Sacred Music Friday: Come, Ye Thankful People

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Come, Ye Thankful People

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving blessings to you and yours!


Even if you don’t know the word “mondegreen” you know what one is. It’s hearing words to a song incorrectly. Children are known for their mondegreens. There’s the story of the young boy who was asked who the most important figure in the Bible was. He responded “Round John Virgin.” When asked who Round John Virgin was, he responded that we sing about him every Christmas, “Round John Virgin, mother and child.”

The word itself comes from the essayist Sylvia Wright, who admits hearing the words to the Scottish Ballad, “They hae slain the Earl o’ Moray, And laid him on the green” as “They hae slain the Earl o’ Moray, And Lady Mondegreen.” You can find the word in Merriam-Webster, The American Heritage Dictionary, and the Oxford Dictionaries Online.

I first heard the word on a segment of Soundcheck from WNYC a few years ago. Last week it was featured in a piece on the public radio program The World, which is better known for its coverage of ISIS, Ebola, and drug lords in Mexico.

Adults as much as children create mondegreens. The Soundcheck episode paid a great deal of attention to the mis-heard words of John Fogerty in “Bad Moon Rising:” “There’s a bathroom on the right.” Fogerty is said to have sung those words in concerts at times.

The piece on The World referenced the Jimi Hendrix song “Purple Haze,” where “Excuse me while I kiss the sky” was heard as “Excuse me while I kiss this guy.” Hendrix may or may not have sung it that way once he caught wind of the misperception.

This is a topic I enjoy. Feel free to share your own mondegreens in the comments.

Florence Gordon

FlorenceGordonFlorence Gordon
Brian Morton
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (September 23, 2014), 323 pages
Kindle Edition $9.00, Amazon Hardcover $15.81
e-book borrowed from the Santa Clara County library system

In Florence Gordon Brian Morton has done an effective job of speaking with a woman’s voice, just as Kurt Anderson did in True Believers a few years back. Unlike True Believers, which was written in the first person, Florence Gordon is written in the third person. Three of the four main characters are female, and Morton does a marvelous job of taking us inside their minds, as he does with the male character as well.

Florence Gordon of the title is an aging feminist in New York City who was right in the middle of the fray at the height of the women’s movement and is getting some of the recognition she deserves. She struggles with writing her memoir and with failing health. Her son Daniel is a straight-laced cop who ended up in Seattle. When Daniel was dating Janine she was amazed to learn who his mother was and honored to become Florence’s daughter-in-law. Their daughter Emily, of college age and at loose ends, has the greatest respect for her grandmother.

In spite of the book’s title, the other three characters get as much attention as Florence. They are all real people with their strengths and faults. The the book comes to an end with few of the loose ends tied up. I’ll leave that description to Maureen Corrigan, a far more adept reviewer of books than I am, from her review on the NPR program Fresh Air:

quoteFlorence Gordon is one of those extraordinary novels that clarifies its readers’ sense of things, rather than cozying up to our conventional pieties. Morton’s ending is straight out of a Chekov story: It’s up in the air and brave; a closing vision of a life in all its messy contradictions, just limping down the street.

winter light

One of the floor lamps in my office gave out last week. The threads that connected the pole to the base had completely deteriorated, and that was that. I retrieved a three-bulb floor lamp that lampstandI had relegated to the second bedroom some years ago for reasons I no longer recall. The light bulbs in it were some old 60-watt incandescent 5-year bulbs that probably date back to our years in Mountain View. When I turned it on I immediately had a sinking feeling and remembered why I so much appreciate my full-spectrum light bulbs.

I don’t know whether I actually have diagnosable seasonal affective disorder, but I do know that I would become down and blue this time of year. A counselor I was seeing told me about full-three-bulblampspectrum bulbs (I think the more common label these days is “daylight”), and I installed those in the dining area, in our bedroom, and in my loft office. Since then, I have had only the briefest moments of that down feeling in the winter.

I immediately replaced the old 60-watts with daylight compact fluorescent bulbs and all was once again well.

It was good to be reminded about how much that technology means to me. It is not something I want to take for granted.

Sacred Music Friday: Kyrie

St. Olaf Early Music Singers, “Kyrie” from Mass for Four Voices, William Byrd

too much Fox

Terry and I have been watching the morning news program on Channel 2, KTVU, in the Bay Area since the mid-1990’s. Before we moved in together my habit was to listen to NPR on the radio while Terry watched Good Morning America on ABC. When Terry moved up here I deferred to Terry, but somehow I found Joan Lunden annoying. When Joan used the phrase “wakeup call” one too many times I suggested to Terry that we watch the local Mornings on 2 instead. She agreed.

KTVUKTVU was long owned by Cox Television. It was one of the first stations to join the Fox network when it started up, and when Fox News came along it used some resources from that network. For example it would broadcast the Fox News Sunday morning interview program and would use the Fox feed for the State of the Union message. For the most part, however, Cox kept Fox News at arm’s length from their local news broadcasts. Reports from Washington on Mornings on 2 came from the Cox D.C. bureau.

This past summer, however, Cox and Fox announced a swap of stations that included KTVU. That swap is now complete and Fox Television Stations, Inc. is the owner of Channel 2. So far the changes have been small. National stories on Mornings on 2 are read by the local anchors rather than going to Washington. However, the other day I came in the house from running errands while Terry was watching the noon news on Channel 2. I heard a reporter sign off a report saying, “Fox News, Washington.”

If that’s a sign of things to come the newscasts on Channel 2 are going to get a lot less viewership from Terry and me.