An evening at the Fox

I wish I could express the hundreds of different emotions that went through my head last night. We went up to the Fox Theatre for the annual St. Louis Public School Music Night. Kids from the music programs of all the City Schools get to perform on the big stage for the night. They spend the whole day there getting ready. A couple professional organizations volunteer their time, so it results in a great evening. Emotion #1: I spent my youth in those school bands and loved every second of it. It all started when, at age 11 or so, I asked my Dad if I could play drums. Well, what I really asked him was could I have a drum set? His answer was that if I took lessons, he’d buy me “a drum.” Well, I went straight to the music director at Woodward Elementary the next day and announced, “I’d like to play the drums.” He said, “I don’t need any drummers, how about the trumpet?” I responded immediately, “sure! When do I start?” He gave me a little coronet that day. I took it home at lunch time, opened the book he’d given me and proceeded to play my first C scale. I already knew how to read music from my guitar lessons, so I made it through the book pretty quick. I remember him saying that I could join “ensemble.” I had no idea what that meant. It still strikes me today that he said not “the ensemble,” but just “ensemble.” Wow, I was going to be in Ensemble! It sounded pretty high-class. I’m sure we stunk, it was just grade school afterall; but playing in this ensemble; this band, it was a feeling like none I’d felt before. The product was greater than the sum of its parts, and that intangible would keep me interested in music forever.

Emotion #2: I could have sworn I saw my little sixth-grader up there playing her alto-clarinet. But no, that’s not her. She’s the one in the middle there, playing flute; the senior who days with this school band are drawing to a close. I’m telling you; it was yesterday that I was watching her with the other middle-schoolers toot out their tunes with the usual squawks and squeaks you’d expect. She’s off to college this fall, and there’ll be no more Christmas Concerts.

Emotion #3: Just the pure joy of watching and listening to the kids perform. Some of them were truly good. A group from the Performing Arts High School was particularly good. A big choir sang “Go Down Moses” as two ballet dancers, one girl, one boy, interpreted the story with movement. (I couldn’t help chuckling to myself as I imagined some lawyers from the ACLU busting in yelling “Stop this! Stop this right now! We cannot hear this overtly religious material in this public forum!”)

I felt all of these things. Sometime individually; sometime all mashed together. I wanted to be down there, then I wanted Emily to be twelve again, then I wanted to go hug and kiss all the kids that were down there. Now, I’m just glad to have experienced a pleasant evening at the Fox. [Here's a link to my thoughts from last year's show.]

Doolittle did a lot

63 years ago today a bunch of big airplanes loaded with bombs took off from an American aircraft carrier, flew over Tokyo and managed to drop a few of those bombs before crash-landing in China. The Doolittle Raid, as it has come to be known, was credited with lifting morale in this country after Pearl Harbor, and has been immortalized by Hollywood in Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo starring Spencer Tracy as James Doolittle. Most commentaries, like this one, stop there. A brave, spirited poke in the eye to the Empire of Japan, but militarily not much more. That couldn’t be more wrong.

At the very moment of the American bombing attack, the Japanese were debating whether or not to invade and take control of the little island of Midway. (So named because it was midway between Pearl Harbor and Tokyo.) It was held by the U.S., but had just a tiny airstrip and not much more. Would it even be worth the trouble? It would be easy to take, but then again, the Americans just might decide to take a do or die stand, in which case they could destroy our fleet like they had intended to do at Pearl Harbor. They just couldn’t make up their mind. So, after the Japanese Military had promised the emperor that no bomb would ever land on Japanese soil, you can imagine their embarrassment when Doolittle flew over. Let’s just say that it was an easy decision for them after that. They had to take Midway.

Two months later the Battle of Midway took place. I’ll write about that in June. But, during 5 minutes of this battle, the entire war in the pacific turned around, and the Japanese fleet was on the defensive. It was truly a miracle.

First real Front-Porch of the year

Yes, the trees on Dover Place are turning green and the evening air is just warm enough that you can sit out without a jacket. After a evening of socializing and getting home with just enough time to walk up the steps before Emily called to get a ride home from work, I had the pleasure of sitting out with a neighbor for an hour or so. In case you missed it from an earlier blog entry, this is pretty much what I view as the meaning of life: sitting on the front porch on a warm summer evening, chatting with the folks from the south-side. From the great philosopher Barney Fife:
“Yeah, I think I’ll go home…take a nap…go over to Thelma Lou’s and watch a little TV.” Greater thoughts have never been thunk.

Well, this neighbor and I, we got to talking about our childhood homes. And, instead of boring him with all the little details, I’m going to bore you with them: I spent the first 9 years of my life on the north side…of the south side; in what we now would call “Tower Grove East.” The little apartment at 3878 Wyoming Street had just 2 bedrooms. The “dining room” was my parents bedroom. My two older sisters had the room in the back of the house and I had the little room on the side. When Jennifer was born, she initially slept in Mom’s room, but soon enough moved into my little room. That’s the way it stayed until I was 9 and Jennifer was 5.

Then, we moved down to Carondelet. The real south side. Only slowly did it dawn on me what was happening down here. “Let’s see,” I reasoned, “my grandmother’s house is right there, and that’s where my dad grew up; Church is right there, where we all attended, my Aunt Mickey lives right there…hmmm. This must be our neighborhood,” I finally concluded. I was right.

