Monday, October 25, 2021

Ron's Gone Wrong

Not knowing what was playing last night at the local three-screen movie theater, I anticipated going to see Dune as a fan of the book and the 1980s David Lynch film of which it is a remake. I had even prepared for it by reviewing a cheapo DVD of the Lynch movie, which brought back lots of teenaged memories. I also reckoned that the latest 007 flick would be there, featuring Daniel Craig in his last outing as Bond, James Bond; I was interested in that, too, but not quite as much. But then I saw that the third option was this animated movie, whose ads struck me as fun looking, so I took a shot on it and totally scored.

Ron's Gone Wrong features the voices of Jack Dylan Grazer of Shazam! as hero boy Barney, Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms (both of the Hangover trilogy) as Barney's B-bot "Ron" and his widowed dad respectively, Oscar winner Olivia Colman as Barney's eccentric, eastern European-accented grandmother, and Justice Smith of Detective Pikachu as the CEO of the tech company that makes the B-bots, a line of plastic robots designed to data-scrape a kid's social media history and customize itself to become something between that kid's best friend and their live link to cyber-society. Unfortunately, the COO of Bubble is an principled shmuck who doesn't care about kids and only wants to cash in on the technology's potential for spying on them. And when Barney's B-bot goes bananas, it's just the excuse Andrew (the shmuck) needs to wrest control of the company from Marc (the dreamer).

Meanwhile, at Nonsuch Middle School, Barney feels like the loneliest kid in town while all the other kids are focused on their B-bots and their social networks. Realizing how he feels, Barney's dad and grandma get him a scratch-and-dent B-bot that proves to be defective. Barney progresses from prepared to take Ron back to the store for a replacement to deciding he likes him after all in the space of a playground dust-up in which Ron, unable to download the product line's security protocols, smacks a school bully around. Since Ron is missing most of his programming, Barney tries to teach him what friendship is all about, and along the way, he learns a lot about the subject, too. Meanwhile, Andrew's goons are trying to round up Ron and run him through a crusher, because his programming defects threaten the company's bottom line, though Marc is starting to realize that Ron actually represents an advancement over the code he created.

The results are an ascending series of climaxes, from a chase through a Bubble store to a school yard riot to a dangerous night in the woods to an off-the-wall version of a Mission: Impossible caper inside Bubble headquarters. Barney and his bot buddy have a fight. They take turns saving each other. And after one hair-raising adventure and hilarious escapade after another, their relationship finally reaches an emotionally moving moment that changes the world.

So, terrific movie, and I'm surprised how glad I am that I chose it over Bond (not the first installment that I've skipped) and Dune (which, after all, would be the third film adaptation of the book I would have seen, counting the Sci Fi Channel miniseries from the year 2000). Apart from everything else, it delivers a message about the way social media might be making us more lonely rather than less. The first feature film released out of the UK's Locksmith Animation studio, it's a promising harbinger of great, Disney/Pixar-alternative, computer-animated movies to come.

Here are Three Scenes That Made It For Me: (1) Barney realizing that "friendship is a two-way street," and looking with new eyes at the chart he created to explain friendship to Ron. (2) Ron using the last of his battery power to save Barney's life. (3) Chaos on the schoolyard as the jailbroken (re security protocols) B-bots go on the rampage. I actually shouted with laughter (sorry) when the giant B-bot monster swallowed and pooped out the social media influencer girl, though the consequences of that for her weren't so funny. The movie had a lot of great moments in it – in fact, a surprisingly large number of them, surprising you with how high it builds as well as how deep it runs. It has compassion for some seemingly undeserving characters, and subtle writing that allows, for example, the boss villain to call it quits "to spend more time with my contacts." The whole thing comes together as a much more complete visual and storytelling experience than some animated flicks, leaving you with lots to think about and maybe even dream about after it's over. I, for one, thought and/or dreamed about it a lot last night.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Are 'Edifying Hymns' Edifying?

Way back when Useful Hymns came out, I asked a similar question about that book. Of course, I may not be the one to ask; others will finally be the judge of whether the hymns that I am submitting for the use and upbuilding of the Lutheran faithful are apt to do so. But here are a few thoughts from the author (me) by way of explaining why I think Edifying Hymns (EH) will prove to be just that – edifying.

First, I've been told by some people who bought the first book that they did appreciate the purposes the hymns addressed and how they addressed them. I got a glowing review from one reader (the only one I'm aware of), and a young pastor told me that (at the time) he was using it for his daily devotions and had bought a copy for his senior pastor to do the same.

All right, sales haven't exactly been off the charts and some of the copies I've distributed have apparently ended up listed on used booksellers' websites. No one can please everybody. And a couple people who have heard me sing many of my hymns as solos in church have criticized them for, as I interpret it, not being how they would have done it – but I already knew those individuals had different beliefs about church music than I do, so I took their advice for what I felt it was worth. So, again, mixed feedback. If you already disagree with my position about what makes a hymn intrinsically useful or edifying, there's a chance that the argument my hymns make will win you over; but I can make no guarantees. If, however, you sense what I do about what is amiss in the type of hymns today's churchgoers hew to, these books may just be the medicine you've been looking for. For details about what I mean, re-read my endless essay on "Tacky Hymns."

