Monday, December 03, 2007

Oliver Sacks' Brain

One of the most amazing stories from Oliver Sacks' book, An Anthropologist On Mars: Seven Paradoxical Tales, is "To See And Not See" and it gives us a glimpse into the remarkable miracle of ordinary, garden variety, everyday sight. Couple that with Dr. Paul Brand's observations from The Gift of Pain (essentially a re-release of Pain, The Gift Nobody Wants) and you suddenly realize that virtually everything you know --or think you know-- is processed by an organ without any senses of its own, encased in a dark box. And, if you think about it too long, it really freaks you out a bit...

Part of the fun of working with Jeremy in mixing the live House of Bread recordings was growing to recognize all the more how differently we process sound and memory, memory of music and intervals. An example: Rowena from our church just died unexpectedly but, all things considered, mercifully-- her daughters and some friends came to church on Sunday and instead of a sermon Fr. C gave us the opportunity to stand up and share (including memories from a week earlier when she was in church and had a word about someone feeling "sad - but not depressed") and as we drew to a close he announced, "Lynn is going to sing a song she wrote and then we'll continue with the creed." Happily Jeremy & Buzz stood up with me because this was a complete surprise and while I was fairly sure I'd remember the lyrics (and did), I was also pretty sure I didn't remember the chords (!!! - stop laughing. I've written about 400 songs and play 10 songs every Sunday w/the worship team; I try not to memorize them) - happily Jeremy remembers the intervals and he filled in where I fell apart.

Better yet, I think only the three of us were aware, not the family and congregation. So I can't begin to explain how I memorize (mostly repetition, I think) versus how Jeremy simply remembers. He hears the tempering of instruments and therefore recognizes the key in which a piece is played; I transposed one of my songs one Sunday morning and he said, "ah, that's good, it sounds better in A." I simply can't imagine hearing that way; the only way I know if someone has changed the key on something I'm singing is if it moves it out of my range.

Next: The Female Brain

Note: The very cool brain image at the top of this entry is by Sven Geier; he works for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and creates cool fractal art. Thanks, Sven!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Loscon Weekend Enchilada

Three Days to Never: A Novel

The day after Thanksgiving for Los Angeles science fiction and fantasy fans means Loscon and a lovely holiday tradition it is, too, although it does get in the way of any plans for out-of-town Thanksgiving events. I got to enjoy my annual dinner with Tim and Serena Powers (blatant link to most recent novel, above) on Friday night which was really delightful. We have conversations that run in about 14 disparate directions and we never quite finish any of them, so there's always more to talk about. I love these guys: smart, funny, and always thought-provoking. I gave Tim a copy of Diana's book The Company They Keep which he proceeded to stay up late reading - I know because I was sitting in the Green Room with Diana the next day when Tim walked in and said, "I was reading your book last night, I'm about a third of the way through--"

Diana was delighted ("Tim Powers is reading my book!") but I knew he would really enjoy it: good scholarship, solid connections, well-written, engaging - and it's about C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Williams (and the other 16 Inklings, too) - what's not to like?!

Karen Willson came in and joined us during the break between the end of the Inklings panel (Diana Glyer, David Bratman, Tim Powers, Mark Ferrari, and another author (and librarian!) whose name I have blanked on; really excellent) and my concert. I was looking through my folder of "Songs Not Inappropriate for SF Concerts" and trying to decide what I would sing and she said, "sing to me! Pick songs you'd like me to hear," which made for an interesting selection. Started with "I Gotta Kill My Clone," which people really enjoy ("I caught her dating my boyfriend - I think he may prefer to be with her..."), then "High Frontier" - the song I wrote a week after the Columbia shuttle tragedy. If I'm remembering right I then sang "Difficult Drinks" and "The Fire Says Yes" which I consider sort of a "graying of fandom" song ("In the still of the night I curl up with a book but I'd rather be curled up with you--") and then "Come In, Houston," "Left Turn Love," and closing with "Emotional Junkie."

It was really fun for me that Dr. James Robinson, the musical guest of honor, did a combination concert/explanation performance following mine. I didn't know him or his work and he's delightful and very funny!

I didn't get to as much programming as I'd like and I drove home Saturday night so I could be at church Sunday a.m., thereby missing John Hertz and Tom Veal's infamous PrimeTime Party (starts at 1:00 a.m. and runs until 7:00 a.m.; it's a lot of fun) - but perhaps next year I'll make my excuses at church and stay for the whole enchilada.

Friday, November 16, 2007

More Engineering, from the Artist side...

