Upfront, I admit this silly video, The Privates, which is my current favorite among the Sci Fi shorts I watch by the dozens on Youtube, may not be to your taste in humor. Me, I’ve laughed out loud each of the half dozen times I’ve watched it so far.
Why? If you’ve ever been in a garage band (I’ve been in several over the years), you will recognize the personalities and dialogue. The drummer in particular avoids being a stereotype while ringing completely true.
The over-serious sci fi elements just make it funnier.
“Do you have any idea how many Kelvins we must be generating to do something like this?” long pause. “A lot.”
“Short term, more like for Friday, what are we dealing with, survival wise?”
“Us, or the crowd?”
Watch this, and I’ll put my comments below.
SPOILER-ISH STUFF BELOW
The clueless lead singer is something almost every band deals with. That there’s one person who actually knows how the equipment works is another. The drummer, operating on an alternate plain of existence is yet another, as is the one worry-wart. What makes it great is how they nail each role, but in an unexpected ways. Having an over-serious woman rhythm guitar player be the tech geek, a hard rocker, and be totally detached from the possibility they might accidentally kill people – brilliant. Bass players tend to be the 2nd most out-there people in bands, after drummers – so making Ben the responsible one – smart.
Max, the lead guitar player/singer just wants to rock, has little interest in and no idea what’s going on, but he’s also the guy always calling “band meeting” and poling the others. Max’s role reversal with Ben at the end is a hoot. Ben, worried about safety and ignored by everyone else, is also a familiar riff – there’s always one guy in the band who, in the opinion of the others, overthinks things and worries too much.
There’s always a Pool Party Eddie, a guy who can get you gigs, even if they’re terrible gigs. The ‘nobody came’ refrain – rite of passage for every band. It doesn’t feel good.
The final scene, where Max is finally convinced something is wrong, while Ben is jazzed out of his mind, to hell with safety – awesome. The panic moment when they don’t see Roka, the drummer, is a small but critical touch. You get it that the band members care for each other, which adds a note of feeling that keeps the film from just being slapstick. (A tiny detail I didn’t catch until like the 5th viewing: Roka and Kep are sisters.)
Roka stumbles in carrying her cymbals and a smoldering backpack, explains how she and “sound guy” had to escape the fire by crawling out the bathroom window, but then says
“That was the best show ever. that’s the most fun I’ve had since probably Kep’s birthday party.”
“That was a good party.”
“It was the best party.”
Max sums it up:
“OK, who wants to keep going and see about burning this house down on Friday?”
Maybe you had to have been in bands, I don’t know. Cracks me up.
Proposed by aetherfilledskyproductions. Amazing, but I don’t think this tune has yet come in for brotherly correction on this blog. We will need to fix this oversight before giving it the Deus Vult treatment. Thus, Part the Third (a) shall review this song; we shall see what can be done to properly weaponize it in (b).
Lord of the Dance: This needlessly long song suffers from a couple obvious flaws:
Speaks in the person of the Lord. Whether we like it or not, whether we can intellectually justify it or not, on a direct simple level we have a hard time thinking or feeling like we are praying when we speak in the person of the Lord all song long. We may be charmed, or even inspired, but this practice all but prevents prayer. For a song used at Mass, this is not a good thing. (Before you mention the ‘thus sayeth the Lord’ parts of the psalms, merely note that the Lord sayeth his peace, and then the psalmist gets on with it.)
It is too cute by half, and is trying too hard. It would take far deeper poetic gifts than are on display here to make this work.
Salvation is likewise portrayed as a dance. In the hands of a great mystic, this might work. In the hands of Sydney Carter, not so much.
This concept – Jesus as Lord of the Dance – possibly traces back to a song written in the Middle Ages. Based on internal evidence, it is supposed to have been associated with mystery plays. This is believable. Tomorrow Is My Dancing Day, which I append to the end of this post, is a masterpiece after the fashion of the didactic purposes of mystery plays. Each verse lays out in 4 lines some fundamental teaching, yet frames it as completely personal. the refrain is:
Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love, This have I done for my true love.
…where we, each one of us, is the beloved of Christ, Who expresses his love AND explains what His Dance entails through the example of His life, death and resurrection. He is Crucified for us – AND that Crucifiction is part of the Dance that He is inviting us to!
