the small things
What I love about Orbit gum is that it comes in this cool little envelope.
What I love about Orbit gum is that it comes in this cool little envelope.
Chris and I recently watched the latest Grisham novel turned movie, Runaway Jury. Having enjoyed listening to it on tape several road trips ago, we were excited about it, esp. since it takes place in our neck of the woods. Well after the shock of its being about guns instead of cigarettes and its taking place in the heart of New Orleans instead of the Gulf Coast, it was very enjoyable. Just seeing three great actors--Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, and John Cusak (how do you spell his name anyway?)--on screen together was a treat, though I think their parts could've been better developed. It wasn't the best adapted screenplay I've ever seen. I hope it didn't/doesn't get nominated for an Oscar on that account. But it has great shots of New Orleans, and I could recognize several places. Including our favorite shot: in the first few seconds of the movie the guy is driving down the highrise on I-10 going into the city, in the upper right region of the screen you can the school where Chris teaches with its red roof and long windows. Well, actually, if the movie hadn't taken place in my current hometown, I probably would've thought it was kind of boring. So much about what made the book so exciting--primarily the tension among the members of the jury--was left out.
Part of the events of the Forum on Music and Christian Scholarship conference at Covenant this weekend was a panel discussion. I was the token graduate student on the panel whose theme was "Musical and Christian Scholarship as Calling: Obstacles and Opportunities". (They had to throw the calling thing in so they could get some funding from the Kaleo Center at Cov.) Not all of us dealt specifically with music scholarship, and I think there were some interesting things said for scholars who are Christians in general. So I give my prepared comments (somewhat underdeveloped due to the time constraints I had) for further discussion in blogosphere:
Musical scholarship as a Christian calling---
When thinking about each aspect of—“music” and “scholarship” and “calling” and “Christian”—it has been observed in communications during the preparations for this panel that there are tensions regarding these terms in relation to each other in their various combinations. In some ways it can be boiled to the “faith and life integration” pot, and in that respect, I have been challenged to think about these things all of my life. Having been brought up as a covenant child in a Protestant Reformed household, the sovereignty of God in all aspects of life from doing the dishes to studying my math facts was especially emphasized. This understanding of sovereignty carried over into academics in a particular way when I got to Covenant College. The overwhelming question that permeated all of our classes was ‘how does the sovereignty of God particularly effect my work in x discipline as a scholar?’ So I have not really experienced, to a great extent, skepticism on the part of my particular Christian circle as to the legitimacy of my pursuit of scholarship. But after all my time at Covenant I still do not really know how Christian scholarship is different or what it is supposed to look like.
Two particular premises about Christian scholarship that I have received from my Covenant education are first, that a Christian’s scholarly work will not necessarily and essentially look different from a non-Christian’s scholarship, though it may be tempered by our unique knowledge base, for instance, intimate knowledge of the Bible and liturgy if awfully handy when studying the music of the church, and second, that with rise of postmodernism in academia Christians can claim their place at the table along with the feminists, etc. (I call this the “Marsden thesis”.)
These two premises have led me to begin to question recently how we use the qualifier “Christian”. If our scholarship does not have particular gospel content and if we are in the same way hindered as the non-Christian by what evidence is available to arrive at historical conclusions, why bother calling it Christian? I am becoming less and less comfortable using the term “Christian scholarship.” I am also becoming less comfortable with the Marsden thesis for which I am not really sure, but I think it has to do with the fact that I do not think there is such thing as “Christian scholarship.” Thus, to think of it as an advocacy position that requires a place at the table along with the Marxists and the feminists does not make much sense.
