Saturday, November 16, 2019

Thanksgiving survey 2019: Music

Some music performers I AM related to
L to R: Me, my Dad, my son

It's time for the Common Household time-honored tradition of the

Thanksgiving survey:Music

1. Name a music performer who is not related to you, for whom you are thankful.

2.  What is a musical tune you remember from your childhood?

Bonus:  Sing 30 seconds of a song which includes the word “thank”.

Please participate by giving your answers in the comments.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Music is a huge part of our lives in the Common Household, although we are not professional musicians. For us, music is an integral part of any educational philosophy.  Participating in a music ensemble teaches us cooperation, discipline, listening, and how to remember to bring our pencil to practice.  Music teaches math and creativity and beauty.  We are so thankful for music. 

A short composition by the Common Household Elder Daughter.

(For some reason I have no videos of the Common Household Son performing music.)

And the University of Pittsburgh Handbell Ensemble, including Common Household Younger Daughter.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

First lines: September and October 2019 edition

In September I finished four books.  In October I only managed to finish two books, and one was a slim volume of poetry.  There was just too much else to read, too much in the news cycle to try to comprehend.  And a fair amount of canvassing and time spent managing some aspects of the life of elderly relatives.

At the synagogue, we recently finished this book, collectively: 
This photo only shows half of the torah scroll.
This is the tradition on Simchat Torah.  First we dance around joyously with the Torah scrolls (in their covers).  Then one of the Torah scrolls is unrolled all the way.  It goes across the entire sanctuary, and requires the participation of lots of people to hold it.  Then Rabbi reads the end of Deuteronomy, runs across the sanctuary to Genesis, and reads the beginning of the Torah.  Then he rolls it up so that it is set at the beginning again.   This process is joyful, but it also gives me an appreciation for the invention of the book (with pages) as opposed to a scroll.  

The first lines are 

When God began to create heaven and earth — the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweeping over the water — God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

Rabbi said that "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth..." is not a good translation.   The translation he prefers gives more of a feeling of continuity.

Here are the first lines of the books I finished in Sep and Oct, followed by the titles.

Book 1
The cross and the lynching tree are separated by nearly 2,000 years. One is the universal symbol of Christian faith; the other is the quintessential symbol of black oppression in America.

Book 2
Big Moccasin Gap
Gate City is more than four hundred miles from Arlington, down the long spine of mountains that marks Virginia’s western border. 

Book 3
I saw you once.  I saw you and you noticed me because you caught me looking at you, seeing you.  Back and forth, back and forth.  Good-looking women do that.  Lock eyes, then look one another up and down.

Book 4
My mother and I drove east across the flatlands, along the vast floor of an ancient sea. We had come to West Texas to spend Thanksgiving in the national park where my mother worked as a ranger during the years when I formed my first childhood memories—images of wooded canyons and stone mountains rising up from the earth, the sound of wind whipping across low desert hills, the warmth of the sun beating down upon endless scrublands.

Book 5 – full disclosure – did not finish this one
Chapter 1: Jojo
I like to think I know what death is. I like to think that it’s something I could look at straight.

Book 6
Ove is fifty-nine.
He drives a Saab.  He’s the kind of man who points at people he doesn’t like the look of, as if they were burglars and his forefinger a policeman’s flashlight. 

Book 7
To the Fig Tree on 9th and Christian

Tumbling through the
city in my
mind without once
looking up
the racket in
the lugwork probably
rehearsing some
stupid thing I
said or did
some crime or
other the city they
say is a lonely
place until yes
the sound of sweeping
and a woman
yes with a
broom beneath
which you are now
too the canopy
of a fig its
arms pulling the
September sun to it

The titles and authors revealed:

Book 1
The Cross and the Lynching Tree, by James Cone. 

Until we can see the cross and the lynching tree together, until we can identify Christ with a “recrucified” black body hanging from a lynching tree, there can be no genuine understanding of Christian identity in America, and no deliverance from the brutal legacy of slavery and white supremacy.

What I studied in graduate school ignored white supremacy and black resistance against it, as if they had nothing to do with the Christian gospel and the discipline of theology. Silence on both white supremacy and the black struggle against racial segregation made me angry with a fiery rage that had to find expression. How could any theologian explain the meaning of Christian identity in America and fail to engage white supremacy, its primary negation?

