Monday, March 17, 2008

Just What We Need

Dave Barry's blog (this time posted by his so-called "stealth bloggerette" Judi) occasionally points in the direction of some pretty fun, funny, and downright outrageous gadgets and/or technological wonders.

Add to this growing list something called the "MediaCart" being developed by a company of the same name, and in conjunction with (cue evil Darth Vader theme) Microsoft.

It sounds great. But then, these things always sound great when described in a paper. The concept is to have your shopping cart become "interactive," which is geek-speak for "annoying as all get-out." This new cart will hook into the store's local network. Using maps and your shopping history, not to mention all the nutritional data for the items they sell, the cart would be able to help you navigate your way around the store, taking you directly to the items you need, and even helpfully suggesting recipes using the items in your cart.

I'm sure this would prove to be a boon for those moronic scatter-brained organizationally-challenged shoppers who never make shopping lists, never plan meals, and refuse to memorize the layout of their favorite market. For the rest of us, this thing sounds like a nightmare.

I do most of the shopping for Hacienda Woody. This is because of a tacit understanding between myself and Mrs. Woody that a) I am a pretty decent shopper when I have a list, and b) she makes lists. This does not take into account the fact that, without a list, I become the Congress of grocery shoppers. "Ooh. Pork! Gotta have me some o' that!" This is simply one of those "divisions of labor" that couples decide upon in a marriage out of love, mutual respect, and a desire to remain financially solvent until they retire.

My idea of a perfect shopping trip has three basic elements:

1. The List, lovingly provided by my Sweetheart.

2. The Store. Preferably the same store I've been haunting since moving to the Hacienda over six years ago. If I end up in another store, I'm lost. I have no idea where the cashews are in my local Vons, even when the aisle markers helpfully state "SNACK FOODS HERE, IDIOT." I'm too busy fretting that I'll never make it through my list. I don't see them! They must not have them! Grocery Store Anxiety. Look it up.

3. No Kids. I love my children. Really, I do. But taking them on a simple shopping trip is like being a department-store Santa on December 24th. It's a no-win situation. "Daaaaaddy! Can we get some of those?" "No." "But, Daaaaaaaddy...!" And so on. Plus, they fight over whose turn it is to push the cart. They started this particular argument, which has not been resolved to date, four years ago when neither one of them was tall enough to see over the top of the cart. I actually let Jelly push it one night and she immediately toppled over a display of champagne bottles, strategically placed in the same aisle as the bottled water, which was my original target. This did not deter her determination to push the cart, while simultaneously preventing her sister from having that privilege. No kids. Not in the store, anyway.

Now, instead of worrying about my kids, I get to worry about arguing with this technological infant ("But, Daaaaaddy!").

I'll grant you that keeping track of your cart total is a good thing for folks on a budget. I am less impressed, on the other hand, with store navigation.

I have a GPS. Flim-Flam, or Jungle Jim, or one of those. We programmed it with a very nice British female's voice. That way, she can nag me but it sounds cool. The problem is that I disagree with her frequently.
"After fifty yards, turn left."

Sorry, can't do that.

"Turn left. Now."

No, ma'am. Not gonna.

"Turn around now."


"Go back and turn where I told you, or I'll tell your wife about that milkshake you bought on the way home from work the other day."

Cute, but where you told me to turn is a ONE WAY GATE, AND WE'RE ON THE WRONG SIDE OF IT.
Anyway, I can't imagine some upstart shopping cart is going to improve on this process. Neither am I a huge fan of voice-activated anything.
Where're the eggs, please.

"Did you say... 'legs?'"


"Did you say... 'wigs?'"

You don't sell wigs.

"Wigs are on aisle 13."

Of course they are.

"May we interest you in today's special on pantyhose?"

Then there's this business of a "loyalty card." Apparently this card will allow one to "download shopping lists," along with recipe suggestions and — like we need this aggravation — diet checks.
"You know, you've put on an extra 5 pounds."

