Thursday, October 8, 2015

Litany for Users of Social Media

Remember not, Lord, our social media offences, neither take thou vengeance of our mis-postings.  Spare us, good Lord, spare thy people, and be not angry with us forever.
Spare us, good Lord.

From propagation of internet hoaxes; from sharing without verifying; and from posting things we simply wish to be true,
Good Lord, deliver us.
From using thy name in vain to guilt-manipulate others into sharing the crap we post,
Good Lord, deliver us.
From paying for our own joy with the tears of our friends,
Good Lord, deliver us.
From the posting of inappropriate images, of the seen which cannot be unseen,
Good Lord, deliver us.
From the mindless amping up of our vapid words by use of the f-bomb,
Good Lord, deliver us.
From cowardly blocking of those who have offended us,
Good Lord, deliver us.
From capricious unfriending of good people,
Good Lord, deliver us.
From sharing of drivel which happens to support our own political views,
Good Lord, deliver us.

In all time of our schadenfreude, in all time of our snarkiness, and in the hour of logging out,
                Good Lord, deliver us.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Stood Up By Tall Girls

I think their names were Pam and Tracy.  The fact that I'd remember that 38 years later says something about the effect these two girls had on my mind.  The two very tall girls I never met.

For the 1976-77 academic year, the powers that be at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) made a very foolish decision.  Their dormitories on West 27th Street were not filled to capacity, so they agreed to let some engineering students from Cooper Union stay in their dorm rooms.  Bob and I were roommates at FIT that year.  It was a great deal for us, if not for the school and its students.  We were on the meal plan, which was an all-you-can-eat affair for both breakfast and dinner, which had to result in an economic loss for FIT in our cases.  And all the more so since we stayed and ate longer than absolutely required by our appetites, simply to watch the splendid walking fashion show put on by the female students of FIT, who were mostly knock-outs, and who never wore the same outfit for both meals.

But, some stuff happened.  I'm not sure about the statute of limitations for some of those things that we allegedly did, but we were not invited back for the Fall of 1977.

Bob and I occupied Room 814 during the 1976-77 school year.  Back then, there weren't cell phones.  There were two pay phones in the hallway of our (co-ed) 8th floor.  If someone (e.g., parents) wanted to get hold of a dorm resident, they called the 8th Floor pay phone and whoever was nearby (or could hear it ring from her/his room) answered it and then fetched the person being called.  So, anyhow, we had this number memorized.

This is how it came to pass that, in September of 1977, Bob and I (being lonely and desiring female companionship) dialed up the 8th Floor pay phone, and asked to speak to either of the girls in Room 814.

"Pam or Tracy?" asked the girl who answered the phone.

"Either," we said.

And so Bob and took turns talking to Pam and Tracy.  Probably they should have hung up on us right away, but were too nice.  We told them that we had lived in their same room (814) the year before.  They asked what we looked like, and we told them.  As far as I can remember, we told the truth.  We asked what they looked like, and they told us:  they were both slender; one of them was 6'0" and the other was 6'1" tall.

Our jaws dropped.  I was 5'9" and Bob was 5'7", so by all societal standards of which guys belong with which girls, it was a mismatch of epic proportions.  Still, they talked to us for more than 30 minutes.  And, even when we called back a different day, they answered and talked to us further.

You have to understand how primitive the dating scene was in those days.  There were no chat rooms, no dating sites, no eHarmony or the like.  But, as relatively unattractive males, we needed a way to interact with girls without them immediately becoming aware of our physical unimpressiveness.  Without knowing it, we were trying to invent the internet.

One day, we asked them to go on a date with us, and they agreed.  It surprised us, honestly.  The date was set for a Saturday around noon, just under two weeks from the time we called to ask.  In the intervening time, we assembled spiffy outfits.  We planned.  We drew pencil marks on the wall to graphically illustrate how tall 6'0" and 6'1" girls would be.  Our two other roommates thought we had gone off our rockers.

Finally the day came.  It was a gorgeous sunny September day in Manhattan, and we were to meet them in Central Park.  I had donned a lavender dress shirt, and we both had corduroy vests which we had purchased at the open air market on Orchard Street the previous weekend.  I think we had each doused ourselves with about half a bottle of Old Spice.  We went to the appointed large rock in Central Park and waited.  Of course, they never showed up.

