The following appeared under my front door on a photocopy of my co-op's letterhead. It's how the management office usually communicates with the residents. I reproduce here, complete with any typos or grammatical errors.
It has come to the attention of the Management office that some residents have been practicing their singing very early in the morning.
Now that spring has finally arrived and everyone is enjoying the good weather by opening up our windows, please keep in mind that voices and music travels.
As a reminder, house rule 25 prohibits musical instruments (of which the human voice can be considered) between the hours of 11 pm and 8 am.
This memo serves only as a request to be mindful of other residents.
Thank you for cooperation in this matter.
...which is the standard sign-off, or something similar, for these kinds of things. There was one about a month and a half ago regarding the closing of the laundry room and when, after refurbishment, it would reopen. That closing said (I saved it): "We thank you for your patience during this process & thank you for your patience." ALL RIGHT ALREADY! YOU SAID IT! Oh, sorry: didn't mean to get impatient... .
What I love about the singing memo besides that it conjures up the notion of a singing telegram is that there aren't that many places other than New York where the combination of (a) close proximity and (b) professional singers can cause such problems. My neighborhood of Inwood may have this combination more than most: lots of prewar apartment buildings (hence, thick walls, suitable for musicians to practice); larger spaces for less than downtown, which is good on a musician's salary; and a straight shot down to the general Lincoln Center/Carnegie Hall/Theater District area on the A train.
The memo is also right, however, beyond its friendly reminder to be mindful of our neighbors: We do, finally, have nicer spring weather. In the garden outside my windows, the base of the trees had rings of daffodils, which were planted last fall. They're already fading, as are the tulips there and in front of the building. The dogwood outside my bedroom window a spare, scrawny thing in the winter, but beautiful in a delicate, Japanese-painting kind of way in the spring is just entering its bloom, but its white petals still retain a false intimation of lime, not yet fully white. I expect this weekend will be its peak.
I'm sure people who never lived here never would have thought it and even I certainly didn't, when I lived in the more industrial setting of Hell's Kitchen my first year but spring and neighbors with talented voices are two of the best reasons to live in New York.
A correction to a point below: the Republicans blocked Clinton judicial nominees generally through other Senate rules practices, especially an extensive use of "anonymous holds" although there was at least one appeal court nominee they filibustered, Richard Paez; ol' Doc Frist joined in on that filibuster attempt, actually. But, of course, back then it was the Democrats who yelled that Senate Rule XXII allowing filibusters was anti-democratic, unconstitutional, should be abolished, etc.
I wish both sides would quit playing this game with the Senate rules just to get their nominees approved. The filibuster serves a very important, if imperfect, role, in that it is one of the rare times in any of our branches of government when a pure majority opinion can't steamroll the minority.
As it is, it's only 60 votes required to end a filibuster, so pick a nominee on whom 60 percent of the Senate can agree. Given that the overwhelming majority of judicial nominees have been approved during both the Clinton and Bush II presidencies, we know it's possible to find such nominees. It's just that they don't want to, and decide to play politics with the process instead.
Another reason an "up-or-down" vote in the Senate rule by a simple majority doesn't actually equal democracy: Democrats in the Senate today represent a far greater percentage of Americans than Republicans do, because Republican Senators are mostly elected from mostly empty states where most people don't want to live, or else in states where only a certain type of person wants to live (cf. Texas). So, in this instance at least, the filibuster is one of the ways our republic ensures its democratic foundations. But then, if we actually believed in democracy, we wouldn't have that stupid electoral college, would we?
George W. Bush already made me a Democrat or will, when I get around to changing my registration. But God help me (literally) from Bill Frist making me an agnostic.