In other words, as you will see when you peruse the medieval text, quite a bit deeper and more challenging than Sydney Carter’s Lord of the Dance.
Speaking of Mr. Carter, it seems Shiva, the original Lord of the Dance, was as much an inspiration as Jesus:
In writing the lyrics to “Lord of the Dance” in 1963, Sydney Carter was inspired partly by Jesus, but also partly by a statue of the Hindu God Shiva as Nataraja (Shiva’s dancing pose) which sat on his desk, and was partly intending simply to give tribute to Shaker music. He later stated, “I did not think the churches would like it at all. I thought many people would find it pretty far flown, probably heretical and anyway dubiously Christian. But in fact people did sing it and, unknown to me, it touched a chord … Anyway, it’s the sort of Christianity I believe in.”
The sort of Christianity Mr. Carter believes in is not what the Church believes – it is a sort of syncretist Jesus-light Hindu flavored Arianism. So, in the last song, we had a Church of Christ heretic, not to put too fine a point on it, teaching us about the Eucharist. Here, we have a syncretist teaching us about how Hinduism and Christianity are a lot alike, especially Hinduism.
What could possibly go wrong? It’s not like he’d be inclined to equivocate on Jesus’ unique divinity or anything….
[Aside: a perhaps unintended consequence of Vatican II was the driving out of many folk devotions in favor of ALL devotional activity needing to be included in the Mass. Thus, while previous ages had songs for pilgrimages and processions, oratories, and devotional activities such as the mystery plays explicitly for use outside the Mass, we seem to think it essential that any and all devotional fervor find expression in the Mass itself. Much of the less heretical stuff we do today at Mass, from rock bands and their goofy songs, through liturgical dance, to many of the more scripturally based St. Louis Jebbies songs would be perfectly fine things to do – outside of Mass – for the people who like that sort of thing. Indeed, this extending of our personal devotional lives to our time outside Mass is one of the good things to come out of the Charismatic renewal, it just has as yet to spread far enough. Lord of the Dance might be acceptable accompanying a mystery play or sung on a pilgrimage. It just doesn’t really belong at the Eucharist.]
It is set to a modified Shaker tune, perhaps best known from Simple Gifts. Shaker tunes do have a certain charm, and are not as utterly inappropriate for use at Mass as many other styles, but – maybe I’m a snob – they are not great music. We can do better, but, hey, we can and certainly do do much worse. In the folk tradition, the tune is merely beaten into submission whenever the text doesn’t quite fit it.
Let’s go verse by verse again.
Lord of the Dance
I danced in the morning When the world was begun, And I danced in the moon And the stars and the sun, And I came down from heaven And I danced on the earth, At Bethlehem I had my birth.
Dance, then, wherever you may be, I am the Lord of the Dance, said he, And I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be, And I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said he
This has a rustic charm to it, and is not strictly heretical. He echos the first chapter of John, except that Jesus here dances in creation, instead of *creating* creation. The world was not just passively ‘begun’. Weak. His Divine Nature is omitted, as one would expect from a syncretist.
I danced for the scribe And the pharisee, But they would not dance And they wouldn’t follow me. I danced for the fishermen, For James and John They came with me And the Dance went on.
Ever wonder why pharisees don’t enter into our Mass songs much? As Chesterton brilliantly points out in The Everlasting Man:
We have all heard people say a hundred times over, for they seem never to tire of saying it, that the Jesus of the New Testament is indeed a most merciful and humane lover of humanity, but that the Church has hidden this human character in repellent dogmas and stiffened it with ecclesiastical terrors till it has taken on an inhuman character. This is, I venture to repeat, very nearly the reverse of the truth. The truth is that it is the image of Christ in the churches that is almost entirely mild and merciful. It is the image of Christ in the Gospels that is a good many other things as well. The figure in the Gospels does indeed utter in words of almost heart-breaking beauty his pity for our broken hearts. But they are very far from being the only sort of words that he utters. Nevertheless they are almost the only kind of words that the Church in its popular imagery ever represents him as uttering. That popular imagery is inspired by a perfectly sound popular instinct. The mass of the poor are broken, and the mass of the people are poor, and for the mass of mankind the main thing is to carry the conviction of the incredible compassion of God. But nobody with his eyes open can doubt that it is chiefly this idea of compassion that the popular machinery of the Church does seek to carry. The popular imagery carries a great deal to excess the sentiment of ‘Gentle Jesus, meek and mild.’ It is the first thing that the outsider feels and criticises in a Pieta or a shrine of the Sacred Heart. As I say, while the art may be insufficient, I am not sure that the instinct is unsound. In any case there is something appalling, something that makes the blood run cold, in the idea of having a statue of Christ in wrath. There is something insupportable even to the imagination in the idea of turning the corner of a street or coming out into the spaces of a marketplace, to meet the petrifying petrifaction of that figure as it turned upon a generation of vipers, or that face as it looked at the face of a hypocrite.
