Friday, November 23, 2012
Live Music vs. Recordings: My Thoughts
And this magic didn't just happen. We practiced our music until it became magic. We worked it until it became perfect so that we could create something sublime.
But recordings can be played over and over again at the push of a button. Recordings are certainly very convenient and wonderful, and without them we would never be able to listen to old recitals or violin concertos or any other music that we would otherwise be unable to experience.
The things that I am going to say are really just my own thoughts. I am not saying that recordings are bad, but I think that live performances are preferable to recordings. When you go to a concert, you not only get to hear the music as it’s being produced, you see the musicians as they are playing, and form a sort of connection to them. If you are a musician, you are producing the music yourself, which is an even more wonderful thing.
On the other hand, recordings are static. The process has already taken place, and the music is now packaged frozen, just waiting to be microwaved. While this is very convenient, it’s certainly not as good as having it fresh from the garden.
I have another objection to recordings. They can be an occasion for musicians with little or no playing talent to impress the world, and I’m sure they have. All that anyone has to do to make a spotless recording is to put lots of little bits of music together with the aid of a computer—plus the necessary equipment. (A few people don’t even try to sing anymore. All they have to do is talk into a computer and bend their voice pitch to particular frequencies.) Still, a great many recordings are produced by very talented musicians, and my objection is only that they can be done by people with little or no musical talent; I’m sure they have been. (If I'm wrong about anything in this paragraph, please correct me.)
This entire article is just an attempt to voice my somewhat embryonic thoughts on this subject (thoughts that might not all be right). I must admit that I don’t know much about the ways that live music can be better than recorded music. I also admit that I listen to a great quantity of recorded music all the time; I love it. In fact, I listen to more recordings than live music. Either one is good in its own way, but perhaps our culture makes music too easy, like frozen food.
If you have thoughts on this, please tell me. This is going to be a very interesting topic for discussion.
Photo by Derek Gleeson, via Wikipedia.
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
I am thankful for my home. It is smaller than 700 square feet, with only two bedrooms for five people. It has brown shag carpeting from the eighties on the floors, a finicky septic tank, no yard, and obnoxious rent. Yet it is still a home.
I am thankful for my family. For my wife, especially, who always sees the potential in me that I never do, for my kids, who love me with abandon. For my parents and siblings, who give my life texture and tension, insight and humor.
I am thankful for my country. A country with mediocre leadership and a shaky moral compass, skewed logic and overwrought emotions, but a country nonetheless.
I am thankful for a world that continues to spin, grow food, get warmer and colder, make snow, erupt, spew, destroy and renew. Weather that continues to startle and amaze, creatures and geology that continue to manifest themselves.
I am thankful for my faith. A faith that is only made stronger and more vocal in times of trial and crisis such as these. Catholicism has never been about the easy path, but it is about the good one.
And I am thankful for my God, the Maker and Sustainer of my job, home, family, country, world, and faith. Without Him I would be nothing. Literally.
Happy Thanksgiving, to all of my readers and everyone else.
Thursday, November 15, 2012
Sunday, November 11, 2012
This scenario seems all too familiar.
In 2008, America craved a change in its leadership, in its policies, and in its general direction. John McCain, stodgy and inarticulate, was seen as merely the continuation of eight long years of George Bush's perceived presidential ineptitude. America fell hard for Barack Obama, a dynamic and inspiring figure whose freshness and youthful attitude led to McCain's obliteration at the polls. Democratic rule dominated Washington and the Republican party was left for dead. Things would get done, greedy people would be punished, jobs would be created, the environment would be saved from human ravages. It was a new golden age.
Close to four years passed. Obama's administration bypassed, ignored, or downright contradicted established American law on numerous occasions. Guns went to Mexican drug lords on Obama's watch. Diplomats and SEALS died while Washington watched from afar. The economy continued to sputter and struggle. Money applied to green energy companies disappeared in multiple bankruptcies. A corrupt attorney general chose to prosecute peaceful groups opposed to his agenda, whilst leaving other known criminals to live free. The list goes on and on.
And yet, at the end of the day as we all know by now, Barack Obama was not only reelected as president, he was reelected with a rock-solid margin of victory. Mitt Romney did not just lose, Obama won. Big. Again.
I was listening to the radio Tuesday night after the election results came in, and there was all manner of finger-pointing. Some blamed Obama's ground game being more formidable than originally thought, others blamed a Republican candidate who was not as articulate expressing conservative ideals as a Ronald Reagan might have been. And then the funniest and saddest (in my opinion) excuse for the loss came from a Republican operative who blamed everything on Senator wannabes Mourdock and Akin's abortion remarks. The GOP leadership almost immediately began calling for a toned down approach to abortion and social issues in their campaigns, essentially blaming their electoral hemorrhaging on a "misguided" attempt to hold the high moral ground.