Second, there are many hymns in EH that I designed to be used piecemeal – not sung as one long marathon of stanzas, but just the first and last stanza with one or two selected stanzas in between. This isn't just a behind-the-hand admission that my hymns are too long. This is a deliberate plan to provide hymn stanzas that amplify the basic nugget of a specific lesson in a series of sermons or Bible studies about, for instance, the parables or miracles of Christ, the epistles of Paul, the "Word" words in Psalm 119, the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, the seven deadly sins, Jesus' seven words on the cross, the passion of Christ according to each of the four gospels, etc. Such hymns can become a sort of theme-song for the series, with lines that strike a harmonious chord with each installment's central point.

Third, these are hymns for grown-up Christians who are conscious of the daily struggle of faith. They wrestle with God concerning the reality of suffering, grief and disappointment, which don't just vanish when you get religion. They're mature, honest, steaky stuff that meets devotional needs where the chart-topping line of happy-clappy ditties falls short. They delve for answers in the certainty of God's word. So you get a "lament hymn" that prayerfully asks God all the "who, what, when, where, why and how" questions about one's lifelong trials and troubles; a "consolation hymn" that applies God's sure promises to the same; an Advent hymn "against the Christian's threefold foe," namely the devil, the world and our flesh; hymns that face up to such painful but undeniable facts as dementia, cancer, terminal illness, a loved one's suicide, sinful habits, unbelieving loved ones, a child's death, addiction, poverty, caregiving, and persecution.

Fourth, after writing 300-some hymns and closely studying hundreds more, I've grown a lot in my skill, and I haven't the patience to write the same thing over and over without improving on what I've done in the past. So, these are definitely not the kind of hymns – and I know of some like this – that basically amount to tortured attempts to say something pious in a rhyming, metrical pattern. For example, the six "skillful psalms," basically one long acrostic poem modeled on Psalm 119, isn't just an immensely long string of rhyming couplets that show off my aptitude for alliteration, sometimes to an absurd degree – though it is that. But it's also a treatise on the atonement that digs deeper into the drama of Christ's sacrifice with, if I may say so, a passionate payoff of emotional energy. (OK, I'll stop with the alliteration now.)

Fifth, since I mention the drama of Christ's sacrifice, I've made a very conscious effort in these hymns to make His atoning blood both central and explicit. I am not interested in hymns that only go so far as saying that God exists, or that He loves you no matter what anybody says, or that whatever happens is His will, yadda, yadda. What I want in a hymn, and thus what I try to write, is something of which, if you cut out the bits that specifically discuss Jesus and His work, nothing of consequence will remain. So when I write a hymn about St. Peter or John the Baptist or the Beatitudes (cf. "All Saints' Day Hymn"), Christ is in them, constantly pulling focus.

Sixth, also relevant to this book's concerted emphasis on the atonement in Jesus' blood, this book sets out on purpose to build up believers' conviction in sound doctrine and to dispel false notes within Protestantism and, indeed, within Lutheranism. There's a "baptismal regeneration" hymn that brooks no wishy-washiness about what Scripture testfies about the sacrament. There are hymns about the three uses of the law and sanctification that rebut the "radical Lutheran" thesis that there is no place for law in a life based on the gospel. And there's a hymn about objective justification that defends that doctrine against its deniers within Lutheranism. Polemics are nobody's idea of chicken soup for the soul, but maybe when you're struggling with a doctrine, a ditty that explains it head-on might really hit the spot.

Seventh, this collection of hymns includes a bunch of prayers that really ask for things – something that too many so-called prayers forget to do. When you need help praying for these public, personal or churchly concerns, these hymns will be there for you. I've already mentioned some of them. How about prayers for people in uniform, for church meetings, for good preaching, for students of theology, or for the pastor? How about various times of life including looking for a husband or wife, raising kids, and getting old? There's a prayer for each of them that you can read in private or sing as a group.

Eighth, if all this sounds heavy and serious and oppressive and dull, and all that's missing from really picking you up is a little lightness or a sense of humor, this book risks a little silliness in a good cause. There are a couple musical jokes embedded in it, if you know where to look. For example, a children's bedtime hymn has a tune that intentionally flips "Twinkle, twinkle" upside down. And since I mention children's hymns, there are a lot more of them in this book than in UH (which, I believe, had only three). And they're all a little goofy, in what I hope is an edifying way that parents and teachers can appreciate and, hopefully, children down to a fairly early age can learn.

Ninth, hardly anyone writes hymns for teenagers. Christian pop songs, maybe; mind-dulling ditties, certainly; but hymn-like hymns that give them something to chew on and think about, that answer their questions and build them up in a particular way that suits their time of life? Not so much. So I put five of them in this book, including one that explains the seasons of the church year, one about hungering for the Sacrament of the Altar, and one about living "set apart" from the world. Youth leaders may have difficulty grasping the concept, but I was a kid once, too, and as a former kid, I can bear witness that this is the kind of song some kids desperately need.

Tenth, I'd like to plug the "Luther's Small Catechism in Melody" that I included in this book. It won't be everybody's cup of tea. But if a catechist or pastor can read notes, and the kids in their confirmation class can more or less carry a tune, they might try this musical method for memorizing the Six Chief Parts and the Daily Prayers from LSC. When I wrote these melodies about 20 years ago, I tried hard to create memorable tunes that required no accompaniment to make musical sense and that fit the structure and character of the words, so they could really work as an aid to memory. Also, I snuck in some musical jokes, like a "Thou shalt not steal" whose melody is stolen from a well-known musical work – an idea (the gag, I mean) that I stole from Haydn. Like I said, it's not for everybody; some classes may not have the pipes or the musical skills to use it. But it's an idea that, for those who can use it, I think may help teach the pattern of sound words to the next generation. And what could be more beneficial for the building up of the church?