Here we have the interjection of the gentle side of Jesus that the Church rightly presents to her children the vast majority of the time into a situation in which He was not gentle. A modern pharisee or hypocrite, confident that he is unlikely to run into the “petrifying petrifaction” of Christ’s face in wrath just around the next corner, might very well comfort himself with the idea of Christ merely dancing an invitation to the pharisees, rather than rebuking them and – gulp! – judging them.
Can’t have that. It is too horrible to contemplate. The nice syncretist Jesus of our cowardly imaginations would never rebuke us! He is our brother! Our Friend!
Our ultimate Judge, too:
Verse 1 has watered down Jesus of the Scriptures to an acceptably tepid level.
I danced on the Sabbath And I cured the lame; The holy people Said it was a shame. They whipped and they stripped And they hung me on high, And they left me there On a Cross to die.
In a similar vein, note how it’s not the hypocrites who “said it was a shame” but the holy people. We needn’t stretch too far to see the blanket condemnation of anyone even trying to be holy in any conventional manner in favor of those who are simply willing to dance – as equal partners, of course – with Christ.
I danced on a Friday When the sky turned black It’s hard to dance With the devil on your back. They buried my body And they thought I’d gone, But I am the Dance, And I still go on.
While the ‘devil on your back’ image is certainly evocative, I note that this lyric does the opposite of what the Church does when it commends the Crucifiction to our contemplation: we are urged to focus on our role in Christ’s death, how He died for our sins.
But that would be, like, a total buzz kill. Better to redirect attention to the devil.
They cut me down And I leapt up high; I am the life That’ll never, never die; I’ll live in you If you’ll live in me – I am the Lord Of the Dance, said he.
“Cut”? Odd word.
In general, this is just not a good song, not overtly heretical, but subtly so. I would find better things to complain about if it were sung around a campfire or as part of a procession, even though even then we could do better. But as part of Holy Sacrifice of the Mass – no. Just no.
This morning, as I was sipping my coffee, my beloved walks in deep in a phone conversation with elder daughter. Daughter was looking for a recipe. This is a common occurance – all the kids cook up storms, and, no longer living at home, lack access to mom’s full-sized bookcase of well-thumbed cookbooks. Mom is the defacto culinary librarian. I sometimes get calls or texts instructing me to go to such and such a cookbook, look up this or that, take a picture of the recipe and text it to an offspring. (1)
As the conversation went on, my beloved spoke the following fateful sentence into her phone: “I’m not sure I can find that recipe again.”
Instantly, unbidden, the hamsters-on-speed wheels of my mind drive the following deathless lyrics past the barrier of my teeth:
I don’t think that I can take it
It took so long to bake it
And I’ll never have that recipe again!
and…. I then had to google MacArthur Park and force my 14 year old, who made the tactical mistake of wandering by just then, listen to it with me. He is very tolerant of his old man’s goofiness. Think I’ll keep him.
Even he was eventually amused. That is one goofy song. Or maybe 3 to 4 goofy songs in a shotgun open marriage. Or something.
Seriously. Or should I say, Seriously? First verse, often overlooked in our eagerness to roll around in the sweet green icing flowing down:
Spring was never waiting for us, girl It ran one step ahead As we followed in the dance Between the parted pages and were pressed In love’s hot, fevered iron Like a striped pair of pants
(striped sung ‘stripe-ed’ of course. Because, uh, Shakespeare or something.)
And it doesn’t get any better.
