Sacred Music Friday: Crown Him With Many Crowns

Crown Him With Many Crowns, Westminster Abbey, 50th Coronation Anniversary

Great Courses update

I haven’t written about The Great Courses for quite some time, but I am listening to those courses as much as ever. Since I have shifted my exercise preference from the treadmill to walking outside, it’s been a while since I bought a DVD set, but I continue to listen to audio downloads on my ancient iPod while I’m out walking.

I thought I’d mention a few of the courses I’ve listened to over the past several months.

Most recently, I finished Fall of the Pagans and the Origins of Medieval Christianity. Much of this was material that I knew, but it was nonetheless an excellent review. Kenneth Harl is a great lecturer, and he gave equal treatment to the pagan perspective, which one usually doesn’t find in surveys of the period.

Myth in Human History — This was an enjoyable overview of world mythology. Grant Voth not only discusses the well-known Greek, Roman, and Scandinavian myths, but he brings in stories from North and South America, Africa, and the Pacific. He divides up the course into what he calls units (a good old pedagogical term!) covering such themes as Heroes, Gods and Goddesses, and the Trickster.

The Western Literary Canon in Context — John Bowers takes us through what he admits is his own personal set of selections for the western literary canon. A good set it is, though. He starts with The Epic of Gilgamesh, and takes us up through the The Lord of the Rings. It’s a great survey.

I do love The Great Courses. Really good stuff.

Pineapple Village

I have written about the Chinese Fast Food place near us, between our grocery store and our favorite Mexican restaurant. After changing hands the new owners added a short menu of entrée and rice dishes in addition to the offerings on the hot table. They were quite good. In fact the dishes rivaled our late, lamented Thai restaurant. That obviously didn’t work, though, because one day I walked in and they had a completely new menu. It smacked of the work of a consultant, or at least some kind of pre-packaged commercial offering. That didn’t work either, because they closed shortly thereafter.

The location stayed vacant for a while, and then late last summer work began inside. We couldn’t see what they were doing because the windows were papered over, but eventually a permanent lighted sign that said Pineapple Village went up. That’s how things stayed throughout the winter and into the spring.

Finally they opened their doors in April. They opened on a Thursday and we went in for lunch on Friday. We were quite impressed. They offer a bento plate for lunch. It includes appetizer, salad, rice, and entrée, beautifully arranged on a square black plate. The flavors are marvelous. They just pop. We’ve been back again for lunch since then and have gotten takeout for Friday dinner.

We’re adding Pineapple Village to our rotation.

instructions in recipes

I wrote recently about Molly Katzen’s rather satirical take on the extremes to which one might take the instructions in a recipe. But in reality there are some instructions in recipes that annoy me.

What is it with “stir with a wooden spoon” or “cook in a non-stick skillet”? Our Tovolo and Oneida nylon spoons are perfectly fine for stirring whatever needs to be stirred. Our Calphalon stainless steel pans are more non-stick than the non-stick (I can tell you from experience) and can cook whatever needs to be cooked.

I suppose I can see the point of “cook in a cast iron skillet,” since the nature and flavor of cooking in  cast iron is different, but not everyone has cast iron. We went many years without cast iron. We (foolishly) kept the cast iron Terry brought home from her grandmother’s house after her death in storage for the longest time. Only recently did we bring it in to the kitchen. And I am glad we finally did.

But for the most part please don’t tell me what kind of utensil to use. Just give me the instructions that I need.

Really. Thanks for that.

Old School

OldSchoolOld School
Tobias Wolff
Vintage, 208 pages, Reprint edition (August 31, 2004)
Kindle Edition $7.99, Amazon Paperback $11.71

I believe I saw this book mentioned in the Sunday New York Times Book Review some months back. If I did it was on the occasion of the book being reprinted. It was originally published in 2004, as I noticed when downloaded my Kindle edition.

No matter. I’m glad I noticed it and I’m glad I bought it. As you likely know, I am an easy sell for novels in an academic setting. Old School fits this description.

The book takes place at a private school on the East Coast. The protagonist is the narrator, a boy there on scholarship. The story follows a handful of students, a faculty member, the dean, and the headmaster. The action begins in 1960.

The plot pivots on one of the school’s traditions, which is to bring a famous author to campus. As part of that tradition, students write a short piece in a style representative of that author. The author chooses one piece, and that student gets a private audience with the author. Authors included Robert Frost, Ayn Rand, and Ernest Hemingway. Robert Frost is portrayed as the affable elderly fellow you might imagine. Ayn Rand is portrayed as the impatient, arrogant, dogmatic woman I would expect. Our protagonist is the winner of the private audience with Hemingway, but it would be too much to give away here what happens after that. You’ll need to read the book.

I will say that Old School somewhat loses its way after the narrator leaves campus, but the plot in those pages does tie up some loose ends.

If you enjoy prep school stories I think you’ll find Old School engaging and well-written. I did.

Sacred Music Friday: Alleluia from Brazilian Psalm

Alleluia from Brazilian Psalm, Concordia Choir, René Clausen, Conductor

what the church should be

I love the quote in the quote below from Pope Francis, courtesy of the good folks at Episcopal Church Memes, but originally from Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. It is a standard to which the Church, all Christian denominations, ought to aspire.