What to do?  Of course, there were no cell phones, so we couldn't call to see if they'd gotten lost.  In the event, we took the subway down to FIT to see if they were in their room.  Maybe they had forgotten our date?  I don't remember how we got past the guard desk and the entrance to the FIT dorm (perhaps he remembered us from the year before), but we did. We rode the elevator up to the 8th Floor and knocked on the door to Room 814.  For a decently long while.  Of course, they were not there.  Probably, they had agreed to the date knowing that they'd both be out of the city that weekend.  Even then, I hoped that they hadn't had to skip town just to avoid meeting a couple of short guys.

We never bothered them after that. and they didn't call us.  As I began to write this memoir, it occurred to me for the first time that possibly they had lied to us about their heights and appearances.  Perhaps Pam and Tracy had actually been rotund little short girls.  I know we still would like to have met them.

If my memory serves me, we then headed down to McSoreley's Old Ale House.  There are very few wounds or sorrows that cannot be alleviated to some degree by sharing a few dark ales with a good friend.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Why The Church is Losing

As is our custom, my wife and I arrived at church about 10:25 am this morning, in anticipation of the 11:00 am worship service.  Our most excellent choir happens to practice their anthems in the nave at that time, and it is our habit to sit on the pew in the narthex to listen to their angelic singing.

At around 10:30, the first usher, Mr. J, came grumbling into view.

"Well, I guess it's hurry up and wait!  Just like in the Army.  They want us here at 10:30 am, but there's not a damn thing we can do until 10:45, when the choir is finished."  I think he may have addressed this to myself or my wife, but we both had our eyes closed so as to better focus on the voices of the choir.

Mr. J set to loudly jingling the change in his left trousers pocket, until another parishioner came up the stairs.
"Well, I guess it's hurry up and wait!  Just like in the Army.  They want us here at 10:30 am, but there's nothing we can do until 10:45, when the choir is finished. Heh heh."

The other parishioner also made no reply to Mr. J, but soon he had a third opportunity to make his little speech about the hardships of usher duty.  I believe that the third parishioner gave at least a grunt of acknowledgement in return.

As the choir concluded its rehearsal, it occurred to me why Christianity is losing traction in our culture.  It is Mr. J's fault.  Well, not just him, but those like him.  Those for whom fifteen minutes of standing in silence at the door to the nave to keep the choir from being interrupted is simply just TOO much to bear, an unthinkable burden.

Meanwhile, those whose religion makes them enemies of Christ are often willing to die for their religion.  I don't think you can defeat (or outpace) a religion whose adherents are wiling to die in its defense with one whose adherents think that showing up to church fifteen minutes early is in unspeakably horrible imposition.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Exothermic (Yet Another New Poem)

This morning, I wrote another poem for my wife.  This one is essentially intended as a "Nerd Remix" of the Song, "My Gal is Red Hot"  (see below).  I set two main rules for myself in writing this:  (1) I could not use the word "red"; and (2) I could not use the word "hot".


My gal is exothermic; yours is not.
Allow me to expand upon this thought:
She violates thermodynamic laws.
Her temperature would give Lord Kelvin pause.

She radiates both infrared and light,
And shimmers like a ruby in my sight.
Her aura is a bright photonic maelstrom
Of wavelength nearly 7000 Ångström.

Allow me to continue with my boast:
Her enthalpy of fusion is the most!
Her burning beauty your gal cannot touch.
(About her ΔS, I’ll not say much.)

My opening volley is my parting shot:
My gal is exothermic; yours is not!

© 2015, Paul W. Erlandson

Here is the song mentioned above:

Monday, August 31, 2015

Dividing By Zero (Another New Poem)

I've written another poem. This one, I'll dedicate to my wife Cindy (like most of them), but also to all the cool Math teachers everywhere.

Dividing By Zero 

To not divide by zero was the rule
My teacher taught in elementary school.
Upon you Something Bad must needs be wrought
The day you make denominators naught.

You cannot find that quotient if you try!
(She never would reveal the reason why.)
“It’s undefined,” she said, but what she meant
Was, “To define it, I’d need your Mom’s consent.”

She couldn’t speak of orgasms or anti-matter –
Too risqué the former, too arcane the latter.
And so she had no licit language to employ
In explanation of Divide By Zero joy.

But children do not stay in school forever,
So I went out with hot Numeric Fever,
Grabbing sundry numerators by the collar,
Dividing them by numbers smaller and smaller.