My running commentary explained how the whole pop-tune-with-epic-orchestra thing got huge in the mid-60’s, when I was still single-digits years old, and that MacArthur Park was merely its most egregious metastasis. I then spun Classical Gas, as perhaps the peak of that fad. I mean, there were a few pretty good tunes marrying a pop sensibility with that sensibility’s take on classical music. The Moody Blues had a few good examples, found, lest we forget, on albums of mostly unlistenable crap. The ratio of good Moody Blues tunes to boring/painful Moody Blues tunes is maybe 1:10. Maybe.
Anyway, since I just listened to MacArthur Park, Youtube offers up a ‘mix’ or collection of tunes that, like the ‘Because you watched Midsomer Murders…’ Netflix feature, suggests more tunes/videos based on – ? Some mindless machine algorithm, evidently. I suppose, deep in the bowels of some Youtube server farm somewhere, programs written by nihilists and whippersnappers run, correlating tunes with my browsing and purchasing patterns, as well as things overheard over my iPhone and seen through the windows by the ubiquitous Google Map vans (you really think Street View is *all* they’re interested in? Hmmm?).
And perhaps other songs I’ve listened to? Little evidence of that. Here’s what the Mind of Google thinks I might want to listen to next:
From the Beginning, Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Within a couple year of M.P. Otherwise – acoustic guitar, bongos and a classic synth solo versus wildly overwrought harpsichord & orchestra mish-mash? The ways of the Algorithm Almighty are indeed inscrutable, because, heck yea, I’ll listen to that.
Cherish, the Association. OK, this is funny. Jimmy Webb wrote M.P. for the Association, who were pretty huge at that time (1967), who had asked for a big orchestral piece because, as mentioned above, that was all the rage at that juncture in history. They rejected it as too freakin’ weird.
Well, Webb then played it for Albus Dumbledore, who was looking for songs for what amounts to a vanity record, and who was evidently enraptured by that whole cake out in the rain image. Seriously, Richard Harris, fresh off starring in the 1967 movie Camelot, met Webb, who was already a successful and well known song writer back then, at a party and mentioned he wanted songs for an album he was making. He flew Webb out to London where he was then working to go over material. Somehow, some way, when he heard MacArthur Park, he said – that’s it!
I’m guessing Harris was famous enough at the time that people were willing to listen to the record he put out, and – the rest is history!
Meanwhile, the Association never had another hit, and were soon reduced to trivia answer status. Cherish is the most boring of their 4 hits songs. Windy and Along Comes Mary are better. But for old time’s sake, I gave it a listen.
Another mysteriously correct suggestion by the deep revolving Algorithm.
Other items in the list were either obvious – Moody Blues, ‘natch, and the 5th Dimension – or utterly baffling, such as Brubeck’s Take 5 and Petula Clark’s Downtown. But – was the Infernal Algorithm correct? Were these songs I wanted to listen to?
Should I be scared? Or at least draw the blinds?
My last communication with our late son Andrew, the day before he died, was texting him the recipe for calabasitas.
So far, two of my generous readers have made very worthy proposals for the next modern liturgical ditty to get the Deus Vult treatment: aetherfilledskyproductions nominates Lord of the Dance and Richard A thinks Gather Us In should be very firmly kicked, um, up a notch. I agree with both. We’ll start with Richard’s suggestion merely because my muse is more intrigued by it at the moment.
God, Jesus, Lord, (and related terms, such as Savior, King, etc): 0 instances. There’s an implied God behind the gathering, couple of pronouns wander by, but overall there seems to be a quaint delicacy about just naming Him, let alone thanking and praising Him. Almost like we think Dad’s asleep and don’t want to wake him. He might come down and see what we’re up to.
We also have here the subtle despair of low expectations. Pick any beloved old hymn and the poetry paints a vivid, concrete picture and puts us in it. Here? Vague feelz, curious circumlocutions, a general resistance to saying clearly what we are doing. Space and Place instead of Church; Awaken and arise to the sound of our names – what? See, the temptation for those of us paying attention is to provide logical backfill so that the lines say something – “I guess he means…” But really, it’s a hymn, not a reading comprehension test.
Must say, this might be the perfect song for the Deus Vult treatment, as it wants to gather us, just not into a holy army; it wants to change us, but not into Soldiers for Christ; it wants us to awaken, but not to repentance and holy fear of the Lord.