Essentially that view is correct. But in expressing that view Republicans have made a diagnosis of themselves that even they do not understand. What the Republican Party does not seem to realize is that this election had little to do with a political process failure, a procedural issue that can be re-calibrated in the next election. They are correct in thinking that the abortion remarks brought down both Mourdock's and Akins' campaigns, and maybe Romney's by extension, but their solution to the problem is their own indictment. Barack Obama won a second term because the people are more willing to put their faith in a man than in a God. Obama won because too many of the people who stand for the sacredness of life, marriage, and sacrifice (the proper building blocks of a society) were not only silent but in many cases complicit. The people of God could easily pass for people of the world, and they voted en masse in the guise of the latter.
Catholics hold the most blame in this regard. A long-standing bulwark against the slaughter of innocent people, the leadership of the Catholic Church has grown soft and complacent. There is a good case to be made that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was in large part responsible for the passage of Obamacare, in their starry-eyed frame of mind after hearing the words "universal healthcare." Catholic priests have failed to adequately express from the pulpit the evil of abortion and its corrupting influence on society's moral structure. The number of Catholics using birth control is statistically indistinguishable from secular society's numbers, despite the fact that chemical and mechanical birth control is expressly forbidden by the Church. Divorce rates are similar. The media and entertainment industries continue to barrel headlong towards a fully homosexually integrated culture, with nary a peep from the same Catholic Church. Far from being the light of the world, let alone the light to the United States, Catholics have devolved into a socially embarrassing version of fundamentalist Christian.
So yes, the Republicans did lose the election in part because of some of their members' remarks about abortion, but not because opposing abortion is a bad platform. Rather, it is because the morals of the American people have evaporated to such a degree that abortion is now a politically losing issue. And to stand for something like the ending of abortion is a career-ending move, so Republicans naturally gravitate towards the mushy lukewarm middle. It is so much easier to compromise one's moral position than to possess a spine and lose.
Democrats in many ways now hold a distinct political advantage. Their party platform is now unambiguous in its support of absolute evils (abortion and the glorification of homosexuality) and people I think gravitate towards absolutes. Especially when those absolutes are as pleasure-seeking and selfish as those the Democrats espouse, and especially in the absence of a strong witness to the truth. Obama's ground game was not merely a GOTV (get out the vote) effort, it was a systematic attempt to create both material and moral dependency on his administration. If you don't believe me, take a look at the following video. This woman is bought and paid for.
The truth is that Obama is an elected official. We the people put him there, maybe not by directly voting for him but quite possibly by not evangelizing the person standing next to us in the grocery checkout line. Obama's corrupt views and morally oppressive policies are a reflection of our lives as citizens. Before we complain that he stands for a tyrannical top-down approach towards the citizens he is meant to govern, we need look no farther than ourselves for the blessing he got to proceed.
So I urge all those people who still refuse to participate in the group-think of secularism to consider two things: number one, realize that we do not have a political problem on our hands, so much as we have a serious moral and social corruption problem; and two, live your life according to the actual dictates of your faith in a visible manner. Especially after this election is no time to hide what we believe, but to make absolutely sure that the truth is on display for the next four years in a way that it hasn't been in this country for many years.
It is time to pick a side. Not a party, not a candidate, but a clearly delineated moral side based on absolute truths. Proclaiming the truth will not necessarily win elections in the short run, but it may win hearts. A democracy (or representative republic) is only as good as the people that constitute it, and when the people are corrupt their leaders will necessarily follow. However, the opposite is also true. When enough people come to realize the true scope and evil of abortion, they will demand its censure by law while simultaneously eliminating the demand for it. When enough people come to grips with the fact that homosexuality erodes the core of a healthy and growing society, then the "gay marriage" argument will cease to hold any political water. And so on...
None of these good things will exist, however, if the truth is not shouted from every rooftop regardless of who we think is listening. I think we failed this time around. Let's not fail again.
Photo by Roxanne Jo Mitchell, via Wikipedia.
Thursday, October 11, 2012
Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Because of this widespread derision and hatred, to be called a Nazi has become a shorthand label of politicians and journalists to aid in the obliteration of the opposition party. Or rather in particular, it has become a favorite mainly of Democrats and their hangers-on in the United States. This election cycle has seen some particularly egregious examples of this reckless name-calling.
So let's explore this name-calling a bit.
Its most direct effect, I would think, is the same effect that shouting "racism" ad nauseam has had in this same presidential race. The words "racism" and "racist" have had their true ugly meanings drained away in the rush to demonize the other side faster than they can demonize you. So to with Nazism. As Larry Elder says in the aforementioned article, "By calling political opponents 'fascists' because of policy disagreements, Democrats trivialize a regime responsible for exterminating 6 million Jews in a war that resulted in the deaths of over 50 million people." "Nazi" becomes equivalent to simply "anyone who disagrees with us," just as the word "racist" becomes an equivalent to "anyone who says otherwise than us."
But I might point out that there is more going on here than simple trivialization. There is also over-simplification and hypocrisy.
It might be instructive to look at who the Nazis really were. The caricature that the modern American draws of Nazis is usually just as silly and stupid as the caricature drawn of them during World War Two by the Allies. The Nazis were real people, with real ideas, with a real effect on history and a real heritage from earlier history. They were not some purely evil force from hell unleashed upon the world in a vacuum. They emerged in a historical context and were, I might add, in large part embraced by the German people as a political and social step forward.
