not need to go to downtown Boston to get a good meal.

i AM done

Ha ha to Laura. I turned in my last two papers today and I have NO FINALS. The glories of grad school. Now I can focus on getting the rest of my life organized (i.e. funke) and other things like temp work, partying and caroling with the small group, planning for our trip to Chatty for Christmas and New Year’s, and, of course, blogging.

I, like Laura, will be busy next semester as well, doing an assistantship with one of my favorite professors, as well as the possibility of tutoring at theEpiphany School, where our church meets. Oh yeah, speaking of church, we are involved with the music, and since the church is so new our contributions for songs are welcome. Yay! Here comes gospel….

Over Thanksgiving our family came up with the idea of creating a new songbook for the church, filled with only good songs and hymns that are not hard for the congregation to sing but are still aesthetically pleasing and theologically edifying. We decided to call it “Everyone Can Sing!” Because, you know, everyone CAN sing, just a lot of people think they can’t. I know it sounds cheesy, but at least we are actually trying to be proactive about church music, rather than just complaining about it (which I often do, see my previous post). All right, so I’m being somewhat facetious, but the idea is out there.

Last but not least, I found this video to be hilarious. I don’t know why, I was just laughing the whole time.

The CCLI website prompted me to write this entry

Laura and I are currently perusing the CCLI website in search of new songs to sing at our new church. They list the top 25 songs by country, and the US homepage lists these songs as the 5 most popular:

1. Here I Am to Worship
2. How Great is Our God
3.Blessed Be Your Name
4. Open the Eyes of My Heart
5. Come Now is the Time to Worship

First song is okay; the rest? Nope, don’t particularly like them. Not necessarily the words, just the tunes and the way the words fit with the tunes, and the fact that these songs are frankly kind of boring. I think it’s okay to be critical of tunes, because God created us with aesthetic sensibilities. While he is accepting of us and our foibles, that does not mean that we can make mediocre attempts at songwriting for worship, with little sense of history, grammar, or what is simple and edifying for the congregation.

Those of you who know me know that I have gotten on this soapbox many times. I could qualify myself a thousand times or delve more deeply into particular songs right now, but I haven’t got the time. I just want to point out one thing: #15 on the list is “We Fall Down,” a song that I just don’t get. First of all, we sing “Feeeet” for an absurdly long time. Second of all, what does “The greatness of his mercy and love, at the feet of Jesus” mean? Sounds like a fragment to me, with a prepositional phrase thrown in. Grammar is important, my friends. As my brother says, I didn’t get a great education all the way through college just to come to church and sing poorly structured sentences. Amen to that.

Perhaps I will write a more in depth post on this in the near future.

“our ratings, our selves”

We’ve been talking in one of my classes lately about the Nielsen ratings and how Nielsen is leaning toward tracking individuals and their movements, not just samples of people, which is how Nielsen has traditionally operated. One new method that Nielsen rival Arbitron has come up with is the Personal People Meter (PPM), a device that certain people would wear that picks up a signal from the code built in to different types of media. For instance, if you’re watching a TV show, the device would pick up the signal from the built-in code of that show, which is inaudible to humans (and also not such a high frequency that it would bother pets). The whole concept seems insane, since it includes even things like billboards, which have no sound but would still have some sort of code built into them that gives off a signal that the device can detect. The PPM could pick up anything from a radio show to music in a bar.

Nielsen and Arbitron will probably try to work together to produce something that will be able to track people individually, which is of immense value to advertisers. Right now, with the diversification of the media landscape, as well as things like TiVo, finding out who is watching or listening to what is getting harder and harder.

However, we talked in class about who would have the power in this situation. In the past, we as a “market” had more power, since there was still an element of mystery in our daily media consumption. But if someone somewhere can track what I am doing any hour of the day, that’s an incredible step towards less privacy and less mystery. Are we willing to give that up? Granted, the PPM would be given only to a sample of people, not everyone. Still, our professor pointed out that we seem to moving from a “society” to an “economy.” In other words, we are more and more being treated as individual consumers rather than as a group of people with an interest in the common good. I find this dichotomy to be false, since it seems our society has always run on an economy that is based on individual interests. Still, there is no doubt that developing technology has a huge influence on our culture and on how we interact with each other.

My professor likes to emphasize that he enjoys encountering things and people that are NOT like him or do not have the same interests as him. He likes having random encounters with people on the street rather than purposely seeking out people who are like him on the Internet. He also does not like the idea of seeing the same type of advertisments targeted at his demographic all the time (which could be a consequence of this increasingly individualized and targeted measuring) and not seeing any targeted at others. That would get old.

This discussion makes me feel tired and causes me to long for a simpler life. However, this is the society we live in today, and we can take it or leave it. Other time periods had their own problems. Thinking about this issue makes me cherish the timelessness of the Christmas story even more, not to mention God’s unchanging nature in the midst of change.

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