Enough is enough. Steps must be taken. For too long have we put up with wretched modern hymns, whining, sure, but doing nothing.
I here propose that we – I and anybody else who wants to play – Do Something. How about we take specific egregious hymns and through the magic of Scripture and doctrine married to classic hymn structures, write something that answers and corrects the pablum and heresy? Line by line, verse by verse, with references, we answer the drivel, the incoherences, the feels and, yes, the occasional overt heresy, with lines that mean something, advance the faith, and even rhyme!
We must for now set aside the ear-achingly bad music and focus on the texts. However numbingly awful modern church ditties may be, bad music most of the time merely insults taste and decorum, not Divine Truth directly. Besides, if we write our texts in any one of dozens of perfectly nice hymn formats, any number of existing tunes should fit them suitably.
We shall call this little exercise the Deus Vult Hymnal. Just because.
Today’s execrable hymn crying out to heaven for rebuttal if not vengeance, is the little Haugen tune All Are Welcome. Here, Mr. Haugen tries his musical hand at reinventing the Lutheran hymn, and the results are really not bad – musically speaking. The text, however, is a sort of motte and bailey: if we object to singing the Hegelian We Are Church Spirit into existence, we can be accused of objecting to being welcoming. Surely, the very least love of neighbor requires is welcome!
Attended a lovely and efficacious mass at which a passel of 2nd graders received their first Holy Communion. The younglings cleaned up nicely, and were dressed in lovely little white dresses and little coats and ties, each according to the sex God gave them.
I mention this because we were in San Francisco, among people many of whom consider those who merely roll their eyes at Archbishop Cordileone reactionary troglodytes. Take nothing for granted. This lovely church is in North Beach, perched between the harbor below and Embassy Row above.
The views are nice. Million dollar, even.
We entered this lovely building and discovered a cacophony. It seems the idea that the interior of a Catholic Church especially in the minutes before Mass might be a place best reserved for silence or at least quiet is one of those ideas held only by the above-mentioned troglodytes.
So, a minute or two after Mass was to start, the celebrant came out to ask people to please quiet down so we could begin. After a few moments, things settled down to the usual background of rustling paper and clothes and whispers, and we began.
Silly me – I looked at the hymn board, and looked up the opening hymn, which was Jesus Christ is Risen Today. Alleluia, indeed! Only to have my wife hand me a program a moment later, which had Sing a New Song as the opening ditty.
Aaaaand – it was all downhill from there. But let’s not bicker about ‘oo killed ‘oo. Rather, I here want to beat on another dead horse: participation in the singing was effectively zero: the nice lady sincerely strumming her guitar and singing into the thankfully not deafening sound system basically went solo. At least, the participation in the songs – and we’re talking songs that have been sung to death for 50 years now – was not enough to drown out the ambient (to borrow Brian Neimeier’s favorite word) susurrus. I, following my general rule of singing along if the song, however terrible, is not actively heretical, started singing – and drowned out the other hundreds of people there. With a lingering high chest cold and not going all Pavarotti on it, either. Just audibly singing.
The rest of the tunes were less well known to me, at least. The mass commons were in that style, praise music, I believe it’s called, where one note follows another without nearly enough structure to warrant being called a tune, yet the guitar strumming remains vigorously sincere. Since the sheet music was not provided and no mortal power could consistently guess what note was coming next, the song leader’s solo continued unchallenged, even by me.
Finally, right before the hellish cacophony resumed, we sang a little ditty I’d been mercifully spared from before, or else my mind purged the memory in an act of desperate self-preservation: Go Make a Difference. Check this action out:
Go make a dff’rence, we can make a diff’rence
Go make a diff’rence in the world
Go make a diff’rence we can make a diff’rence
Go make a diff’rence in the world
So, we are to go make a difference – excuse me, diff’rence – in the world. OK, then. My first thought was to find a freeway overpass and drop cinder blocks into oncoming traffic – that will make a diff’rence!
But of course, that’s not what the author means! He mean, I suppose, to make a difference – excuse me again! – diff’rence – by, oh, fomenting violent revolt by the oppressed masses. Because if it were anything such as feeding the hungry or, God forbid! repenting of our sins, he’d have said so right out front.
