Sacred Music Friday: Oh God Our Help in Ages Past

Oh God Our Help in Ages Past, Westminster Abbey

let it be

Some time ago I quoted Anne Lamott from one of her books, where she said that she wore a pendant of the Virgin Mary to remind her to let it be.

If you’re somewhere around my age this needs no explanation. You know that the reference is to the Beatles song. What Anne failed to realize is that “Mother Mary” is not the Virgin Mary, but Paul McCartney’s birth mother Mary, who died when he was fifteen. She was the one who returned in spirit to remind him to let it be.

The focus here, of course, is on letting it be. It’s something I often have a hard time doing. So, really, whatever mnemonic device works to remind one to let it be, that ought to be fine.

admiring the small business owner

I was in Rocca’s Market last week for an off-cycle midweek run. Dan Rocca had his thumb bandaged up. He was working the cash register so when I was checking out I asked him what happened. He said he thought he had dislocated it and was trying to figure out what to do about it.

On Friday I went in for my usual weekly visit. Dan wasn’t there but his brother Tom was working the cash register. I asked him if Dan had is thumb looked after. He told me that he had. It was a sprain, but nothing serious or chronic. Tom said that he learned a long time ago that a Rocca can’t afford to be sick or injured. I said that that was what happens when you own your own business. He said it was more like the business owned them.

And yet they keep on keeping on. You have to admire that.

seeing what we want to see

It’s easy to filter your Facebook feed to see only what you want to see. Without unfriending people, I have hidden Facebook friends from my feed. I might do this if I too often see posts that offend my sensibilities or that are just annoying or if someone’s posts are too frequently excessively frivolous. In the last week one Facebook friend, gloating about the Republican victory in the elections, started sharing posts, originating from dubious sources, bashing the left. Rather than hiding that person entirely, I just told Facebook that I didn’t want to see posts from those sources. That is something that works in my Web browser on my PC, but not on my Facebook iPad app.

One would wish that we could have an environment of civil discourse. So much of what is on Facebook is highly biased either left or right, and some of it is just plain wrong. I have to admit having been guilty of perpetuating some of the left-leaning material myself.

I think back to the early 1980’s when I lived in in Oklahoma City. I used to regularly watch William F. Buckley’s Firing Line on PBS, even though his views were at the opposite end of the spectrum from mine. He was intelligent, literate, articulate, and had his facts straight. That last point is not something you can say about Fox News (or I suppose MSNBC as well at times), nor about much of what appears on Facebook.

I have no answers. Only my observations.


jury duty

I am on call for jury duty this week. I am a great believer that jury duty is a central component of our democracy (such as it is these days) and that individual involvement in the process is important. The process, however, is not ideal. Here in Santa Clara County, home of Silicon Valley, the system involves checking in on the Web (or on the phone) twice a day. So late Friday afternoon I checked my status for Monday morning. Monday at noon I checked my status for Monday afternoon. Late Monday afternoon I check my status again. Those instructions are to check back Wednesday at 11:00 a.m., since tomorrow is Veteran’s Day, a government holiday. This goes on until you are notified to go in or are released. There is a temptation to consider this a form of Chinese water torture, but I’m not sure there’s a better method. The courts never know when a given case will go to trial and it certainly beats the heck out of sitting around the courthouse when there is nothing going on. At least you can go about your business until you are needed.

The last time I was on a jury was about ten years ago. I got called into a pool, but I thought I was going to be let off. However the last potential juror in the initial group of twelve was let go, and I my name was called. The defendant was acting as his own attorney and I was tempted to repeat the old saw, “The man who acts as his own attorney has a fool for a client.” It was clear, however, that the judge wanted to get on with things so I kept my mouth shut and sat on the jury. The trial was only half a day and I turned out to be right. Still, it was a good civics lesson.

We’ll see what happens this week.

Sacred Music Friday: For all the Saints

I’m a week late with this, but All Saints’ Day was Saturday, which is not a normal blog day for me. The day before I had a very important blog post to share. So here it is today: For all the Saints.