The Nazis were a German political party that really came into their own after the effects of the American stock market crash reverberated around the world, helping to destabilize Germany's economy for the second time in a decade. Germany was suffering under the crushing load of war reparations imposed upon her by the victorious powers, embarrassed by an emasculated military, and plagued by political instability caused in large part by a strange power vacuum left by the First World War and the subsequent regime change. The time in Germany was ripe for a strong leader to seize the opportunity, and a man named Adolf Hitler did just that.
Hitler and his party, the National Socialist party (or Nazi, as it was abbreviated), came to power between 1932 and 1933, promising a renewed Germany with a renewed military and most importantly, a renewed sense of purpose. The Nazis came to power in the midst of an economic and social crisis of which they made sure to took full advantage. Certain groups (communists, Jews, and Catholics being examples) were suppressed and harassed for their beliefs or ethnicity. Whole industries were placed under state supervision or outright control. Political power was consolidated, centralized.
War became the new normal for Germany's new regime. Breaking promises, lying to other powers, invading other nations without sufficient reason, imposing harsh regulations, stymieing travel and transport also became the norm. Killing campaigns commenced, in an effort to rid the world of inconvenient or imperfect social groups. And all this in the name of the new ideology. Nazism was a worldview, a cult. Its leaders were dedicated to its survival and perpetuation, and carried out their work with efficiency and brutality.
So I come back to the question of American politicians accusing one another of being Nazis, and I must make a series of blunt observations, the first of which is this: If Democratic politicians were the least bit self-reflective, and I think some of them are, then they would realize that in practice their own party platform embraces many of the things that they accuse Republicans of believing. In other words, many things that are perennial favorites of the Democratic Party were things the Nazis espoused .
One would be the use of a crisis in order to enact government-empowering legislation against the citizenry. I can hold up numerous examples of mass shootings being used as political fodder for anti-gun lobbyists, bank failures and economic collapse as an excuse to take over various industries (most notably the Dodd-Frank legislation, the Auto Industry "bailout," and Obamacare), and intimidation of various groups for opposing said legislation (e.g. the HHS contraception and abortion mandate targeted against the Catholic Church, the media harassment of the Tea Party.) Also, I could note here the disinterest of the Obama administration in prosecuting groups like the New Black Panthers, who exist to harass and intimidate especially at voting places. Lastly, but certainly not least, I could mention not only that the Democratic Party has always been the friend of legalized and permissive abortion, but that they have now officially enshrined it in their party platform. Yes, the extermination of a particular social group, the unborn and somehow unfit to live, is now on the Democratic Party agenda.
And all this in the name of "progress."
However, this observation should not be understood apart from my second observation, which is that if Republican politicians were also the least bit self-reflective, which some of them must be, then they would also realize that in practice their policies and attitudes also reflect some favorites of the Nazi Party as well. They are far from innocent on this front.
I could mention the insatiable appetite for war among many Republican politicians and presidents, cleverly wrapped in the tenuous guise of patriotism and idealism. Under Republican leadership, American interference and intervention in two major countries in the Middle East has cost thousands of lives on both sides and earned us the hatred of many in the overseas Muslim community. The Republican blank-check approach of support to Israel has kept relations between the Israelis and the rest of the Middle East frosty at best, leaving Israel in a perpetual state of war of defense against her neighbors. Republicans are constantly clamoring for intervention in states like Libya as well, a country which has very little to do with anything connected to America except for oil.
Let's not forget the associated evil of torture here, which is widely accepted as an effective technique of questioning amongst Republican lawmakers but disguised under cutesy politically-correct terms like 'enhanced interrogation,' plus laws like the Patriot Act which seek to invade the privacy of American citizens for the sake of supposed protection.
I could also mention the rampant nationalism present in so many a Republican speech concerning the state of our economy and the perception of our nation in the eyes of the world. How often have Republican politicians looked down on the rest of the world as being beneath America, simply because other nations do not necessarily hold dear the same values we do, or follow the same constitutional system? We are told that America is the "greatest nation in the history of the world." Why? And does this give us the excuse to trample the rest of the world when it does not bend to our whims?
Add the Republican obsession with big business and you have a decent picture of the problem. Somehow, conservative Republican lawmakers believe that big government could not possibly be good, while at the same time proposing that big business could not possibly be bad. Big government bureaucracy = bad, big business bureaucracy = perfectly fine. Dependence on government for one's livelihood is evil, depending on big business for one's livelihood is good. In other words, it is fine to be dictated to, just not by the usual suspects.
All of these policies and attitudes are posited by each side as coming from deeply felt philosophical or moral sources. They are policies and attitudes based on ideals that do not necessarily have their grounding in truth.
American government, at the moment anyways, tends almost inevitably either Republican or Democrat. In such a divided system, compromise is usually the key, and yet compromise has led so many times to the worst of both ideological worlds. Am I calling either side Nazi? No. But I am calling on them to look at what these positions accomplish in the end. As of this moment, we have both legalized abortion and unnecessary foreign wars, overly-centralized government and excessive dependence on both government and business. Democratic and Republican ideas, both enshrined in law and policy side by side.
