Sunday, February 17, 2008

on campus

Unafraid to jump on the bandwagon, we went to Mass today at John XXIII University Parish after seeing the article about Fr. Eric Andrews in yesterday's News Sentinel. Turns out that before the priesthood, he worked at the Jim Henson Company, original home of the Muppets. We were unsure where to park and ended up in a nearby faculty lot. The strong wind nearly knocked us down as we walked to the church. Fr. Eric was there to greet the congregation, however Fr. Paul Rospond celebrated the Mass. The newspaper article made me interested in hearing a homily from Fr. Eric too. Fortunately there is an assortment of both his and Fr. Paul's available online, where parking is no problem. I realized this morning that I had already heard Fr. Paul's sermon last night while I was looking up the Mass times. It was posted after he celebrated the 5:30 p.m. Mass.

We found seats about five minutes before Mass began. Similar to a movie theatre before the days of "The 2wenty," a series of slides promoting upcoming events at the parish were showing on a big screen behind the altar. My wife asked me to find her a hymnal. As I went out to the narthex to get one for her, I noticed that nobody else had one either. When Mass started, we saw the lyrics to the processional hymn projected on the screen. The page changed to reveal the next stanza at the exact right moment. I kept looking until I found a guy in the choir with his thumb on a handheld remote, controlling the PowerPoint presentation.

It was a perfect day for us to visit UT because the writing team of Jefferson Bass would be signing books at the Frank H. McClung Museum. Better still, they would be speaking to a capacity crowd in the lower level auditorium. I went down to get seats while my wife and son looked at the museum's Forensic Anthropology exhibit, which is only there until May 7.

Dr. Bill Bass showed slides from the real-life burned-body cases that inspired parts of "The Devil's Bones." During the Q&A session that followed, a question about plasticination prompted an anecdote about cultural differences in dealing with bodies. We heard about an American doctor who opened a medical school in China. He needed cadavers for the students to examine. The government sent him ten beheaded bodies. He thanked the officials but asked for ten more with their heads and necks still intact. They brought him ten live prisoners on a chain gang and told him that he could kill them any way he liked.

Jon Jefferson told of one of his first meetings with Dr. Bass over lunch at Calhoun's on Bearden Hill. As Jon was trying to understand the way a weapon's marks can be visible on a murder victim's ribs, Dr. Bass reached over and began stabbing the half-slab on Jon's plate. Other patrons turned to look and then relaxed once they realized the man with the knife was just good old Dr. Bass.

The audience members filed upstairs and got in line to get their books autographed by the authors. The line wrapped all the way around the circular museum lobby. Since my copy of the book was already signed, I took the opportunity to revisit the Forensic Anthropology exhibit myself. Jefferson and Bass have a busy week ahead. You have several opportunities to get a signed book. Or you could just buy one online.

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