Carol Burnett

Last November PBS broadcast a special program in honor of Carol Burnett winning the Kennedy Center Mark Twain prize. We recorded the program and it had been sitting in our DVR ever since. Saturday was a cool, rainy afternoon on which we didn’t have a lot that we needed to accomplish. It seemed like a good time to watch the program.

The show was two hours, and I figured part of it would be PBS fundraising. But no. It was a full two hours devoted to honoring Carol Burnett. And what a show it was. Vicki Lawrence. Tim Conway. Tony Bennett. Julie Andrews. Lucie Arnaz. Carl Reiner. Ellen DeGeneres. And more. Lots of clips from old shows and kinetoscopes from Carol’s earliest years. It was an amazing tribute to a truly talented woman.

At the end of the program Carol accepted the award and closed the show with her signature song, “I’m so glad we had this time together…” Terry and I both had to reach for the Kleenex.

Two hours on a wet, chilly Saturday afternoon very well spent.

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what happened to trail etiquette?

A week ago Sunday Terry and I went out to the San Martin entrance to Henry Coe park and walked the flat paved trail there. We had bug-bombed the house and thought that would be a good thing to do while that was happening. (Afterwards we had lunch at A-Jay’s Cheesesteak in San Martin, which was even better.)

Back in 1989-1990 when I lived in Los Gatos I would go to Vasona park and bike the trail. Riders going faster than me would call out “On your left!” So I could move to the right and let them pass. On our visit to Henry Coe we were passed by bikers who zipped past us on the right with no such consideration. How about a shout, “On your right!” so we can step aside and let you pass?

Where did trail etiquette go?


that was the season that was

The Giants took the World Series down to the final out of game 7 on the road last week. Quite the season and quite the post-season. Certainly quite the World Series.

I told myself after it was all over that next season I’ll just enjoy the Giants as they are and not worry about where they are in the standings.

I say that at the end of the Giants’ season every year. We’ll see what things look like come spring.

Powers of Two

PowersofTwoPowers of Two: Finding the Essence of Innovation in Creative Pairs
Joshua Wolf Shenk
Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, (August 5, 2014), 372 pages
Kindle Edition  $9.24, Amazon Hardcover $18.79
e-book borrowed from the Santa Clara County Library System

Joshua Wolf Shenk uses Powers of Two to argue against the concept of the lone genius. His thesis is that real creative breakthroughs come from two people collaborating. The case he makes is compelling. He looks at a large number of creative pairs in a wide variety of fields. His subjects include: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, Alma Reville and Alfred Hitchcock, C. S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, Jobs and Wozniak, The Curies, and many others.

And of course Lennon and McCartney. There is enough Lennon and McCartney in Powers of Two to make it worth the price of the book even if that is the only creative pair in which you are interested. Shenk goes into great depth discussing not only their collaboration, but their rivalry as well. (Rivalry is an important theme in the book. He takes a good look at the rivalry between sisters Ann Landers and Dear Abby.)

If you are interested in how Yoko Ono fits into the Lennon-McCartney dynamic as well as the dynamic of the Beatles as a whole, you will not be disappointed. Shenk’s take is interesting.

quoteThe myth of Yoko swooping in and plucking John in her pincers is the ultimate storytelling cop-out, because it distracts from the more significant thing, which is the nature and direction of John’s power. He was a vulnerable man, after all, but not weak; erratic but not passive. My sense is that John saw in Yoko a singular concatenation of opportunity.

Shenk also brings up the topic of John’s sexual orientation. Lennon, he says, was not devotedly heterosexual. This was new to me, though it is likely old news to more serious students of the Beatles. He quotes Lennon: “It’s just handy to f**k your best friend . . . And once I resolved the fact that it was a woman as well, it’s all right.” Umm, well, OK.

When a book has an afterword it is often uninteresting and adds little. That was not the case in Powers of Two. The author describes his struggles writing the book and his difficulty meeting deadlines. He frankly discusses his churlish, or perhaps childish, response when feedback on the book didn’t take the form he wanted. It’s an interesting and honest self-appraisal.

Powers of Two is a fascinating and insightful study of the creative process.