It would seem that by its own moral inertia, our country is sliding its way to a situation similar to Hitler's Germany. While America will probably never find or elect such a powerful crusader for the kind of violence and hatred that Adolf Hitler enflamed, America by compromise between two such lacking ideologies and between competing groups of power-hungry politicians, has created its own lukewarm version of the same.
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
I can only say that I pray the victims rest in the peace of Christ, that the families of the victims heal from the pain of loss, and that we as a people do not lose ourselves in the pursuit of justice.
Photo by UpstateNYer, via Wikipedia.
Monday, September 3, 2012
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
"I don't want to hear myself cry."
This woman was 29 years old and had been deaf from birth up until the moment that she sat down in that chair with the technician. It was the first time she had ever heard anything, and the first sound for her to hear had been the sound of her own voice. It was uniquely heartrending to watch.
I have read all four Gospels many times and have often wondered what it must have been like to witness a miracle performed by Christ for the people of Galilee. Many who were blind, deaf, and paralyzed from birth are reported by the Gospel writers to have been completely cured by Jesus. Those writers say things like "amazement seized all who saw it" and other such descriptive commentary on the reactions of people who witnessed the cure and the people who had been cured. Being healed of a lifelong illness in an instant, being "made whole" as the Gospel writers are fond of saying, was one of the most dynamic aspects of Christ for drawing people to Him.
This woman had been given the gift of hearing through a scientifically developed medical implant device in her ear, but I somehow think the reaction is similar to the instant gift of healing from God. The power of that experience is evident as you watch her hear not only herself for the first time, but also her husband speaking too. Her face and her actions bespeak volumes in both gratitude and amazement as the world around her is suddenly brought to a new kind of life.
I followed the YouTube link to her blog and liked what I saw, so Mrs. Sarah Churman's site is now a resident link on my Relevant Sites sidebar. I would encourage you to check it out, as well as watch the video below. Enjoy!
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
There is no sufficient way to describe the feeling of having your beauty rest interrupted by a screaming child, nor are there words for the joy of having your three-year-old son throw himself against your leg and declare that he loves his "daddy." My wife just redecorated the walls and floor of our bathroom with morning-sickness vomit and I had to clean it up, but she also dragged two feisty boys to our rental agency to pay the bill because I was too busy to do it myself. My children draw with chalk on the sidewalk, then decide it will be cute to walk through it with bare feet. But my older son figured out on his own how to draw a stick figure.
As I write this, both of my sons are sleeping peacefully in the room behind me, looking so adorable that it hurts.
As I said, I can't really express in words just how much I have learnt about life and love through parenting. And of course, I shall be cliche and say that there is always more to learn and that four years as a parent is comparatively small. But I must share with you all a little something that I learned over the past three months, about being a parent but also about being a child. I found it surprising and maybe even a little harsh, but true nonetheless.
My observation is this: of course there are parents who neglect their children and deadbeat dads and some deadbeat mothers. But of the parents who actually give a crap about what happens to their children, I have noticed that many of them take their role way too seriously.
It may sound counter-intuitive, but it seems the more I obsess about my children's future and consciously instilling certain values and habits in my children, the less effect it seems to have. It seems like I have the most effect as a parent when I just sit down on the floor and give a damn about them enough to play with them. Children, I realize more and more, are simply sponges that soak up love as fast as it is squirted at them. And like a sponge, when they are squeezed (and tickled) they tend to leak it back out again.
The real reason I say to not take parenting too seriously, though, is because I now can say I know how it feels to be hated by my child, at least temporarily. I have been hit by both my sons before because they didn't agree with whatever I was doing for them as a parent. They have both yelled at me. And I have done my share of losing my temper back at them. But I found that when I let their temporary hatred roll off my back and let the child cool down, then something special happens. That something is an understanding of sorts, that they don't really hate you, and that you are not really as angry as you thought you were.
Maybe this post is rambling a bit, but I have been suffering from a severe lack of sleep, an overdose of my job, and the looming prospect of an unborn child who was due yesterday. I hope this is an encouragement to those parents out there who give a care about their kids and yet lose sleep over those same kids' development and future. I am beginning to understand both those concerns.
Don't sweat it, you are all probably better parents than you think you are. However, it never hurts to try even harder. The next time it's a choice between washing dishes and playing with the kids, play with the kids. Those moments are when you are building up emotional capital to draw on when the time to discipline comes. You'll probably both be grateful for it later.
Be Aware, and have fun.
Saturday, August 25, 2012
The assumption is (and there may be some disagreement here, so if you do please speak up) that multimedia in general (e.g. TV, movies, books, music, news, Internet) are as a whole moving in a downhill direction in regards to morally upright content. Acceptance of perverse moral ideas appears to be an ever-widening phenomenon in multimedia, as is the normalizing of aberrant behavior. That is my assumption. The question, then, is this: Is "the media" the cause of this downward slide in morality and decency, or is the media merely the cultural expression of already extant moral degradation and change? In effect, does the media simply report on the change?
