28 November, 2006

Call me Quasimodo

I always thought that it took a special kind of insanity to sit there, loudly ringing the same jangly bell, hour after hour after hour.

And then a friend asked me to do it.

Don't get me wrong, I like the Salvation Army. They almost never turn anyone away, and they deal with folk who walk in their door who live in places deep down you don't like to talk about at parties. Their transparency of finances is remarkable, and their fundraising percentage phenomenal.

So, anyway, my friend Gordon asked, and I went to help ring the bell last Saturday. He wrote about it here (including a picture of me--last one on the page).

* * * * * *

To answer your question, yes, my own bell dang near drove me crazy. To anyone with a musical ear, a small handheld bell becomes an irritant, like that one slightly flat piano key in the middle of the keyboard.

First you try ringing different ways: grasping handle firmly, like you're ringing a handbell in the church choir. Then with a little more fluid wrist action. then held loosely, dangling from between your fingers. Then with a stiff wrist, ringing from the elbow. Then repeat. I started to feel like the queen of the Rose Bowl parade. wrist, wrist, elbow, elbow...

Then you start experimenting with rhythm. Double rings are the easiest: ding-DING, ding-DING, ding-DING... Single rings with that kind of bell are harder, but you eventually get that down. Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding... Then, after some experimentation, if you hold the bell right, you can get triple-rings. Ding-a-ling, Ding-a-ling, Ding-a-ling.

Then I got creative. They give you a stick so you can push all those folded dollar bills down into the crack in the plastic kettle. So I started using the stick to make the bell ring. First on the bell itself, which sounds even worse... then on the wooden handle, whack-ding, whack-ding, whack-ding. After a few minutes of this, you discover where to whack the thing so it won't ring and will just give you a percussive sound. AHA! Rhythm!

Of course, you don't want to be too obvious about trying out your ringing technique. You're kinda in public. Kinda. But Gordon's right. There's a sense in which you blend in with the architecture and the elevator music, and you don't really exist for most people.

I did a one-man, stick-and-bell rendition of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel." Then it was on to "Angels from the realms of glory." My perambulating audience seemed to take no notice of the remarkable artistry being displayed. Even tried a rendition of "Jingle Bells," even though I can't stand that song, because... well, yeah, it's a jingle bell. The good news was that nobody stopped to criticize my own little bizarre brand of holiday artistry.

So, anyway, give to the salvation army. They do good work.
And say hi to the bell ringer, even if you don't have anything to put in the kettle.

19 November, 2006

pretty words

Okay, there haven't been many posts recently.

Mostly because I've been sick. The creeping crud, I guess. My physician told me to get some sleep and take my vitamins, so we'll see.

The lack of posts is also because people haven't been asking for copies of sermons, and because I haven't been writing monthly articles. I didn't turn one in one month, and the ceiling didn't cave in. And then another month, and then they got used to life without my articles. I'm not sure anyone was reading the little things anyway. I'm also going to be undertaking a self-enforced blog writing exercise on Sabbath disciplines. stay tuned.

But today, I heard something blogworthy in the ubiquitous handshaking line after church.

Pretty words, Sonny, but don't change the liturgy.

The irony was that the sermon used as one of its two foundational texts the great sermon to the Hebrews, which says, in effect, "it's not about the liturgy."

These might have been the pretty words in question: "God's people are called not to preservation, but to proclamation. Not to immovability, but to agility."

01 November, 2006

C. Robinson, DFF

SAN ANTONIO (AP)-- It's become a tradition that championship teams get invited to the president's house. The Super Bowl champs get White House tours and ceremonies in the Rose Garden. This year, the ETSS Alumni Fantasy Football League honored last year's champion with a private ceremony at the Dean's office... in the basement.

In a Cinderella story almost beyond belief, the San Antonio Monsters rode a wave of utterly improbable coincidence into the playoffs.

In week 13 of the 2005-2006 season, the Monsters ended the regular season campaign with a crushing 111-46 defeat at the hands of the Dixie Dawgs, leaving the Monsters with a record of 5-8. While the Monsters were taking a first-class whupping, however, during the final game between the Delta Blues and Tennessee Blue Ticks, coach Chuck Culpepper benched star RB Shaun Alexander for the entire second half. Alexander was playing in the snow, and the coach later said he was worried about an injury. But Alexander, who the year before came up a yard short on the NFL rushing title, once again came up a yard short. One more yard would have meant one more fantasy point... and a change in the wild card bid to the playoffs. And so the Monsters, who were ready to pack their bags after a dismal season, found themselves in the playoffs.

As the TV ads kept saying, anything can happen in the playoffs. And happen they did.

Week 14 saw the Monsters pitted against the Zydeco ChaChas. The Chas watched with dismay as Fred Taylor, Donald Driver, Joey Galloway, and the Colts defense all collapsed simultaneously, giving the Monsters the win despite a zero-point performance by their starting quarterback. Tests on the affected players' pregame gifts of cookies (which arrived in brown-wrapper packages) ultimately proved inconclusive.

Week 15 saw the Dixie Dawgs contribute to the Monsters' improbable streak by choosing to use the Seahawks defense instead of the Ravens. Despite poor lineup choices at quarterback, running back, and wide receiver, the Monsters found themselves stumbling into the super bowl.

Super Bowl week, it was the West Coast Woozy Wockers' turn to lie down under the wheels of the Monster truck, as Uber-back LT2 scored a whopping 5 points. Monsters workhorse RB Corey Dillon limped into the end zone twice on national TV to seal the Monsters victory.

"Wow," said the bemused Coach Cristopher, "I ought to get an honorary doctorate for this."

And so, some nine months later, at a small but distinguished ceremony in the basement of the dean's office, Coach Cristopher was awarded the degree of Doctor of Fantasy Footballology, honoris causa. Former league champion Bob Kinney was there to hand out the honorary degree, give the graduation speech, serve the refreshments, take the pictures, sweep the floor, and lock up afterwards. "Don't know how the hell you did it," Bob said. "Musta sold yer soul to the devil."