But he didn’t. In the verses, we get:
We are the salt in the earth, called to let the people see
The love of God in you and me
We are the light of the world, not to be hidden, but be seen
Go make a diff’rence in the world
We are the hands of Christ, reaching out to those in need
The face of God for all to see
We are the spirit of hope, we are the voice of peace
Go make a diff’rence in the world
Salt *in* the earth? Not *of*? Like, salting the fields so that nothing will grow? Salt in food, is the Biblical image. Merely confused, and unnecessarily so, since in and of scan exactly the same here. So, why?
At least that God person does get mentioned, three times even, albeit not until line two of the first verse. On the other hand, counting the implied ‘you’ of the imperative ‘go,’ we have 27 references to you, we, us, and so on. So we see where this is focused.
But is that God person actually referenced 3 times? Glad you asked – not really, or at least in odd ways that point back to us. At no point is God simply recognized as our God and Savior, Creator of the World, worthy of our love and praise and source of all goodness. In each case, God is raised up only to be a mirror in which we see ourselves.
Each of the three cases, God twice and Christ once, do not refer directly to God. Instead, they not so subtly say *we* are God. In the first and most readily defensible case, the ‘love of God in you and me’ is what we’re talking about. Are we actually talking about our Creator Father here? Or rather about how cool we are that we are showing people a love already in us with no hint of a struggle let alone the real possibility that we could reject that love. Nope, a simple given.
In the second, the writer likewise uses a traditional formulation – many saints have said this – to say we are Christ’s hands. The difference is – oops, excuse… oh, heck with it! – that the saints were cajoling and warning us: don’t wait around for God to act in some miraculous manner. YOU are that tool, however imperfect, in God’s hands. The sense of awe and unworthiness, and concomitant need to rely entirely on God’s strength and grace, is not so subtly lacking here in this song. Nope, we got this.
Finally, the assertion that we are the face of God, while again true, is oddly backwards from how the saints talk about it – Mother Teresa, for one example out of many, recognized the face of Christ in the poor she served, and thus was strengthened in her efforts to serve them. It is others, largely to the horror of the saints so identified, who see God’s face in us. Well, in the saints, at any rate.
Read just about any old Catholic hymn to compare and contrast, and you’ll see what I mean here.
But, again, I am grateful to have attended Mass and received the Blessed Sacrament with my brothers and sisters in Christ on a lovely Sunday in a beautiful church, together with that passel of charming 2nd graders. In comparison to that great act of God’s mercy and love, my complaints are utterly trivial.
1. Be the Wall. Many years ago, my beloved and I attended a few child rearing classes, from which the one thing I remember was the stern admonition to Be the Wall. Kids are going to want to test their ideas and your limits. If they get all emotional and vehement, interpret that to mean they trust you, their mother and father, enough to risk real exposure. This works from toddlerhood all the way to adulthood, and is in no way contradictory to being loving, supportive and gentle. Kids need to push to grow up, and pushing against people they love and trust, and who they know will love and trust them back even if – especially if! – the answer is ‘no’ is the best way for them to learn self control, self respect, and how to stand firm themselves.
So, parents must be the wall, neither giving an inch nor overreacting to the pushing. Not always easy, but necessary. A key part: knowing what you stand for, knowing the places you will not give. These should be few, and consistent. Everything else should be negotiable. With any luck, children so raised will be able to carry these lessons out into the world, and distinguish between principles and necessary rules, and things that can be negotiated. They will be able to behave as adults.
We live in a world of feral children – of all ages. They have pushed, and found no wall. Many times found no mother or father. They pushed, and one time, the wall fell with hardly a breeze; the next time, it pushed back violently. They pushed and pushed, and ended up in the streets, looking for something, anything, that will push back.
Thinks that should have been learned in the privacy of family life and that can only be learned in family life are now lacking in public life. Our feral children find no walls. The drive to push is unsatisfied and unabated.
2. Fight the Urge to Dirge. Ye Sons and Daughters is one fine Easter song, great tune, tells the story in a charming, memorable way. Only one problem: for some inexplicable reason, choir directors seem almost universally to take what should be something like a bouncy waltz, tempo and feel wise, and turn it into something more like a funeral processional. With a bit a vim, the song is catchy and easy; plodding, it is just another forgettable church song.