I will offer my humble opinion that this is not only a perfectly valid, reasonable question to ask, but also an entirely necessary one. Where does this world of multimedia fit into our lives or is there no place for it? Does the media shape the culture, or is it the other way around? Or, put differently, is the media we ingest daily the soul of our culture or its body, the animating principle of our society or simply its proper expression? This whole issue is so fiendishly tangled together and I would like to have some fun untangling it.
As a good example, I would like to throw out there three TV shows that illustrate my point. One is an already-popular and critically-recognized show called Modern Family, the second is a show to be released this fall I think, called New Normal, and the third is an FBI crime show called White Collar. The first two are comedies that prominently feature gay couples attempting to raise children, surrounded by mostly understanding parents and relatives who may raise an eyebrow once in a while at the homosexuality at play in their midst, but who otherwise could care less. The third show involves a secondary character who is engaged to her lesbian lover. Now I believe homosexuality to be a grave moral problem, but regardless of your beliefs concerning homosexuality, it is hard not to see a connection here between the content of these shows and the current vigorous lobbying by homosexual groups nationwide for legal and societal acceptance of their particular orientation. These groups seek, in effect, to normalize the status of homosexuals in America. So do these shows then simply reflect this particular change in American public thinking, or are they the actual driver?
It is tough to say.
The news networks are famously known for being, at least historically, major drivers of public opinion. So if the presentation of the news can change opinions about differing subjects, then why not TV shows and movies? Do they not shape us in subtle ways and guide part of our decisions and actions?
But then, on the other hand, the major networks and studios are driven by a bottom line goal. Their goal is to make money, and lots of it. To make lots of money, one needs to be in tune with what the public wants to see and hear and then provide it en masse. So these companies must simply be responding to perceived public demand for this sort of content, living dangerously on the "cutting edge of societal evolution," to steal a line from Rush Limbaugh. Right?
Or, do these two things go hand in hand? Was the proverbial chicken first or the egg?
Feel free to leave your thoughts below!
Image by LGPER, via Wikipedia.
Thursday, August 23, 2012
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Friday, August 17, 2012
And enough to raise major questions.
There was the usual fight between the "mainstream media" and the conservative talk-o-sphere, on the one side crying out for tighter gun control legislation and on the other side retorting that guns don't kill people, people do. The one position is impossible to maintain, the other is over-simplified and cliched.
To briefly address the first position, I might mention that there is some evidence that exists for low crime rates in cities and counties where guns are easily available. But even if you are unwilling to accept that evidence because of disagreement over the methodology of studying a law's effectiveness, you are basically forced to concede that, as the New York Times put it, "criminals are the people least likely to obey gun control laws, meaning that the laws probably have a disproportionate impact on law-abiding individuals." I might also mention countries like Switzerland that have enough armed citizens to make an anti-gun American cringe, and yet their "gun crime rate is so low that statistics are not even kept."
To address the other position, I have to characterize the conservative attitude as I see it before I really tackle it in order to make some sense. It seems to me that conservatives make these shooters out to be a couple of bad apples in a normally fine apple pie. The insistence is always that these shooters "acted alone", that they are "animals" ( a favorite expression of talk-show host Andy Dean), and that their actions reflect on them and them alone. The implication is that our consciences may remain unruffled by such mindless killing, because heck, we weren't the ones that did it, they were. Right?
I find this conservative position an awkward one to defend for several reasons.
The first is the assertion that these were only a couple of "bad apples." With the increasing number of these high-profile, increasingly creative, and wildly violent shooting sprees, I would say we have had something of a growing problem for several years. Add in the number of shootings involving the military in some way over the past three years and you begin to get the point. One shooting is an isolated incident, two is a coincidence, but three or more is a trend.
The second reason is that not only are these people not "animals" ( I find rationalization by denigration particularly offensive, Mr. Andy Dean), but many of them are relatively intelligent people who acted in a very methodical way.
The third reason is connected to the first: these individuals may have acted out these shootings by themselves with no accomplices, but as I mentioned before we seem to have a bit of a trend going. Culture and society have a huge influence over the actions of a human being, and to see so many of these shootings occur in such a short amount of time makes me think there might be a connection. Mightn't more than just the shooters have to carry some small share of the blame?
To illustrate the last point, I would point to America of the 1940's and 1950's. In those decades some of the favorite games for young boys were playing soldier, fighting mock battles with wood sword and fake guns, and pretending to be gun-slinging cowboys. Good guys would win, bad guys would die. Boys were taught to shoot and hunt with very little incident. Up until about 1966 with the mass killings committed by Charles Whitman from a bell tower in Texas, the kind of public massacre of the sort in the Colorado theater was virtually unheard of in the U.S. Now it seems there is a fresh shooting every couple months. Why?
I submit my humble opinion that our culture changed. Drastically.
Now, I am not a starry-eyed nostalgic who thinks that any time in America before 1960 was beautiful, good, and wholesome. There was plenty of wretchedness before 1960, as there has been plenty afterwards. But not this kind of psychotic violence. This is the sort of violence that holds the preciousness of life in reckless disregard, approaching other human beings with a cold calculating eye. Charles Whitman is a great example of this; he killed both his mother and his wife in the same 24 hours, systematically snuffing out their lives and then writing his thoughts about it. His murders and massacres were all methodical, studied, deliberate.
