Sacred Music Friday: When the Morning Stars Together

The St. Olaf Choir and congregation sing the hymn “When the Morning Stars Together.” Words by Albert F. Bayly, arranged by John Ferguson. Anton Armstrong conductor.


Poet of the Appetites

poetoftheappetitesPoet of the Appetites: The Lives and Loves of M.F.K. Fisher
by Joan Reardon
528 pages
North Point Press, October 27, 2004
Amazon paperback $45.00, Hardcover – out of print

I was casting about for my next book to read when I noticed this one sitting on my shelf. It was a hardcover remainder that I had purchased more than ten years ago. It had somehow made the arbitrary and capricious cut of books that actually found their was here to Hemet in our move of last year.

You are probably familiar with the writer M.F.K. Fisher. She had many decades of success writing books and articles about food and travel. She was born Mary Frances Kennedy and her first husband was named Al Fisher. She first used the moniker M.F.K. Fisher when she published her first article in the Southern California auto club magazine and didn’t want her father, the editor of the local newspaper in Whittier, to know the article was hers. That attempt failed, but the pen name remained, even through two additional marriages.

The life the author lived is different from the life she portrayed in her writing. Biographer Joan Reardon tells us early in the first chapter:

quoteMary Frances also gradually realized that writing, like cooking, was not so much about the facts as it was about creating a certain kind of control over reality and power over the one who consumed. Whether it was at the stove or at the typewriter, spicing up a dish—blackberries on a bland pudding, extra curry in a stew—and embroidering a story would become her signature.

This theme is pervasive throughout the book. She went through three marriages, multiple affairs, missed deadlines, abandoned projects, and carrying the burden of keeping the family together at various times in her life. The reality is at odds, Reardon tells us, with the persona in her writing of the epicure living the good life.

The book, at 528 pages, is heavily documented and intricately detailed. Sometimes too detailed. Reardon, however, is a skilled writer and she moves the narrative forward at a brisk pace in spite of the detail. She engaged my attention and kept me turning the pages.

If you’ve ever wanted to know about the life of  M.F.K. Fisher this book will tell you just about as much as there is to know about her.


Lon Simmons

I miss baseball broadcaster Lon Simmons. He retired some years ago and died in April 2015.

Lon SimmonsFor many years he was the partner of Giants broadcaster Ross Hodges. In the years I knew him he was partner to Oakland Athletics broadcaster Bill King. Sadly, a new ownership group failed to renew his contract. In the last few years of his career he was a part-time broadcaster for the Giants again. He retired when he realized he was no longer quick enough to keep up with the play-by-play.

What I loved most about him was his dry wit:

“If you’re keeping score, that was a 6-4-3 double play. Even if you’re not keeping score that was a 6-4-3 double play.”

I loved Lon Simmons.


Dante’s Divine Comedy

divinecomedyDante’s Divine Comedy
William R. Cook, Ph.D. and Ronald B. Herzman, Ph.D.
The Great Courses
Audio download $34.95 when on sale
If the course is not on sale, check back – the sale price will come around again

This is a fascinating course. William Cook and Ronald B. Herzman are first-class lecturers. I very much enjoyed their course on St. Augustine’s Confessions. They are equally effective in discussing The Divine Comedy.

I have to admit never having read Dante. My three-volume Penguin Classics set disappeared somewhere along the way. I’m still not sure that I’ll carve out the time to read the work, but at least this course has given me a lot of insight into The Divine Comedy.

Cook and Herzman offer a lot of insight into this great work. They discuss how Dante meets both famous figures and figures involved in the local political strife of his time. He meets both historical and fictional characters, and he meets both Christians and Pagans. They discuss the intricate structure of the work, and that parallel structure between the books.

They point out that many people read only The Inferno and think that they have gained all Dante wants to say. They make clear that you need to also read Purgatorio and Paradiso to fully grasp Dante’s vision.

This is a marvelous introduction to the Divine Comedy.


the New Coke strategy: lessons not learned

You no doubt remember, assuming that you are old enough, the fiasco of the New Coke that was introduced in 1985. The Coca Cola Company assumed that cola drinkers would love the new product and that it would be great for sales. They were certainly wrong. Coke drinkers were infuriated and the company had to backtrack and introduce Coke Classic.

It’s been thirty years and companies seem not to have learned. Here is my current example.

I grew up eating Farmer John link sausage. Farmer John was part of my childhood after all. I heard Vin Scully talk about Farmer John on Dodger radio broadcasts. (“The eastern-most in quality; the western-most in flavor.”) There was Dick Sinclair’s Polka Parade on channel 5, sponsored by Farmer John.

In Gilroy, Terry and I fixed a big breakfast on Saturday morning that included scrambled eggs and sausage. We did the same on holidays. Generally we would have homemade country sausage from or local Rocca’s Market. But every once in a while we would get Farmer John’s because Terry had similar childhood memories to mine. The last time we got Farmer John sausage it tasted different. Terry and I agreed that it had a sort of maple taste. We weren’t happy.

farmerjohnWe don’t fix sausage much at home here in Hemet because we have breakfast with my family on Saturdays. But I decided to pick up a package of Farmer John for Labor Day. I was surprised, but pleased, when I saw two different packages, one clearly labeled “Maple” and one clearly labeled “Classic.” I picked up the classic, of course.

On Labor Day Terry and I were delighted to experience that familiar taste that we grew up with.

But you would think that these companies would have learned not to mess with the loved and familiar.