Two articles in The New York Times today irked me to no end, because of the further evidence of how various sects have hijacked the name of "Christianity" in popular culture and mainstream-or-otherwise media. In fact, the problem is probably worse in the right-wing and left-wing press than in the Times, but I don't read the Village Voice anymore and I won't buy the New York Post, so I get the mainstream stuff. (My brother, hearing I was reading the Times last weekend when I was home visiting my family, told me to "try to read past the bias." I'm not sure he's ever read it himself, however, and I know the local paper in my hometown, so he has nowhere to talk in terms of "bias.")
The first article was about this video or telecast address that Senator Bill Frist, the Republican leader of the Senate, is delivering for "Justice Sunday," a not-so-ad-hoc link-up of conservative churches and conservative Christian radio and television networks this weekend. The theme of these event, as everyone knows by now, is called "The Filibuster Against People of Faith," and is basically arguing that Democrats are using the Senate rules provision for filibusters to discriminate against Christians, which is what they call politically conservative judicial nominees. It's confusing, I know.
I was glad to see that several leaders of Christian denominations, including the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, the stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) a leader of Dr. Frist's own denomination (and the one I was raised in) spoke out against the use of religious polarization to further political ends.
What irks me the most about this isn't even the senator's politics. I could go on and on about about his threatened attempt to rewrite the rules of the Senate to make it harder for Democrats to block objectionable Bush judicial nominees the same way that Republicans used it, far more frequently, to block Clinton nominees.
No, what really steams me is his participation in an event that claims that people using the filibuster are anti-Christian. As if all Christians were anti-abortion, against gay rights, and similarly aligned with the senator's political positions.
I'm really mad at the underhanded attempt in the Senate the U.S. Senate, for God's sake! to change the rules now to get a few judges approved. And it is really a few. The filibuster has only been used on votes regarding the most egregious nominees. The vast majority of Bush's judicial nominees have been approved with little to no Democratic opposition. But this is a party and people who aren't satisfied with anything less than total domination of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, apparently.
But that isn't my main gripe. My main gripe is that "Christian" and "right-wing hate monger" are once again being regarded as synonyms. Which is the fault of the hate mongers, even more than the fault of Sen. Frist.
In the second article that burned me, we see a similar definitional shift in Microsoft's change from "support" to "neutral" for Washington State House Bill 1515, which would have outlawed discrimination against GLBT Washingtonians in housing, employment and insurance.
Microsoft has had a pretty good record on GLBT issues before this; for example, I understand they were on record for supporting this legislation the other two times it was sponsored and didn't pass. But this latest is really awful, in that typical corporate "it's not so awful you can pin us on it" way so prevalent today.
And that's not to say they were perfect before this, even. A check on the he Human Rights Campaign site gives them a score of 86 (out of 100) on its Corporate Equality Index. I'm proud to say my own employer, IBM (whom I won't otherwise talk about much on this site, since I'm in Corporate communications in my day job, but this site is wholly and completely my own thoughts and opinions and has no connection to official IBM, so can we please move past the legal boilerplate now?) has a score of 100 ouf of 100. Love or hate IBM and spare me the hate e-mails, because such opinions tend to be 10 years out of date, anyway but you can't say the company is anti-gay in any substantive way.
But Microsoft has often taken the "expedient" road, over the higher road, so while it wasn't welcome, they're recent equivocation also wasn't completely surprising. What irked me, however, were too quotes in this article in particular.
1) Microsoft's chief counsel, Bradford L. Smith and can we pause for a moment to reflect on what a heinous job that would be, even if it doesn't excuse him? apparently told a state representative that he was concerned about the reaction to the company's (rescinded) support of the bill among its Christian employees. He didn't seem too concerned about what its gay employees thought or, to my main point, what its gay Christian employees thought.
2) The "pastor" who has been lobbying Microsoft to reverse its support for anti-discrimination legistlation, Dr. Ken Hutcherson, said: "I told them I was going to give them something to be afraid of Christians about." Lovely. Yes, that's apparently what Christianity is all about: who would Jesus hate?