Perhaps this change came about partly in response to the Vietnam War, where more and more Americans became disillusioned with the bloody conflict and viewed it as a massive waste of human and material resources. Soldiers returning from the war certainly would have carried its mental scars. Perhaps the change occurred because of the cheapening of human life intertwined with the use of "the Pill." Man's own self became the center of existence, an attitude aided by the frustration of the sexual act and precipitating the sexual revolution. Pleasure would be sought at all costs, and consequence be damned.
The changing attitudes inaugurated in the 1960's I believe is the true culprit for these shootings. Shared heroin needles, multiple sexual partners, demented music, and complete moral relativism combined to form a toxic societal cocktail that would cripple or destroy the family lives of countless Americans. We still feel the effects of this lethal combination in the form of high abortion rates, countless teen pregnancies, general cultural ennui, and yes, these shooting massacres. Now it seems the only way to have one's five minutes of fame and importance is to do something shocking like killing people.
Yes, these killers are the ones doing the killing. They have only happened to settle on the gun as the instrument of massacre and the blame does not lie with the availability of the gun. But the blame also does not lie solely with the shooter. As I said before, boys have been playing with mock swords and guns for ages. Since the advent of adventure books and movies and television, good guys have been killing bad guys with guns, and vice-versa. But somehow John Wayne riding in and cleaning up town with a six-shooter was not what it would eventually take to incite young men (and some women) to kill their fellow citizens with firearms. It would be Dirty Harry, The Last House on the Left, and Straw Dogs with their morally ambiguous depictions of characters that would create the heroes of the new generation. Suddenly the good guy was no longer so good, and the bad guy was sorta cool. And this trend has never really stopped. Think The Italian Job and the Oceans heist films. Those are relatively new films, and all are morally aimless. Revenge is the new justice, and the criminals are the good guys.
Once there was a sense of communal responsibility for protection of life and property in this nation. The young generation that volunteered to fight World War II was eager to defend, to serve, to go and maybe never come back. The Vietnam War-era generation was the opposite. And with this loss of eagerness to serve and defend comes a confusion about the role guns play in our lives. When we no longer have a robust sense of responsibility for our own safety because of our willingness to rely solely on government protection, then the firearm becomes a novelty item. When the gun loses its proper purpose at the same time that we lose our moral way as human beings, that is when it becomes truly dangerous.
Restore the concepts of duty, honor, and moral uprightness to the culture and the questions about gun control fade away. Besides the moral problems of our culture, America does have a certain fetish for guns presently speaking, probably because many Americans who own them see them more as fun items to own, shoot, and flaunt rather than as practical tools with a martial background. Almost all the male citizenry of Switzerland carry firearms and own firearms, but not because of machismo. They carry them because the citizenry is the military. I could almost guarantee that the average Swiss male between the ages of 18 and 45 could take on the typical YouTube gun-toting American in a shooting match and come out on top. The difference is in the reason for the gun. The American showing off his guns on YouTube owns those firearms in many cases just because they are cool. The Swiss male owns his because his life and his countrymen's lives depend on it.
Culture is a river that man is immersed in every second of every day. Clean the pollution from that river. Change society, not the legitimate tools that society uses. And pray for all the victims of all shootings, publicized or not. Those families are hurting more than they can ever express, and neither calling for gun control nor" blaming the person and not his weapon" gives them any extra ounce of comfort.
Photo by Sam Lisker, via Wikipedia.
Monday, August 13, 2012
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
I do have an explanation for my absence; I am attempting to start a video production business on the side, along with my fifty million other jobs and tasks. Needless to say, it has taken up a huge portion of my time. The current video project had a very hard set deadline, because the client I was working with died in the middle of the project and I had to create a video for his funeral. It was a most intriguing month and I will probably write about it soon since it got me to thinking on many different tangents.
So, this is to show that I am still around and plan on releasing a bunch of different articles this week and next week about everything from distributism to the massacres in Colorado and Wisconsin.
Stay tuned and Be Aware!
Thursday, July 26, 2012
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Saturday, July 7, 2012
And here is another one as a bonus. It was too funny not to share.
Thursday, July 5, 2012
Friday, June 29, 2012
Friday, June 22, 2012
Thursday, June 21, 2012
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
|The European Central Bank|
Photo by Eric Chan, via Wikimedia Commons.
Monday, June 18, 2012
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Photo by Lipton sale - via Wikipedia
Saturday, June 9, 2012
|Old Soviet locomotive|
Photo by LHOON.
Anyways, I dug up a story this afternoon from the BBC concerning Russia that I found fascinating. I would assume that some, if not many, Russians already know this story, but I am posting it more for the benefit of my English speaking audience so they will know.
It is the story of a massive railroad project that literally disappeared
Friday, June 8, 2012
Put aside party, race, sex, and anything so superficially identifying. Look at the presidency of the United States and ask: what kind of man or woman do I want filling that seat?
I have my own list, and here it is. Agree or disagree as you please.
