Fishtown’s snake man

Fishtown’s snake man

Sing Hallelujah

Lititz Moravian Church steeple

Fourteen months after my father was diagnosed with a brain tumor, he reached the latest milestone on his terrible journey: the point where food and drink were doing more harm than good; the beginning of the very end. There would be no cure, no miracle, and no experimental drug.

It was Sunday, May 23, 2010. The story of how a day with such a sad beginning came to such an inspiring end starts three days prior, when Jeff G, the former music director of Dad’s beloved Lititz Moravian Church, stopped by with a hymnal and an idea.

He wanted to play the Moravian Church organ and sing Dad’s favorite hymns—a private concert. It’s hard to imagine a better gift for a music lover and twenty year choir veteran who can’t move, see, or talk but who has not yet lost his hearing.

The next day we got a call from Jeff’s wife, Julie the Organizer: the concert was a go for Sunday evening. Oh, and the choir was going to come too. And then others started to call, asking for details. Someone volunteered to make cookies and punch. Someone else offered to swing by and take Dad’s recliner to the church. The church sound engineer decided to record everything.

On Sunday night, we buckled Dad into the wheelchair for his last trip.

When he got to the church, seventy five people were waiting: choir members, Moravian friends, Lutheran friends, Catholic friends, former co-workers, and neighbors. Jeff sat down at the organ he hadn’t played for a year and began with his favorite Moravian Hymn: Join We All With One Accord. And the choir, overflowing on folding chairs set up next to the alter, sang and cried and sang.

People called out the hymns they wanted Dad to hear, and we sang them. Sang because there was nothing else we could do. Sang to console ourselves and to give Dad one last gift of music.

After we finished with Sing Hallelujah, Praise the Lord (known in some circles as the Moravian National Anthem), Dad’s left foot stopped keeping time, and he gave the choir and his friends a thumbs-up, the only gesture of gratitude and appreciation he could muster. As everyone gathered around to greet him, his thumb rose again and again.

Dad died less than a week later, listening to the recording of his hymn sing, a celebration of friendship, faith, and community.

Join We All With One Accord
Sing Hallelujah, Praise the Lord

Goodnight, Moon Pappy

Moon Pappy

Moon Pappy

William H. S, of Lititz, died peacefully at home on May 29th after a year-long battle with brain cancer. Born on September 12, 1944, he was the son of the late Benjamin and Mildred S and is preceded in death by his brother, Robert. He is survived by Mary, his wife of 40 years.

William, known to most as Bill and to a few as “Moon Pappy,” was born and raised in Millerstown, PA, graduating as marching band member, class president, and valedictorian from Greenwood High School in 1962. He earned a BS in biology from Lycoming College in 1966 and then completed a year of training at Lancaster General Hospital’s School of Medical Technology, where he met his future wife.

Bill worked for three years at New Jersey’s Morristown Memorial Hospital. He spent most of his career as a medical technologist specializing in clinical chemistry at Lancaster General Hospital from 1971 – 1999. After retiring from LGH, he worked in the lab at Good Samaritan Hospital from 2000 – 2009. During his career, he also taught clinical chemistry at Lancaster General’s School of Medical Technology.

Reading, bird watching, science fiction, photography, gardening, traveling, and music were just a few of Bill’s passions, and they were reflected in his community life. An active member of the Lititz Moravian Church, Bill served on its Board of Elders and sang in the choir for over 20 years. He enjoyed being the church’s unofficial photographer. He was a board member of the Lititz Public Library for 12 years and during that time acted as Secretary, Vice President, and President. Each year, Bill looked forward to counting birds for the Audubon Society’s annual Christmas count. He had also volunteered at Franklin and Marshall’s North Museum as a docent.

Bill will be fondly remembered as a loving husband and father with an intelligent, humorous, quirky personality. Whether he was introducing his children to Star Trek, taking endless pictures of mush-rooms, or spinning his old Civic on top of the hospital parking garage, he lived the life of a unique individual.

In addition to his wife, Bill is survived by two children, Rebecca S, wife of Eric F, of Philadelphia and Daniel S, husband of Jes S, of Ephrata; a brother, Ronald of Harrisburg; a sister, Dolores of Mechanicsburg; and many nieces and nephews.

Dad and me

Dad and me

Jukebox the Ghost: Perfect Pop

As the years go by, I see less and less live music.  I wasn’t always such a curmudgeon, but  lately I get more out of listening to music at home than I do from braving the cold, cramming into a club, and listening to a few hours of opening bands only to be shoved aside by latecomers who didn’t want to listen to a few hours of opening bands.