What prompted me to write this post (and the previous) was the degree of satisfaction I got from doing the hands-on mix of a rather complicated song. This particular singer was more oriented toward performing in the room rather than remembering we were capturing the performance via the microphones (funny, because he's very good at being on-mike in the worship team setting). So he dropped in and out in funny ways related to when he turned his face toward another 'character' - these things need to be corrected, or at least minimized, in the mixing process. This particular song also had an internal narration and a choral section, so at some point in the song every microphone needed to be turned up to specific levels, which would change and shift throughout the song, but because of the pedal clunk of the live piano sound (see previous entry) I couldn't leave the microphones on through the whole song or there was too much bleed-through.

And it's really fun for me to figure out what I need to do and create a mental road map of the work and then do it all in live time - very exciting! And I really don't know why it's exciting to me. Hmmmmm.

Now the challenge is learning to be content with the reality of its massive imperfections because live performance standards are quite different from studio performance standards, and understandably so: there's so much energy in live performance that a clunker of pitch goes by and is quickly forgotten - but you capture a recording of the moment and you can listen to it over and over and over again... *sigh*.

This is definitely "live" and I need to be okay with that...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Engineer Lynn - or Soundmixing

As a singer/songwriter, I've spent a fair amount of time in professional recording studios and I've watched a lot of mixing go down. Twenty-four tracks, flying faders, amazing punches - shoot, we even did a genuine reverse cymbal crash on my album (nowadays I suppose it would all be done digitally; can you tell I'm practicing to get crotchedty? Give me another 30 years and I'll have it down--). But I've not done much mixing myself.

I've been working with Jeremy (young brilliant musician and computer wiz, on the worship team together) on mixing the live sound from the performance of House of Bread so that we can have a reasonably good sound recording (I don't anticipate a wide release but at least for the folks involved and other churches interested in it, etc.). We're working with the little eight-track hard drive recorder that Jeremy used to capture the performance.

First fun part: the grand piano had a problem with the sustain pedal; this wasn't particularly noticeable in the room and the dynamics of performance are such that folks don't really notice it - they're more caught up in the story and the singers and the faces and the moment rather than an occasional soft *clunk*. But despite our best efforts on the day to minimize the clunking sound, the recorded track is full of it. And, being the sustain pedal, it's not even "in time" with the music (!!). So I re-recorded all the piano. This wouldn't be so hard in a studio setting but with a live performance where I was "accompanying" singers (allowing them to shift timings, etc., rather than driving the songs and forcing them to fit with the piano) it was a bit of a challenge.

Complicated by the fact we had 7 open mikes picking up room sound. Fine, we shut down the mikes we don't need at any given moment but it still leaves the singer's microphone with the original piano track audible in the background. This means I have to try and play the replacement keyboard pretty much the same way I played it live. Ha! Actually, that wasn't nearly so hard as I expected - Jeremy would give me the sound of the (new) keyboard and the original tracks and sometimes I needed more vocal and sometimes I needed more of the original piano. A few of the tracks were particularly "floaty" but even those I was able to re-record with surprisingly little difficulty.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Passage of Time--

I had no idea it had been so long since I'd posted here, amazing--

This has been a challenging year: sorting through paperwork and junk, anticipating a move. Very hard when you've lived there for 29 years and you have a hard time with paper and organization in the first place-- ACK!!! (runs screaming from the room). And I've discovered --well, recognized-- that my computer is the Tar Baby and I'll go in and spend hours happily working away, finding something to make me feel "productive," when in fact I'm futzing.


Of course, today is okay because I am in fact on holiday so I can't possibly go work on organizing my house or throwing stuff away! Good excuse to post here... pray for me, if you think of it.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Hollywood Bowling

I took my granddaughter, nearly 8 years old, to the Hollywood Bowl last night. I expected my grandson to come as well but he declined. He is not yet 6 and still a bit young to impose Great Art upon him, but the time will come when I think we (his parents and I) shouldn't take "no, I'd rather stay home and play on the computer with my dad" as a suitable option. I believe his father has introduced him to "City of Heroes"...

So the program was The Grand Tour: Mozart in Vienna and it was delightful. I was surprised that the Five Contradances only got a single iteration (they're very short, played once through) - is that typical? Obviously not if one were dancing, but for concert performances? Perhaps someone else will know the answer and leave a comment.

I was not familiar with the pianist, Shai Wosner, but he was very good at the Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor - a piece that requires very fast hands. One of the nice things about the big screens put up now at the Hollywood Bowl is the close-ups shown and fast hands are shown to good effect!

Courtney loves the violins; she was very excited about hearing the violins again. I asked her as we drove out, "would you like to play violin?" and she said no, she'd like to play the piano (!!) - I found that very curious - I guess I can't entirely relate to the idea of loving an instrument, as a child, and not wanting to learn how to play it... hmmm.

The conductor Nicholas McGegan was good fun, I've not seen him before. He was very engaged with the music and his enthusiasm was infectious. He also wasn't put out by people applauding between movements of the symphony (No. 41, "Jupiter") and occasionally you'll see the eye-rolling "how can I be playing for these peasants?" kind of attitude.