- I want my president to be a good speaker. Not just when he is in front of a teleprompter, but all the time. I want him to be able to string good words together into intelligent and articulate sentences, to be able to explain himself without flinching or saying "um." Included in this is a president who does not say stupid and embarassing things on an open mic.
- I want a president who has been a soldier. I mean that in a very specific way. A president who has been a professional fighting man (or woman) will understand not only the strength and honor of the military, but also the horror and stress and fear of combat. The one reminds him of what the military can do, the other what we as a country should avoid doing if at all possible.
- I want a president who can do math. This might sound stupid, but then again there are many remarkably stupid people in Washington. Our current president's administration cannot balance a budget. The previous one only did a little bit better. I would like someone who has balanced a budget before or at least has a mathematically sound concept of how to do so.
- I want a president who respects the lifeblood of this country. When I say lifeblood, I literally mean just that: the blood of America's children. I want a president who understands we have nothing to gain and everything to lose by allowing the killing of children in utero to continue. When the president of the most powerful country on earth does not respect the lives of his most helpless citizens, how can he respect the lives of anyone else, be they American or otherwise?
- I want a president who is there. Not on vacation all the time, not prowling around for photo ops and present only to shake hands and sign bills. I want a president who is where the action is happening. When June 6th rolls around, for example, I want him either standing on the beaches of Normandy or at some World War II memorial, not having dinner with high rollers in Vegas. If the U.S. is struck by natural disaster, I want him on the ground as soon as humanly and safely possible, giving victims his condolences. I want him to be present, not just to vote present.
- I want a president who is fit. I want someone who looks active, who radiates healthy habits and who is not afraid of the outdoors. Someone who doesn't just talk about national parks, but actually visits them and climbs their mountains and fishes in their streams.
- I want a family president. I want someone who bespeaks marital and familial love, who has children and knows how to interact with them.
- And finally, I want a president who is honest. I almost don't care if I disagree with him or not, as long as he is forthright in the explanation of his actions. I want a president who does not beat around the bush waiting for someone else to clean up his mess or explain him. I want one who does it himself.
Thursday, June 7, 2012
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Let us not forget, however, that the D-Day assault was not necessarily a slam dunk, resounding success. In fact, the attack ground to a complete halt for several hours on the most important beach of the day, Omaha, where many men met a shockingly bloody death at the hands of rapid-fire German machine guns and heavy artillery. Many more men lay terrified and psychologically helpless at the edge of the water or at the sea wall, huddled down to escape the almost certain death slicing the air overhead.
In the end, the beachheads managed to link up only because individual men seized the initiative and decided it was better to die taking out a German gun emplacement than lying prone at the edge of the rising tide.
Friday, June 1, 2012
I am apologizing in advance to my wonderful readers, I will probably not be posting much until Sunday is almost over. It is going to be a crazy busy weekend and I won't have time to put thoughts to keyboard until it's all over. Be Aware until then!
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
For the record, I have not watched or listened to any of David Pakman's other work, but I actually thought this segment was pretty well-balanced. Again, your thoughts?
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
|Logo of the Second International Congress of Eugenics, 1921|
Sunday, May 27, 2012
I would like to wish a very happy Memorial Day to all Americans everywhere. I will return to writing on Tuesday so stay tuned. Have fun today and remember what the holiday is really about: remembering the fallen men and women of our armed forces, regardless of our own personal opinions of the wars they lost their lives in.
Saturday, May 26, 2012
|The never-used Pripyat Amusement Park ferris wheel.|
This government notice, broadcast for the benefit of the citizens of the city of Pripyat, Ukraine following the disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, marked the beginning of one of the strangest and most terrifying exoduses in modern history. In three days, the population of Pripyat went from close to 50,000 people down to essentially zero. The reason? Heavy radioactive contamination caused by a massive nuclear power core explosion, spread to the prevailing winds on the wings of a fire and poisoning all the surrounding countryside with invisible death. The worst nightmare of mankind since the discovery of nuclear power had begun.
The emotional punch of a hindsight reading of this notice by the local Soviet government lies in its absolute irony. The irony is twofold.
For one, it portrays the government as more or less in control of the entire situation. The reality could not have been farther removed from the truth. Gorbachev himself had no clue of what was happening until he was informed by European scientists that they had detected a severe radiation spike as far away as Sweden. On the ground near the reactor the situation was equally out of control. The reactor fire continued to burn for about two weeks after the initial explosion, pumping toxic radioactive fallout into the atmosphere. In the end, the accident at the Chernobyl power plant actually contributed to the eventual disintegration of the Soviet Union, not only because of the necessity of international cooperation with the cleanup but also because of the severe resource strain it placed upon the USSR at a time it could ill afford it.
The second irony is the one I have always found the more interesting, and that is the assurances that not only would the evacuation be a temporary one, but that local officials would stay behind to keep the utilities up and running as well as to guard the empty homes from looting. The eerie truth is that the evacuation was permanent, for everyone. The lifeblood of the city of Pripyat vanished almost overnight, quietly, orderly, with barely a peep. Toys were left on the floor, documents left unattended, cars and personal effects abandoned. Families left whole apartment blocks filled with their possessions, expecting to come back to them. They of course never did. One of the most famous and haunting images from the abandoned city is the brand new ferris wheel at the amusement park, due to open directly after the disaster. It had never been used before, and will now never be used as it rusts and crumbles to nothing.