To add the notion of vocation to me as a Christian doing scholarship adds a new shade of complexity to the discussion. “Calling” is a word used often in Christian circles, perhaps it is a word used too much. We think of it in one way as referring to the calling of elders or deacons to an office, but people often use the word “calling” in a much broader way as anything having to do with any occupation they take up. Sometimes it is easy for people to inadvertently justify their own actions or to gain approval for their decisions by saying they were “called” to do it. Who can argue? God has spoken. It is also easy to think that if you were called to a particular occupation, such as scholarship, in our case, you have to become a scholar and become defined by this vocation. Perhaps, though, it may be more appropriate to think of calling in a more general way. Not so much as ‘I am called to be a scholar’ as ‘I am called to be obedient to Christ.’ It is difficult to discern clearly what God’s will is for my life, but I think when we seek Him with a desire to be obedient he will show us and lead us in the direction He will have us go. So for now, the Lord has provided me with the skills, the desire, and the opportunities to pursue scholarship. But I think of my following this path not so much as a path of calling as a path of obedience. If the doors of academia were to close for me, my calling would remain the same. This is also tremendously freeing for me, because I do not have to worry if I am called to this or that, I just have to focus on obeying Christ. Maybe in the end that does not look different from those who say they are called to be scholars, but this is a helpful way for me to look at it.
There are also some practical considerations about being a Christian in academia, which probably are just essentially the problems of being a Christian in the world. A particular tension, which actually comes more from the church than the world, has to do with the fact that I am a woman. I am married, and the traditional picture, at least that I have received, is that I stay at home, have some kids, possibly homeschool them, and follow my husband supporting whatever career he may have. Many women I know view the sum total of their “calling” as being a wife and a mother. This inherently is not a bad picture, but I am clearly on path that does not fit with this picture, if I expect to actually use the Ph.D. I am currently working towards. My husband and I desire to be obedient with regards to the two of us as a family and to our future covenant children, if we are blessed with them, so it means creating a completely new picture for us if I am supposed to throw “scholar” on the pile of things I am “called” to do, which may partly be why I am attracted to simplify the notion of “calling.” Becoming a scholar, especially, as a woman also means that I am asserting independent ideas from my husband and other men, which make some in the church bristle.
Other tensions that are probably more relevant to my daily life right now do not really come from the university as much from the way I think I should live an obedient life. In my experience, I do not really get a lot of “negative energy” because I am a Christian. The people in my department know that I am serious about my faith and respect it as my personal belief. Maybe we can call this the “post-Marsden” phase. The tensions I face are those any Christian in the workplace does—for instance, keeping the Sabbath or deciding to commute daily 85 miles each way to school in order to remain active in the life of the fledgling church we are members of.
I'm back from a great weekend at Covenant/Chattaville. The conference was fantastic...better than I expected. And it was really great seeing old friends. In fact, it was so great I literally sobbed my way down the mountain for the last time yesterday morning. It's not that I miss college days at all. It's more that I miss the general community and particular people with the particular way of interacting with them. Like my friends Sarah Barker or Joanna Hastings. Communication with them is so easy, sometimes we don't even have to use words. A look will say enough to send us rippling with laughter because we both know what was so funny. It's a good thing that Chris stayed behind. I like him more than any of my pals, so it was enough motivation to make me come home.
So now I'm back in Louisiana, staring at the live oak outside my office window, trying not to panic about tests and papers coming up, and feeling loathe to be back.
Last night I went to see the Emerson Quartet, one of the country's best strings quartets, at Tulane. A fabulous concert comprising a late two-mvt/'unfinished' quartet by Haydn (op. 103), Mendelssohn's String Quartet, No. 2, op. 44, and Debussy's String Quartet. For an encore they played a second movement from a/the(?) quartet by Benjamin Britten (wh., I think, was actually my favorite part of the program).
What I love about a string quartet is the intimacy of the ensemble. It lends itself to such a blending of tone that it is almost like one voice. A successfully composed quartet, I think, can really use this intimacy in marvelous ways. Each quartet on the program did this in its unique way. I especially liked the last chord of the slow movement to the Debussy, it was almost like an organ, the way the chord was spaced and the absolute one-ness of the group as a performing ensemble was absolutely spectacular. I was familiar with everything on the program (esp the Debussy) except the Britten encore. I really want to get that whole quartet on a CD. It was really amazing. Some of the techniques and effects that Britten produced were so intriguing. For instance, the way he made one instrument "chase" another so that it almost sounded like a slow reverberation. Or how each instrument tossed around this one particular accented note such that it was the same note, in the same register, and they made it sound like one instrument was playing it, but they were actually tossing it around. Wow!