This attitude is disappointing to Type E, who thinks I’m remiss in my wifely duty to attend shows with him.  He’s been nagging me to see Jukebox the Ghost since they released their first record in 2008, and when he learned that the band was making a Fishtown appearance at Johnny Brenda’s, subtle hints arrived in the form of catchy JTG mp3s mysteriously appearing in our shared Dropbox.

One of these catchy mp3s convinced me to make the oh-so-long walk to Johnny Brenda’s for the show.  Hold It In just might be the perfect pop song.

So much fun.  Jukebox the Ghost is a trio: guitar player, drummer, and keyboard player–the incredibly talented Ben Thornewill.  Luckily, we were in the balcony and could watch as he played the bass lines, played the leads, and sang, all while having fun with the audience.

Highlights of the show:  Hold It In (of course) and Temptation, a New Order cover performed with a joy that infected the entire audience.

Jukebox the Ghost is everything that’s good about Ben Folds, synthesizers, Europop, and The Beatles.  And, I’m sure, many other things I lack the musical background to identify.  But most importantly, they’re entertaining.  And isn’t that why you go out on a Saturday night?

Communist Crabs (Cute)

I’ve been going through old blog entries, tweaking them for this new(ish) space, and I came across yet another short animation link: La révolution des crabes by Arthur de Pins.

Pachygrapsus Marmoratus, a depressed crab species that “never asked to be put on Earth,” cannot turn, so they are doomed to forever walk sideways, always following the same path.  Some paths are better than others, so quality of life depends on where a crab happens to hatch.

This inability to change course is a species-wide bummer until a pseudo intellectual among them rises and instills pride into his fellow crabs by preaching the merits of straight-line walking.  As it turns out, however, the ability to turn and set a new course actually is possible for those smart enough and motivated enough to do it.   Somewhere along the way in this five minute piece, you realize the crabs are just a metaphor (the title is a giveaway), which makes the end slightly depressing.

Had I seen this 18 years ago, there would have been subsequent deep, late-night conversations about the symbolism and underlying philosophical and political themes.  Since I watched it now, however, I’ll just throw up the YouTube link and call it a night.

Surrealism in American Animation

Tonight, The Secret Cinema presented an amazing program of short cartoons:  Surrealism in American Animation.  Awesome, awesome, awesome, even if you don’t buy the program’s premise that surrealism in the cartoons of the 20’s and 30’s is related to the rise of Surrealist art.

Each piece in the program was a testament to the creativity of early animators, and I liked most of them better than Logorama, this year’s Oscar-winning animated short.*  Here are the toons I remember, and happily, most of them are on YouTube (although this format doesn’t do justice to many of the brilliant details).

  • Max Fleischer’s Dancing on the Moon:  newly-married animal couples ride the Honeymoon Express for some dancing (and necking, in the case of the giraffes).
  • Tex Avery’s King Size Canary (1947), in which a cat, a dog, a bird, and a mouse drink a bottle of Jumbo-Grow plant food.
  • Van Beuren’s Tom and Jerry–not the cat and mouse–Rocketeers (1932):  Tom and Jerry accidentally land in the deep sea and end up living the good life with mermaids.
  • Betty’s Museum (1932):  Betty Boop gets locked in a museum overnight.
  • Ub Iwerk’s Balloon Land (1935):  A land made of balloons is threatened by the evil “pin cushion man.”  Silly me–I thought Billy’s Balloon was about as twisted as balloon cartoons get.  Not so.
  • Music Land, a Disney Silly Symphony (1935):  The Isle of Jazz’s saxophone prince falls in love with the Land of Symphony’s violin princess.  Unfortunately, they are separated by the Sea of Discord, the prince is imprisoned in a metronome, and the two countries wage a battle of classical versus jazz.  There’s a happy ending!
  • Paul Terry’s The Magician (1927):  Secret Cinema showed this silent film with pre-recorded music and was kind enough to prevent audience confusion by explaining Tong Wars beforehand.  Sadly, I couldn’t find an online video for this cartoon about a cat who takes his girlfriend to Chinatown for chop suey.
  • To Spring (1936), a Happy Harmonies piece about the the little men who create Spring.  Interesting side note:  the Happy Harmonies name (and Merrie Melodies too) were derived from Disney’s very successful Silly Symphonies series.

The Secret Cinema event came two day’s after I saw Kristy Graybill of MiNDTV give a computer animation workshop at Philly’s Free Library.  As part of the discussion, Kristy pointed out that stories and artistic concepts trump animation tools and techniques.  So true.  Long live creative animation!

*The technical execution of Logorama is top-notch, and it’s a very clever way to display logos, but it lacks a good story.  It didn’t deserve to beat out some of the other nominees.