Until one day I divided my failure
By my wife’s negligible lack of valor.
We shot up like tan(x) at 1.57,
Far up off the graph, beyond the highest heaven.

So, all you grade school kids, don’t play the hero;
You must be THIS tall to divide by zero.

© 2015, Paul W. Erlandson

Thursday, July 23, 2015

ACNA Archbishop Foley Beach says "Hey".

This is a big day in the life a humble Anglican layman such as myself.

There is an Orthodox Church Council happening in Atlanta, GA. A clergy friend of mine is attending. He texted me this, about bumping into a well-known Anglican there.


Sunday, July 19, 2015

July, 2015 Visit to Grace Church, Mt. Washington (Pittsburgh)

Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? * or who shall rise up in his holy place? 
Even he that hath All-Wheel Drive, and a stout motor; * and that hath not let his clutch foot to slip, nor sworn when his car hath rolled back at the stop sign.
Visiting my favorite Anglican parish church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania involves driving up a very steep hill on Sycamore Street.  And there is a stop sign for a cross street just at one of the steepest places.  So, when worshipping at Grace Church, Mt. Washington, it really does feel as if one is ascending into the hill of the Lord!

In fact, it feels as if one is being taken up into heaven.  And the reason for this is the best possible one:  that one actually is being taken up (if only for an hour or two) into heaven!

I've visited Grace Church before with my family, and it feels like heaven every time.  Everything about the church and its people makes us feel at home.  My visit today proved no exception to this rule.

I did make one mistake at the outset of this morning's worship, and that was not to grab hold of the little goldenrod sheet of paper that contained all of the Scripture readings, including the Psalm, which was chanted responsively.  But even this worked out for the best, since I had worn my voice out a bit on the processional hymn, and not having the Psalm in front of me gave my voice a needed break from singing, and the congregation a needed break from my voice!

The sermon, given by Fr. John Porter, focused on the Gospel lesson from St. Mark, the 6th Chapter.  It is St. Mark's account of the feeding of the five thousand.  At the reading of the Gospel, perhaps inspired by the amazing incense used at Grace Church, I noticed something about this story I'd never noticed before, and it was something rather comical.  Verses 31 through 33 tell the story:  

"And he said to them, 'Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while.' For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 
 And they went away in the boat to a lonely place by themselves.
 Now many saw them going, and knew them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns, and got there ahead of them."

How did I never notice this before, the comedy of it?  The Lord of the Universe is simply trying to get some rest from the ceaseless round of crowds coming to see him, and he is thwarted (by his own creatures) in even that.  It is as if God the Father allows his Son to be outwitted, in a sense.  As I visualized it through the cloud of incense, it seemed to me like something out of a comedic silent movie, like a scene in a Chaplin or Harold Lloyd film.  Jesus and the Apostles trying to make their getaway, but being thwarted by people from all the surrounding towns racing on foot to beat them there, so that there were 5000 men in the "lonely place" by the time they got there!

To borrow (and highly modify) a phrase from a Lightnin' Hopkins song, "Travel on the heel is faster than travel on the keel."  (What Hopkins actually said was, "Rubber on the wheel is faster than rubber on the heel.")

Fr. Porter's sermon made several good points about the Gospel story, which I won't go into here, but soon it was time to "ascend into the hill of the LORD" for the Lord's feast.  I probably shouldn't focus on details like this, but one thing that helps a person of weak faith such as myself is when I am allowed to receive more than just a few molecules of consecrated wine from the chalice, and today I was granted a nice large swallow.  (Perhaps there was the suspicion that I had a particularly large number of sins to be washed away, but I rather think that this generosity was shown to all.)  In my 25 years as an Anglican, I've encountered quite a few chalice bearers who seem to take is as their Prime Directive to give as little of the wine as possible to those receiving.  I've never understood this phenomenon.  But that was certainly not the case here.

I should mention that there was a guest organist today (I did not get his name) who did a very fine job!

The entire worship experience, from start to finish, was a complete joy.

After the service, a coffee hour was held in the undercroft, after which a truly special treat was in store.  For today's Adult Spiritual Formation class, we learned about Anglican priest and poet George Herbert from J. D. Wright, a scholar in the study of Herbert and the Metaphysical Poets.  This was not only a great and very informative session, but it was spiritually very moving as well.

I can hardly wait to come back and visit Grace Church, Mt. Washington again!