It reminded me of the quote from the late Aidan Kavanagh. I love this image. Kavanagh was Catholic, but I first heard the quote from the former Dean of Grace Cathedral, Alan Jones.  I  would love to think that the Episcopal Church can embody this ideal.

quoteThe church is always inviting all people home
Where soup still simmers on the back of the stove
In from the cold of impersonal process and shame
To the simple warmth of dinner among friends, both human and Divine.
Here there are no bottom lines, only laughter and good red wine
Mutual gentleness, and mercy and forgiveness for all.




We switched from DirecTV satellite to cable television three years ago, not because we were unhappy with DirecTV, although I was getting irked with their nickel-and-dime rate increases each year. We switched because our Verizon DSL internet access had become unbearably slow. It eventually became, I believe, slower than dial-up. We knew that calling the cable company and asking for internet only was a non-starter. We could insist that we didn’t want telephone service, but we knew we had to accept some kind of bundle. So it would be TV and internet.

The television we’ve been happy with. We get two of the Monterey stations, which we didn’t with DirecTV, and that’s nice. While I have my Food Network, I don’t have the Cooking Channel, and I miss that. But I can live with it.

HomeInternetWhat I really appreciate, and for which I am grateful every day, is the internet access. Part of the core business plan for Charter Communications is high-speed internet access. And high-speed it is. It has only gotten faster over the last three years. That’s important since Terry and I both work from home and I no longer have an office to go in to.

I’ve been able to do effectively at work everything I need to do. My company has been more and more focused on communicating online and less with landline phones. More and more conference calls are online, and I have taken to that. Add to that video conferencing, but I have been able to keep up just fine.

I was struck as to how fortunate I was when a colleague working from home said she was having audio problems since we started adding video to our team conference calls. She’s in Austin, where you’d expect high-speed connectivity. My manager, in San Diego, said that he can’t video conference from home.

Here I am connected all day, doing what I need to do, and listening to NPR or music on my internet radio, while Terry is working away in her office connected via the wireless router.

It’s very cool, and I am grateful for it. I am highly appreciative of Charter Communications’ business model, and I do not in the least take it for granted.

How Jesus Became God

HowJesusBecameGodHow Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee
Bart D. Ehrman
HarperOne, 421 pages, March 25, 2014
Kindle Edition $15.99, Amazon Hardcover $18.86

Bart Ehrman is known for his books on the earliest manuscripts of the Bible and other ancient writings. Critics will say he takes the position that what the Bible says is actually unknowable. I prefer to view him as saying we need to be cautious and that the most widely accepted reading of a given passage may not be the closest to the author’s original intent.

In this book Ehrman doesn’t compare different manuscripts of the same work. Rather, he discusses how the man Jesus came to be regarded as God. He writes about how the deification of humans was common in the ancient world, and how the deification of Jesus was in once sense a competition with the Roman Empire, where the Emperor Augustus was considered to be divine.

He makes the case that Jesus did not consider himself to be divine. He may have considered himself to be the Messiah, but a close reading of Matthew, Mark, and Luke (omitting John which was written later with its own perspective) shows that he did not think of himself as divine. Ehrman says that Jesus was not referring to himself himself when he spoke of the Son of Man, as we assume, but that the Son of Man was a separate, divine being who would pave the way for Jesus’ human messiahship.

Ehrman makes a strong case that the historical Jesus was an apocalyptic preacher. He points out that Mark, the shared source of Matthew and Luke (known as Q), the material unique to Matthew, and the material unique to Luke all have apocalyptic statements by Jesus. Somewhat disconcerting for those of us who would prefer not to see Jesus in that light.

While Ehrman is not everyone’s cup of tea, I always get a lot out of his books. He inserts more of himself into this book than he has his previous work, but I found that that added to the book rather than detracting from it.

How Jesus Became God is well worth reading if such topics interest you.

Emmaus 2014

I have often groused about how the only time in the three-year Sunday morning lectionary cycle we get the Emmaus Road story is Easter 3 in Year A, the year of Matthew. Those lectionary elves!

Ah, but here we are. It is Year A, yesterday was Easter 3, and we got the Emmaus passage. I’m not sure that’s it’s my favorite set of verses in the Bible, but it is no doubt my favorite Bible narrative. If you’re not familiar with the story or want to re-read it, it’s here.

Although Cleopas’ companion is generally considered to be a man, there is a school of thought that suggests his companion was his wife. The thinking goes that since Cleopas is named but his companion is not, given the culture and mores of first century Judah, his companion must be a woman. Given that the only woman a man would be traveling with in that culture would be his wife, the companion must be Cleopas’ wife.

I like that idea. I think it adds a nice balance to the story. Whatever the gender of Cleopas’ companion, the passage reminds me that Christ, that God, can be with us and we don’t always recognize it at the time. Even sometimes in those numinous experiences (“Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road…”) we sometimes don’t realize what happened until afterwards.

Emmaus may not be a historical event, but it is all about our experiences of God in our lives today. As John Dominic Crossan wrote, “Emmaus never happened. Emmaus always happens.”

Here’s my Emmaus blogs from 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011. And here’s a reflection on Emmaus from the perspective of Dorothee Soelle.

Painting by Emmanuel Garibay in which Jesus, rather than Cleopas' companion, is portrayed as a woman. Thanks to Jane Redmont for the reference.

“Emmaus” by Filipino artist Emmanuel Garibay. Jesus, rather than Cleopas’ companion, is portrayed here as a woman. Thanks to Jane Redmont for the reference.