I was also very impressed with the L.A. Phil's new Principal Oboe, Ariana Ghez. As many of you know, I have extensive first hand experience of excellent oboists!

I really love these concert trips with Courtney. At home she bounces around almost endlessly, but she behaves beautifully in these settings. Her questions are soft and she tries to wait until later (!!). She does bounce along with the music some, but that's allowed, right? (it had better be - what a sad world if bouncing along to the music wasn't allowable).

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Still Grappling with Harry Potter--

I wrote this essay in response to an entry written by a friend on a diary site we both inhabit. The bold italicized portions below come from her entry and where there are ellipsis in the italicized portions they come from the original; I have not edited the quotations lifted.

i'm a fundamentalist christian and i read harry potter.

i've just finished rereading the series in preparation for the relase of the HP 5 movie and the the final book of the series. one of my sons too is rereading the series and i've spent quite a bit of time talking online with friends about different theories and other silliness related to the stories.

it's funny because only 4 years ago, all things harry were banned from this house. i went right along with the idea that it was evil, confused kids and glorified things i don't believe in. okay i admit, it was an example of blindly following the council of men that was both unbiblical (yes) and not one of my finer moments.

I was also very slow to read the books. Slow because I don't jump on ANY bandwagon as it goes by; that's just not my nature. It's my nature to watch it, consider it, walk around it, kick its wheels, and then --if it appears to be a good bandwagon-- gingerly climb onboard, assessing as I go. As I listened to people
talk about Harry Potter (my first exposure being in a bi-monthly zine that discussed fiction and what the various members were reading) I heard reasonable discourse, some speculation as to why Rowling's book had so captured the public imagination rather than Sherwood Smith's Wren to the Rescue (which I quite enjoy), recognizing the "perfect storm" of marketing and timing that surrounded it, etc.

And then the Christian backlash. And then the backlash to the Christian backlash, which, I must say, has always seemed absurd to me on the face of it: you may freely disagree about whether a particular book is a bad influence (be it moral or spiritual or even regarding the proper use of language) but to disdain the very idea that a book could influence the reader is absurd on the face of it.

those who know me and know my experiences can probably understand why i would have been wary. my own experiences with witchcraft are of the variety that would have the wicked witch of the west saying "damn, that's just wrong." i'd always been hyper careful with the subject of witchcraft and wizardry, even shunning tolkien and other authors because it just gave me the heebie jeebies.
A friend of mine with an extremely abusive cult background (not the one I'm quoting here) started having great difficulty, being triggered in very negative ways, by reading the HP books outloud to the children she watched after school. I assured her it was okay to *not* read the books to the kids; that if they really wanted to read them, they could read the books on their own (or have their own mothers read to them).

And then I watched some friends become mildly obsessed. Obsession always alarms me a bit - it's not healthy or balanced. Doesn't matter whether it's Harry Potter or The Beatles of Angelina Jolie or The Lord of the Rings or computer games or pornography, obsession makes me take a few steps backward. I was obsessed with horses from toddler to 13 year old - it wasn't destructive but it wasn't balanced, either. And watching a handful of young adults develop an obsession with Harry Potter was a little unnerving; children's obsessions can only go so far but an adult's obsession can swing in a much wider arc... With a couple of these people there were contributing spiritual dynamics that increased my concern.

So standing back a good long while seemed like a reasonable choice.

anyway... my husband and i had a conversation the other night about whether or not it was okay to continue being fans of the series and spoke aloud, for the first time, some of the things some of our fellow believers may have forgotten or ignored.

I finally decided to watch the first movie on DVD - and it was okay. I didn't have that sense of wonder that a fan would experience (you know, the joy of seeing something you've read about for years embodied on the big screen) but, on the other hand, it was a really fun introduction to certain concepts - like Platform 9 3/4! I hadn't read the book, so I wasn't disappointed by things that were missing, etc., and I wanted to see whether I understood the story well enough (one of the criticisms I'd heard from several corners was that the story was muddled by the screenplay). I felt I understood it. Waited a few weeks - was there any negative spiritual dynamic? None that I could perceive.

So I rented the second movie (3 were out at this point) and was really tickled to watch the same actors only a bit older-- very cool, I quite liked that. So then I rented the third movie and said, "awww-- it's a time travel movie!" So I actually had to buy a used copy.

But I still hadn't read any of the books and was still quite ambivalent (now I'm only somewhat ambivalent) when I drove to Durango a few years ago with my friend Diana & her daughter Sierra; we stayed with the sister of one of Di's close friends; this sister specializes in children's education and tutoring and assessments of gifted children. In the course of several days there Yvonna mentioned her fondness for Harry Potter. Again, Yvonna is a strong, Bible-believing Christian (as is Diana, as am I, etc.) and so I really picked her brain about the books. And she's the one who sold me - she said, "Rowling has written engaging, accessible books with all the fun of the boarding school environment, contrasted with wicked parent-substitutes and hideous cousin." Yvonna expressed her conviction that the books were highly moral and very clear about what is good and what is evil (--funny that in a world where even the church starts blurring those lines and waffling, it's the author of a children's fantasy series who draws a clear line).

