Saturday, April 26, 2014

A Call To Letters From A Least Expected Place



This isn't a bemoaning of things lost, like in the-Disappearing-Christmas-Card but a call to revive a fledgling practice. The suggestion does not come from an older generation, but from my 19 year old son.

My son, whom I have referred to in lost-in-the-forest-of-seventeen seems to be emerging from the shadows.

In a recent letter he wrote his eldest sibling, my daughter and expressed an interest in getting to know her. And to do it through letter writing. She is 12 years his senior, grew up in California, my son in  Florida. They had different childhoods and missed each other's worlds. He was 8 when she married and cried right after the ceremony because he was losing his sister before he ever got to know her.

Could this text-ing, vine-ing, emailing, instagram-ing generation be coming full circle?

Letters are treasures in Rubbermaid bins. My parents courted each other for 2 years cross-country from Massachusetts to Hollywood via letters before they married. My father's World War II letters sit neatly in a drawer. Each one describes his time in the Middle East as a Medical Ambulance driver; except for the words that were cut out by an exacto knife that may have divulged wartime secrets, should they have fallen into the wrong hands.

I have the letters his father wrote at the turn of the (1900) century chronicling his trip to Smyrna, Cairo, Lebanon and Syria working as a professor, complete with faded photographs of robed Bedouin desert shepherds.

There are my mother's letters to her parents; my father's to his that tell of my growing up. Things I barely remember,  but when I read them they validate my existence. I truly once was a little girl.

It would be easy to immerse myself in these letters. But I fear leaving the present world of my husband, five children and grandchildren, whom I so want to lean into.




And what did God use to build His church with?  Letters. Enduring epistles from the pen of Paul, John, Luke and Jude. He chose the humble medium of pen and paper to record His Truths, encourage Believers, teach doctrine. God made himself known, his heart and very thoughts, to those He dearly loves - through letters. They are thousands of years old, yet we read them today.

In times past, God spoke to us through laws,  institutions, ceremonies, kings, judges, and prophets. But in the end of His canonized compilation, He speaks to us through

Letters.

There is nothing like a handwritten note.

Telegrams were short congratulatory or directional messages.

Emails are emotionless information bites.

Text messages, even with adorable emotos, still lack heart.

Instagram is a great visual record of a minute-by-minute living.

Twitter is sometimes clever.

Facebook announces daily personal headlines; the perfect platform for bragging. 

Vines entertain.

But a Letter....  

a letter is a window into a person's heart, a door into their most private thoughts...a view of their closest held beliefs and philosophies. A letter is lasting. Not lost in Gmail files to be deleted with the avalanche of junk mail advertisements that fall upon us everyday.

A letter is forever.

So take out the monogrammed stationery on linen paper, pick up your finest pen and in your best handwriting write a loved one. It will make their day and you just may be writing your biography and memoirs in the mean time.

Letter writing is calling us. From a 19 year old's brimming soul.

Let's answer in kind.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Short Recipe for Life

It's the simple things.....

That keep life civil and sweet.

Put into song


You gotta make peace

You gotta do good

Love the ones you live with

Take care of your neighborhood

Gotta wake up with the sunrise

Like it's gonna be your last

And most of all you gotta

Laugh,

Laugh

Laugh.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Steven Sondheim and His Views On Rhyme

Did you catch it?

Did you catch the mistake in this blog title?

The accents are off when matching "Sondheim" with "on rhyme."

Steven wouldn't like that. He would call it a scansion error. Unacceptable.

The placement of accents and rhyme schemes must be correct. You don't mix SOND-heim with on-RHYME. That's trochee with iamb. It should be trochee with trochee  or iamb with iamb in this title. A skilled wordsmith would select a different word to fix the accent error.


In his two-volume book on  Broadway Musical writing--called Look, I made a Hat and Finishing the Hat--Sondheim also poo-poos all the newly accepted partial rhymes that don't have the same consonant end.


The kind of fake rhymes that permeate today's pop. The inner vowels rhyme only, not the word endings.

That's a lyric-writing no-no, too, in his book.

I think he has earned the right to state his benchmark. He's only been creating the medium for 50 years! He may very well be the Prince of Poetry; Earl of Alliteration; Lord of laundry list lyric writing; and the Master of meter.

Who doesn't know West Side Story; Sondheim's  classic remake of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet of a love mis-match among opposing 1950's New York gangs? I think Shakespeare would have approved of Sondheim's updated version, and applauded the music.


Sunday in the Park with George was my favorite. Written after Seurat's painting called Sunday in the Park. Bernadette Peters gave the perfect sardonic interpretation of Steven's score.

We heard Bernadette live at a show in Vegas. Our first vacation attempt at that desert city. Bernadette did not disappoint, but Vegas did. All the neon lights in the world could not light up that dark place. It was our one and only trip.

Notice the great satire in the superimposed overlay on the iconic painting.

Just last week I was offered a job to accompany "The Assassins." But previous commitments prevented me. Maybe another opportunity to play this great musical writer's works will come my way.

There is nothing like banging out the piano part of  a "Comedy Tonight" showstopper or languishing in the lavish keyboards of "Send in the Clowns."