Have not.

"Oh, yes. I was chatting with your doctor's computer yesterday and you were in for your checkup. 5 pounds and your cholesterol is up another 12 points."


"May I suggest a nice Caesar salad tonight?"


"At least take a trip to the gym."

Get lost.
No, all things considered, I think we're better off without automated shopping carts.

"Rice cakes are fifty cents off today."

Go away, already.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

A Change in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir - UPDATED

(Hat Tip: MomZee, who stays tuned to these items better than I do.)

Bro. Craig Jessop has resigned from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. This news comes as a shock to all of us who have appreciated his contributions to the choir over the years. I especially have appreciated his ability to coax ever-increasing musical proficiency from such a large group of singers. Many of us struggle to pull good sound out of a 20 voice choir; Jessop has done so with 360 voices.

Beyond that, Bro. Jessop is a genuinely nice person. I've only met him once, when I was privileged last fall to sing under his baton during our Interfaith Council concert here in Orange County. Although he was able to martial a group of 10 or so different church choirs using his well-honed rehearsal skills, he also exuded the kind of peaceful testimony of the gospel to which we all aspire.

Craig Jessop is the fourth director of the Tab Choir to serve during my lifetime. I was born and raised during the "reign" of Richard P. Condie. Under Condie, the Choir grew in both size and reputation, becoming a particular favorite of Eugene Ormandy of the Philadelphia Philharmonic Orchestra. Several of my favorite MTC recordings hail from this period, including one of my absolute favorite Christmas recordings.

[Update: Reader "aloysiusmiller" reminds me that Bro. Jay Welch served for a brief time following Bro. Condie. Apparently he didn't make any impression on me — the name is only vaguely familiar to me — but I certainly don't want to slight his memory. Thanks, aloysius!]

In 1974 the baton passed to Jerold Ottley. Under Bro. Ottley the Choir (sometimes affectionately called "Jerry O and the MoTabs") began a significant improvement in both technique and degree of musical difficulty. This was also the same period where I began my own musical "career" in earnest in high school. During a family vacation that year, we were able to attend one of their public rehearsals. I was both thrilled and fascinated by the dynamics of working with such a large group of people. I was impressed that Bro. Ottley had to use a microphone to conduct the rehearsal, and that the Choir had such a professional rehearsal work ethic. Not a sound was heard between run-throughs, and everyone listened intently to Bro. Ottley's direction and teaching. Dad always remembered my critiques of the music they were rehearsing and was impressed that I had learned as much as I had by that time.

When Bro. Jessop was announced as Bro. Ottley's replacement I was, at first, unsure what to think. I had seen Bro. Jessop conduct when he served as Assistant Director during a few sessions of General Conference, and I always found his baton technique to be too physical. I'd never seen a conductor move like he does. It's completely unique in my experience, and I confess it took some getting used to. However, I don't believe anyone can argue with his success as the Choir's director for the past decade. The sound they produce today is nearly flawless, especially compared with recordings from their past. Under the combined talents of Jessop and Mack Wilberg the Choir has continued to impress me musically, and inspire me spiritually.

Fortunately, the Choir is not left entirely bereft. Bro. Wilberg will serve as interim director until the First Presidency can appoint a full-time replacement. Bro. Wilberg may not be quite as dynamic a front-man as Bro. Jessop, but there's no arguing with his musical bona fides. He is every bit the master of this element as is Bro. Jessop, and I have little doubt that he would make an equally wonderful full-time director for the Choir. It will, of course, be fascinating to see just who the Lord chooses to fill this position. It always is.

As a more or less life-long musical servant in the Kingdom myself, I appreciate what Bro. Jessop has done for the Choir, and I wish him every success in whatever endeavors he pursues. He will remain one of my musical and personal inspirations in life. May I aspire to serve as Bro. Jessop has served; faithfully and with complete dedication to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.