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Edifying Hymns: Tune Meter Index

And here is the list of tunes organized by the size of their meter, both in number of lines per stanza and number of syllables per line. Useful Hymns had one of these, too. This time, however, I'm eliminating the hymn numbers because it's not as if you're going to look one up, is it? And if you're counting tunes and find that their number doesn't come up to the number of texts, that's because I also reuse the same tunes multiple times within the book. I'm nothing if not frugal.
4 lines
... St. Columbia
... St. Cecilia
... Kocher
... Ack, vad är dock livet här
... Formation
... Lasst uns alle fröhlich sein
... Litany
... Plenus dierum
... Scheffler
... Vineyard
... Sollt es gleich bisweilen scheinen
CM (8686)
... Advent IV
... New Britain
... Assumption
... Debenham
... Hjem jeg længes
... Stuttgart
LM (8888)
... Axion Arnion
... Bloomington
... Erhalt uns, Herr
... Ex nihilo
... Her kommer dine arme smaa
... Kedron
... Puer nobis nascitur
... Refreshment
... Rex Christe, factor omnium
... St. Oswald
8 10 8 10
... Exsurgat Deus
... Kerygma
... Rung
... Committal
... Gesimatide
10 10 10 10
... Service
... Song 22
10 11 10 11
... Blake
11 10 D (11 10 11 10)
... Hyvyyden voima
... Kleinig
11 11 11 11
... Foundation

5 lines
... Travelling On
86 886
... Pax celeste
887 87
... Thanksgiving
8888 6
... Holy Ones
10 10 10 10 10
... Antiquus dierum

6 lines
76 88 76
... Lament
775 D (775 775)
... Bedtime
7777 66
... Joyful Noise
7777 77 or 777 D (777 777)
... Couillard
... Voller Wunder
7878 78
... Fatherly Love
8686 77
... Peace with God
8686 86
... Ford Cottage
8686 88
... Erfurt
... O Jesu, warum legst du mir
877 D (877 877)
... Ach, was soll ich Sünder machen
8787 87
... Paschal blood [iambic]
... Picardy [trochaic]
886 D (CPM – 886 886)
... Allgütiger, mein Presigegang
887 D (887 887)
... Naglet til et Kors
... Paa sit Kors
8888 86
... Remnant
8888 88 or 888 888
... All Ehr und Lob
... Efficacy
... Gratia coronam
... Ioannes
... Iron Hub
... Leitourgia
... Melita
... Seminary
... Seven Words
8888 10 10
... Increase My Faith
... Pistos
966 D (966 966)
... Emancipation
9897 88
... Inheritance
10 10 10 D (10 10 10 10 10 10)
... Unde et memores
... Yorkshire

7 lines
7777 777
... Singen wir aus Herzens Grund
866 8886
... Come, bear with Christ
8787 337
... Meine Hoffnung
8787 847
... Maria, hun er en Jomfru ren
8884 484
... Untested

8 lines
6666 D (6666 6666)
... Healing
7676 6776
... Zeuch ein
7676 D (7676 7676)
... Arise from Death
... Herzlich tut mich erfreuen
... Herzlich tut mich verlangen
... Munich
... Pay heed
... Regeneration
... Signs and Wonders
7877 D (7877 7877)
... Il est né
7878 D (7878 7878)
... Holy Desire
8787 8586
... Laetamini iusti
... Winged Verses (last line repeated)
8787 D (8787 8787)
... Faith Allison
... Galilean
... Würzburg
8787 8877
... Du, o schönes Weltgebäude
... Jesu, meines Lebens Leben (1)
... Jesu, meines Lebens Leben (2)
LMD (8888 D or 8888 8888)
... Abecedarian
... Immense Immortal
... Maskil
... Mysterious Might
... O grosser Gott
... Peterborough
... Second Sixth
... Selah
9999 D (9999 9999)
... Opening
10 7 10 7 D (10 7 10 7 10 7 10 7)
... Holy Angel
10 9 10 9 D (10 9 10 9 10 9 10 9)
... God Is Love

9 lines
8787 85866
... Winged Verses
8787 875 87
... Hallgrímur
8787 88887
... Laretta

10 lines
6666 8888 88
... Justification
7676 7676 88
... Four Angels

14 lines
7777 7777 7777 77
... Gott der Vater, wohn uns bei

Edifying Hymns: Tune Name Index

Here's where I list the hymn tunes used in E.H. more or less alphabetically (sorry, alphabetizing is big kid stuff). For a similar index of U.H., click here. You might notice some of the same tunes named on both lists; I recycle and reuse, both with my original tunes and some historic ones. The names after the ellipses are sources of tunes, by which you can judge how many of my own tunes went into this book vs. other sources. Also, be aware that the names (Theo) Kavouras, (Alan) Kornacki, (Andy) Richard and (Tapani) Simojoki refer to present-day composers who let me use their tunes and even, in a couple of cases, wrote them on purpose for hymns in this book. And by the way, pictured here is an arrangement of the tune PICARDY that was actually the last creative touch I added to this book – perhaps the first piece of music I ever composed on a scoring program, without pounding it out on the piano and/or writing it down by hand. I hope it doesn't suffer to much from that.
Abecedarian ... Fish
Ach, was soll ich Sünder machen ... Altdorf
Ack, vad är dock livet här ... Stockholm
Advent IV ... Fish
All Ehr und Lob ... Strassburg
Allgütiger, mein Preisgegang ... Weimar
Antiquus dierum ... Fish
Arise from Death ... Fish
Assumption ... Fish
Axion Arnion ... Fish