So at some point in the fall of that year, I took out the first couple of books and started reading. I found J.K. Rowling a good writer with a fun sense of humor and her story engaging. I think it was late last year that I finally finished the sixth book - and I am looking forward to reading the seventh, when I can take it out from the local library! I don't anticipate buying the series unless the Folio Society in England decides to release them - then, if I can afford it, I probably would buy the set.

WHY, as a fan of the series, do I have ambivalence about Harry Potter which I do not have about The Chronicles of Narnia or Tolkien's created world of Middle-earth? One of the powerful strengths of Rowling's creation is that Harry Potter's world is almost our world: planes, trains, automobiles, computers, medicine, television, Christmas - and a talent or genetic ability to witchcraft. Now if it wasn't witchcraft but simply a propensity toward levitation, I would have no problem at all. But witchcraft bears the stigma of being condemned in both the Hebrew and Greek portions of the Bible. God warns His people about witchcraft.

It makes me feel like Indiana Jones when he looks down into the pit and sees the floor moving with serpents and he rolls back and says, "Snakes-- why did it have to be snakes?"

Rowling's creation has humans that can learn to become witches. Tolkien and Lewis have witches and/or wizards *but* they are not human. When humans attempt to embrace witchcraft in Lewis' creation, it is a very wicked behavior - which is in line with scriptural prohibitions. So Harry Potter isn't at a comfortable fantasy-arm's distance, but presses right up against The Real World. It is a strength and a problem. Is she encouraging children to embrace witchcraft? I don't know. I know there are kids who write to Hogwarts and ask to be admitted (the British Post Office has said so) and frankly if I felt misunderstood and abused and alone in my childhood life, Hogwarts would have looked wonderfully attractive - does that mean they are inclined to pursue witchcraft in reality? I don't know. I sincerely hope not, because that would be tempting little ones to sin, which Jesus thoroughly condemns.

I actually think one of the big problems --at least for serious Christian readers-- may be when their children run up against the "You shall not allow a witch to live" scriptures. Huh? B-b-but Harry Potter? Hermione is a witch! I like those people; what do you mean, they wouldn't be allowed to live in ancient Israel? God says they have to die? Then God is a big meanie. By blurring the lines between a work of fiction, a fantasy world, and the Real World in which we live, Rowling creates a very real tension between God's clear instruction that His people are NOT to seek knowledge or guidance from any spiritual/supernatural source other than Himself. I fear the Potter books may interfere with the ability of some children to "taste and see that the LORD is good."

And that's a big problem.

if it is creating confusion, i have to wonder why. is it not the responsibility of the parents, no matter what their spiritual beliefs, to lay a solid foundation for their kids? if the parents are confused, the kids will be confused... no matter what the religious affiliation.

if harry potter is confusing christian kids, then perhaps it is because there's been too much focus on the law of the Word and not enough on faith and the change of self it is meant to create and support. if you're more interested in what the bible says to do than in who it says we are to be then yeah... there's going to be confusion. with or without harry potter.

i don't think john wishing he could transfigure our tabby cat to a declawed kitty is a sign he wants to be involved in or believes in witchcraft. he also wishes he could be a transformer.

magical thinking (as it is known in psychiatric terms) is a normal part of childhood. as parents, it is our responsibility to lay a foundation of truth that will not crumble when our kids grow out of the belief in superheros. a foundation of belief that will be unshaken when the realities of life begin to make themselves known.

if we haven't, that's our fault. not J. K. rowlings.

Of course it is the responsibility of the parents to bring clarity. But as a child raised in a seriously Christian home who *still* got demonized in early childhood, I'm very aware of the dangers and pitfalls and the complete lack of mercy with which the enemy goes after children - and very specifically targets Christian children (why target the kids who aren't even being taught about God? They're much less likely to grow up into Christians... from the enemy's perspective, those kids already belong to him).

Confusion is not easily dismissed. For instance, it took me a long time to understand the whole Acts 16 thing - if this spirit is testifying to the truth, why does Paul cast it out? Because 1) the presence of that spirit in the girl is an offense to God and the freedom which He created humans to enjoy and 2) the spirit is self-serving; it is trying to increase its credibility within the community so that it will be more powerful when Paul & Luke and all leave the area; it is entirely parasitic and opportunistic.

I don't think these books could encourage satanism (well, unless a reader finds Voldemort and Malfoy attractive and wishes to impose their will upon others; the true mark of satanism: I can make you do what I please) but I think the books make witchcraft appealing, and that's problematic. One can argue that witchcraft, in the Hogwarts setting, is scholastically appealing and therefore might as well be chemistry or physics. But it's not chemistry or physics, it's witchcraft and the word itself is loaded. It is disingenuous to expect readers and critics to strip the historic meaning of the word from Rowling's use of the word.

