Es ist ein Ros entsprungen

More Christmas music, because…Christmas music!

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The Wexford Carol – 2017

I posted the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s rendition of The Wexford Carol this time last year, and it remains one of my favorite carols, perhaps partly because it’s not a common (and thus overexposed) carol. Since then I found another version that is every bit as hauntingly beautiful.

Alison Krauss and Yo-Yo Ma will tingle your spine in new ways:

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Accountability

If there’s one thing the current rash of sexual harassment/assault allegations against public figures has revealed it’s that there is an accountability gap. On one hand we have people like Weinstein, Spacey, Lauer, Rose and the numerous lesser entertainment and business officials. They’ve all pretty much lost their jobs.

Then we have the politicians: Trump, Conyers, Moore and Franken. They’re all still in their jobs or favored to win the position for which they’re running. Why is that?

I believe the bottom line is that the first group all have clearly defined accountability–people who are directly responsible for the accused’s employment. These people have the power to investigate and to make the call on whether these people should remain employed. They decided they no longer wanted to be associated with the accused.

The latter group also have accountability, at least in theory. The trouble is “the voters” is rather vague. In two of those cases these people were in the process of running for office when allegations materialized. Despite the outrage there is no one but them who can decide to not run. Short of a recall election there is no way to force those already in office out, and I’m not certain that allegations alone can force that. It may require actual criminal charges. Has any of the accusers gone that far?

In the case of Franken, last I heard a poll of his actual constituents believe he should resign. He’s not resigning. In short, he–and the rest of them–are attempting the usual Potomac Two-Step we’ve come to expect from our political class: ignore the problem and rely on the public’s short-term memory to turn elsewhere. And I suspect it will work. They don’t really see themselves as working for their constituents. They don’t really even answer to their party. They answer only to themselves.

Part of the problem is partisanship. Both sides of the aisle will claim to abhor sexual harassment/assault and feel it an offense worthy of losing office. But the depth of that abhorrence varies dramatically depending on whether the politician in question is on the other side or one of their own. More important than discouraging bad behavior is retaining power. They’ll decry and wring their hands, but they won’t actually do anything when its one of their own.

Elections have consequences, but only if voters remember and set aside partisanship.

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Serious side

Victor Borge was renown for his musical comedy; he was a comic genius. But what people often forget that he also played piano incredibly well. I found this clip the other day; I came expecting comedy and got a moment of incredible beauty.

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World Series 2017 – So long and thanks

Perhaps it’s some form of Stockholm Syndrome but, while I wanted the Houston Astros to win, I didn’t want the Los Angeles Dodgers to lose. This is the first World Series I’ve watched the entire way (I missed one game), and when I spend that much time with two teams like that I start to relate to both sides.

My heart aches for Yu Darvish. The man showed a great deal of class after the Yuli Gurriel gesture incident in Game 3, and he’s an excellent pitcher. Giving up five runs in two innings was heartbreaking. His teammates tried to make up for it–and in previous games they had proven it could be done–but it just wasn’t happening this time.

Clayton Kershaw was awesome, and fun to watch. Kenley Jansen, who looked like he belonged in shoulder pads more than a baseball cap, was annoyingly good.

I cringed every time Corey Seager, Justin Turner, Logan Forsythe, Chris Taylor, and Yasiel Puig came up in the lineup. They proved time and again that they were capable of blowing a game wide open. Cody Bellinger was hot on defense, and had moments of brilliance at bat. Unfortunately he’ll likely be remembered for his record-setting strikeouts at the plate. He deserves better than that.

The Dodgers were a great team. Fans love to hate them, but they earned everything they got this season. They fought hard. The beat our beloved Cubs. They nearly beat the Astros. The stats in Game 7 showed a much tighter game than the scoreboard did. They out-hit the Astros. They had 11 runners in scoring position during the game. They hit out more often than they struck out.  They weren’t conceding the game. They just ran out of luck.

I had expected a closer Game 7, perhaps even hoped for it. I was half-prepared for the Astros to lose, even though they had a pattern of winning the next game after every loss to the Dodgers. While my blood pressure doesn’t mind it was a less stressful game for Astros fans, I knew we couldn’t declare it over until that last out–the Dodgers are just that good. Even my wife, who had vowed to go to bed, watched all the way through.