When we moved into the house on Dover Place, well, it was simple luxury compared to what we were used to. But…Mom, Dad, 4 kids…and 4 bedrooms. Mom and Dad get the big bedroom first, that was clear. Becky and Lisa, both adolescent girls, wanted and needed their own bedrooms. I was actually a bit afraid with the thought of having my own room, so I volunteered to room with Jennifer. I didn’t regret it. With just a few remaining years of childhood, a young boy could enjoy being roommates with his little sister. It was OK. Anyway, soon enough Becky was off to college and everyone got their own room. Two years later, Lisa left for college and all of sudden that upstairs was awful quiet. In my last years at that house, I picture empty bedrooms with no residents.

Now, my own daughter’s little room is about to be vacated. Life moves forward.

DaVinci Code and The End of Days

Well, I sat down tonight to watch 2 hours of NBC. Hour number 1: An in-depth exploration of “The DaVinci Code” to separate fact from fiction. Hour number 2: Revelations Episode 1.

I was expecting the worst for the DaVinci Code, but it was surprisingly good. Not great, but good. It was informative and fairly balanced. I think it presented the book and the phenomenon that has followed in a realistic way. What does that mean? For me, it means that it placed it properly along side such classics as Chariots of the Gods and Crop Circles: Signs of Contact. In other words it’s a hoax that sounds cool to people searching for some meaning in this life. Many people will spend more time examining this ridiculous hoax than they will reading and studying the Bible or books about the Bible. Which brings us to Hour number 2.

Revelations is a mini-series produced by NBC and starring Bill Pullman of Independence Day fame. It, as the title suggests, gives us a look at the “end of days.” In Christian theology, this is when Jesus returns to clean up. If you haven’t been paying attention, the book series called “Left Behind” which sold zillions of copies and now has 12 or more titles has spawned a new market of End Times entertainment. Some of you may be saying, “Wait, what about Steven King and The Stand?” I, for one, thought that was a very good mini-series.

Well, this new mini-series, Revelations is obviously just jumping on the band wagon. I find it hard to complain about Christian stuff that makes it to the screen, but you know, well…the production values were good, the acting was good, well…it’s just not sound Christian doctrine. Not every Christian agrees with each other on many things, especially End Times, but there are some basics. We might call it “the pale of orthodoxy.” Some things are within this and some things are outside of it. That Jesus was married and had a daughter is outside; that women were close and important to Jesus and the early church is inside. So, they have Jesus coming back as a baby in the movie. I don’t know; why not stick to the basics? Anyway, one more thing: Kids in Sunday School are taught that it’s The Book of “Revelation” not “Revelations” with an “s” on the end. What, did the writers come from the south-side or something?

Life, death, the Pope and Terry Schiavo

One of the things I’m responsible for at work is to electronically send the “Draw” down to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Newspaper for all “Single Copy” outlets in the greater St. Louis Area. “Draw” is just newspaper-speak for “request for papers” and “Single Copy” just means retail outlets, boxes that sit on the street and “hawkers,” which are the kids that sell from the corners. So, yesterday (Friday), in addition to the entire world being focused on us due the NCAA Final Four being hosted by St. Louis, the Pope was sliding towards death. Since it sounded for a while that he might pass during the day on Friday, the Post-Dispatch understandably wanted to print more papers for the Saturday edition. If he died. I had to have both scenarios ready for the final decision by the Post that would come at around 10:45 pm. I left work thinking that he was going to die before then and Annette and I went out to eat. During that time I really got the feeling that he was going to live through the night or at least the Vatican would not announce anything until Saturday. So, we stopped by work on the way home and I switched the scenario to Pope not dead (that’s what I named the file) and that’s the way it finally turned out.

All of this got me reading a lot of news stories (on the web, of course, not the newspaper!) and that got me thinking about a lot of things concerning life and death, especially since I’d been meaning to write a few thoughts on the Terry Schiavo case in Florida. One thing I wanted to comment on was something that I read between the lines in many, many articles and commentaries. That is the lack of understanding, on the part of the media and possibly many Americans, of basic Christian doctrine concerning life and death. I’ll just run down these quickly:

  1. The physical body and the “spirit” or “soul” go together. They were created together and do not get separated except by physical death. If someone is physically alive, like Terry Shiavo, her soul is still there. If a baby is in the womb, the soul is there.
  2. Death is an event when the body quits functioning and the soul goes off to “heaven” or to be “with God.” This, however, is not where it belongs as we were created body/mind/spirit creatures and these things do not exist apart from each other. I don’t know what it’s like, but I believe it may be like the time before you were conceived. I can just say that you were “with God.”
  3. Eternity is forever, but there will be an “end of time” when the soul is united with the same body you had before. Then you’ll live forever in the presence of God.

Now, I know I left some details out. If you’re really interested I can suggest some reading material for you – let me know. The main point I wanted bring out is, what I think a big reason many people don’t understand the Christian point of view, and that is what can be summed up by the oft heard phrase, “the sanctity of life.” God didn’t create us to by “spiritual” beings. He breathed life (spirit) into a very physical body, a body that the Bible and science tells us is just made up of the stuff laying about. He meant to do that. He meant to create us just the way He did as body/spirit beings.

We all agree that murder is wrong. Our “modern” society has blurred the edges of the act. Whether it be in “right to life” battle like we saw recently in Florida or euthanasia, or abortion; the lines get blurred by “individuality” and a loss of respect for life itself.

I’ll leave you with a case in point: If a woman has the right to an abortion, then she has that right no matter what you or I think of her. It doesn’t matter what you think of her circumstances, she make the decision. Read this article and tell me what you think:

Doctors and health officials will consider whether more guidance on abortions is needed following the decision of the Crown Prosecution Service not to
prosecute two doctors who authorised a late abortion on a foetus with a cleft
lip and palate. read the whole article…