The evidence of humanity is littered everywhere, in the streets and empty homes and schools, and yet no humans remain. The weird atmosphere of death hanging over the place is the stuff of horror films (as a write this, the horror film Chernobyl Diaries is due to be released.) Humanity has been endlessly intrigued by imagery of man-made things that have been abandoned by their makers, and Pripyat is no different. It has become the perfect observational point for the effects of mass exodus from a modern city, and the results are nothing short of unnatural.
I suppose the fascination I have always felt towards the story of Chernobyl and Pripyat is the same as the fascination I have always held for Titanic. The reason they are both so compelling is that they are both about people, and real people at that. Real people lived in this city, and worked and played and taught and got sick and died in this city. And other real people, through their monumental stupidity, caused the catastrophe by direct action. As I said about Titanic, the fingerprints of man lie heavily on every aspect of the disaster, from its beginning to its end.
Today is not necessarily any special occasion or anniversary of the disaster. I did not have the chance to write about it in April (which was the month when the reactor exploded in 1986), but I feel compelled to remind my readers of this event anyways. The story of Chernobyl will not be over for thousands of years, as the radioactivity will not drop to safe levels until then. The more proximate story of the reactor is also far from over, as the world struggles with the cost to build a containment shelter large enough to entomb the entire reactor structure and forever seal the melted core inside. The danger has not passed. It is important to remember the human cost of Soviet rule over the Ukraine, but also to remember the heroism of the ordinary people involved, many of whom knew that they assisted in the cleanup and containment operation at the risk of their lives.
It is also good to remember not only the people who died in the disaster, but those who now must bear the pain of knowing that they left their home behind for good. There is no hope of return for those people; they will forever be prevented from going back by a menace that they cannot feel or see or smell, but which kills regardless. The pictures of modern Pripyat taken by adventurous tourists are probably no consolation, as the city tends to look bleaker every year especially in the wintertime.
I have posted a link in the Relevant Sites section to a website called Pripyat.com, a wonderful compilation of news, photos, stories and other memorabilia about the disaster that I have found most compelling. Also, a journey through the abandoned city through powerful photographs can be found here.
*Wikipedia, Article titled "Prypiat."
Friday, May 25, 2012
I love listening to the BBC, not least among the reasons being that the United States is not always at the top of their important news list. Lo and behold! There is actually other stuff going on out there. Who'd a thunk?
To expand that thought, though, I appreciate British journalism in all of its forms because it gives a refreshingly different take on notable happenings. And among their most intriguing and humorous insights is into their friends "across the pond," the Americans.
Here is a piece by a UK Telegraph blogger named Tim Stanley that had me chuckling. It is a humorous critique of the American media's obsession with making Obama into the most historic, heroic president in history. Quite worth the read.
Thursday, May 24, 2012
Photo by Armin Linnartz
And yet, in the midst of this rash of fiscal irresponsibility and crisis, I am happy to point out the last remaining financial adult in the room of European politics, German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
I cannot say that I agree with her policies and positions one hundred percent of the time. Many of her beliefs and accomodations have been against my liking. But I must applaud her where applause is due: she is the only one pursuing a viable path with regard to the euro and the continued success of the European Union.
Ms. Merkel has pursued a policy of fiscal austerity in Germany for the past several years now, in an attempt to curb explosive debt and budget deficits. The credit is hers for insisting that the government live within its means. Yet her position of fiscal austerity has become increasingly marginalized as more and more pressure is brought to bear on her to "evolve" with the rest of Europe (and the United States) and to dump more stimulus money on the economic fire.
This unpopularity is symptomatic of both the problems with the composition of the EU and with the personalities and philosophies involved. Germany happens to be the economic powerhouse of Europe at the moment and the one with the most financial clout, whilst the other countries are being run under much more liberal financial conditions and are suffering mounting debt and credit problems. There is jealousy of Germany's success, to be sure, without a proper understanding of why it is successful.
But this week's developments have not only brought all these issues to a head, but have also demonstrated Ms. Merkel's resolve to remain solvent in the face of extraordinary opposition . The leadership of the EU is floating the idea of selling "euro bonds," or generating stimulus cash by selling European debt. The idea is both stupid and dangerous. It is stupid because none of the EU countries needs or can afford to add any more debt to their ever-growing pile. But more importantly, it is dangerous because (as the BBC has pointed out) Germany would be the one left holding the bill because of its sound financial position. In effect, Germany's success would subsidize the other EU nations' failures.
Angela Merkel has fought the other EU nations' fiscal policies before, but this is probably the biggest challenge she will have yet, mainly because both President Barack Obama and new socialist French President Francois Hollande are both pushing heavily for it. Merkel realizes that Germany is being called upon to pay for economic failure that was not of its own doing, and rightfully resents that call.
She has already begun to voice her disagreement on this issue, and I pray she fights vigorously against it. She is a sane head amidst other heads that seem permanently stuck in the clouds. God bless her.