One of the many things I do to keep busy is ressurect the early music performing group, the Collegium. I guess resurrecting it means directing it, too, though I prefer to think of myself merely as the one who photocopies and passes out music and gives the cue to begin. I really haven't a clue as to how to direct a group with a specific sound result in mind. So anyway, as resurrection attempts usually go it was off to a rather shaky start, but I think this is the first week where we're really starting to pull together something that sounds half decent. It might even be possible to have a little informal concert at the end of the semester. We've got a core group, too, and that's good. That's essential. So three recorders, me on gambas and a lute makes a really nice group. I especially like the sound the lute adds. And my pal Erica is doing a great job actually learning the recorder to play with us. Go E! Tuning went better tonight than it ever has, too. Phwew. This is looking like it might not be a failure after all!
I also washed my car on the outside for the first time in almost 2 yrs. So it's sort of like a first. This morning when we got into it to go to church, though, a thick layer of pollen had already collected all over it. Oh well. I tried.
Yesterday brought on a significant step in several arenas in our household.
The first I say with a little sheepishness, we got a TV antenna, so now we can get 2 or 3 channels instead of none. I have taken pride for the past two years in not really having any convenient access to television. But we've succumbed. Just for the few moments when we really want to be engaged with nothing but don't want to put on a movie. We'll see. We might not be able to get anything worthwhile, in which case, we'll probably put the antenna in the closet. 'Course, i've always enjoyed Letterman, and we usually get that channel. We are no where near getting cable.
The second I say with a great amount of pride. I planted our first in the ground garden. I've managed quite well with an elaborate system of various sized and shaped pots for our porch these past few years. But last fall they dug up the shrubs in front of the house where our apartment is (the house has been carved up into 8 apts). So there's a decent plot-ish kind of place where a shrub once stood. Yesterday we went to Home Depot and I got a shovel and a hoe to turn up the ground and four 40 lb bags of top soil for 93cents each to enhance the rather clay-y clumpy ground. I think I could go for more top soil. But the 160 lbs isn't bad. I planted six small green bell peppers, hopefully a majority will survive, and one jalapeno pepper, and 3 Creole tomato plants and one Brandywine yellow tomato plant. I have plans for cucumbers in the future. I already have a thriving herb garden in deep window boxes outside my screenless kitchen windows. I'm really excited about this real live garden, and I hope we get a better harvest this year than the potted method allowed.
"C'est trop beau"
I'm sitting on my comfy bed with my nice little computer. Doing what Latin homework I can having grabbed the wrong book (they're both red). Having demolished a bowl of popcorn, I sure could use a glass of juice or something. Watching French Kiss, thinking of friends and fun times at home and abroad. I laugh every time Kate flips over the dessert cart at the hotel in Cannes. "ooh. Beautiful! Wish you were here!" I home alone overnight for the first time in our almost three years of marriage. I'm always the one gone. Chris is on a retreat.
Sometimes I wonder if I would enjoy this movie as much if it weren't for the pleasant associations I have with it...
I was scheduled to teach yesterday for the music history survey I T.A. for. I taught on Bellini and Verdi operas. Up until around 7 the night before I thought I was going to teach Bellini and Rossini. Rossini is really different from Verdi. I happened to run into one of the students in the class, and she said "so are you teaching Verdi tomorrow?" I said, "No, I'm teaching Rossini." She replied, "Oh, but we covered Rossini on Monday." So I called the prof with whom I had last left that I was supposed to teach Rossini. She said that she had been out all day and was planning on calling me later that night with what I was supposed to do.
This all happened before I embarked on my journey homeward. By the time I got home, I was so tired that I could only read a bit before falling asleep. I had this whole lecture to prepare, though, on a topic with which I'm not very comfortable. So I got up at 4 am, left at 5 am, drove to Baton Rouge arriving around 6.30 am, and focused every synapse in my brain to get the lecture prepared for 8.30 am. It ended up going fine even if I wasn't prepared as I would've liked to have been.
Why was I teaching? Well, as a PhD student in musicology, the occupation possibilites are limited to very few if I actually want to use my degree. The primary one being a college professor. When I apply for a job, they'll want to know that I know how to teach. So I jokingly call these little sessions my "student teaching" for PhD's.
With that in mind, what was wrong with this scenario? And further, why would I have been frazzled?