Sondheim's lyrics are only rivaled by his masterfully written music.

Take a walk through his life of libretti and songwriting and next to greats like Roger Hammerstein and Leonard Bernstein, Roger and Richard Sherman.

Some of his musicals you'll read about:

"A  Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum"(1966)

"A Little Night Music"

"Sweeney Todd"


To list his entire credits would take several blog entries, so pick up the books and see for yourself.


It will be a walk in the park and you won't trip on any rhyming divots. I promise. Sondheim will be the first to point them out.






Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Rethinking Feminism

It was a rare experience that felt a bit intrusive.

At a meeting a man pulled a chair out for me. As I lowered to sit, he scooted it under my thighs to support my back end.

Nice. He made my sitting down much more comfortable. A surprising gesture, although my personal space felt invaded.

I thanked him for this gallant, chivalrous long-lost act of kindness.

And I rather liked it.

What have I been missing all my life? What has this generation of feminist minded women been missing all their lives? My father did little things like this and needless to say this gentleman, yes, gentleman was older too.

The fight against gender bias has bit us in the butt.



In our quest for equality with the male populous,  in income, office and roles, we've lost something that we secretly desire:

To be cared for. To be assisted. To be honored as the weaker sex by the little things, like opening doors and pushing in our seats, carrying our packages, supporting us entirely financially.

They, the male sector, thought we wanted to work our little hineys off in addition to the heroic feat of bearing and raising children. And frankly, we asked for it.

Remember an 80's t-shirt that said "I want it all." It's true. We do. But why??
What imbalanced mind would want to be super man and super woman all at the same time?

Is it an unhealthy thirst for power and significance? A lifestyle that will surely  take our relationships and even our very lives.




Today, I unintentionally put my new-found discovery that women secretly desire male assistance into action.

Entering a grocery store, I noticed a very pregnant young lady asking the guy next to her to carry her grocery bags. He ignored her while her carried one bag in one hand and his soda in another. Sipping it selfishly while she struggled with 2 bulky bags in one hand, purse on her other arm and her large stomach.

At first I did a double-take but kept walking into the grocery store. Bothered by what I'd just seen, I couldn't keep silent. Spinning on my heels, I pursued them out the door.

"Help her with her packages," I yelled across the parking lot. Stunned they turned to look at me. There was another guy on her other side as well. "She's pregnant! Help her with her bags!"

I never saw if they heeded me, because I took a quick about face and scurried back into the store, hoping they weren't hot headed youths that might retaliate.

It was so wrong. Here she was at least 8 months pregnant and the 2 guys she was were void of any common courtesies, much less gentlemanly favors to a women weighted down by her baby bump. No, actually it was a mountain.

Now I birthed 6 children. And that last thing I wanted  during my pregnancies was to be viewed as an invalid.  But at the last trimester, I accepted help.

The inequality of pay does irk me. As does the age discrimination. I have a degree. But I do not work in my field because music is a young person's job. I am a coordinator (glorified admin assistant) and feel I am worth more (who doesn't) and that there are young men whose job I could do better (another common thought). So I agree with pay equality and position equality. But I believe in role difference and I do not want to lose my femininity and have to look like a boy to get where they are.



Penny Wong, Australian Labor Party Senator, is a modern day advocate for women's rights and would argue that girls don't pine for a knight in shining armor. I wonder if one has to cut their hair short and don a pinstripe blazer to achieve an official seat and job equality.

Do we have to dress like a man in order to break through the glass ceiling? That doesn't seem like women's rights. That's women dressing like men to gain men's rights. Abstaining from eye make-up, and shunning skirts and heels is required to break gender bias? That's one gender in my mind. Not two equal sexes. Think about it!



Another early activist of Women's Rights, Emmeline Pankhurst,  in a 1913 rally.


The oh so clever cigarette ads of the 70's.


We can thank our fore-mothers and modern feminists for how far we've come, baby.

Then again,  maybe not.


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Fasting and Fish on Fridays



Tuesdays were tacos. Thursdays were hamburgers, my favorite.

And it was always Fish on Fridays. Along with grilled cheese sandwiches that resembled cement and rubber more than bread and cheese.

 A generation ago, the rite of forgoing meat on Fridays was recognized in the public schools. The Catholic church had influenced secular society and no one seemed to mind. Although Madeline Murry O'Hare had recently moved the courts to ban prayer at about the same time we were being served our faith conscious meatless mid-day meal.

Why Friday? Because it is the day of the week that Jesus was crucified. To remember, many would deny the flesh, and focus on the spirit.

It's a lost spiritual practice, even among evangelicals.  Our church invited us to pray more deliberately for 3 weeks, and fast together by doing the Daniel Fast, a modified fast modeled after Daniel's vow not to eat the king's rich food, but to eat only fruits and vegetables.

And so I feel a little bit like a freak writing about my 21 day fast I recently embarked upon.

A fast should not be measured in the amount of meals missed, but in the prayers said. Not measured in the recipes that omit meat and processed foods, but the burdens carried to the Throne and the transcendant moments of reaching closer to the heart of God.

So pass the grilled cheese and fish filet. We are going to pray today.

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