Book 2
Born Fighting by Jim Webb. 
History of/apologetics for “Scots-Irish culture” in the United States.  Good writing; disagree completely with the thesis.  

I have to stop here and say that I was reading these two books (Born Fighting and The Cross and the Lynching Tree) at the same time, which was a great way to produce intellectual whiplash.  I hope to find time to tell you more about these books.  But there is an election in two days, and there’s too much to do.

Book 3
Lady in the Lake, by Laura Lippman.  © 2019. 
I did not like any of the characters.  Certainly did not like the main character, Maddie Schwartz – she was shallow and self-serving.  But the writing was good and after about 100 pages I settled in to enjoy the narrative style which alternated between 3rd person omniscient, and then first-person as told by a minor character in the preceding chapter.  The book takes place in Baltimore in 1966.  Ironically, the residential street I grew up on is mentioned!

Book 4
The Line Becomes a River, by Francisco Cantu.  © 2018. 
The author served as a border guard from 2008 to 2012.  He left that job to get an advanced degree.  This book gave me a lot to think about.  I recommend it.

Book 5
Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward.  © 2017.   Excellent writing, but I could not finish.  

Book 6
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, translated by Henning Koch.  © 2014.   Funny and poignant.  We read it for book club.

Book 7
catalog of unabashed gratitude by Ross Gay.  © 2015 (University of Pittsburgh Press).  Poetry. 
This poet does not much believe in the period.  Each poem is pretty much one long run-on sentence, and this style propels the reader through each poem like the Niagara River rushing to its destiny at the falls.  That’s not necessarily bad, for poetry, but at first it was shocking to me.   It was nearly impossible to find a stopping place for my quote of the “first lines” above.

I do not claim to understand each poem, but I read this more as I read the book of Revelation (the Bible).  The reading technique is to just read the words and soak in the images and feelings.  Ross Gay’s poems in this volume include a lot of fruit and sweetness, and above all else, motion.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Kochanim: Ahava and Shalom

Art sent to our synagogue from a Hillel in New York state, to express love and caring for the Jews of Pittsburgh following the Oct 27, 2019 terrorist shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue.


                                                 Kohanim - stars

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

The Common Household Husband, quoted

I decided not to try to write something original today.  Instead, I bring you... 

Things My Husband Has Said Lately

Me:  We’re supposed to wear black tomorrow.  I wonder if I even have any black pants that fit.

Husband:  Well, there’s always Sharpies.

* * * * * * * *

Husband:  If you look at photos from the Israeli election you would conclude that Trump is running for head of the Knesset.

* * * * * * * *
Box turtle at Cleveland Botanical Garden
I did find a turtle costume online, but I didn't like it.
Me:    I need a turtle costume by next Wednesday.

Husband:    Check at the zoo, in the amphibian section.

Me, a confused non-biologist:  Are turtles amphibians?

Husband, thinking for a moment:    No, they are reptiles.  Check in the reptile section.

Me:  Because when you are looking for an animal costume it’s important to be precise about the classification.

The local Halloween store did not have any
 turtle costumes, but they did have this.
Add bathrobe = instant Jesus or Apostle

* * * * * * * *

I arrived home from worship at church.  The scripture the pastor preached on that day was 1 Timothy 2:1-7, which starts out:  “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone….”

Husband:    How was church?

Me, hanging my head in shame:  The pastor said we have to pray for EVERYONE. 

Husband:      Oh, MAN!  Everyone?!  Really?!

* * * * * * * *

Oct 2, 2019
Me,  solemnly:  Did you know that you have something in common with Bernie Sanders now?

Husband:  I do?  I mean, I do not agree with him on his “college for all” proposal.

Me:  He had a heart problem and had two stents put in.

Husband:  Good for him!  But was he able to get a bagel with cream cheese after the procedure?

* * * * * * * *

Back in early September, my husband said, “It’s not my job to make sense of things.”

I don’t remember what we had been talking about, but I think it’s very hard these days, even though we have great and unmatched wisdom, to make sense of anything.

This is why I needed to wear black - black or
orange - to demand common sense
gun legislation