My friend offered a statement and responded:"it's just not of God" - the bible says we are in the world but not of the world. as much as i respect the amish, i couldn't live as they do. if i were to be diligent and wholehearted about shunning 'things of this world' i'd have to take a step further than the amish and live in a cave. there are many things not of God that can still be positives in our lives... when used properly.

I think that argument would be fine if these were books about linguists or chemistry majors or football players. But these are books about children attending a school that teaches them how to be wizards and witches. The problem really does boil down to the fact that that God instructs us, in the strongest possible terms, to avoid sorcery, witchcraft, divination, mediums, astrology, spiritists. Thus I would argue there are three categories: of God, of the world, and of the forbidden. What if these were books about adolescent boys exploring their sexuality with each other in a fun, bath-house kind of boarding school atmosphere? All the clear "good/evil" divides could still exist - rape is evil but consenting orgies are fun. Fewer Christians are willing to stand up and say, "homosexuality is not compatible with Christian life" and yet I imagine my friend would not allow her sons to read the series if the death-penalty offense was homosexuality and not witchcraft. Once again, unlike Tolkien or Lewis, Rowling's creation makes the idea of being a wizard attractive and possible - and who wants to be a muggle, anyway?! I'm actually not very bothered by the racism in the books (muggle vs. magical) because I think it adds three-dimensionality to her world; the degree to which the reader engages with that attitude I find problematic in the same way that descendants of African slaves find "Uncle Tom" attitudes or behavior problematic.

if we've done our job as parents, we can use even this series of stories to build on the lessons we seek to teach.
love is by far, the greatest thing.
death is not to be feared.
there are things far worse than death.
keeping hold of the good can repel the bad (dementors are a powerful example)
evil exists, no matter how some may choose to remain blind.
to name only a few.

fact is, harry potter is responsible for the literacy of a generation. it's certainly responsible for my kids' growth as readers. and you know what? they've grown interested in the bible. something i doubt would have happened if their reading abilities hadn't progressed to the point they could understand the language.

I agree; there is so much positive good in these books and they're great springboards for discussion. And they have gotten kids to read (including big kids!) who were never excited about reading before - and THAT is WONDERFUL. I just don't think that erases the problems.

And so yes, even though I've now read the books (6) and have seen the first four films (and enjoyed them), I am still ambivalent.


comment imported from defunct blog:
yraiym Says:
June 12th, 2008 at 10:04 am
Hi Lynn,
I started reading the books the summer the fourth book came out; my mom had the books, and I read through them in about a week. I liked them, and found the beginning of the first book enchanting: the very sound of the first chapter, The Boy Who Lived, lent a new wonder to Baby Jesus’ escape from Herod.

While I didn’t see the great, deep evils in them that were being purported by some who had never read them — children could NOT learn to do witchcraft from reading these books (it takes a special ability which one is born with; one needs a wand made with a magical core substance that doesn’t exist; there are creatures and plants that don’t exist in our world, etc.) — I did see some other dangerous things in the books as the series progressed.

One great problem that for Christians is that she does not have an orthodox view of Christianity. Potter dies — but does he? He only seems to die, and pretends to be dead until the right moment (docetism!). Dumbledore is betrayed and killed — or is he? He arranges his “betrayal” ahead of time with Snape (sounds like the Gospel of Judas, a gnostic gospel). I can see how these elements of the stories that echo orthodox Christianity could be very confusing for children, and could subtly influence their views of Scripture and what really happened. I’ve seen it before — there is a Russian novel, The Master and Margarita, which has led a few generations of Russians to the firm belief that Jesus was crucified because Pilate had a migraine that day.

I *think* if I ever have children I will discourage them from reading these books until they are at least in junior high and can begin to hold more reasonable discussions. I certainly hope to have the sort of relationships with my children where we can discuss things like these books, and dissect truth from lies.

But all that said, like you I see deep problems with the books, but still enjoy reading them.


Monday, July 09, 2007

The NEXT BEST THING is Suzanne as Lucy~~

A friend of mine from church is a finalist on THE NEXT BEST THING, the ABC television show which is sort of like "American Idol" for celebrity impersonators--

Suzanne LaRusch has been the family-authorized official impersonator of Lucille Ball for many years now. I remember one Easter Sunday, probably 10 years ago, when my youngest sister was in town and we arrived at church to find Suzanne in full Lucy regalia-- Dawn kept wigging out; finally she looked at me and said, "Talk about a resurrection!"

Anyway, Suzanne is a really lovely human being doing the hard work of making a living in showbiz so any of youse guys who are watching the show and feel at all inclined to call in, please vote for Suzanne and "Lucy" -- thanks!