I’m glad it didn’t turn into a post-midnight stress-fest like the Cubs-Indians Game 7 last year. I’m glad our team won. Our family is now two-for-two in World Series support–like that means anything. (But you can’t be sure, so next year we can be paid to support the team of your choice.)

The Astros are easy to like. George Springer always made things exciting. Jose Altuve looked like he was having the time of his life–and we short people of the world have found our champion! Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman, and Marwin Gonzales were solid on both sides of the inning. Brian McCann was almost lovable with his slow, lumbering gait around the bases, and remained sharp behind the plate where his size was an advantage.

While it was the Dodgers’ pitching staff the announcers were most excited by, the Astros pitchers were getting it done, and generally more efficiently. Stars like Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander were fun to watch, as expected, but Chris Devenski, Brad Peacock, and Charlie Morton were fantastic when they were in the groove–and they were in the groove at some very key moments. Morton bears most of the credit for Game 7 being as dull as it was, keeping his cool and holding the Dodgers scoreless for the last three innings–the point where the Dodgers were often at their most explosive.

I can’t say enough about A.J. Hinch, the Astros’ manager. It shouldn’t seem all that special to know your players and trust them to come through, but compared to the Dodgers, he was a sea of calm. He left pitchers in when they were doing well, something Dave Roberts seemed less willing to do. It didn’t always pay off for the Astros, but I believe it was one of the keys to the Astros still having enough in the tank to outlast the Dodgers.

At the end of the day–or the series–it was a great series, with lots of everything we love about baseball. Both teams fought hard. Both deserved to win. One came out the winner, and I’m glad it was the team we backed, but there was much to love about the other team who made the winners look so heroic.

Thank you–all of you–for a really fun series! Best of luck for next year.

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Journalistic prose

Journalism isn’t supposed to capture emotion. It’s supposed to relate the facts and let the reader decide what the emotional response should be. While this may be questionable assertion these days, the definite exception to this is sports writing, and this Joe Posnanski summation of Game Two of the 2017 World Series may be one of the finest examples I’ve read. I was watching that game, and reading this brought it all back.

It’s also a fine example of structure and narrative, interspersing the chronological action with the details of the final at-bat of the game. And, as he says, it was that kind of game–one in which anything could happen, and already had, multiple times.

Here’s a sample:

The tension was impossible. In the bottom of the 11th, the Dodgers surely seemed out of miracles. Two of their best hitters — Corey Seager and Justin Turner — lined out against Devenski. With two outs, light-hitting utility infielder Charlie Culberson stepped up. There wasn’t much to dream about in this situation. Culberson had hit one big league home run in the past three years. (It was a walk-off home run that clinched the division and was simultaneously Vin Scully’s final call at Dodger Stadium, so we can’t say Culberson isn’t capable of some magic.)

That’s fine writing. You can almost hear the musical soundtrack. It’s straight-to-the-big-screen storytelling.

And it was that kind of game.

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Now THAT is epic

A group in Canada have been playing D&D consistently together for 35 years:

The game takes place on what Wardhaugh describes as an “alternate version of our Earth” which also includes the continent of Tolkein’s Middle Earth, picking up 400 years after the destruction of the One Ring. The campaign has remarkably been near-continuous for 35 years. “Perhaps 3 weeks has been the longest we’ve ever gone” without a session, Wardhaugh says.

I’m in a group that’s been playing for at least fifteen, and even we have gone longer than three weeks without a session. Granted, when I moved it took us a while to sort out the logistics of how to DM a game from 300 miles away, but even then…

Never underestimate the power of storytelling.

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Mass mutations, or common prejudice?

We need research into a developing phenomenon. Mankind is developing telepathy. People are able to read one another’s thoughts. We know what is going on in other people’s heads.

Don’t believe me? Spend some time reading social-political editorials and social media. These people always seem to know what other people are thinking. And, coincidentally, it always seems to confirm the writer’s world view.

I recently saw a case of this that saddened me. Someone in a position of authority and responsibility had an opportunity to take the path of least resistance and punish someone. Instead, they chose to help the person in a way that turned the situation into a positive. In short, someone did a kind thing for someone else.