I'm very circumspect when it comes to cookbooks. My view is that you need one constant standby (I highly recommend The Joy of Cooking, which will answer almost any question except those concerning mixed drinks). After that there are myriads of "special interest" cookbooks covering various cuisines, genres, diets, etc. From my perusals on the internet and in bookstores, about 80% of these are unnecessary. If you know the "basics" you don't need these books. For goodness' sake, how many different cookbooks are out there that tell you to mix basil, olive oil, sundried tomatoes, and pasta? Anybody knowing their ingredients could tell you that without the book. A book like The Joy of Cooking will help you know your ingredients. Perhaps I'm generalizing a bit, but you get my basic sentiment.
However, there are the few gems out there. The ones that challenge how you've conceived of the combinations of food for particular end results. I guess depending on your culinary experience every book inspires different things per person.
I unwittingly stumbled upon such a book last Friday. A quick glance proved it to be above the sundried tomato pasta kind of book, so in a moment of impulse, I bought it. It was on the bargain table at the Barnes & Noble at the Student Union. Upon later perusal, I surmised to my enjoy, that this was the kind of book that was going to change my life as I now know it. This book? the Cook's Encyclopedia of Soups, published by B&N. Full color photography on every page and fantastic soup recipes. The two soups I made over the weekend (Roasted Red Pepper and Brocolli Almond) were stunningly simple and remarkably tasty. The cost of this treasure? $8. I think I will get my money's worth.
Spring is crazy weather time. Okay, so maybe Louisiana doesn't have the hot/cold extremes that other places do, but degrees of humidity still make dressing for spring a thought-consuming endeavor. I have spent the last two mornings checking and re-checking weather.com and taking on and off three different shirts. Deciding weather I should wear sandals or shoes/socks. It's so stressful, especially since I tend to be colder than most people around me, particularly my feet. And I hate it when my feet are cold. So I think I've settled on a pair of shoes that will last me the next couple of weeks until I'll give in and wear sandals/flipflops.
I've also decided that the way for me personally to deal with changing weather is to layer strategically. I have always (in recent years, when I gave my 'lumberjack' look) tended to shy away from a certain kind of layering, because it tends to look frumpy.
But I think I've found a solution. First of all, except perhaps for the outer layer, go for fitted on each layer. A fitted V-neck Tshirt, a fitted collared shirt either open or one or two buttons buttoned, then I have my zipper-sweater standby for everything. It's sort of like my in lieu of a jacket. This kind of layering still looks classy, but allows for a maximum amount of flexibility. Sweater on, you're quite cozy. Sweater off, feels lighter. Sleaves of outer shirt rolled a bit, a tad bit cooler. Down to your bottom Tshirt for the hour you sit in the sun while reading at the coffee shop. (For me reading is "work"...I'm reading all. the. time.) I'm feeling quite clever for my little strategy.
I've actually been thinking quite a lot about it. For instance, a fun bead necklace ties your layers together. Or you can wear a scarf rolled up into a headband. How about a polkadotty scarf and stripey shirt. Oh boy! I'm going to have fun with this.
If this is old knowledge and I've only just figured it out. Please don't let me know. I'm enjoying this moment of epiphany.
Last Saturday night Chris and I went to see Richard Wagner's Das Rheingold performed by the New Orleans opera association. This was the second opera each of us have been to (if you exclude the partial dress rehearsal of Tosca I saw and my participation in Pagliacci): I had been to Carmen several years earlier, and he had seen some Mozart something in Prague. I don't really like Wagner. But the Ring Cycle (four operas) is such a standard in the Western musical canon, and so many people just love it, that I thought perhaps actually seeing it live might help me warm up to it a bit. For the most part I wasn't disappointed.
The staging, scenery, and stage effects were really terrific. The soloists were all quite good, with Wotan being especially so. We were so far away, though, that it was difficult to really feel into the drama of it all. I could barely read the supertitles. The Wotan, though, had such good vocal presence that he felt right there even though we were in the nosebleed section.
I went back and forth from being really into it and being coolly detached, though still enjoying it. Like I said previously concerning my concert-going, I don't have an "aesthetic experience" anymore. I think I'd like to see the rest of the cycle as it is performed in subsequent seasons.