You can imagine what brought about these thoughts. We did do some glorious Easter hymns yesterday as well. But it hurts to see such a charming tune done so – bleech.
3. White Sunday/Mercy Sunday Pizza bash! Invited all sorts of Catholics with whom it is meet and just to be celebrating the end of the Easter Octave over – had maybe 30 adults and a dozen or more kids (many of whom wanted to make their own pizzas, which we did – maybe made 20 pizzas in all). Kept it going from 2:30 until after 9. A lot of fun.
Two thoughts, and if you have any suggestions, I’m all ears: when inviting people to something like this, it is customary for them to ask ‘what can we bring? aaaand customary for me (who tends to be the major cook for these things) to say ‘nothing’ or ‘something to drink’ – because trying to manage who brings what is just more trouble than it’s worth, But: people want to bring something, at least, I know I do when the roles (and, possibly, rolls) are reversed. So, this time, due to the large and uncertain numbers of people, I said: we’ll be providing main courses, you needn’t bring anything, but you can if you want.
So, yesterday, at 10:00 at night, I’m packing away A LOT of food. We ran through the pizza stuff, sure, but I made a vat of guacamole and about 8-9 lbs of pastrami with ciabatta rolls and fixings to match and – lots of stuff. But lovely and generous people also brought lots of delicious things, much of which got left. Into the freeze went pastrami, a couple chickens, a couple dozen ciabatta rolls. The fridge and a couple coolers are packed with salads and vegetables; my wife made delicious pashka and kulich – which got lost in a sea of wonderful desserts. So, into the freezer or coolers it goes.
There are only 4 to 6 of us at home (it varies because – story). I hate throwing food, especially really good food, out, so now I’m looking for homes for at least some of the more perishable stuff. Work, school, neighbors are all likely to get some nice gifts – but this becomes another task on top of set up, food prep and clean up.
I also hate telling people how to be generous and all the planning it takes to be able to say: no, we have enough salads, how about a dessert or some wine? Or whatever.
Finally think I’m getting the hang of the brick oven. The usual advice is that each oven is different, you just have to use it and see what works. What works for this oven: at least a two-hour burn before you start cooking. Three hours is better, although this probably had something to do with all the rain making the whole oven a little damp. Then: just keep it going – at least 2 or three logs burning at the back in addition to all the hot coals while you cook. By the end, we were popping pizzas in and out in 2-3 minutes each. And they were excellent.
If I ever build another brick oven, please shoot me. I mean, I’ll make it more massive and better insulated. Also, getting the hang of Naples-style pizza dough, which you make a few days in advance and let chill until a few hours before you’ll be using it – slightly sour taste, excellent stretchy texture for making those lovely thin-crust pizzas that work so well in a brick oven. (I honestly cringed a little when the kids were manhandling those beautiful dough balls on the way to making cheese and olive or pepperoni over store-bought sauce pizzas – but that’s what they were there for! Deep breath. I do love kids more than cooking. Really. And they had a blast.)
Great fun. Looking forward to doing it again next year.
4. Finally, I compulsively reread this bit of flash fiction fluff, and got a little worried that people might think I was making fun of Southerners, when nothing was farther from my mind – Edgar and Bill are perfectly competent adults who love telling tales and maybe messing with the out of towner a bit. Colorful locals, in other words, not red neck morons. I worry some people don’t know the difference, one difference being that, in my experience, there are many more of the former than the latter.
Anyway, came across this YouTube video, wherein an English shipwright is rebuilding the Tally Ho, a hundred year old classic harbor clipper style racing yacht. He’s rebuilding it in Washington state, but needed a lot of extra-sturdy Southern live oak for the structural members.
Turns out that a man named Steve Cross in southern Georgia runs the only mill in America that handles live oak – the very characteristics that make it ideal for ship structural members render it very difficult and uneconomical for commercial mills to deal with. So Steve builds his own Rube Goldberg style mill out of parts from tractors, forklifts and combines and whatever else was lying around, and serves ship builders and restorers around the world.
He’s clearly a mechanical genius of sorts – and is just as clearly one of those colorful locals messing a bit – a completely friendly bit – with English Leo the shipwright.