Bedtime ... Fish
Blake ... Fish
Bloomington ... Fish

Come, bear with Christ ... Fish
Committal ... Fish
Couillard ... Fish

Debenham ... Redhead
Du, o schönes Weltgebäude ... Crüger

Efficacy ... Fish
Emancipation ... Fish
Erfurt ... Ilse
Erhalt uns, Herr ... Wittenberg
Ex nihilo ... Fish
Exsurgat Deus ... Fish

Faith Allison ... Kornacki
Fatherly Love ... Fish
Ford Cottage ... Maker
Formation ... Fish
Foundation ... American
Four Angels ... Fish

Galilean ... Barnby
Gesimatide ... Fish
God Is Love ... Fish
Gott der Vater, wohn uns bei ... Wittenberg
Gratia coronam ... Kavouras

Hallgrímur ... Fish
Healing ... Fish
Her kommer dine arme smaa ... Schulz
Herzlich tut mich erfreuen ... Wittenberg (alt.)
Herzlich tut mich verlangen ... Hassler
Hjem jeg længes ... Lindeman
Holy Angel ... Fish
Holy Desire ... Fish
Holy Ones ... Fish
Hyvyyden voima ... Melartin

Il est né ... French
Immense Immortal ... Fish
Increase My Faith ... Fish
Inheritance ... Fish
Ioannes ... Simojoki
Iron Hub ... Fish

Jesu, meines Lebens Leben (1) ... Darmstadt
Jesu, meines Lebens Leben (2) ... Weissnitzer
Joyful Noise ... Fish
Justification ... Fish

Kedron ... Walker
Kerygma ... Fish
Kleinig ... Fish
Kocher ... Knecht

Laetamini iusti ... Richard
Lament ... Fish
Laretta ... Fish
Lasst uns alle fröhlich sein
Leitourgia ... Fish
Litany ... London

Maria, hun er en Jomfru ren ... Gebauer
Maskil ... Fish
Meine Hoffnung ... Neander
Melita ... Dykes
Munich ... Meiningen
Mysterious Might ... Fish

Naglet til et Kors ... Zinck
New Britain ... Walker

O grosser Gott ... Stuttgart
O Jesu, warum legst du mir ... Reimann
Opening ... Fish

Paa sit Kors ... Zinck
Paschal Blood ... Fish
Pax celeste ... Edinburgh
Pay heed ... Fish
Peace with God ... Fish
Peterborough ... Goss
Picardy ... French
Pistos ... Simojoki
Plenus dierum ... Fish
Puer nobis nascitur ... Praetorius

Refreshment ... Fish
Regeneration ... Fish
Remnant ... Fish
Rex Christe, factor omnium ... Plainchant
Rung ... Rung

Scheffler ... Breslau
Second Sixth ... Fish
Selah ... Fish
Seminary ... Fish
Service ... Fish
Seven Words ... Fish
Signs and Wonders ... Fish
Singen wir aus Herzens Grund ... Bohemian Brethren
Sollt es gleich bisweilen scheinen ... Fritsch
Song 22 ... Gibbons
St. Cecilia ... Hayne
St. Columbia ... Irons
St. Oswald ... Dykes
Stuttgart ... Gotha