You can watch a clip of Suzanne on The Next Best Thing here.

Monday, June 25, 2007

It Went So Well!

Thank you for coming, thank you for your support! I am so pleased with everybody's performances in House of Bread - it was really a neat experience for me to see and hear other singers "inhabit" songs that I've written - very, very gratifying. I don't know what else to say about that - cool experience!

We will probably release it on CD; I'll broadcast that when we do. And when I get some of the still photos taken (it was also videotaped--), I'll put some up.

The 'Ruth' page on my website now includes the background information I included in the program book, interesting details about the significance of Boaz's mother (well, interesting to me!), etc. And the lyrics are available at Moonbird Music, my publishing company's site.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

House of Bread

I know, I shouldn't brag - and I'm not bragging. I'm attempting to learn the fine art of self-promotion (you never took me for modest, did you? ha).

Next weekend we're putting on a "musical" (a song cycle with narration) that I've written based upon the book of Ruth. The other singers involved are extremely affirming ("this is very powerful--") and it's one of those rare times when I know that God is pleased with me... I like that.

I'm also very touched by the number of people driving over a hundred miles to see it (and only *one* such person is family: hi, mom!) - taking the train, and one even flying. It moves me profoundly; I am truly blessed.

Another weird little piece of miscel- lany: The 1990 NOT Tolkien Calendar, a calendar I created (as mastermind, producer, and one of the artists) along with Sherwood Smith (aka CISL), my companion in goofiness, is actually a treasured part of some rather prestigious Tolkien collections (for example, Marquette--) and here's a fun little quote from a Tolkien calendar collector online:

"As to my favorites, my top 5 list would have to include:

1. The 1974 A&U signed by Professor Tolkien (more precious than ANY ring to me!)
2. The 1998 Khandlendar done by Alex Lewis (yes, THE Alex Lewis). It is a hoot-and-a-half!
3. The 1990 NOT Tolkien Calendar (Mythopoeic Society). It is a hoot!
4. The 1969 illustrated by Tim Kirk because it is the first one ever and because Tim Kirk sent a copy of it to me (very cool!)
5. The 1973 Ballantine because it's the first of the commercially published calendars. I have a mint (unopened in its mailer that looks like it could be on a store shelf today) copy of it. I have two copies of most of the commercially published calendars: one mint (unopened mailer or still shrinkwrapped) and one for "reading".

I like any of the calendars issued by the various Tolkien societies (including especially Beyond Bree where Nancy Martsch has been a great resource). These were illustrated by non-professionals. I very much appreciate their abilities to put pen to paper and give us their concepts of Tolkien's world."

His site and here is the page on which our little puppy can be found.

It really is extraordinary when a project done as a lark ends up as a desirable collectible!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Ramblin' Lynn sez... can tell if you're in heaven because:

the chefs are French, the administrators are Swiss, the lovers are Italian, the engineers are German, and the police are English (don't stand so close to me-- or I'll hurt you with my guitar pick).

But if it's hell, the chefs are English, the administrators are Italian, the lovers are Swiss, the engineers are French, and the police are German.

I know of what I speak. I used to own a Renault Fuego, a car I really enjoyed except for the repairs. Watching the face of the
uninitiated mechanic when he pops the hood of a Fuego for the first time is quite wonderful. Or it would be, if one wasn't paying for his learning experience. *sigh*

thanks to Arturo for the "Ramblin' Lynn" photo and moniker
-- who loves yer baby? (well, I hope you do--)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Comany We'd Like To Keep--

"As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another"

- Proverbs 27:17

My friend Diana wrote a terrific book and it's finally been published (--whew!--). The Company They Keep:J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis As Writers In Community started life as her doctoral thesis. I knew her back in those days (and earlier); I remember being shocked that thesis advisors have so much power over the shape and content of the thesis. Mike Glyer, then friend, now husband, turned to her after the smoke had cleared and asked her to write the book she originally conceived.

And lo, these many years later, I hold it in my hot little hands; a scholarly book you don't have to be a scholar to enjoy thoroughly.

I remember discussion early on, "what do you mean, 'the Inklings didn't influence each other?' How could any scholar ever say such a thing?" Well, one can hardly blame them since the Inklings themselves made that claim. And in the second chapter, Diana 'splains it to us, even better than Lucy to Ricky.

And, to be fair, if I were part of a group of disparate authors and I people started writing about us as a group, claiming that we had a "corporate mind," a kind of human hive, I would say, "Now wait a darn minute!" too. So to understand the 'methinks the Inklings doth protest too much' aspect of the argument, one must first know that an absurd claim had been made and the principals reasonably reacted against it. And then later scholarship took the Inklings at face value rather than examining the conditions under which the rather odd statements were made.