Except it's not, dammit. Or, to be precise: damn it. I'd be all for giving people a reason to fear Christians, if they thought that meant "walk in love and charity with your neighbor, or else you'd be called to account." But this is pure hate on the part of Dr. Hutcherson this is an anti-discimination bill, after all; it's not even a gay marriage or civil unions bill, though the hate would be the same in those instances, as well, I'm sure. (What? You thought he probably supports legally sanctioned gay marriage, but opposes legislation that punishes people for discriminating against another's sexual orientation?)
These political idealogues have replaced a worship of Jesus Christ with a complacent confirmation of their own prejudices. These "Bible" Christians as opposed to actual Christians, who worship Jesus instead of the Bible are represented as mainstream "Christians" by the media, and thus Sen. Bill Frist, and any other Christian sectarian who chooses to preach hate that day gets to define to a confused world what "Christian" means.
Meanwhile, while in the historic creeds of the church, nary a mention is made of the primacy of Scripture as part of the faith and certainly nothing of the political positions required of Christians there are a few social justice issues that Christians are supposed to hew to a line on: support for the poor; help for prisoners, widows, and orphans. But Bill Frist's brand of "Christians" are more comfortable treating such injunctions as a idealism rather than as commandment from the One they profess as their Savior.
O, God, make speed to save us.
O, Lord, make haste to help us.
I was talking to some friends after a meeting at church the other night, and we were marvelling at the difference in the two major religious services we saw on television a couple of weeks ago: the (Catholic) funeral of Pope John Paul II, and the (Protestant) wedding of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall. Strictly speaking, it wasn't a wedding but a "blessing of a civil union"; in the same vein, she was already the Duchess of Cornwall during it, which she became after the civil marriage service, as I understand it.
Okay, so I was marvelling. I'm not sure my dinner mates were marvelling so much as making conversation with me, but as I said then, I found it amusing how each service tended to reinforce stereotypes that mainline Protestants and Catholics already have of each other. Which differs from what the general population generally assumes about these two groups. Most people who aren't either mainstream Catholic or mainline Protestant, I suspect, think of mega-churches, trap sets and electronic keyboards, and "praise" song lyrics projected on a screen when they think about "Protestants" at worship. Or else they picture something like the little Southern, Pentecostal church Robert Duvall led in The Apostle. Which are certainly examples of Protestant worship, but they're not descriptive, generally, of mainline Protestant, meaning the major denominations: Episcopal/Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, even most Southern Baptist churches.
Likewise, many non-Catholics generally assume Catholic services to be like the kind of Mass people see in costume drama movies or maybe hear on classical radio. However, ever since Vatican II, they've pretty much had a reputation for a far more casual approach. Some churches are still formal in their style, but at many, people might talk going up for Eucharist, they might have a guitar accompanying some modern Catholic-style praise song, many leave immediately after they've taken communion, rather than wait for the dismissal, etc.
So here we had this massive state funeral in St. Peter's Square. During it, people were applauding the sermon, applauding the music; they even applauded the casket during John Paul II's final curtain call. They were taking pictures of the proceedings they even took pictures of his body while it lay in state in the days preceding the funeral and chanting for him to be declared a saint by the cardinals. It was, in short, a rather boisterous, but oddly joyful, event, with great care taken for some things that leave Protestants scratching their heads, and a perfunctory, almost lackadaisical, approach to others.
The next day, at the Protestant wedding, I'm sure some people thought they were watching another funeral. Hardly anyone was smiling in the chapel, except maybe Princes William and Harry. You also didn't see any participants with their own cameras; that's another huge difference between Catholic and Protestant worship. Catholics take their own pictures at someone's wedding; it's generally a no-no in mainline Protestant churches, and many clergy will make an announcement to that effect at the beginning of the service. The official photographer generally has to use a higher-speed film because even he can't use a flash during the service, and a lot of churches even require that if photographs are to be taken, they must take place before or after the service, but not during.