Thanksgiving ... Fish
Travelling On ... Fish

Unde et memores ... Monk
Untested ... Fish

Vineyard ... Fish
Voller Wunder ... Ebeling

Winged Verses ... Fish
Würzburg ... Würzburg

Yorkshire (Stockport) ... Wainwright

Zeuch ein ... Crüger

Edifying Hymns: Contents

I sent my latest hymnal project off to Lulu Dot Com last night after putting some "finishing touches" (ha) on it, and I've ordered a proof copy so I can begin the arduous task of correcting the vast number of mistakes I'm sure I've made. I already know of one big oversight: omitting the accompaniment to the setting of the Divine Service that I meant to tack on as a final appendix. Anyway, here's the table of contents – understanding that the hymn numbers resume where Useful Hymns left off, and that there is also an appendix of hymn tune harmonizations, a preface, a TOC, and the text, tune and metrical indexes just like last time. Since I started it a while ago and have been keeping it updated since then, click here for the index of the hymn texts.
223. Opening Hymn
224. Hymn on the Word of God
225. The Word Becoming Flesh
226. Parables of Christ
227. Miracles of Christ
228. Dignus est Agnus: Revelation 5:12
229. Epistles of Paul
230. Psalm 119 Hymn
231. Objective Justification
232. Interpretation of Scripture (1)
233. Interpretation of Scripture (2)
234. On the Efficacy of God’s Word
235. Sola Gratia Hymn (2)
236. Conversion and Election
237. Mystery Hymn
238. Theology of the Cross
239. Baptismal Regeneration
240. Three Uses of the Law
241. Sanctification Hymn
242. Lightening Hymn
243. Assumption Hymn
244. Lament Hymn
245. Consolation Hymn
246. Hymn for Joy
247. Hymn for Beauty
248. Creative Endeaavors
249. Hymn on the Wounds of Christ
250. Forward Hymn
251. Peace with God
252. Word and Sacrament
253. Contentment Hymn
254. ‘God Is Love’ Hymn
255. Brotherly Love Hymn
256. Christmas Prayer for the Lonely
257. Christmas Carol
258. Sacramental Christmas Hymn
259. Incarnation Hymn
260. Hymn for the Epiphany Season
261. Hymn for Pre-Lent
262. Hymn for the Easter Season
263. All Saints’ Day Hymn
264. Confession of St. Peter
265. Hymn for Saints’ Days
266. On Faithful Womanhood: 1 Timothy 2:9-15
267. Ruth: Faith and Justification
268. Against the Christian’s Threefold Foe
269. John the Baptist Hymn
270. Seven Deadly Sins
271. Miserere: Psalm 51
272. Passion According to St. Matthew
273. Passion According to St. Mark
274. Passion According to St. Luke
275. Passion According to St. John
276. Seven Last Words of Christ
277. Changes in Life
278. Prayer About Late-Stage Dementia
279. Cancer Hymn
280. For the Terminally Ill
281. After a Loved One’s Suicide
282. For Help Against a Besetting Sin
283. For Unbelieving Loved Ones
284. The Walk of Faith
285. Mothers Hymn
286. Fathers Hymn
287. For Grieving Parents
288. Prayer for the Imprisoned
289. Prayer for the Addicted
290. Prayer About Poverty
291. Prayer for Political Leaders
292. For Peace and Public Safety Officers
293. For Service Personnel and Veterans
294. Prayer for Caregivers
295. Prayer About Civic Duty
296. Prayer to Open Church Meetings
297. Prayer to Close Church Meetings
298. Prayer About a Church Divided
299. Prayer About Mistreated Ministers
300. For Persecuted Christians
301. For Good Preaching
302. For the Liturgy
303. For Students of Theology
304. Evangelism Hymn
305. Prayer of the Pastor
306. Prayer for the Pastor
307. Prayer for a Pious Mate
308. Childbearing Hymn
309. Parents’ Prayer for Their Children
310. Education Hymn
311. Business Hymn
312. Hymn for the Aged
313. Thanksgiving for Animal Friends
314. Thanksgiving for Health Restored
315. Thanksgiving for Divine Love
316. Thanksgiving for Faithful Ministry
317. Acrostic Psalm: A to D
318. Acrostic Psalm: E to H
319. Acrostic Psalm: I to L
320. Acrostic Psalm: M to P
321. Acrostic Psalm: Q to T
322. Acrostic Psalm: U to Z
323. Hymn About the Church Year
324. Hymn for Hungry Young Saints
325. ‘Set Apart’ Hymn
326. Transformation Hymn
327. Encouragement Hymn
328. Hymn for Sleepy Little Heads
329. ‘Ask, Seek, Knock’ Hymn
330. Hymn for Little Running Feet
331. ‘Ephphatha’ Hymn for Little Ears
332. ‘Peekaboo’ Hymn for Little Eyes
333. A Grabby, Grubby Children’s Hymn
334. A Silly, Smelly Children’s Hymn
335. A Noisy Children’s Hymn
336. Pétursson: Jesus Forsaken
337: Pétursson: Before Herod
338. Kleinig: ‘Here We Have Come’
339. Kleinig: ‘Travelling On’
340. Andy Richard: ‘Increase My Faith’
341. Andy Richard: Christmas Hymn
342. Alan Kornacki, Jr.: Trinity 23 Hymn
343. Alan Kornacki, Jr.: Advent 4 Hymn
344. Alan Kornacki, Jr.: Service Hymn
345. Alan Kornacki, Jr.: Holy Saturday Hymn
346. The Ten Commandments & Their Meanings
347. The Apostles’ Creed & Its Meaning
348. The Our Father & Its Meaning
349. The Sacrament of Holy Baptism
350. The Office of the Keys & Confession
351. The Sacrament of the Altar
352. Daily Prayers
353. Kyrie
354. Gloria in excelsis
355. Laudamus te
356. Salutation
357. Alleluias
358. Laus tibi
359. Gloria tibi
360. Offertory
361. Communion Preface
362. Sanctus and Benedictus
363. Agnus Dei
364. Nunc dimittis
365. Benediction

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

313. John the Baptist Hymn

This hymn, designed to accompany an Advent midweek sermon series that I think would be great idea (although I don't have a particular one in mind), falls under the rubric "Use the first and last stanza each week and insert the relevant pair of stanzas in between." Bits of it could also be used for various feasts relating to John. And by the way, I've decided this will be the last new hymn added to Edifying Hymns, so I can get that book out at last, perhaps within the next month or two. I've been making some "final" layout decisions today, including exactly what page this hymn will go on, moving a few hymns around to avoid having page breaks separate stanzas of a hymn, and replacing placeholder hymn numbers with the real deal. I'm excited! But let's focus here. The tune I have in mind for this hymn is PUER NOBIS NASCITUR (the tune my mind associates with "On Jordan's bank the baptist's cry").
With John, the messenger foretold,
Stamped from Elijah's prophet mold,
The church beholds the Lamb whose blood
Absorbs us in the grace of God.

(The young baptist)
For doubting that such child would come,
His priestly father was struck dumb.
From barren soil and stricken well
God called a seer to Israel.

Unborn, John knew the mother's voice
Of Him in whom the saints rejoice.
His own her infant's leap perceived
And, in the Spirit, she believed.