What I hate, though, is the real degeneration of concert etiquette. I don't know what it was like in the other sections of the hall, but in the nosebleed section there was constant whispering. It was driving me crazy. It wasn't from just one or two particular people, it was all over. It's like people are used to "entertainment" being in the "background". Gathering from the demeanor of most people around us, it was clear they hadn't a clue about what was going on, the various unique facets of a Wagner opera, or the fact that perhaps if they were wondering these things, they should voice these wonderments at the end of the opera and not during it. It's understandable and acceptable for these ignorances to be, but there were extensive program notes they could've read before hand to assuage their ignorance. I kind of wondered if people came because they thought it would be like Lord of the Rings, and I can't blame them, because that's how the opera people tried to bill it for popular appeal. Other than a ring that gives the owner unique world power, it isn't at all like LOTR. And everybody thinks the Ring Cycle is three operas, but it's four.
A Wagner opera takes a unique kind of concentration to watch, because it is through-composed. In other words, it doesn't have recitatives which are speech-like passages and in which most of the "action" and narrative takes place or arias, the lyrical solos in which the character soliliquizes (is that a word?). Rather a Wagner opera is continuous drama of somewhere in between a recit and an aria. There's no settling back for an aria, it requires your constant attention, which was a little difficult as I was scrutinizing the supertitles. We did enjoy it, though, and I think we'll go back.
This morning I found out that my great-grandmother has died. My Swedish grandma, Jenny Johnson, who lived alone in her house in the woods of Minnesota without plumbing all her life (except for the last couple when my great-aunt joined her). I never knew her well. I don't have the childhood memories my mother has of happy summers spent in Minnesota. But the times I did go to visit were enchanting. Seeing the deer and other wildlife. Trips down the lane to Bear Creek. Wandering around the meadows and woods. Going out to the outhouse in order to use the bathroom. Fascinated by the water pump. Taking a cup of water to the meadow to brush my teeth. (The lack of plumbing obviously being a significant source of my wonder.) The creaking beds upstairs. The welcome of the wood stove as we all squeezed into the kitchen munching on big cookies and drinking coffee, the nectar of the Swedes. Hearing the stories of my little Grandma (she was hunched and shorter than me) fearlessly chasing the bears from her lawn. And laughing and laughing.
Gramma Jen is the last of my great-grandmothers to die. I have been blessed to have known all but one. 10 years ago they were all alive. Now all (but the one I haven't met) are in heaven. Even though I haven't seen her since I graduated from high school (she came to my high school graduation, and we spent a couple of weeks following up there in MN), I'm really sad. I know it's a happy occasion. But I'm still really sad. Sadder than I thought I would be had I thought of this day before.
Hours later, after my medieval music class and finding some study buddies for my medieval Latin test, life is better. I love being a musicologist. I will survive Latin.
*warning--excessive whining to follow--read at your own risk*
I just want to curl up in a hole and disappear from daily existence. I'm tired of grad school. I'm especially tired of Latin and this stupid music analysis that I'm taking but have no idea what's going on. Ugh! Why did I choose this stupid discipline??? I wish I had become a historian instead. (I know why I chose musicology...because the conferences are more fun...now, what kind of flaky reasoning is that!??!!??!). Or better yet, why can't I just become a medievalist and not have to choose a discipline!!!!??? Then I wouldn't have to deal with stupid 19th c., German music analysis. "the will of the tone"??? COME ON!!! What happened to good ol' mathematical Boethius!!!
I hate tests. You'd think by the time you got to grad school they wouldn't give us stupid tests. Why can't we write? We never write. That's more important.
Ugh. ugh. ugh.
I think grad school is killing brain cells. I think that if you learn lots, the learning brain cells kill the other brain cells that allow you to function as a normal human being. I'm finding that I am less able to perform normal everyday activities like sitting down or going through the drive-through at Wendy's without some calamity happening.
