First day of the week

April 20, 2014

This morning in (adult) Sunday School, someone asked me to clarify the sequence of events from the evening of the Last Supper to the resurrection. I know that not everyone agrees with the traditional view that Jesus was betrayed on Thursday evening and rose early Sunday morning. But disputes over the timeline were not pertinent to the lesson (and I’m not the teacher, though as pastor’s wife I am frequently asked questions not covered in the quarterly), so I explained briefly that what I set forth was the traditional view.

I remember from Bible school that some people think Jesus died on a Wednesday, in order to have him in the tomb for “three days and three nights.” From what I have read, however, I am inclined toward the traditional view that he died on a Friday. (Not that I think it is an essential matter. Why he died is far more important.) What I did not realize until I did some web surfing today, however, is that not everyone agrees that he rose from the dead on Sunday.

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Not in public

April 12, 2014

After doing yard work on a day like today, with the temperature finally getting into the 80′s (a week after having to scrape ice off my windshield last Saturday), a cold treat like ice cream sounds very appealing. You’d think that anywhere that the temperature regularly gets up that high, an ice cream stand would get plenty of business.

But this week I listened to a story on NPR’s All Things Considered, telling about the challenges faced by Rwanda’s first and only ice cream shop.  People whose first experience of ice cream includes an ice cream headache or tooth pain may not associate it with pleasure as we do.

But a bigger obstacle may be the traditional taboo on eating in the street. Sure, you can enjoy ice cream indoors. But most of my early memories of ice cream are outdoors – running to get a treat from the Good Humor truck, enjoying the rare treat of a soft serve ice cream cone from an ice cream stand, trying to finish an ice cream sandwich before it melted at Kingswood Day (an annual event at the high school my father had attended). It seems like ice cream is made for enjoying outdoors.

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Kitsch or art?

April 5, 2014

I enjoyed reading in the American Profile insert in today’s paper about the sculptures of Seward Johnson. I didn’t even notice, as I was reading, that the very first example is located in Hamilton, New Jersey, where we lived for eight years. Only later, as I was searching online to find out where more of his work is located, did I remember the sculptures outside the public library in Hamilton.

I also realized, as I surfed the web, how much opinions differ about Johnson’s work. The article in American Profile had mentioned that “art critics called his work kitschy and unoriginal,” but that sounded merely dismissive. If something is kitschy, it seems to me that the artist or art critic can simply ignore it.

But I guess art critics are bothered by how much ordinary people like Johnson’s work. Is it because that means less money – and perhaps prestige – will go to those the critics consider true artists? Do they think the public will be less likely to recognize the merits of what they (the critics) consider good art?

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Books: Innocence

April 3, 2014

Since I had a gift card for Books-A-Million, I decided to get Dean Koontz’ newest novel, Innocence, for my birthday. Mostly I wait for books I want to be available at the library, but some books I buy, such as his Odd Thomas series. When I read that Innocence was one of his favorite books that he’d written, I thought that was a good enough reason to buy it.

I disagree with this review, which claims that “readers will either love this story or despise it.” It’s a reasonably well-told story, and thought-provoking once you finally learn the secret of what makes people hate Addison Goodheart and those like him. But I don’t know how likely I am to reread it. Now that I know the nature of Addison’s “deformity” what little suspense was there is gone, and the writing is not so impressive that I want to read it just for the way Koontz writes (as I have others of his books).

What is most interesting about the book is Koontz’ idea of people, like Addison, to whom others react with fear, then violent hatred. Even his own mother found it difficult to have him present, and the one person in the city who is his father’s friend can only bear to see him once a year. I wondered what it could be in their faces, especially their eyes, that provoked such a reaction, but the answer turned out to be very different from what the reader expects.

Please note that the rest of this post will be about what Koontz reveals at the end of the novel, so stop here if you haven’t read it and want to without knowing the explanation ahead of time.

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Singing shape notes

March 29, 2014

I have occasionally seen songbooks containing shape notes, and wondered what was the purpose of the oddly shaped notes. They’re positioned on the lines and spaces of a staff the same as the musical notation most of us are familiar with, and they have the same characteristics in terms of what distinguishes whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, and so on. That much tells me the pitch and length of a note. So what could the shape represent?

I got to find out today at a shape note singing event held at a nearby church. The program was led by a group called Prairie Harmony, who meet weekly to sing this kind of music. After a brief introduction, we started singing, and spend most of the next three hours singing, one hymn after another. No accompaniment, just our voices singing four-part harmony.

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Cyborgs in the making?

March 18, 2014

Yesterday our younger son asked why science fiction so often portrays problems that arise from a mix of the biological with the mechanical. We had an interesting conversation about real-life instances of machines embedded in people’s bodies, such as mechanical heart valves and cochlear implants. Such devices clearly improve a person’s quality of life without raising concerns that machines could be taking over.

Science fiction, of course, is always looking at what could happen in the future based on current trends. Might we someday have implants that challenge our ability to distinguish between person and machine? Or that make the distinction meaningless?

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Leprechaun trap

March 17, 2014

For Toastmasters this evening, members had been invited to bring stories, jokes, etc. related to St. Patrick’s Day or Ireland in general. Pam, the director of the library where our club meets, brought in this unusually decorated cake.

leprechaun trapShe explained that it was a leprechaun trap. I’d never heard of this tradition, but apparently it has become very popular in recent years. (I can’t help suspecting that, like most of our St. Patrick’s Day traditions, it is far more American than Irish. But so what?)

Leprechaun traps, she explained, can take any number of forms. Hers is a cake decorated to look like a tree stump, with a hidden hole in the middle for the leprechaun to fall into when he follows the trail of the gold coins.

It makes me wish my boys were young enough to want to try to make one. I’ve always loved arts and crafts, and I was always glad when Al showed an interest in making stuff because I could work on it with him. (Our older son rarely did crafts except when a school project required it.)

Leprechaun traps can be virtual too – i.e. computer programs. I’m sure Al would like it if I could create a computer game to trap a leprechaun, but my programming skills do not include the expertise in graphics that are integral to today’s computer games.

I enjoy looking at some of the ideas other people have come up with, though. Another cute cake idea – similar in concept but quite different in appearance – has a rainbow hidden inside.

I suppose someday I’ll probably have grandchildren. Maybe one of them will inherit my love of crafts and want to trap leprechauns with me.


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