(The forerunner)
Soft garments and rich food he scorned
While John of pending judgment warned.
He bade the crowd, ere time was spent,
To bathe in Jordan and repent.

"For after me comes One," he said,
"Whose edge and flame the fruitless dread."
Of Christ John also said, "Behold!
He bears the sin of all the world!"

(The baptizer)
When Jesus, taking up His task,
Saw fit the baptist's rite to ask,
He thus perfected righteousness
And gave all water pow'r to bless.

Then Jesus from the water strode;
The Father spoke; the Spirit showed;
And John at last knew Christ to own
God's fullness as His own dear Son.

(On the decrease)
John, knowing that he must recede
As word of Jesus spread with speed,
Yet bore bold witness, till the wife
Of Herod bargained for his life.

Cut off before he saw the plan
Fulfilled, regarding which he ran,
That new Elijah showed he knew:
God's promises are sure and true.

(Concluding stanza)
Now John, the final measure giv'n,
Is our forerunner into heav'n
Where, ev'ry blemish washed away,
We'll see the Lamb's triumphal day.

Monday, October 18, 2021

312. Brotherly Love Hymn

The thought of this hymn brewed in my mind during a recent Bible class about the biblical definition of, and response to, racism—as distinguished from the "woke" definition, which is unchristian. I'm not thinking about a particular tune at this time, but there are so many in this meter that I'm not worried about it. (EDIT: I ended up chosing the chorale MUNICH, as in "O Word of God incarnate.") The second and fourth stanzas were the first ones that I worked on, but the material rearranged itself as its shape unfolded.
O Lord, You are the Giver,
The Answerer of prayers,
And we, the chosen children
Adopted as Your heirs.
Train us, try us, befitting
The discipline of sons,
Nor let us scorn another
Who in the strait way runs.

O Lord, You are the Potter.
Behold, we are the clay:
Your handiwork, Your vessel
Turned each Your chosen way.
However You have formed us,
Help us to trust Your love
And count each other precious,
Below as up above.

If we, Lord, are Your temple,
You are the Holy One,
The sacrifice perfected
By Your begotten Son.
So when we look about us,
Help us see Your redeemed:
Each face, however featured,
Both cherished and esteemed.

O Lord, we are the branches.
Behold, You are the Vine:
Your word of grace the lifeblood
Without which we would pine.
Wherever we had sprouted,
Whatever we had done,
Teach us to share the purpose
That grafted us in one.

And so, dear Father, prune us
And mold us as You will.
Dear Son, who has redeemed us,
With pure blood daub us still.
Dear Spirit, who bears witness
And helps dumb spirits pray,
Unite our hearts to praise You
Here and in Your great day.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Monday Morning Dreams

I woke up this morning from another really weird dream. I was a member of a delegation to some foreign culture. Our group seemed to be left waiting over-long in some kind of anteroom before being ushered into a banquet area where the tables were really low to the floor, which was smooth hardwood but, for some reason, wasn't level.

In fact, on my side of the table, the floor started sloping steeply downhill, so that I had a hard time kneeling without sliding away from the table. I don't remember exactly what the food was like, except that there were several varieties of finger food being served from communal plates and that I quickly became frustrated with the difficulty of picking up a piece of food while still remaining in control of my kneeling position. It seems like the kind of scenario that would make for a good fish-out-of-water, slapstick comedy.

Also, and I feel bad about this, I seem to have banged a member of my group in the face with a door while being ushered into dinner. Once again, exactly what skills my brain is trying to develop with this dream curriculum, I can't even begin to guess.

The Zombie Parade

The Last Kids on Earth and the Zombie Parade
by Max Brallier
illustrated by Douglas Holgate
Recommended Ages: 11+

Jack and his friends Quint, June and Dirk may, for all they know, be the only humans to survive the monster apocalypse. They live together in a treehouse in the backyard of Jack's most recent foster family, whom he hasn't seen since stuff started going down. They survive by raiding shops for food and supplies and either fighting or running when they meet zombies or other people-eating creatures. Among their assets are a pet monster dog named Rover, a truck called Big Mama, a broken baseball bat that Jack calls the Louisville Slicer, and their own combined strengths of brains, brawn and bravery.

Their lonely landscape changes one day when a humanoid monster named Thrull saves them from, um, Wormungulus at the shopping mall. Thrull leads them to Joe's Pizza, which has become a meeting place for similar creatures, refugees from another dimension that was drained of life by a dude I'll call Rezzoch the Ancient, Destructor of Worlds, although the actual spelling of his name has lots of non-standard characters in it. The kids learn that Rezzoch is trying to find a way into their already monster-challenged world, which in a weird way kind of explains why zombies are starting to become scarce around town. Someone is summoning them together with a shriek that acts on zombies like the Pied Piper's piping acted on rats. Summoning them, sucking their brains out and feeding them to an awful, animated tree in a ritual intended to bring Rezzoch into our dimension. Yuck.

The kids find themselves with a task that they hope will help in the fight against evil in their world, but unwittingly they become pawns in Rezzoch's evil plan. With one of his best friends' life at stake, not to mention all life in the universe, Jack goes into full action hero mode to face down a vile betrayer and fight a power so vast that it deserves the moniker "destructor of worlds." Meanwhile, he has to learn to balance his instinct to protect his friends with the ability to trust them and let them do their part as well.