And yet someone, reading this, decided they knew the heart and mind of the person doing the kindness and just knew that person would not have acted the same way if the recipient had been a member of a different group. Good deed erased, just like that.

I find that amazing. The person commenting has never met the person in the article, never even knew they existed until reading that article. And yet somehow they can read this person’s mind. They know, dammit, know this person would not have been nice to everyone equally.

It got better! Several more people waded in, insisting they knew the mind of the first person to comment. It was a mass-mind-meld, and I swear they’re growing increasingly common.

Similarly, we know exactly what politicians were thinking, what motivated their decisions, when they vote on legislation we likely have never read and are relying on gross simplifications from the media to understand. We just know the deep, dark motivations of their crippled souls.

It’s incredible! This amazing new mental power is gathering surprisingly little attention from the scientific community! Mankind is gaining telepathic powers of apparently limitless range, and no one seems to be concerned!

That, or we need to stop assuming we know people. We need to stop judging others with no evidence beyond our own prejudices. Perhaps if we start assuming the best of others instead of the worst we might actually start getting the behavior we we hope for.

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One moment of perfect beauty*

Worth your captain’s bar for *…

Okay, how about another, on me:

* Quote from Babylon 5: “There, All Honor Lies”

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Most excellent of kitties

Before we even had kids, there was Max. He joined us only a few months after Terhi and I were married, and lived seventeen of his eighteen years with us. Two weeks ago it was time to let him go.

I didn’t want a cat. We didn’t have cats growing up, and I was allergic to them. I had nothing against them, mind you. I just considered myself a dog person. I still am.

But Terhi wanted a cat, and so I agreed to let her get one for a birthday present. She came home with Max. I didn’t realize at the time she’d found the Senior Statesman of Felinedom. Nor did I guess that, because of Max, we’d go on to get two more cats and a dog. I am a dog person. But thanks to Max, I’m also a cat person.

Max seemed to know I liked dogs, and he used that angle. He would come when called. He’d play games. His favorite was to chase my wife’s sewing measuring tape. He loved to try to catch the end of it and play tug of war with you. If we let go of the tape he would drag it around the house as if taking a victory lap–even after we later tied the other end to a stick to allow us longer reach.

He wasn’t demanding. He would just quietly make eye contact and use guilt to get what he wanted. From me that was usually petting. He’d wait until I was kneeling next to the bed to pray and then come chew on my hair. He liked to lay in the bathroom sink, at least until we moved to a house where the sink wasn’t as comfortable. He enjoyed licking the water from the sink and would often ask us to add more water for him.

He would find unusual places to sleep; in the large mixing bowl atop the cupboards, atop the china hutch, on the plant shelf in the window. He liked to get into places that he sometimes couldn’t get out of. Once he somehow got into a drawer in the bathroom and it shut with him in it. He didn’t seem to mind when he got into such spots; once he decided he’d been there long enough (sometimes for hours) he’d start calling out until we finally figured out where he was.

He was calm and unassuming. Even after the other cats came to live with us he would patiently wait for “Max time,” which usually involved finding Terhi at the end of the day when she’d settle in to read. He loved to sleep next to her at night; sometimes with me, but not as often.

Max had a truly gentle soul, and though we love our other two cats, he was always my favorite. He was always there, somewhere in the house, ready to show affection, but seldom demanding it. He was the one who would tell when you were upset and quietly present himself to provide “furry, purry therapy.” Oh, and his purr–always clear, easily heard, and quickly evoked. He liked to knead, too, though very gently and without claws (would that Benny would learn that).

As he started getting up there in years we started speculating that he was surviving on love. He’d had so few health problems. This summer, however, even love proved insufficient to overcome the effects of advancing age. He started declining, and the vet began speaking in terms of quality of life. By the end of September we suspected it wouldn’t be much longer. And then we knew it was time.

Seventeen years is a long time. Nearly everything we’ve been through as a couple or as a family, Max has been there too. For such a little, quiet cat he had an enormous presence in our lives. He’s beyond pain now, for which we’re grateful. But we miss him.

Until we meet again, Max, you splendid kitty. I hope wherever you are there’s a nice, sunny spot with a pillow with your name on it. There’s certainly one in my soul.

 

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