I'm sure some people found it a very cold service; however, I have to say, I thought it was gloriously Protestant and Anglican. I only saw the abridged version on BBC-America the next day which didn't even include the scripture reading by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey so I can't tell if they sang only a couple of verses of hymns or that's just what they broadcast (I suspect the latter, given the other edits).
But even the hymns were great old chestnuts of Protestant churches: "Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise"; "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling" (a Charles Wesley hymn, but they used a tune, "Love Divine," that I think was written by an American, George F. LeJeune at least he led an American boy choir at St. John's Chapel in New York, the church left standing in the rubble of the World Trade Center attack rather than the tune I've generally heard it sung to, "Hyfrodol," which I believe is a Welsh tune, but they'd already led off with a Welsh tune for the first hymn, called "St. Denio," so perhaps that was why); then a Bach Cantata, a sop to the Lutherans and something for the general classical music lovers; and finally "Praise My Soul, the King of Heaven," sung to the classic John Goss tune written for it, "Lauda Anima."
Oh, then there was the obligatory "God Save the Queen" at the end. (Can you imagine if every wedding in Britain had to end that way? How hilarious. Do they have to end other weddings she attends that way, or only royal ones? That was followed a "Welsh composer's fanfare" (research shows it to have been by a man named Alun Hoddinott. "Is it Hoddinott for ya?") and then the number from Handel's Water Music, which everyone in the U.S. still thinks of as the veddy British Masterpiece Theater/Alistair Cooke theme.
There were a couple of jarring moments, mostly due to the editing and broadcast. The commentators all made a big deal about Charles and Camilla confessing "our manifold sins and wickedness which we from time to time most grieviously have committed." Somebody should have hired a churchperson as a commentator, who could have pointed out that everyone was saying this confession along with the bride and groom, but more importantly, people said it the next morning at church services around the world, since it's the General Confession from the 1662 Prayer Book and has been adapted and translated by other Anglican churches ever since.
The other oddity was during the Lord's Prayer, when the BBC America chose to show, in the lower left corner of the screen, one of those animated promos that Fox made so "popular." So while people were piously praying for their daily bread and forgiveness for their trespasses, we were seeing a show called "Wire in the Blood" hyped: "the most shocking two hours on television!" (During the last hymn, they had another promo for another program, this time a little more royal-oriented: "Watch 'William's Women!")
Not very Protestant of the BBC. But since Charles had dissed on their correspondent just the week before, they may have been feeling less than reverent toward his wedding. Overall, however, it was a classic Protestant wedding except for the national anthem, of course. And actor Timothy West, reading Wordsworth's "Ode on Intimations of Immortality." Oh, and the music at the reception following was provided by "24-year-old Jemima Phillips, Harpist to The Prince of Wales." I don't know if that's very Protestant or not; it's actually just weird.
Despite the inevitable media circus now in force following the death of John Paul II, it's actually refreshing to have the circus focused on a dignified death and spiritual life. Of course, people always make banal comments people when interviewed on camera and there's always hyperbole that attends anything like this. There have even been polls already of people asking if John Paul II should be canonized a saint; the television remembrances have been very heavy on early beatification.
Among all the TV and radio replays of the pope speaking, especially from his early pope days, many of the clips have been things he said in English which makes sense for an English-speaking audience. Wikipedia (which, impressively, had its article on John Paul II updated within a few hours of the pope's death), says that he spoke nine languages..."in addition to having knowledge of Ecclesiastical Latin": Polish, Slovak, Russian, Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, and English.
Which is pretty impressive. But is it my imagination, or did this Polish pope speak English with an Italian accent? That makes some sense, given where the pope lives and the majority of the clergy and religious who live and work there, too. I'm not sure when he learned most of his English and perhaps a Polish-inflected English sounds similar to an Italian-inflected version, I don't know. It's kind of cute to think of the pope learning more English from the Vatican Curia, however, and then trying it out on his trips to the United States.