Thursday, December 25, 2008

Monday, December 8, 2008

Fear the shoes.

This is the eldest daughter at her sword fighting lesson. It was bout night, and she is sparring with one of the instructors. We spend the whole day in Tulsa on sword fighting nights, and before we leave town we remind her to wear appropriate clothing for fencing. I guess that means girlie red shoes and velvet pants. (Thanks to Marc Carlson for picture.)

Tulsa's Oldest House

Cross-posted from Tulsa Architectural History.

This is the oldest surviving house in Tulsa. It belonged to Reverend Sylvester Morris, a Methodist missionary, who founded many churches in and around Tulsa, including St. Paul's Methodist on Cherry Street. This house was built in the mid 1880s (the Tulsa Historical Society says 1885). Given that the railroad didn't arrive until 1882, that makes this house pretty early. The house is a simple framed building in the "Folk Style". It was originally located in the 400 block of North Cheyenne. It was moved to Owen Park in 1976, after being discovered by the local historian Beryl Ford. Sadly it is in an extremely neglected condition, with the windows and doors boarded over. As the picture at the Tulsa Preservation Commission website shows, when it was first moved, it still had doors and windows. Perhaps Owen Park is not the best place for this monument. The "new" building for the Tulsa Historical Society or Gilcrease Museum are two possible locations that would be better suited.

Ford identified the building, in part by, the unusual chimney. He also reportedly found letters addressed to Morris in the walls of the building. This picture shows the Morris family on the back porch of the house. Although the house in this picture has obvious similarities to the house in Owen Park, I find it interesting that the side door pictured here is nowhere in evidence in the Owen Park house. The missing door, however, could have easily been boarded over in the intervening years. (Photo provided courtesy of Beryl Ford Collection/Rotary Club of Tulsa, Tulsa City-County Library and Tulsa Historical Society.)

The Reverend Morris story had a sad end. In 1907, while returning home late one evening, two lawmen mistook him for a whiskey peddler. The lawmen called for him to stop, but either the elderly man did not hear them, or thought that they were highway robbers, and did not stop. The lawmen fired seven shots, two of which struck Morris, killing him. The horses, knowing the way, continued home, bearing the the pioneer's corpse. The killing caused a furor in Tulsa. The two marshals were indicted for murder, but were eventually acquitted.

Here's a final picture of the backside of the house. Thanks to my brother, for acting as my photo slave.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

On Christmas songs

Here is where I prove that I spend way too much thought on trivial matters.

We have reached the time of year when you can go nowhere without having Christmas music thrust at you. There is always at least one radio station playing nothing else. Invariably I will work with people who want to listen to it. Sometimes the Anglican in me wants to scream "IT'S NOT CHRISTMAS, IT'S ADVENT." For those of you who come from religious backgrounds that don't follow the liturgical year, Advent is the season that precedes Christmas. It is a season of preparation. It is a time for sober reflection and contemplation. And a daily piece of small candy. It is not a time for "Holly Jollies".

That rant aside, several years ago while listening to all of the Christmas music, I came to realize that "Christmas" music comes in several categories that can be arranged in order of decreasing relevance to the actual holiday of Christmas. I have inflicted this categorization on my family for several years, and now feel that it is time to inflict it on my readers. All three of you.

Category One: These are the true Christmas songs. Songs about the birth of the Christ, and all that attended it. If it's about the baby in the manger, the shepherds, the wise men, the star, the choruses of angels, or any mix of the above, it belongs in this category. Examples include "Silent Night", "Away in the Manger", "O Come, All Ye Faithful" and "We Three Kings". This category also includes songs that include events that are not in the Gospel accounts, but are still about the birth of Jesus, "The Little Drummer Boy", for example .

Category Two: These are songs about the secular trappings of Christmas; Santa Claus, his elves and reindeer, Christmas trees, presents, Caroling and the like. Example include "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer", "O Christmas Tree", and "Deck the Halls".

Category Three: This is a slippery category. It is for songs that are about Christmas, but not any particular aspect of it. They may rely on secular imagery such as Christmas trees, but they are there just to set the scene. The central message is "Gee isn't Christmas wonderful". Examples include "White Christmas", 'I'll Be Home for Christmas", and "Chestnuts roasting on an open Fire". One subset of these songs is the songs that use Christmas as backdrop for commentary on the singer's love life, "Blue Christmas", for example.

Category Four: These are Christian songs that are not about Christmas, that somehow have been attracted to Christmas. Examples include "Joy to the World"(a song celebrating the coming of the Saviour, but not about His birth.), "The Halleluia Chorus" (it's from the Easter cycle of The Messiah), "O Come, O Come Emanuel" (it's an Advent carol), and "Good King Wenceslaus" (it's about a Medieval Saint, but it mentions the Feast of St. Stephen, December 26).

Category Five: These are winter songs, they are not about Christmas at all, just winter. "Jingle Bells", "Let It Snow", "Winter Wonderland", etc.

Category Six: These are secular songs that have nothing at all to do with Christmas or winter that have somehow gotten attached to Christmas. The prime modern offender is "My Favorite Things" from the Sound of Music.

So there it is, my over analysis of Christmas music. Don't get me wrong though. I love Christmas music, or at least most of it. The unfortunate fact is that the majority of the Christmas music played on radio and in public places comes from categories five and three, with a smattering of of category two. Actual Christmas songs, those from category one, are largely banned and if they are found it is in instrumental versions. Oh well.