In a nutshell, this scholarly but thoroughly entertaining work takes the reader on a wonderful journey, illustrating in detail the width and breadth of the mutual influence, up to and including assorted examples of one person writing notes which recommend changes on a draft of a work by another person that later appear, often verbatim, in the final manuscript. Sure looks like influence to me...

But more than that, the book provides rich acounts about the nature of this group, how they interacted, how they supported and encouraged and challenged each other in their creative lives and endeavors. Very, very exciting and attractive - I want that!

Everybody, to the tune of the old Dr Pepper jingo, "wouldn't you like to be an Inkling too? Be an Inkling, oooh, be an Inkling--" yeah.

So anyone with an interest in J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, Owen Barfield, Hugo Dyson, et. al., you will enjoy this book first because it’s an entertaining read, chock-full of accounts of Inklings interactions. Second, it’s a fascinating examination of “influence” in its broad understanding, what it is to be interconnected by friendship, interests, goals, scholarship, creativity and faith. Third, it details concrete assistance they provided each other as editors, promoters, and collaborators, and references they made to each other in their work. But, for me, it is most stimulating as a look at creative support: what it takes to effectively encourage and exhort one another in the exercise of creative gifts.

are present day applications in this book: how can we be effective resonators, collaborators, even opponents, and thus encourage our own creativity and that of others around us? Have we become phobic about the word “influence,” stuck in our romantic notions of the lonely genius? Diana examines this issue in the final chapter of her book and I found myself thinking what good thing it is that science and mathematics don’t eschew “influence” but rather build freely upon the theories and discoveries of others; I suspect there is an exaltation of artistic vanity in the view that a work is somehow diminished if “influence” is perceived. I don’t believe it’s possible to avoid “influence” – it is entirely pervasive, an inescapable part of being human. Diana argues these men were more fully themselves because of the Inklings, more individual and distinct for the contrast and encouragement, and I am persuaded she is right.

While I personally prefer footnotes to endnotes, these endnotes are gems; don't neglect reading them!

Diana Pavlac Glyer, The Company They Keep: J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis as Writers in Community. Ohio; Kent State University Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0-87338-890-0, hc, 293 pp., $45. Click through here: "HARDCOVER version of The Company They Keep"

Friday, February 16, 2007

Where are we going and what's up with the handbasket?

a minor rant...

I am part of a small Episcopal church in the Los Angeles area and being "orthodox" in my faith --which means I believe the Bible, I believe Jesus is The Way, The Truth, and The Life and no one comes to the Father but through Him, and if He wants to widen that gate, I have no problem with it, but I become very nervous when people purporting to speak for Him widen the gate-- I have watched with interest the activities of TEC (The Episcopal Church, a part of the Anglican communion worldwide) and was amazed when a practicing homosexual was elected bishop in New Hampshire (2003) and then shocked when the House of Bishops confirmed him to that position in 2004 after Lambeth 1998 confirmed Biblical standards for sexual activity (basically that God blesses sexual relations within the constraints of Holy Matrimony, which is by definition a man and a woman: two adults, one of each sex; if one is not called to marriage one is to live a celibate life) and our Presiding Bishop agreed. So the action of both the Diocese of New Hampshire and the subsequent appoval by the House of Bishops were out of line with Resolution 1.10.

Personally I don't care what one's sexual proclivities are, as long as one is dealing with consenting adult humans; I'd prefer that the Bible be a little more "forward thinking" in its view of human sexuality. I was greatly distressed when I really came face-to-face with the fact that the scriptures have an opinion (a very negative one, *sigh*) on sex outside of marriage; that cut deeply into my personal behavior, so in my early twenties I had to decide whether I was simply going to pay lip-service to an empty gospel or if I was going to actually try to live as it exhorts us to live. I chose the latter: with greatest reluctance I asked my lover to move out and I became celibate (until I married, but that's a whole other rant). One thing I can tell you for sure: the Bible isn't politically correct.

I grew up in a small Methodist church in Hollywood; I was quite used to ministers who didn't actually believe the Bible. And, for reasons too long and arcane to go into here, neither did I - but I came around and realized that Christianity is not a buffet where you can take what you like and leave the rest; thus I began the long and arduous process of armwrestling with God (cut to the chase: He wins). So the experience of taking my faith more seriously than the people who are being paid to promote and protect that faith is par for the course - but I wish it was otherwise.

I think of Paul, who wrote: "I wish that you would bear with me in a little foolishness; but indeed you are bearing with me. For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully." (2 Corinthians 11:1-4)

I am encouraged that there is some small outrage in America as TEC preaches an increasingly different gospel; I am more encouraged that the largest provinces within the Anglican communion are orthodox in their belief and their outrage is wonderful and righteous. I hope that a way will be made for orthodox Anglicans within TEC to join in pronouncing the gospel of Christ, to walk with believers and bishops who are more concerned with being faithful ministers of the Word and Sacraments than they are concerned with being politically correct. I wait prayerfully and patiently.