It's a monstrously funny, kid-friendly book full of surprises and touches of hopeful humanity amid the post-apocalyptic horror. Jack is kind of a silly kid, but he knows it and that makes him fun to be around, most of the time. His friends complement him well. His goofy attachment to his zombie "butler," dubbed Alfred, is weirdly touching. And despite his mistakes, he looks like he's well on his way to becoming a great leader, a process that will be fun to follow in future books.

This is the second "Last Kids on Earth" graphic novel by this writer-artist team. Subsequent sequels include The Nightmare King, The Cosmic Beyond, The Midnight Blade, The Skeleton Road, The Doomsday Race and the upcoming Quint and Dirk's Hero Quest. There are also a couple of companion books, including a survival guide and June's Wild Flight. Brallier's other illustrated books for kids include Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse?, Highway to Hell, three "Galactic Hot Dogs" books, two "Lego Nexo Knights Academy" books, three "Mister Shivers" stories, a couple of "Adventure Time" books, and a few non-fiction titles. Credited as Jack Chabert, he also writes the "Eerie Elementary" books.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Bad Luck and Trouble

Bad Luck and Trouble
by Lee Child
Recommended Ages: 15+

I'm not going to re-explain who Jack Reacher is; to catch up with the class, see my previous reviews of Lee Child's books, or poke your head out from under a rock sometime. Let's say he's an old friend who's good to have at your back when things go sideways. That's certainly the case for his old Special Investigations unit from back in his days as a major in the U.S. Army's military police. One day, when Jack checks his bank balance at an ATM, he discovers an anomaly, and it's really interesting how he deduces that it's a message from a member of his old unit. With only a little more information about her whereabouts, he finds her pretty quickly. He's still got 'em, those MP skills. And he'll need them, and the skills of any other surviving members of the old unit, because at least one of them has been murdered in a truly horrible way and the others are missing.

Eventually, it turns out that only half of the team is really in trouble. By the time the other half gets back together, they're on their way to figuring out what led to their buddies' bodies turning up, one by one, in the desert east of Los Angeles with every sign of having fallen from 3,000 feet. Helicopters are involved, obviously, but there has to be more. A reason that four seasoned, capable security experts, working together, would go out that way. A reason somehow connected to a mystery man traveling under a series of aliases, seven columns of numbers indicating some kind of fraud, four men's homes being ransacked and maybe – Reacher and Co. gradually begin to suspect – a workplace full of sensitive Department of Defense secrets.

Reacher and his sometime associates Neagley, O'Donnell and Dixon make a terrific team, but they're only starting to pick up pieces of the puzzle when bad guys start making serious attempts on their lives. But that's all right, because they're good at turning the tables, and their plan from word one has been to do unto the throwers-out-of-helicopters what they did to their brothers. They're up against ruthless, brutal forces – possibly even a threat to world peace and security – but these folks are pretty ruthless and brutal themselves, and they're able and willing to disturb the peace and security of whosever world the situation requires. By the end, the situation will require sneakiness, precise timing, risky choices on which tens of thousands of lives might depend, and (no big shock, if you've been following the Reacher series) an expertly timed acceleration of breathtaking violence.

This is the 11th of 24 Jack Reacher novels by British American author Lee Child, who retired from writing the series last year and turned it over to his brother Andrew Grant, a.k.a. Andrew Child (cf. The Sentinel and Better Off Dead) – although Lee continues to be credited as an author. I've given up on trying to read the series in order and have begun just filling books in as I find them lying around. So far, I haven't found continuity issues to be an impendiment to enjoying these books in any order. The next handful that I have on deck are One Shot (No. 9), A Wanted Man (No. 17) and Make Me (No. 20). Unapologetically "commercial" in style, these books nevertheless are lean, effective, satisfying pieces of entertainment with loads of popular appeal and, while they'll probably never be on anyone's list of cherished literary treasures, they do make a fun change of pace now and then. Eventually, I might even veer from my policy of not reading series past the point where their original author passed the baton to someone else, since I've enjoyed Grant's books so far and imagine that he'd do a great job with Reacher, too.


by Sarah Prineas
Recommended Ages: 10+

Despite having saved the city of Wellmet multiple times, young wizard Connwaer still hasn't figured out where he belongs. Starting when he picked the pocket of the learned wizard Nevery, he has transformed from a thief and gutterboy to perhaps the most important wizard in town. Nevertheless, not everybody is ready to give him credit for pulling himself out of the gutter. Conn understands, and can sort of communicate with, the two magical beings – something like dragons that have grown past the limits of their physical form – that provide power for all the magic done in town. But the two magics aren't settling down properly, and magic isn't working properly. But some of the local magisters – members of the council of wizards – still don't believe any of this stuff about magics being alive. And now someone is stealing the other wizards' locus stones, which they're all quite ready to pin on him. Worse, whoever it is may also be the reason the magics haven't settled, and if they keep up whatever they're doing, they could destroy the whole city – not that anyone believes Conn when he says so.

Most confusing of all, Conn's best friend is now the duchess, and she wants Conn to be her ducal magister. But that means forcing him into a position where he's sure he doesn't belong, and taking him away from a home where he fits, with Nevery and his servant Benet. With the magisters suspecting him of anything and everything, Rowan counting on him to help her balance the city's power, palace guards chasing him on the Sunrise side of the river and his cousin Ember keeping tabs on him in the Twilight, Conn feels boxed in right when he needs room to look around, figure out how to calm the magics and solve the mystery of the stolen stones. But despite scoring promising leads by talking with mudlarks and the chimney sweeps, the he doesn't discover true shape of what's going on until it might be too late to save the city.