These events all took place in one day...yesterday. I began the day somewhat flustered, because in addition to my normal responsibilities of a Monday, I had to teach two sections of the undergrad music history survey I'm an assistant for. I managed to get to lunch unscathed, but I felt a bit out of sorts, so I went to the coffee shop to get a cuppa and pull myself together. I called Chris for to say hello, because I knew I wasn't going to get home until late. While we were talking I was outside sitting on this slight ledge. The ledge was really too small to sit on, so I kept sliding a little and resituating myself. When I got off the phone, I realized that the whole time I had been sitting in gum! Gum was smeared all over the back of my pants. I was mortified, because I can't go home to change when I'm in Baton Rouge. The gum damage was really extensive, because when I had been sliding off the ledge, the gum was smearing all over my pants. I couldn't just tie a sweater around my waist and get through the rest of the day. There was a clothing shop right around the corner from the coffee shop. I walked in there and said "I just sat in gum. I need a new pair of pants that matches the rest of what I'm wearing and that's on sale." Miraculously they found one pair left on sale that was my size and my length (I always need to buy pants in "short")!!! So that was a blessing!!!
I got my cuppa and had a good, productive rest of the day. I stayed at campus until after 8.30 pm, because I direct an early music ensemble on Monday nights. I had forgotten to pack a sandwich for my supper and my tummy was growling at me to feed it, so I decided to go through the drive-through at Wendy's. As I was sitting at the window waiting for the girl to come and open it, I had my bank card out all ready to give her, and all of a sudden, I dropped it INSIDE the car door!!! I dropped it where the window rolls down into the door. I couldn't believe it!!! My bank card is completely lost inside the car door!!!! Right as soon I dropped it, the girl came to the window and got full view of my reaction when I realized what I had done. E.g. *shrieking* "OHMYWORD!!! I JUST DROPPED MY BANK CARD INSIDE MY CAR DOOR!!!! WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?!?!?!" (Thankfully, I realized that I had some cash after all.) The girl looked at me like I should be institutionalized. I pulled off into the parking lot to see if I could retrieve it somehow. I must've looked the sight. When i got home, Chris tried to see if he could take apart the car door, but to no avail. Well, he probably could if he kept trying, but I think it'll be easier just to order a new one. *sigh*
It's in the 80's, and it's sunny. All the windows and doors are open. The forecast is that it will continue to be this way for the next 10 days. In fact, it most likely will be this way until it's in the 90's and sunny. I do feel like sitting on a blanket in the park or at the beach and sleeping. Instead I'm doing my Latin homework and preparing for the lecture I'm supposed to teach on Monday morning. I only have opportunity to teach a few times a semester. The most difficult part being trying to fit seemlessly into the flow of the class the professor has set. It's nice sitting here, though, listening to Romantic piano pieces I'm supposed to teach--Mendelssohn, Chopin, Liszt--on this warm
spring summer day.
I really do have other interesting things in my life to talk about besides the weather. But I don't have enough energy to.
On Sunday evening I stepped out onto the porch and said to myself: "it feels like 80% humidity out here." I love 80% humidity. I think it's my favorite %. It's damp enough to give you a healthy, not-dry-skinned feeling without feeling damp. I was right, too. I guessed the percentage of humidity right. It's been hot this week. 80 degrees and sunny every day, which is nice, except that it doesn't get below 75 at night. We've had the doors open and the fan going all night, and wake up with that damp feeling, because it's so humid. It's 90% humidity now, too humid. Just damp and humid. I'm not ready for this yet.
Well, my lack of posts is not because I am away (as was the case last time), rather I am so busy. But it's a good busy. I think I'm getting closer to a paper topic, so I've been reading a lot, in addition to regular class preparation. I'm trying to narrow down a pursuable topic dealing with some of the glosses to Boethius's De institutione musica, so getting into Boethius's works and their interrelatedeness, as well as medieval interpretations of his some of theoretical and aesthetics views on music is all very interesting. The Latin in De...musica is quite manageable, too, which is nice for me, since we all know that medieval Latin is my most recent bane.
Also recently brought in my medieval music survey was something that I had not known and find absolutely fascinating. Some writers in the Middle Ages employed a technique in their prose writing called the cursus, which basically is the ending of a sentence or clause. Only used in highly stylistic contexts the cursus is a way of ending the sentence in a metrically regular way (like poetry, only it's prose). Different kinds of cursi(?) would have different arrangements of patterns of accents. For instance, one might choose to end the last six syllables of the sentence: strong (or accented), weak, weak, strong, weak, weak. Wow! talk about having to choose your words carefully! And where is the line between poetry and prose?