So I watch the current gathering of the Primates (the 38 highest leaders of the Anglican communion worldwide) in Tanzania and pray that truth is not compromised to political expediency, that they would rejoice to see the plumbline of the LORD in the hand of Zerubabbel.

The response of the Anglican communion to the actions of TEC was assembled as the Windsor Report and it seeks certain acts of reconciliation for TEC to continue walking in communion with the rest of Anglicans worldwide (to avoid schism, currently a precipice over which we dangle); specifically it calls for The Episcopal Church as a corporate body to express its regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached in the events surrounding the election and consecration of a bishop for the See of New Hampshire, and for the consequences which followed, and that such an expression of regret would represent the desire of The Episcopal Church to remain within the Communion; that the bishops who took part in Gene Robinson’s episcopal consecration, pending such expression of regret, should be invited to consider in all conscience whether they should withdraw themselves from representative functions in the Anglican Communion; and that The Episcopal Church be invited to effect a moratorium on the election and consent to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate who is living in a same gender union until some new consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges; likewise it called for a moratorium on all such public Rites (the blessing of same-sex unions), and recommend that bishops who have authorised such rites in the United States and Canada be invited to express regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached by such authorisation. Pending such expression of regret, it recommends that such bishops be invited to consider in all conscience whether they should withdraw themselves from representative functions in the Anglican Communion.

So - after TEC (now under 1 million members) vastly oversteps its authority as a member of the Anglican communion and thus attempts to compel all the other parts of the Anglican communion (over 77 million members) to accept TEC's position on human sexuality (rather than Lambeth's position in 1998, with which TEC agreed), TEC has been called to make nice and stop consecrating same-sex unions and ordaining practicing homosexuals as priests. TEC hasn't stopped the behaviors and the "making nice" part has been, imho, disingenuous.

I am embarassed by the arrogance of the American church. Instead of repentance, "we did wrong and we are sorry; we will not do it again," a carefully choreographed tap-dance was offered, a 'we regret you took offense' kind of sleight of hand. Essentially, 'what's wrong with you backward people that you can't see that we Americans know better than you? Stop being offended and get with the program! You know it's going to happen sooner or later.' A churchly equivalent of "lie back and think of England--"

There is such narcissism in the American church: it's all about us, about our rights and privileges and how dare anyone ask that we not exercise a freedom for the sake of a brother or sister in Christ. Never mind that those brothers and sisters are living in very different cultures, bumping up against Sharia law, and being linked with the excesses of TEC literally threatens lives.

I think of Paul, in 1 Corinthians 6:1-12 mourning: "Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life? So if you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church? I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren, but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers? Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud. You do this even to your brethren. Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything."

"Why not rather be wronged?" If the Episcopal church is right in all of this, why not take the genuine moral high ground and give parishes freedom to leave, taking their property (which they have purchased, improved, and maintained throughout the years) with them? Why act with such violence as to sue individual vestry members? This is not the behavior of a God-fearing, freedom-embracing church, but rather the behavior of a group bound and determined to go their own way, outraged and offended when someone holds to Biblical standards and calls them on dancing down the slippery slope.

Paul grieved when he saw the churches he mid-wifed straying from the gospel of Christ. Paul was shocked when the Corinthians had become so inclusive as to embrace a man living with his father's wife; he set them straight and exhorted them to chuck the fellow out, to "hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 5:5) and then in the next book Paul instructs them to receive the repentant brother back into the church community, lest "such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow." (2 Corinthians 2:7)

The church is supposed to challenge us in our sin, not simply commiserate and say, "yeah, it's hard to live a righteous life." YES, it IS hard to live a righteous life - but we are called to make every effort.

If we do not hold to Biblical standards, what standards embrace? On what basis do we reject scripture and replace it with our own contemporary opinions? This is the church of what's happening now, riding the crest of the current trend and the current wave and about to smash into the eternal rocks on the shoreline.

The new Presiding Bishop Katharine Schori refuses to "waver in her stand for justice and inclusion of all people in the body of Christ.”

Has she missed the point that the gospel of Christ is a gospel of grace, not justice? Is she actually asking for justice rather than grace? I hope not. Believe me, none of us want justice if we're offered mercy. Has she forgotten that Jesus doesn't preach an inclusive gospel? He says, "
Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'" (Matthew 7:21-23; emphasis in the original).

On what basis do we receive the grace of God? By the atonement; by the perfect and precious Blood of Jesus, God incarnate, poured out for our sake. I know that there are many universalists who believe in Jesus (and I don't think believing that everyone will be saved is the unforgivable sin) but the Bible appears to teach otherwise. We stand on very dangerous ground when we rewrite scripture and widen the very gates that Jesus Himself described as "narrow" - it may be, at that point, that we've stopped standing within the gates at all. The broad way leads to a very different place.