Conn has been a wonderful hero to follow, and his adventures take place in a delightful, well-drawn fantasy worldscape. From his heartwarming and quirky relationships – including a tiny dragon he calls Pip – to the convincingly odd names of spells in the ancient dragon language, his creator shows tremendous imagination at a fine level of detail as well as world-building on a continental scale. At a range of either one book or a series of four, she also demonstrates the ability to turn a well-shaped story. Heck, she even (finally) persuaded me to learn the magisters' runes so I could decode the secret messages sprinkled throughout this book, a step I'm usually content to forgo. So, although this book brings many plot lines to a critical resolution, the only thing I would regret is not getting another chance to visit Conn's world.

This is the fourth book in the "Magic Thief" quartet, following The Magic Thief, Lost and Found. Sarah Prineas is also the author of several other YA fantasy and sci-fi titles, including Trouble in the Stars, Winterling, The Scroll of the King and more.

Monday, October 4, 2021

The Addams Family 2

Last night at the local movie theater, I had a choice between this sequel to a movie I saw and enjoyed (sorry, I seem to have neglected to review it here); the sequel to a movie I didn't see and most likely wouldn't enjoy (Venom) and, urk, Dear Evan Hansen again, about which the only good thing I've heard said is that the music is great (but then, I've also heard that it isn't, and the one snippet of music included in the trailer sounded pretty Autotuney). So, obviously, I went to see the above title. And it was fine, sometimes even fun.

The Addamses take a cross country road trip because family patriarch Gomez is worried that he's missing an opportunity to connect with his cool, standoffish daughter, Wednesday. They take off in a cross between a nightmare mansion and an RV, while Uncle Fester slowly transforms into a giant octopus (don't ask), Pugsley struggles to figure out how to impress girls, and a shyster lawyer pursues them, claiming that Wednesday was switched at birth with somebody else's daughter. The shyster's client turns out to be a mad scientist, which of course doesn't rule out the possibility that he really is Wednesday's father, but the togetherness of the whole Addams family is now on the line and they all have to pitch in, in their bizarre, macabre way, to save it.

Some of the dialogue is brilliant; some isn't. Most of the gags work; some don't. It does break out into territory I don't remember the Addams family exploring before, and I think it mostly pays off. It's ghoulishly funny, with Wednesday's peculiar brand of deadpan irony being a consistent highlight. It has serious vocal talent behind the cartoon faces, too. Chloë Grace Moretz plays her, supported by Oscar Isaac and Charlize Theron as Gomez and Morticia, Nick Kroll (Prof. Poopypants in Captain Underpants) as Fester, Bette Midler as Grandmamma, Conrad Vernon (the Gingerbread Man in the Shrek movies) as Lurch, Snoop Dogg as Cousin Itt, Wallace Shawn (Vizzini in The Princess Bride) as the lawyer, and Bill Hader (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) as the mad scientist.

Unfortunately, at least two of the Three Scenes That Made It For Me were all ones I remembered from the trailer: (1) Lurch launching into a rendition of "I Will Survive" in an outlaw biker bar, (2) Wednesday using her voodoo doll to force Pugsley to throw himself over Niagara falls, and (3) Wednesday's Carrie-style revenge on the other contestants in the cowgirl beauty pageant she is forced to participate in.

A bonus Moment That Made It For Me: I just want to give a shout-out to the local theater that gave me a free, small pack of peanut butter M&Ms, a cup of Diet Pepsi and a seat in the "cry room" above the projection booth when a piece of popcorn got stuck in my throat and I had to flee the theater out of consideration for the other patrons. The sticky candy and the bubbly drink did help relieve the irritation in my throat, and the view from above was an interesting perspective from which to watch the film.

The Alcatraz Escape

The Alcatraz Escape
by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
Recommended Ages: 12+

Emily, her best friend James, her older brother Matthew and several of their friends have made it into book publisher and game designer Garrison Griswold's latest contest – "Unlock the Rock," an evening of puzzles and mysteries on the historic prison island of Alcatraz – but despite their previous record of solving unbreakable puzzles and achieving challenges no one else even knew about, the group is in for an even bigger challenge this time.

A legendary, but reclusive, mystery author has come out of hiding to participate in the adventure. Another well-known writer has gotten involved for reasons of her own. A win-at-all-costs wunderkind is making things unpleasant for Emily on a personal level. Someone is leaving threatening notes for the kids, and someone is trying to sabotage the game for them, even going as far as framing Matthew for theft. And that's all before Emily becomes trapped in an off-limits area that dials the creepiness of the old penitentiary the next level.

Some of the puzzles are red herrings. Some of the clues are connected with unsolved mysteries – like, what happened to Harriet Beecher Stowe's son Frederick, last heard from in 1871? And what became of the only three prisoners ever to escape from Alcatraz without being found or captured? These old mysteries intertwine with the present-day puzzles facing the kids, and a lot hangs on the puzzles being solved fast. It's a clever story for kids who like secret codes, books, history, mystery and mildly creepy atmospherics. It also touches on themes of bullying, cheating, loyalty and the loneliness of living with a secret.

This is the third book in the "Book Scavenger" series, following Book Scavenger and The Unbreakable Code.