Sacred Music Friday: Day by Day

Richard of Chichester, 1197-1253, wrote these words that today we know so well from the musical Godspell.

quoteO most merciful Redeemer, friend and brother,
May I know Thee more clearly,
Love Thee more dearly,
Follow Thee more nearly, day by day.

It’s been more than two years since I’ve shared this song, so I think that it is time to do so again, particularly since I’m working on internalizing the words for myself. By the way, the last time I shared the song I used this marvelous studio version from the revival.


pizza from scratch

pizza from scratcI made pizza from scratch on a recent Sunday. It’s something I do every so often, though not on a regular basis. When I’m done I pause and reflect on how much work that really is.

I make the dough from scratch and let it rise. At one time the sauce consisted simply of my seasoning tomato sauce, but I now make the sauce from scratch as well using canned tomatoes. When you add together all the steps of preparing the crust, making the sauce, preparing the toppings (as in slicing the mushrooms), and then putting everything together it really is quite a task. But when the pizza comes out of the oven the result is well worth the effort.

I’ll do it all again when the memory of the work involved is not quite so sharp.


Eucharistic Prayer C

As I discussed yesterday, when I look at the statistics for this blog I see some recurring themes with respect to those who find this blog via search. One of my blog entries that keeps popping up is one about Eucharistic Prayer C in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. I went back and looked at it and I feel a little bit bad about that, because it’s not a very good blog entry. I don’t really say much at all there.

I think Eucharistic Prayer C deserves more attention than that. It is my favorite of all of the Eucharistic prayers. In the Episcopal churches I have attended the standard prayer on most Sundays is Eucharistic Prayer A. At Good Shepherd Episcopal here in Hemet, in the past year we have switched to Eucharistic Prayer B the seasons of Advent, Christmas, and Easter. It’s a nice change, because it forces me to listen to the words, to read along in the prayer book, as opposed to the very familiar words of Eucharistic Prayer A. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a worship service where Eucharistic Prayer D was used.

For me, however, it is Eucharistic Prayer C that has the most powerful words.

God of all power, Ruler of the Universe, you are worthy of
glory and praise.
Glory to you for ever and ever.

At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of
interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses,
and this fragile earth, our island home.
By your will they were created and have their being.

But the prayer also admonishes us:

Lord God of our Fathers: God of Abraham, Isaac, and
Jacob; God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: Open our
eyes to see your hand at work in the world about us. Deliver
us from the presumption of coming to this Table for solace
only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for
renewal. Let the grace of this Holy Communion make us one
body, one spirit in Christ, that we may worthily serve the
world in his name.
Risen Lord, be known to us in the breaking of the Bread.

The words that stick with me are:

quoteDeliver us from the presumption of coming to this Table for solace only,
and not for strength;
for pardon only, and not for renewal.

Those are words that I need to hear. And hear again.

I wish that I had the opportunity to experience Eucharistic Prayer C more often in worship, but it’s always there in the prayer book whenever I want to turn to it.

You can find Eucharistic Prayer C in the The (Online) Book of Common Prayer. Navigate: The Holy Eucharist > The Holy Eucharist: Rite II > Eucharistic Prayer C.


what readers are looking for

I enjoy looking at the statistics on my blog. Not that I have a lot of readers, but I enjoy doing so nonetheless. I seem to have two kinds of readers. The first type is made up of my regular readers. They read my current posts, either on my home page or by going to that specific entry. If you are reading this you probably fall into this category. Please know that I’m humbled and delighted that you read my blog and that I don’t take you for granted.

The second type of reader gets to my blog via Google or another search engine. What is interesting here is that there are a few recurring search results that keep popping up. My remembrance of jazz radio announcer Bob Parlocha is one of those, as is my blog entry that more generally appreciates the announcers at late great jazz station KJAZ. Another entry that comes up regurlarly is my discussion of Eucharistic Prayer C1 in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. I went back and looked at that entry and it’s not terribly good. It’s one of those entries that I simply seem to have dashed off. I owe that prayer more than that, and I’ll take care of that tomorrow.

Another blog entry that comes up with some regularity is my discussion of “imaginary” as a noun. This relates to a Great Courses series I listened to on Heroes and Legends. As the lecturer states, “the word ‘imaginary’ is used as a noun to mean a collective picture of an era derived from books, films, television, and so on.” The primary example he gives is the American wild west. I suspect there’s not a lot online about that so my blog comes up.

It’s interesting to see which searches find my blog.

1You can find Eucharistic Prayer C in the The (Online) Book of Common Prayer. Navigate: The Holy Eucharist > The Holy Eucharist: Rite II > Eucharistic Prayer C.


a practical approach

In the last few months two homeowners in our immediate vicinity within the Four Seasons community have taken out their front lawns and replaced them with drought resistant landscaping and a terraced patio. There aren’t a lot of houses here that have this feature, but some do, and it’s interesting that homeowners are replacing their lawns with this feature. I’m sure that the primary intent here is to reduce water usage, but there may be a useful side effect.

FrontPatioSo what’s this useful side effect? Let me explain a bit about how many of the houses here in Four Seasons are configured. The lots are narrow, but comparatively deep. Because of this, the air conditioner units are on the back patio. So if Terry and I want to sit on the patio in the evening we have to turn off the air conditioner. That means the house heats up while we are outside and when we go back inside the air conditioner has to play catch-up. Sitting on a patio in the front yard eliminates that problem.

Of course we’re not going to do that anytime soon. We put in artificial turf shortly after we moved here, and we’re not going to change that. Still, it is nice idea.